August 27th, 2011

John Maynard Keynes, married man

One of the things I love about blogging are the discoveries that can result from late-night meandering down paths that lead to the unexpected.

That’s what happened the other evening when, after doing some research on Keynes and Hayek, I went to Keynes’ Wiki entry. There was almost nothing there about his private life except for a few facts about his parents, brother, and nephews, and then under the subheading “death,” the following sentence: “His widow, Lydia Lopokova, lived on until 1981.”

Now, I may not know tons about economics, but I have other fields of expertise, and one of them allowed me to immediately recognize and place that name. Lopokova was a Diaghilev ballerina, one of many who left Russia in the early part of the 20th century. She danced with Nijinsky and Karsavina, and knew Picasso (who drew her several times).

I was astonished. Keynes married Lopokova??

Indeed, he did—and therein lies a tale even more fascinating than that simple fact would indicate. First, though, let’s take a look at the happy couple:

The circumstances of their meeting were not exactly auspicious in terms of a future marriage. For one thing, Lopokova didn’t speak English all that well. For another, Keynes was gay. Not only that, but he was very gay, if we can speak of degrees in these things. But, in the mysterious ways of the human heart (and body), he fell madly—and rather swiftly—for Lydia, in a manner that wasn’t the least bit platonic, and which seems to have riled the literary/artistic Bloomsbury folk with whom he’d previously hung out:

Keynes first saw her perform in 1921. In December of that year they saw each other face to face: “[Maynard] seems to have anticipated no more than a casual date,” Mackrell writes. “Yet desire evidently sparked at that meeting and it flared so fast that within two weeks Maynard had become Lydia’s lover, and within seven weeks had established her in rooms that were just four doors away from his own house.”

The close-knit Bloomsbury Group already had its doubts about Keynes’s less than socially exalted background. Its members openly resented his new, oddball, female lover. But their relationship was both more solid and more playful than any other in the group.

She called him “the big walk” of her life; he had an armoury of affectionate nicknames for her–”Lydochka” and “pupsik” among them–and their sex life was inventive and intense, according to the extracts Mackrell quotes from their letters.

How does anyone attempt to explain this? I won’t even try. This is what Lopokova’s biographer has to say about it:

He never lost his interest in young men,” asserts Mackrell, “and had an active fantasy life, I’m certain. But he stayed faithful. For that and for his brilliance, I came–this you have to do as a biographer–to love him, almost more than Lydia.”

Here’s more about the special flavor of their relationship:

Her English was terrible but beguiling: “To you I send a chirp from under the left breast,” she would write, “I place melodious strokes all over you.”

And this:

…Keynes and his “dearest darling Lydochka” are in the throes of the kind of bonkers badinage that lovers adore, expressed in the “Lydian English” that Keynes found so engaging. “You do develop my cranium miely Maynarochka,” she says, “and I am so glad I…am intimate with your little holes.” She also declared that The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Keynes’s greatest work, was “beautiful like Bach”.

Lopokova may have sounded airheaded, but she ultimately proved her mettle:

After she nursed [Keynes] devotedly in the declining years of his life (he died at 62 from heart disease), Lopokova went into the seclusion for the rest of her life. She refused interviews and never wrote an autobiography, dying 35 years later.

[NOTE: I never thought I'd get a chance to use the tabs "Finance and economics," "Dance," and "Men and women; marriage and divorce and sex" all for the same post. Yet here it is.

Oh, and earlier in life, Lopokova was Stravinsky's mistress. What's more, in 1915, while in New York, she became engaged to the New York Morning Telegraph sportswriter Heywood Broun, who later became a member of the celebrated Algonquin Round Table. She certainly had eclectic tastes in men.]

27 Responses to “John Maynard Keynes, married man”

  1. Book Says:

    o_Ò

    WoW! I mean… wow! That is… really weird. And fascinating. Melodious strokes!! The best thing about Lopokova’s English is that you know exactly what she means to say… and still it is so delightfully strange.

  2. rickl Says:

    Actually, she sounds a bit like a spambot. :)

  3. SteveH Says:

    Sounds like she took the athletic ability to get her feet over her head in more than one direction. :)

  4. Anne Says:

    I don’t mean to be pedantic, but I just checked his Wikipedia entry and there’s plenty about his private life and marriage. Did you miss that section?

