A. P. Herbert

b. Alan Patrick Herbert, 24 September 1890, Elsted, Surrey, England, d. 11 November 1971, London, England. Graduating from Oxford University, Herbert served in the Royal Navy during World War I. Admitted…
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Artist Biography

b. Alan Patrick Herbert, 24 September 1890, Elsted, Surrey, England, d. 11 November 1971, London, England. Graduating from Oxford University, Herbert served in the Royal Navy during World War I. Admitted to the bar in 1918, he thereafter worked as a barrister and wrote prolifically. His novels include The Secret Battle (1919), The House By The River (1921) and The Water Gipsies (1930). For 60 years he contributed to Punch, satirizing the judicial system with ‘Misleading Cases In The Common Law’. These were brought to life by BBC television with Misleading Cases (1967-71). From 1935-50 Herbert was Independent Member of Parliament for Oxford University. He helped frame the Matrimonial Causes Act (1938), a subject central to his book, Holy Deadlock (1934), and was an outspoken critic of obscenity laws and entertainment tax. Additionally, he wrote some 15 plays and contributed lyrics and sometime the book for several comic operas, including Riverside Nights (1926), La Vie Parisienne (1929), Tantivy Towers (1931, music by Thomas Frederick Dunhill), and Derby Day (1932). The latter featured music by Alfred Reynolds and ran for 132 performances. Also in 1932 Herbert adapted and wrote lyrics for Helen!, based upon La Belle Hélène, for which Erich Wolfgang Korngold arranged Jacques Offenbach’s original music. This ran for 104 performances. Herbert also collaborated with Louis Levy on the screenplay for the film musical Waltz Time (1933), starring Evelyn Laye.

Herbert often collaborated with composer Vivian Ellis. This began in earnest with songs they wrote for the 1934 revue, Streamline, notably ‘Other People’s Babies’, sung in the show by Norah Howard. After World War II, Herbert, who was knighted in 1945, provided book and lyrics for Ellis’ Big Ben (1946) and Bless The Bride (1947). From the former came ‘I Want To See The People Happy’, ‘London Town’, ‘Let Us Go Down The River’, ‘Love Me Not’ and ‘Who’s The Lady’. The latter show, a considerable success, had ‘I Was Never Kissed Before’, ‘Ma Belle Marguerite’ and the hit song ‘This Is My Lovely Day’. Their next collaboration was Tough At The Top (1949), which flopped. In 1955, came the pair’s stage version of Herbert’s novel The Water Gipsies, which had been filmed in 1932 (and included Ellis’ song, ‘Little Boat’). For the stage show they wrote ‘Why Did You Call Me Lily’, ‘I Should Worry’, ‘You Never Know With Men’ and ‘It Would Cramp My Style’.