NO ONE, not even our Parents, may keep us from one another
Noël Coward and Esmé Wynne's "Rules of Palship"
Welcome to the 37th issue of the Lists of Note newsletter: a new (old) list each Sunday. You can support this project by becoming a paid subscriber, or by donating, or by purchasing a copy of the Lists of Note book, in which this list can be found. Thanks.
In August of 1915, at just 16 years of age and in an effort to minimise arguments in what was an incredibly close and sometimes turbulent friendship, future playwright Noël Coward and his best friend, the actress Esmé Wynne, drew up an endearing list of 16 “Rules of Palship”, to be signed and followed by both parties. It can be read below. The list proved successful; the pair remained friends for some years.
RULES OF PALSHIP BETWEEN ESMÉ WYNNE AND NOËL COWARD
(1). We must not tease each other and if we begin we must stop directly we are asked.
(2). We must take it in turns to go and see one another and if one goes twice running to the other’s house, the other must do the same afterwards.
(3). We must never split on one another even if the PALSHIP is dissolved and we must hold all confidences sacred.
(4). We must share all profits in any transaction made together, however slight the help of the other may be. Profits are excluded from any expenses incurred during the said transaction.
(5). In case of serious quarrel a week or a fortnight may be taken to think things over before abolishing the PALSHIP.
(6). If one hits the other either in anger or fun, he must allow the other to hit back. Any other offence must be paid for.
(7). We must stick up for each other against anyone or anything, and stand by each other in all danger.
(8). We must tell each other all secrets concerned with ourselves, other confidences may be held sacred even from one another.
(9). We must not talk RELIGION unless it is inevitable.
(10). When writing to mutual friends we must tell each other, we must also tell each other what we have said in the letter.
(11). We must swear by “HONOUR AS A PAL” and hold it THE most sacred of bonds in the world.
(12). We must tell each other what we think about the other’s appearance or behaviour.
(13). We must go straight to one another in case of mischief being made and believe NOTHING unless it comes from the other’s own lips.
(14). NO ONE, not even our Parents, may keep us from one another.
(15). If any other rules are formed or thought of, the must be added (with the consent of both) at the end of this document.
(16). NO OTHER PERSON may be admitted into our PALSHIP or SECRETS.
SIGNATURE OF BOTH
Dated August the 11th 1915.
The above list is taken from the Lists of Note book, the last remaining copies of which (it’s out of print, sadly) I am selling here.
Wow! No need for a lawyer, just two genuine friends putting in the work to bound and preserve their relationship. You can hear their heart behind the words. And get a sense of their clear-eyed preparation about an uncertain future. So, what’s the story of how that future panned out? How long were they friends after this letter? How did their spouses/partners fit into the dynamic of such a beautiful friendship? Did they ever get a sit-down later in life for a conversation about this letter? When did it become public? How did it help or hinder their professional growth? Did they live close to each other for long? This letter piques the curiosity for so many juicy details about its aftermath. Time to get internet sleuthing.😎 Thank YOU for sharing! 👏👏👏