[Rudolf Nureyev: personal reminiscences of John Phillips.] Privately printed collection of 'Nureyev Notes August 1966', regarding 'Sleeping Beauty' at La Scala, Milan. Inscribed by Phillips to Barbara Reed.

John Phillips (1926-2017), flâneur and literary executor of Violet Trefusis (1894-1972; née Keppel), English socialite and author, lover of Vita Sackville-West [Rudolf Nureyev, Russian ballet dancer]
Publication details: 
Privately printed. [Phuket, Thailand; 2009.] Inscription of February 2011.
SKU: 21821

After a twelve-year 'amitié amoureuse' with Phillips, Violet Trefusis died in 1972, appointing him her literary executor and leaving him her last home, La Tour de Saint Loup. The present item – only one other copy of which has been traced – is from a collection of Phillips's papers amassed by his friend Barbara Reed, containing pamphlets privately printed by him between 2009 and 2014. Phillips's obituary in the Daily Telegraph ('John Phillips, globetrotting flâneur and literary executor of Violet Trefusis', 24 March 2017) places the item in context, by describing how, at the end of his life, 'economics caught up with Phillips. He sold Violet Trefusis’s house, papers and chattels. He moved to Thailand after spells in Italy and Switzerland, settling in Phuket, from where he tried with relentless persistence to persuade friends and casual acquaintances to seek publishing outlets for his memories of once famous figures or to purchase valueless copyrights, despite having sent his own papers to the Lilly Library at Indiana University in 2004 and 2013 [...] His friends sighed at the deluge of attachments which arrived by email, along with desperate pleas for financial assistance.' According to the obituary, 'In August 1966 Phillips caught the eye of Rudolph Nureyev, who invited him to accompany him to La Scala. The dancer hoped Phillips would write about his art, but he was more absorbed by his private life, since Nureyev chose to “slip away and seek his adventures in the rough and dangerous pastures of Milan” at a time when there were genuine threats that he might be kidnapped by furious Communists.' 11pp, 12mo. Very much a home made item: printed on six leaves of thick paper, and perfect bound in transparent plastic covers, with spine of blue tape. The title-page is headed '1 | NUREYEV NOTES | AUGUST 1966', over a reproduction of a signed photograph of Nureyev, and there is a black and white photograph at the end. Inscribed by Phillips at the foot of p.10: 'for dear | Barbara | from John | Feb 2011'. Gossippy undigested notes, such as: 'R.N. to me: “What do you do?” | “I write, occasionally, about something or someone who interests me”. | R.N.: “What interests you?” | “You!” | R.N. “Next week I go to the Scala to rehearse Sleeping Beauty. Come with me.[”] | “Yes”.' and 'Fantastic the speed of changes in facial expression, and mood: delirious joy, then sudden eruption of violent annoyance, dreamy daze, “back to earth” expression, playfulness, the contagious laughing smile...' and 'R. burning intensity, Tartar wildness, says that he is not Russian, but Tartar, very different. Reads “TIME” during rest-break, likens style to computer.' and 'Said Lorca: “You know, most of my friends in the ballet are “gay”. Also my father, but I'm NOT!, Rudy knows this, but last night he took me to bars, and he gave me so much drink and tried so hard...”.' The only extended section on 'DRESS REHEARSAL: about 500 present. | R., Increasingly nervous.', followed by '22nd September', concluding: 'I look back to these weeks at La Scala with wonder. Since I only knew Nureyev during this period, I retain an image of dazzling youth and genius. Another impression: Nureyev's genius as an Actor. If he could not have danced a step what would still be fantastic was his magic in transforming himself.' The episode ends with 'telegrams from Violet, that I should return to Florence, that I was ruining my reputation by being with the ballet people in Milano. | Typical Violet, jealous nonsense! | Reputation be damned! These were the best of weeks for which I'll always be grateful to R.' The pamphlet ends with the assessment of Nureyev of Serge Lifar (now lacking 'the celebrated beauty that had enchanted Diaghilev'): 'After myself and Nijinski, he is best'. The item is not present among the 'Writings' listed in the inventory of the Phillips Papers at the Lilly Library, and as stated, only one other copy has been traced. That copy, in larger format and dated to 2009, is present among the Barbara Reed collection of Phillips papers, offered separately.