Now that this blog is 4 years old and I’ve written up notes on more than 50 of Porter’s most recognized and often-performed songs, I’d like to make mention of an engaging, new book published in 2019: “The Letters of Cole Porter” by Cliff Eisen & Dominic McHugh, printed in Great Britain by Gomer Press Ltd. While several biographers have plumbed the details of Porter’s life, this book of his letters offers a unique insight into the exuberant, flirtatious and flamboyant side of his character that doesn’t always come through to the reader in the biographies that I have read.
Here is one interesting side note. To quote the authors: “ Famously born into a wealthy family and married to a rich divorcee, Porter spent most of his adult life worrying about money, so much so that he often had to weigh up whether the consequently enormous rise in taxes would make it financially crippling to take on certain musical projects. Thus while we might have expected the affluent Porter to have written his songs and musicals without “needing the money”, in truth the opposite was the case: he sometimes sacrificed his financial stability for his art.”
Porter wrote letters by the boxcar full, sometimes several to the same person on the same day. To give you a sense of the man behind the pen, I will reproduce one of many that I might have chosen:
19-20 August 1949: Cole Porter to Roger Davis (pg. 334)
Linda (Porter’s wife) showed me your roller-skating postcard tonight before dinner + she laughed so much that it did her more good than all the doctors. Howard Sturges is here & he fills her with gossip from all the capitals of Europe, with laughs. This is what she needs most, - to laugh. She is far from well but she is in great form. And she is very beautiful for her hair is grey, the grey that Mona (a socialite friend) had for a while + gave up for the brass. We have had visitors. Hanna passed through + out, several times. Wimsey appeared + disappeared, sober. He is more amusing, drunk. Tell Sam Stark, if you still speak to him, that I have met something here in Williamstown that defies all description. Tell him also that I miss you, Mr. Davis. Goodnight Cole”
Pithy and displaying a wry sense of humor, this letter conveys a few amusing details about Porter’s private life away from the bright lights of Broadway and Hollywood. n.b. The sentence about visitors and his closing salutation.