Born in London in 1879 and raised in the Cape of Good Hope, Beatrice Hastings was one of those talented marginal figures who are major witnesses to their times, but whose testimony has been sadly neglected.
After an early marriage and almost immediate widowhood, she had a false start as a showgirl in New York before taking London by storm as the literary editor of, and leading contributr to, the progressive The New Age. With HG Wells, Bernard Shaw, GK Chesterton and Arnold Bennett she kept up well publicised differences of opinion. She aslo launched the careers of Ezra Pound and Katherine Masfield.
During the First World War she became the journal's Paris correspondent, gaining acclaim for her unique weekly insider reports. In her French years she lived with Amedeo Modigliani, who painted several famous portraits of her, setting a style in looks for the modern woman. Her friends included Pablo Picasso, Guillaume Apollinaire and Max Jacob, and with Jean Cocteau she shared the love of Raymond Radiguetm the boy genius less than half her age. She claimed that, by the age of forty, she had had forty male lovers, among them The New Age editor AR Orage and leading modernist Wyndham Lweis.
Forthright and controverisial Hastings made many enemies, but throughout her life she wrote prolifically and eloquently, leaving a fascinating record of the world she lived in. She died by her own hand in 1943. In this absorbing biography Stephen Gray traces her entire career, separating the legend of Beatrice Hastings - the notoriously free woman portrayed in several works - from the bare facts.