Noel Coward 101
Compiled by John Kenrick
The writings of Noel Coward amount to a small library. Add the ever-growing list of books discussing his life and career, and the results would keep even a dedicated theatre fan reading indefinitely. Here is a list of the best available by and about "The Master."
1. The Published Writings of Noel Coward
Listed here are the original editions. There have been many re-printings and new editions of Coward's most popular works.
- Collected Plays, Vols. 1-6. London: Methuen, 1994-1999. The most recent collection of his plays, including several previously unpublished works, with excellent introductory notes by Coward biographer Sheridan Morley.
- Collected Short Stories. New York: Dutton, 1983.
- Collected Verse. London: Methuen, 1984.
- Diaries. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1982. A fascinating look into Coward's private thoughts, covering 1941 to 1969.
- Future Indefinite. (Autobiography - pt. 2) London: Heinemann, 1954. The continuation of Present Indicative, covering his life during World War II and its aftermath -- a must-read for all Coward fans.
- Lyrics. London: Heinemann, 1965. Coward intersperses some of his most memorable lyrics with commentaries on the shows and the times that inspired them.
- Play Parade, Vol, 1. London: Heinemann, 1934.
Play Parade, Vol, 2. London: Heinemann, 1939.
Play Parade, Vol, 3. London: Heinemann, 1950.
Play Parade, Vol, 4. London: Heinemann, 1954.
Play Parade, Vol, 5. London: Heinemann, 1958.
Play Parade, Vol, 6. London: Heinemann, 1962.
- Pomp and Circumstance. (Novel) London: Heinemann, 1960. Coward's only novel is a comic delight, set in a South Sea island Royal colony. Pity he didn't write a dozen more!
- Present Indicative. (Autobiography - pt. 1) London: Heinemann, 1937. The Master's own take on his early life -- selective of course, but entertaining reading.
- Whithered Nosegay, A. (Poetry) London: Methuen, 1984. Coward skewers the pretenses of modern poetry in this hilarious set of parodies.
2. Books on Noel Coward
- Braybrooke, Patrick. The Amazing Mr. Coward. London: Archer, 1933.
- Briers, Richard. Coward and Company. London: Futura, 1989. One of Britain's best comic actors shares his personal memories of Coward -- a treat for Coward fans.
- Castle, Charles. Noel. London: W. H. Alien, 1972. The transcript of a biographical documentary Coward completed shortly before his death. Lavishly illustrated and lots of great anecdotes.
- Castle, Terry. Noel Coward and Radclyffe Hall: Kindred Spirits. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.
- Day, Barry. Noel Coward: A Life in Quotes. London: Metro Books, 1999. Over a hundred well-chosen pages of "The Master's" wit and wisdom.
- Citron, Stephen. Noel and Cole: The Sophisticates. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. A fine comparative biography, with excellent insights into the music and lyrics of these two masters. Many of their major compositions given intelligent, detailed analysis.
- Gray, Frances. Noel Coward. London: Macmillan, 1987.
- Greacen, Robert. The Art of Noel Coward. England: Hand and Flower Press, 1953.
- Hoare, Philip. Noel Coward. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995. Thorough and insightful, this is the first Coward bio to deal frankly with his homosexuality. It stresses that aspect of the story, which is only fair after decades of academic silence. Well researched and a delightful read, this is my choice as the best Coward bio to date -- highly recommended!
- Lahr, John. Coward the Playwright. London: Methuen, 1982. Probably the best assessment of Coward's stage works, written with genuine insight.
- Lawrence, Gertrude. A Star Danced. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1945. Each chapter veers between the present (World War II) and the past, so it helps if you know the basics of Gertie's life story before trying to make sense of this book, which was most likely ghostwritten. Some Coward anecdotes, but her memory often does not jibe with his (as recorded in his autobiographies).
- Lesley, Cole, Sheridan Morley and Graham Payne, editors. Noel Coward and his Friends. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979. Hundreds of great photos, with many rare items. The text is also a pleasure to read -- unusual for a picture book. Its all a joy for Coward fans.
- Lesley, Cole. The Life of Noel Coward. London: Jonathan Cape, 1976. Perhaps the most entertaining and anecdotal of the Coward biographies, written by Coward's friend and secretary.
- Mander, Raymond and Joe Mitchenson. Theatrical Companion to Coward. London: Rockliff, 1957. A fine critical assessment of the plays.
- Marchant, William. The Privilege of His Company: Noel Coward Remembered. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1975. The author of Desk Set recalls his years of working and socializing with Coward -- a charming look at "The Master" in action, with some rare photos.
- Morella, Joseph and George Mazzei. Genius and Lust: The Creative and Sexual Lives of Cole Porter and Noel Coward. New York: Carroll and Graf, 1995. A trashy book, short on research and long on gossip. No better than reading a men's room wall, and considerably less entertaining.
- Morley, Sheridan. A Talent to Amuse. London: Heinemann, 1969. Written with Coward's cooperation, this book is well written but avoids many key issues and events.
- Morley, Sheridan. Out in the Midday Sun: The Paintings of Noel Coward. London: Phaudon, 1988. An illustrated discussion of Coward's colorful paintings, and the life in Jamaica that inspired them. If you don't know about this aspect of Coward's artistic output, this book offers pleasurable surprises.
- Payne, Graham. My Life with Noel Coward. London and New York: Applause, 1994. This loving memoir features stories and observations from Coward's longtime companion. The appendix includes several rarely seen articles by Coward.
- Richards, Dick, editor. The Wit of Noel Coward. London: Leslie Frewin, 1968. A concise collection of quotable Coward.