To several generations, Noel Coward was the very personification of wit, glamor, and elegance. There seemed to be nothing he couldn't do, and - as Philip Hoare shows in this definitive biography - he seems to have tried it all. The most remarkable thing, however, was that whatever it was that Coward undertook, it was done with supreme style and class. Coward was a master playwright: consider Blithe Spirit, Private Lives, and Design for Living; the composer/lyricist of songs such as "Mad Dogs and Englishmen," "If Love Were All," and "Mad About the Boy," from musicals and operettas such as Bitter Sweet, Conversation Piece, and High Spirits; he was a filmmaker: Cavalcade, In Which We Serve, and Brief Encounter; a novelist and diarist: Pomp and Circumstance, Present Indicative; and a talented actor and performer. In researching the book, Philip Hoare traveled far and wide, and interviewed dozens of Coward's surviving contemporaries - friends, as well as enemies. Most significant, however, was the cooperation he received from the Coward Estate. Given unprecedented access to the private papers and correspondence of Coward and of members of his family, as well as his many compatriots and numerous lovers, Hoare has produced what has been hailed widely as "the definitive book" about Noel Coward. One especially noteworthy aspect to Hoare's treatment of Coward's life is the fact that this book is the first to deal openly with Coward's homosexuality. It was, of course, a reality in his life, but despite the fact that it imbued his work, it was a subject Coward remained, to his death, wary of discussing publicly. But while Hoare deals frankly with the subject, he never oversteps the bounds of discretion and good taste. The result of all Philip Hoare's meticulous research and careful assessment is a biography that is both wideranging and intimate, a record of the public profile and private life of one of the twentieth century's most celebrated - and still controversial - figures, above all, a great story, as Coward progresses from a childhood middle-class respectability to the world's stage, and unparalled social success (his friends and lovers included some of the century's most glamorous and occasionally notorious figures from celebrities to royalty).