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Seebohm, Caroline 1940–

Seebohm, Caroline 1940–

PERSONAL:

Born September 14, 1940, in Nottinghamshire, England; immigrated to the United States, 1971; daughter of Frederick and Evangeline Seebohm; married Walter H. Lippincott, Jr. (a publisher), June 8, 1974 (divorced, 1993); children: Sophie Elizabeth. Education: Oxford University, graduated (with honors), 1961.

ADDRESSES:

Home—New York, NY. Agent—Condé Nast Publications, 350 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10017.

CAREER:

Writer, novelist, journalist, biographer, and researcher. British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC-TV), research assistant, 1962-63; assistant to film director, Hollywood, CA, 1963-65; advertising copywriter, London, England, 1965-70; freelance writer, 1970-74; House and Garden, New York, NY, senior writer, 1974-81. President of American Friends of the Aldeburgh Festival, 1975-79.

WRITINGS:

(Editor) House and Garden's Book of Total Health, Putnam (New York, NY), 1978.

(Editor and author of introduction) Twentieth-Century Decorating, Architecture, Gardens, Holt (New York, NY), 1980.

The Man Who Was Vogue: The Life and Times of Condé Nast, Viking Press (New York, NY), 1982.

The Last Romantics (memoir), Macmillan (New York, NY), 1986.

(With Christopher Simon Sykes) English Country: Living in England's Private Houses, Clarkson Potter (New York, NY), 1987, revised edition, 1995.

The Country House: A Wartime History, 1939-45, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1989.

(With Christopher Simon Sykes) Private Landscapes: Creating Form, Vistas, and Mystery in the Garden, Clarkson Potter (New York, NY), 1989.

(With Nina Campbell) Elsie de Wolfe: A Decorative Life, Clarkson Potter (New York, NY), 1992.

(With Estelle Ellis and Christopher Simon Sykes) At Home with Books: How Booklovers Live with and Care for Their Libraries, Southern Books (New York, NY), 1995.

No Regrets: The Life of Marietta Tree, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.

(With Estelle Ellis and Christopher Simon Sykes) At Home with Art: How Art-lovers Live with and Care for Their Treasures, Clarkson Potter (New York, NY), 1999.

Boca Rococo: How Addison Mizner Invented Florida's Gold Coast, Clarkson Potter (New York, NY), 2001.

(With Peter Wolszynski) Under Live Oaks: The Last Great Houses of the Old South, Clarkson Potter (New York, NY), 2002.

Great Houses and Gardens of New Jersey, photographs by Peter C. Cook, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 2003.

Cottages and Mansions of the Jersey Shore, photographs by Peter C. Cook, Rivergate Books (New Brunswick, NJ), 2007.

The Innocents (novel), Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2007.

Author of television play, A Diamond Is Forever, first broadcast by Associated Television Ltd., 1969, and of play for Plays for Toda television series, BBC-TV.

Author of monthly column, "New York," New Statesman, 1976-79, and column "Nonfiction in Brief," New York Times, 1978-80. Contributor to magazines, including Vogue, Quest, New York, House & Garden, New York Times, and Savvy.

SIDELIGHTS:

Caroline Seebohm's works include illustrated books, magazine articles, biographies, and a memoir. As a senior writer and freelancer for House and Garden, her sense of style and knowledge of the history of the decorative arts has kept her in demand as an authority on traditional English and American decorating and decorators.

In books such as Private Landscapes: Creating Form, Vistas, and Mystery in the Garden, English Country: Living in England's Private Houses, Twentieth-Century Decorating, Architecture, Gardens, and The Country House: A Wartime History, 1939-45, Seebohm worked with photographers such as Christopher Simon Sykes to create beautifully produced and critically acclaimed books on her subjects. In her memoir, The Last Romantics, Seebohm describes the glamorous world in which she and her friends moved in Oxford at the end of the 1950s and what happened to them in the swinging 1960s.

Much of Seebohm's success stems from her ability to have access to the private archives of her subjects and the ability to interview people who normally lead very private lives. In No Regrets: The Life of Marietta Tree, the author portrays the American socialite as a young and attractive free spirit who wanted to be a cross between Eleanor Roosevelt and Carole Lombard, but Marietta Tree, the socialite and Democratic activist who died in 1991, was more akin to Pamela Harriman: an attractive, politically savvy paramour of powerful men.

Born into Massachusetts's prominent Peabody clan in 1917, Tree was about ten when she announced to her grandparents that she would someday become a U.S. senator. By twenty, she had reconsidered the matter, saying, "I intend to get power through connection with a man." And so she did—but with several men, among them two husbands (lawyer Desmond Fitzgerald and Ronald Tree, a conservative member of Parliament), a U.S. presidential candidate (Adlai Stevenson), and a Hollywood film director (John Huston).

