Laughing Torso - Nina Hamnett 1932 - Constable & Co Ltd, London - First Edition ‘A lady was the last thing I wanted to be’

The witty, irresistible memoirs of the self-effacing artist and ‘Queen of Bohemia’, Nina Hamnett – her always enchanting and occasionally deadpan account of Bohemian life in Paris and a bestseller upon its first appearance in 1932 in both Britain and America.

A model as well as a painter, Hamnett shamelessly name-drops the innumerable artists and celebrities she encounters at Montmarte’s popular cafés and night spots – including Modigliani, Lytton Strachey, Erik Satie, André Gide, Walter Epstein, Nancy Cunard, and Jean Cocteau, among dozens of others – and with whom she engages in fancy dress parties, all night drinking, and naked dancing. She even sang nursery rhymes with James Joyce, who she described as ‘the most respectable and old fashioned man I have ever met’.

Wonderfully illustrated throughout with 23 black and white photographs and sketches and paintings by the author, including the infamous ‘torso’ as frontispiece.
  After the publication of Laughing Torso, Hamnett was unsuccessfully sued by infamous occultist Aleister Crowley. Crowley accused her of of libel due to allegations of black magic made in her memoir, in which she openly states that he ‘had a temple in Cefalu in Sicily... he was supposed to practice black magic there’. Nina also refers to the occultist’s involvement with the mysterious disappearance of a baby, and the death of the husband of her friend, Betty May, aka ‘Tiger Woman’ while visiting Crowley’s Sicilian retreat.

Despite winning the case, the situation – coupled with her increasing alcoholism – profoundly affected Hamnett for the remainder of her life. She died in 1956 from complications after falling out of her apartment window and being impaled on a fence forty feet below.

References: ‘A Bohemian’
Sunday Times 1932. Kahn & Strand, City Secrets Books. ‘Black Magic: Libel Action’ Manchester Guardian 1934. Johnson, ‘Nina Hamnett Memoirs’ Mantex web. Hooker, Queen of Bohemia 2004.

8vo. pp. [2] ix [1] 326 [2]. Publisher’s black cloth, gilt art-deco style artist’s palette motif and lettering to spine.
  Condition: Very good, light wear and a touch of fraying to cloth at spine ends, minor wear to corners, small bookseller sticker to lower front pastedown, a few gatherings slightly over opened.   Ref: 108020   Price: HK$ 1,500