Friday, September 10, 2010

Whoever died and wished they had less sex?

I wish I could say the title was mine, but I cannot. I merely extracted a phrase, perhaps one of the most thought-provoking ever to appear on my blog, from an email expressing distaste at Roderick Cameron's treatment in certain sections of the press. If I were writing a biography of Mr Cameron I probably would use the word Discreet in the title for discretion, discernment and consideration are quite clearly conspicuous qualities of both the man and his aesthetic. Later I shall quote more from that correspondence, which as I say expresses distaste at the treatment of a man the writer clearly liked and, perhaps more importantly, respected.

These photographs of Roderick Cameron's last work - he died shortly before it was finished - an apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side for Anne Cox Chambers, the erstwhile Ambassador to Belgium during the 1970s, and a neighbor of Roderick Cameron when he lived at Menerbes, speak for themselves and to the taste and connoisseurship of the man.

All, except for one screen, was chosen by Cameron and though my list is of necessity short, from it you can gauge the quality and variety of what he thought suitable for his client: a painting of Drummond Castle, apparently chosen by Cameron to set the tone for the room; a nineteenth-century French bronze greyhound to stand on the simple coffee table; a Tibetan crystal mask; Queen Anne stools with contemporary needlepoint, Chinoiserie paintings which apparently are Flemish interpretations of engravings made by a Jesuit priest in China; an eighteenth-century bergère; a Regency lacquer bench; a nineteenth-century English glass and lacquer cabinet; a painted Italian commode; an eighteenth-century Chinese silk rug too small for the room but laid over Cogolin raffia matting to give it scale; an Italian cartouche; an eighteenth-century Korean faience deer and an eighteenth-century English giltwood armchair.

"I am quite taken aback by what Taki said about Mr Cameron - not least because he was so very discreet. I was told by a niece before we took the job in France that he was homosexual, but had I not been told, although I might have wondered, I don't think I would have been absolutely sure. (Obviously, if you live in a house in close proximity with someone, you will eventually have some idea of what they are like, but I repeat: Mr Cameron was utterly discreet in his private affairs.) He was certainly not a pansy, and he was always the soul of rectitude when I knew him. Indeed, he had quite a bit to say about guests who did not observe the proprieties - he was most put out by unmarried guests sharing beds without having the foresight to rumple the sheets in both rooms, because as far as he was concerned, this was a breach of manners that would cause the staff embarrassment, as they would surely notice an unslept in bed when they came to do the rooms. (From the point of view of working in the house, I knew when we were expecting "normal" people - that is, the sort of people I was used to - because they were among the few who would share a bedroom. Even married people of Mr Cameron's circle would have a bedroom each, even if they were adjoining.)

"As for his mother being a "terrible snob", just who does this Taki think he is? I don't know anything of Taki's background, but I do know a little of Mr Cameron's mother, who after the death of Mr Cameron's father, married General Cavendish, to whom she was married for about fourteen years, then Lord Furness, and finally the Earl of Kenmare. She certainly lived amongst the aristocracy, and I can't think that she would have any need to "pretend to come from something she didn't come from." I have not thought of Mr Cameron and his circle for some time, but I did a little looking up - there is a picture of her here and here.

"So, a "terrible snob?" I think not. She may well have been naughty and had lots of lovers - I certainly don't know, and obviously it was not something that Mr Cameron would have talked of with his young "help," but if she did, so what? Who ever died and wished they'd had less sex?"

Photography by Karen Radkai for House and Garden's Best in Decoration, Editors of House and Garden, Conde Nast 1987.


  1. Your words here are so well written, so thoughtful, so loving (and, yes, they are of love), that I, for one, do not know what to add, but thank you. I am now reminded of listening to my college teacher, Robert Phelps, talk of his friend Glenway Wescott--always with deep respect and admiration.

  2. The work of Mr. Cameron is lovely, but the seeming homophobia (pansy?)of the letter writer is not.

    Can you divulge the book these images come from?

  3. VoiceTalk, thank you. The letter writer is quoting the word "pansy" - she herself has shown no signs of homophobia. The origin of the use of the word is to be found in my post NQOC where I discuss double standards as applied to women and homosexuals.

    Bruce Barone, thank you. I was only quoting someone who had worked for Mr Cameron.

  4. Well done, Blue. This has been a thought provoking and delicious to read (and look at and study) series. Is there not a book in you on this subject (and I use "subject" loosely as there are a number of them interwoven here)? I believe I can answer this question , , ,

  5. Blue --

    Great post! And good for her, taking the time to leap to Cameron's defense. Tending to the reputations of the dead doesn't happen nearly enough any more, and it's always an uphill struggle.

    P.S. But of course the answer to the opening question is probably "Hundreds of millions, mostly women." It was not your intention, I'm sure, but I can't think of a phrase more apt to draw traffic -- with the possible exception of "Paul Krugman sex tape."

  6. Quite an interesting post and a most fitting swan song for Rory Cameron. Are all photos featured those of the Sutton Place apartment of Ann Cox Chambers?

  7. Reggie, thank you. A short response to your comment, I know, but not meant to be dismissive - I'm thinking the whole thing through, so I hope you will forgive me. I am thinking!

  8. The Ancient, thank you. I am very grateful to my correspondent (also to another who worked for Cameron) for the insights she has given me. Roderick Cameron (I cannot bring myself to write Rory as I did not know him personally) has proved to be a source of a number of ideas I want to write about in the coming weeks.

  9. Anonymous, thank you for your comment. As far as I can tell without having the book in front of me those photos are of that apartment. Once my copy arrives I shall check.

  10. Love the quotes you chose to use, it shows how far our society has come; can you imagine someone saying those things today? Lovely images :-)

  11. Dear Blue,

    Nice writing. My old mentor, Tice Alexander, who worked along side Libby Cameron, used to say he liked RC's Fiorentina better, after I said how much I liked the BB version...