No Regrets is packed with famous names, places, parties, and political intrigue and reads like a Who's Who of the twentieth century. With access to family and close friends, letters, diaries, and engagement books, Seebohm pierces the mystique surrounding Marietta to reveal a troubled woman who led a hidden life: clandestine love affairs, estrangement from her four brothers and two daughters, guilt and anxiety over a loveless childhood, emotional isolation, and two failed marriages. To avoid reality, Marietta filled her time with frenzied activity, social and political, and when she at last succumbed to cancer in 1991 at the age of seventy-four, she was filled with remorse as she tried to retrieve her relationships and re-spool the threads of her past. Sandra McElwaine, writing in Washington Monthly, commented: "Seebohm's book, therefore, although extremely well written, is wrongly titled. With Regret would be much closer to the truth."

Elsie de Wolfe: A Decorative Life, written with Nina Campbell, combines a survey of contemporary interior design with a portrait of the innovative work of Elsie de Wolfe (1865-1950), often called the founding mother of the decorating profession.

Boca Rococo: How Addison Mizner Invented Florida's Gold Coast tackles the larger-than-life presence of untrained architect Addison Mizner. In the book, Seebohm relates the inventions of Mizner, a colorful home designer for the wealthy who was instrumental in turning Palm Beach into the country's most fashionable resort city in the early 1920s. Mizner was born the seventh of eight children to a prominent family in the San Francisco area. His family belonged to the Episcopalian faith. The Mizners traced their roots to English and German Protestants, though Addison preferred to add a connection to Meissen, a Dresden porcelain maker, and Juste Miessonier, an eighteenth-century French Rococo designer.

Seebohm shows how Mizner's career really began in 1889, when his father, Lansing Mizner, was appointed by President Benjamin Harrison as minister plenipotentiary to the Central American states and the family moved to Guatemala City. En route to their destination, their ship docked at Mazatlan, Mexico. "It probably was the greatest day of my life," Seebohm quoted Mizner as saying. "For there lying white in the sun was my first Spanish town."

From Guatemala City, Mizner went back to San Francisco and worked for architect Willis Polk for a while. Hoping to strike it rich, he joined his brothers William, Edgar, and Wilson and headed up to the Klondike gold rush. Their prospecting failed, and soon Wilson opened a saloon and the brothers made some money. Addison headed back to California with about thirty-four thousand dollars in his pocket and headed to Palm Springs, where he designed and decorated a house for a wealthy friend. Through social contacts he eventually met Paris Singer, one of the twenty-four children of the sewing machine millionaire Isaac Singer. In Palm Springs Mizner received the first of his many commissions and later, with Singer, conceived the ill-fated plan to build a "Venice-on-the-Atlantic" in Boca Raton.

"Addison lived at a time of uncontrolled growth and energy in the United States, and there is no doubt that he personified the mood of the country," Seebohm writes in Boca Rococo. "That after making millions he ended with twenty-five hundred dollars in the bank was somehow perfectly all right. His whole life was a matter of ups and downs, success and failure, optimism and defeat…. Addison's story represents the power and the fallibility of the American Dream."

New York Times Book Review contributor William Norwich called Boca Rococo a "lively new biography" by Seebohm, adding that the writer "celebrates [Mizner's] eccentricities and frailties as a jolly good fellow of great merit and energy" rather than to merely "bury Mizner by praising him as an architectural talent." Whitney Scott, reviewing the book in Booklist, also praised Seebohm's effort, concluding that the author's "rich layering of details, abetted by black-and-white photos and expansive end notes, brings the essence of an era to life."

Among Seebohm's other books are works covering subjects in landscaping, interior design, and architecture. At Home with Books: How Booklovers Live with and Care for Their Libraries, written with Estelle Ellis and Christopher Simon Sykes, looks at the importance of books to the lives, careers, and surroundings of notable persons. Booklist reviewer Ray Olson noted that "this lavish tome … stresses the importance of books in the lives of even the rich and famous," including writers, performers, celebrities, philanthropists, and heirs to great fortunes. Seebohm looks at how her subjects arrange their books, incorporate their often vast libraries into their living spaces, and care for large numbers of books. Among the individuals profiled in the book are poet Richard Howard, Rolling Stones member Keith Richards, designer Bill Blass, the Duke of Devonshire, and members of families with famous names such as Getty and Rothschild. The book concludes with resource materials such as lists of upscale book dealers, information on book fairs, contact information for bookbinders, resources for library-quality furniture, and more.

