Katherine, an art dealer and writer of short stories and art books, was traveling through the English countryside with a friend in 1976 when they paused to visit and have lunch at the home of Stephen Tennant. From that visit sprang the inspiration for The Fairy Garden. For Stephen’s home was like no other: a retreat for fantasy and a safe harbor for a man who’d found the world not congenial to his tastes.
Unknown to Katherine at the time she wrote The Fairy Garden, Stephen had inspired other books. As a pretty, strangely coddled child he was the model for Colin in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. And as a young man he gave form to the character of Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited. Philip Hoare’s biography of Stephen, Serious Pleasures, provides insights into how he came to be the idiosyncratic, fascinating man whom Katherine met.
For Katherine, Stephen was a man who had the bravery to create a unique world and live his life entirely on his own terms. As, in the late 1970′s, her fine art business succumbed to art market fluctuations, she found her retreat in writing of a world of the imagination — and bestowing on its hero Stephen’s name.
And as she wrote of fairies, the plants upon her windowsill flickered with moving lights.