  5. chuck Says:

    Schrodinger, of Schrodinger’s cat fame, was another famous person from that period with a strange private life. He worked out wave mechanics while spending time in the alps with his mistress and his wife acted as a procuress. He fled Germany for Oxford in 1933, but had trouble finding social acceptance as both his mistress and his wife lived with him. He also complained that the faculty was too gay, he preferred skirt chasers ;)

  6. George Pal Says:

    This may be the one of the most fascinating items I have ever come across that would fall under the tag ‘I Didn’t Know That’ or better still, ‘I Don’t Believe It’.

  7. Mr. Frank Says:

    Wouldn’t it be fair to say that Keynes was bisexual rather than “very gay?”

  8. vanderleun Says:

    “To you I send a chirp from under the left breast,” she would write, “I place melodious strokes all over you.”

    Works for me.

  9. effess Says:

    Lopokova “also declared that The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Keynes’s greatest work, was ‘beautiful like Bach’.” Wow! Wait till the Democrats get hold of that one: “Our new stimulus proposal is great music, equal to that of J. S. Bach.”

  10. Bilwick Says:

    The marriage almost ended on the honeymoon night, when she discovered he had a “deficit” in his pants.

  11. Scott Says:

    The guy posing in that photo is gay? Who woulda thunk it?

  12. Gringo Says:

    Oh, and earlier in life, Lopokova was Stravinsky’s mistress. What’s more, in 1915, while in New York, she became engaged to the New York Morning Telegraph sportswriter Heywood Broun, who later became a member of the celebrated Algonquin Round Table. She certainly had eclectic tastes in men.]

    With so many prominent attachments, I am surprised that Tom Lehrer didn’t write a song about her. After all, he wrote a song agbout Alma, who had been the wife of composer Gustav Mahler, architect Walter Gropius, and author Franz Werfel. (more information at “show more”)

  13. Gringo Says:

    This link for Alma should work better.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hH4J8CIBc7Q

  14. jms Says:

    This is on par with Tom Lehrer’s tribute to Alma Mahler Gropius Werfel:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hH4J8CIBc7Q

  15. jms Says:

    Gringo wins by under a minute!

  16. neo-neocon Says:

    Gringo and jms: I actually thought of Alma (and Tom Lehrer’s song) when I was writing this post.

    Not only that, but years ago I wrote a draft for a post about Alma’s life (I’ve never finished it; someday it may see the light of day). I was inspired by Lehrer’s song to look up the facts of Alma’s life. The song is comic, but her life was actually fairly tragic, although she did indeed know (in the Biblical sense) all those famous men.

  17. neo-neocon Says:

    Mr. Frank: no, it would not be fair to call him bisexual before meeting Lopokova. His sex life until meeting her was 100% gay, as far as anyone knows. Then he made a 180 turn and was 100% heterosexual once he married her (that is, he was both sexually active with his wife and faithful to her) and for the rest of his life, as far as anyone can tell. And when he met Lopokova he was not exactly an inexperienced broth of a boy; he was around 38 and had a long string of homosexual affairs under his belt, as it were.

  18. neo-neocon Says:

    Anne: yes, I did miss that section. I just figured out why. I used the table of contents for Keynes’s Wiki entry, and under “Personal,” it just had four headings: Involvement with the Liberal Party, Support for the arts, Support for eugenics, and Death. So I never read most of those sections, not realizing that some stuff about his private life and love life was actually in there.

  19. Artfldgr Says:

    If you note the early progressives tended to be sex freaks… ergo they hated a society that would not let them do as they pleased that way… ergo we now have a group of psychologists offering up pedophilia as a norm we should get used to… ergo sexual sadists have to have a place, and the underclass of unprotected classes is the well they dip into.

    the age of the sociopath is upon us…

    [to me the more interesting thing is you have two camps, one says x will happen, the other says Y will happen, Y gets their way, X is right, but we have to continue with Y? what happened to going back and listening to the people that were right, rather than proceed onward with the successful but wrong? might makes right over empiricism? ergo, 100 million captains and no deck hands in a storm... ]

