The Company of Heaven
No. 7. A thousand gleaming fires
Things got complicated in a hurry, yet Britten stayed chaste. Lennox Berkeley was deeply in love with Benji, and started to confess a “mean and horrible jealousy” towards Pears. Britten in turn responded with deliberate detachment “I am sure you’re feeling fine now that you’re in Paris with José and all those friends of yours… Much love, my dear; cheer up.” Much of Berkeley’s jealously obviously stemmed from the fact that Pears had quietly moved into Britten’s flat at 67 Hallam Street. With the grumbles of war on the horizon, Britten and Pears were thinking about leaving England for America, just as Auden and Isherwood had done. On 29 April, Britten and Pears set off for Canada and arrived in Quebec on 9 May 1939. With their arrival in the New World, the two friends became lovers. In June they visited Toronto to give a joint recital, and thereafter crossed into the USA to stay at Grand Rapids, Michigan for their unofficial “honeymoon.” “I shall never forget a certain night in Grand Rapids,” Pears wrote to Benji a couple months later, “when you finally gave yourself to me, my little white-thighed beauty.” If Britten had hoped that his commitment to Pears would stop his craving for young boys, he was mistaken. With Pears looking over his shoulder, he wrote to 16-year old Wulff Scherchen, “It is awful how much you mean to me… I simply can’t help thinking of you and what you’re doing… I love you more everyday… So there! There’s a declaration.” Pears added a rather extraordinary postscript to the same letter, “I am looking after Ben as well as he deserves, and am trying hard to keep him from breaking out, but the Canadian girls are terribly attractive.” Thus began a highly affectionate personal and professional relationship that lasted for almost forty years, with the couple building their lives and careers hand in hand. I tell you more about that in our final episode.
Peter Pears & Benjamin Britten perform Henry Purcell
A life of the two of us!
Britten and Pears II In 1974, Benji Britten and Peter Pears exchanged a number of remarkable letters that summarized not only their personal relationship...
- Napoleon Bonaparte and Giuseppina Grassini "Love Is the Idler’s Occupation, the Warrior’s Relaxation, and the Sovereign’s Ruination"
Joaquín Rodrigo and Victoria Kamhi Arditti
“The Light of my Eyes” Discover the musical and literary collaborations of the couple
Creatures of the Parisian Salon
Ruggero Leoncavallo and Berthe Rambaud Leoncavallo’s encounters with attractive sopranos
Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Dangerous Side Effects of Fame Anecdotes of Gottschalk’s sexual exploits