Gyles Brandreth, writer, broadcaster, actor, comedian, former Member of Parliament, and Old Bedalian
‘A fascinating time capsule, beautifully written, beautifully observed. A vivid portrait of several vanished worlds.’
Robert Dudley Best (1892–1984) was an industrial designer, famous for creating the Bestlite, the first iconic modern object in 1930s Britain.
Born into a privileged Birmingham family, he and his brother wanted to be music hall entertainers, but were derailed—first by their industrialist father, R.H. Best, who wanted them to work in his lighting factory and insisted they study at Germany’s best art school, in Duesseldorf, and then by WW1, which only Robert survived.
Robert went on to pen an appreciation of his father’s business innovations, an unpublished history of design in the first half of the 20th century, and a memoir with recollections of F.M. Alexander, the posture therapist and guru.
A century ago, Robert Best was starting to recover from the trauma of the First World War, attending séances to try and reach his younger brother Frank, and wondering how to reconnect with Germany, which his English industrialist father had adored, and where he had spent a happy, amusing and musical year studying at the Duesseldorf art school that the pioneering architect Peter Behrens had run until 1907.
Best’s history of those years, and of his time at Bedales (the inspirational co-ed boarding school founded by J.H. Badley) provides a vivid archive of memories, taking the reader back to the early 20th century, a time before irony had ousted innocence, and when friends could spend a jolly evening singing round a piano in the parlour.
Best’s recall is invaluable. Not only does he expand on his schoolboy ambition to go into music hall but also how he developed his skills, what musical culture meant at the time, who its heroes were, and why they were admired.
In the same way, he talks knowledgeably not only about the state of flight technology before and during the First World War but what a pilot was expected to know (at a time when life expectancy in the Royal Flying Corps was about 4 months) and what gave flying its caché.
Archive photos of Bedales, of pre-WW1 Germany, and of the ASC and RFC.
Robert Dudley Best
From Bedales to the Boche
The Ironies of an Edwardian Childhood
PAGES 427 pp
SIZE 203mm x 127mm (8” x 5”)
ILLUSTRATIONS 32 b/w; 2 maps
BIC CODES BM, HBWN, HBJD
GENRE English Social History
PUBLICATION DATE 8 October 2020
PR/MARKETING Dr Stephen Games