  20. Artfldgr Says:

    oh… the whole sordid core of art went to the sex fiends… from pedophilism/pederasty warping hollyweird (see Cory haim, Micheal Jackson, Roman Polanski, Gerry lee Lewis, etc)

    their Nobel fight was only for the right to debase themselves without approbation. they demanded the free use of the nintendo of its day, and the open expression of the mind in sexuality… ergo how many of them get caught recently with partners dressed up as nazi gestapo sex torturers…

    progressive politicians are the ones mostly caught cheating or living double lives..

    even going back to moses harmon and his paper lucifer bringer of light later the american eugenicist…

    after all, if your going to have rampant sex, your going to want a way to select the good from the extra waste. no?

    your going to need abortion. no?

    your going to need places to dump kids so you can go back to having sex… no?

    your going to have to normalize deviancy as early as possible… no?

    your going to have to make a two class system as a whole lot of desires you want require a victim… no?

    heck.. Obama momma and her nudie pictures, sleeping around, and so on?

    weiner? Max Mosley and his Nazi Sex Slaves? the debasement in Rap?

    the promise of higher things revealed in feminism to mean, a race to the bottom in debased sexuality, being used, STDs, infertility, etc… but the elite sure do have fun picking things to play with and unlike the past having to support them…

    sex fetish stuff normal for the office…

    and on it goes…

    and steeped in it, we dont notice it much, except we complain a bit when we do, re jigger ourselves, then sleep again…

    yesterday, it was very hard to get the general population to let their women be free and accessible… today, they come with their own sex toys, want to be sex tortured, and are given pamphlets in teen years as to happy and loving anal fisting…

    hmmm…. and i am bad for mentioning it, when the feminists/progressives/socialists/ etc are good at making it…

  21. Gringo Says:

    Neo attracts a lot of readers like herself: libs/progs turned wingnut. We did it on different schedules, but we did it.

    Like Neo, a lot of her readers had their childhoods corrupted by exposure to Tom Lehrer. This is by no means the first Neo thread that mentions him. (Corrupted? I recall a babysitter shaking her head about our singing “The Old Dope Peddler.”)

    I wonder if those with childhoods corrupted by Tom Lehrer, which is an indication of having had lib/prog parents, had a greater tendency to leave the lib/prog fold than libs who did not grow up with Tom Lehrer.

    OTOH, some childhood friends of mine who also grew up with Tom Lehrer are as lib as ever.

  22. Sgt. Mom Says:

    I don’t know if your theory holds up, Gringo. I knew the music of Tom Lehrer from childhood (and even sang Merry Minuet in chorus at summer camp!) and although fairly well educated, my parents were anything but lib/progs – they just appreciated the satire.

  23. Gringo Says:

    Sgt. Mom:

    Then I will rephrase my question:

    I wonder if those with childhoods corrupted by Tom Lehrer had a greater tendency to leave the lib/prog fold than libs who did not grow up with Tom Lehrer.

    (If you were never a lib, then the question would not apply to you.)

  24. Ben David Says:

    Yet more evidence bursting the Big Lie of the gay rights agenda – gays are NOT “born that way”, sexual identity IS fluid.

    The “born that way” lie is used to sidestep critical observation of the actual dysfunction in the gay lifestyle. It is also used – through Goebbels-like Big Lie repetition – to sloppily move people from “homosexuality is natural” (as in occurring in nature) to “it’s normal” (which is something else entirely).

  25. Don Carlos Says:

    How sweet. How much more I like Keynes now that I know how glad he was ‘to be intimate with all her little holes’. She only had one type of ‘hole’ he’d never visited before.

    Maybe the prob with us cons, neo or proto, is that we are orgasmically less dependent.

  26. PunditGeorge Says:

    I like quoting Keynes – “When someone convinces me that I’m wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?” I suppose this gives meat to his meaning.

  27. Valjean Says:

    Neo,

    A terrific source for more information about Keynes rapid interest in ballet is Jennifer Homans’ ‘Apollo’s Angels’. If you’ve not encountered it, it’s a better-than-average ballet history — with some clearly liberal asides — but her 20th-century research is particularly top-notch. She say next to nothing — quite appropriately so — about Keynes’ economic theories. Seems he was far sharper — and even passionate — about dance than we was about economics. If only he’d have stuck to his strengths …

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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