Eton College, Windsor SL4 6DW, Regno Unito
University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 2JD, Regno Unito
West Dean House, West Sussex, Chichester PO18 0QZ, Regno Unito
Edward William Frank James (16 August 1907 – 2 December 1984) was a British poet known for his patronage of the surrealist art movement.
Edward James was born on 16 August 1907, the only son of William James (who had inherited a fortune from his father, merchant Daniel James) and Evelyn Forbes, a Scots socialite. He was reputedly fathered by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and in his anecdotal reminiscences, recorded in Swans Reflecting Elephants – My Early Years, Edward James also puts forward this hypothesis. In his memoirs he wrote "I was not, I was, in fact, his grandson" saying that it was his grandmother that had an affair with the Prince of Wales. However, there was also popular belief that Forbes was one of the Prince of Wales's mistresses and there was a much-quoted ballad by Hilaire Belloc intimating this at the time.
Edward James had four older sisters: Audrey, Millicent, Xandra, and Silvia. He was educated at Lockers Park School, then briefly at Eton, then at Le Rosey in Switzerland, and finally at Christ Church, Oxford, where he was a contemporary of Evelyn Waugh (Waugh attended Hertford College) and Harold Acton, a fellow student at Christ Church. When his father died in 1912 he inherited the 8,000-acre (32 km2) West Dean House estate in Sussex, held in trust until he came of age. He was also left a large sum in trust when his uncle John Arthur James died in 1917.
James's first sponsorship of note was in publishing John Betjeman's first book of poems when at Oxford. He worked with Brian Howard on the Glass Omnibus. After Oxford, James had a brief career as a trainee diplomat at the embassy in Rome. He was asked to send a coded message to London that the Italians had laid the keels for three destroyers, but got the code wrong; the message said "300 destroyers". Shortly after this he was sent "on indefinite leave".
In the early 1930s, James married Tilly Losch, an Austrian dancer, choreographer, actress and painter. He had several productions created expressly for her, the most notable of which was Les Ballets 1933, which included Kurt Weill, Lotte Lenya and George Balanchine. He and Boris Kochno commissioned that year Brecht and Weill's last collaboration, The Seven Deadly Sins, which Balanchine produced, directed and choreographed.
James divorced Losch in 1934, accusing her of adultery with Prince Serge Obolensky, an American hotel executive; her countersuit, in which she made it clear that James was homosexual, failed. James was in fact bisexual. After the divorce, James joined a social set in England which included the Mitford sisters and the composer Lord Berners.