In Great Houses and Gardens of New Jersey, Seebohm and photographer Peter C. Cook document significant lavish gardens, glorious houses, and other prominent architectural features of buildings and grounds throughout New Jersey. The subjects range in date from the eighteenth century to modern times, and cover a wide range of sizes from smaller cottages to sprawling mansions. "Seebohm's writing and Cook's photography are not only pleasurable, they bring you ideas for your own corner of the world," commented Mary Jasch on the Dig It! Web site, concluding: "This book is inspiration." Similarly, Private Landscapes, written with Christopher Simon Sykes, provides an "inspiring journey through nineteen special gardens" in the United States and England.

With The Innocents, Seebohm turns her attention from nonfiction to fiction. In this debut novel, she tells the story of nineteen-year-old identical twins Dorothea and Iris Crosby, two young members of elite New York society, circa 1911. Sheltered and privileged, the girls' main interests are poetry and horses. When their maid loses relatives and friends in the notorious Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, their idyllic world begins to crack as the harshness of reality threatens to rush in. Their innocence is dashed when they sign up as Red Cross volunteers upon America's entry into World War I. In Europe, they serve in a hospital tent, carefully and tenderly caring for wounded French soldiers. They "discover not just filth and brutality, but also a world of experiences for which they are ill prepared," commented a Kirkus Reviews critic. After two years in France, their perspectives are changed, and even the end of the war cannot restore them or the others who suffered through those terrible times. "Seebohm's wartime Paris is particularly vivid," remarked a Publishers Weekly critic, who also stated that "her prose throughout is concise and rich." Seebohm's "historical accuracy and the issue of war's aftermath are notable," commented Booklist critic Michele Leber. "This finely wrought book will move readers," concluded Dori DeSpain in School Library Journal.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Seebohm, Caroline, Boca Rococo: How Addison Mizner Invented Florida's Gold Coast, Clarkson Potter (New York, NY), 2001.

Seebohm, Caroline, No Regrets: The Life of Marietta Tree, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.

Seebohm, Caroline, The Last Romantics, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1986.

PERIODICALS

AB Bookman's Weekly, November 8, 1982, review of The Man Who Was Vogue: The Life and Times of Condé Nast, p. 3209.

Atlantic Monthly, July, 1982, Phoebe-Lou Adams, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 96.

Best Sellers, September, 1982, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 234; January, 1987, review of The Last Romantics, p. 370.

Booklist, April 15, 1982, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 1046; November 15, 1986, review of The Last Romantics, p. 473; December 1, 1987, review of English Country: Living in England's Private Houses, p. 597; January 1, 1996, Ray Olson, review of At Home with Books: How Booklovers Live with and Care for Their Libraries, p. 8750; October 1, 1997, review of No Regrets: The Life of Marietta Tree, p. 305; October 15, 2001, Whitney Scott, review of Boca Rococo: How Addison Mizner Invented Florida's Gold Coast, p. 369; January 1, 2007, Michele Leber, review of The Innocents, p. 59.

Book World, June 6, 1982, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 3; October 5, 1997, review of No Regrets, p. 1.

Boston Magazine, October, 1997, review of No Regrets, p. 146.

Chicago, June, 1982, Laurie Levy, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 103.

Christian Science Monitor, July 7, 1982, Kathleen Leverich, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 17.

Colonial Homes, April, 1993, Mary Vespa, review of Elsie de Wolfe: A Decorative Life, p. 10.

Columbia Journalism Review, September, 1982, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 67.

Glamour, December, 1986, Laura Matthews, review of The Last Romantics, p. 184.

House and Garden, December, 1987, Alexander Cockburn, review of English Country, p. 28.

Journalism Quarterly, winter, 1982, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 679; spring, 1983, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 153.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1982, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 543; September 1, 1986, review of The Last Romantics, p. 1322; August 15, 1997, review of No Regrets, p. 1293; February 1, 2007, review of The Innocents, p. 96.

Law Institute Journal, April, 1996, Richard Evans, review of At Home with Books, p. 84.

Library Journal, April 15, 1982, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 806; November 1, 1986, review of The Last Romantics, p. 111; October 15, 1997, review of No Regrets, p. 70.

Listener, September 9, 1982, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 23.

London Review of Books, June 25, 1987, review of The Last Romantics, p. 20.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 26, 1997, review of No Regrets, p. 3.

New Statesman, September 17, 1982, Marion Glastonbury, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 24.

Newsweek, December 21, 1987, Walter Clemons, review of English Country, p. 64.

New Yorker, May 31, 1982, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 107; March 16, 1998, review of No Regrets, p. 78.

New York Times, June 19, 1982, Anatole Broyard, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 15; June 20, 1982, Charlotte Curtis, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 3; December 5, 1982, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 15.

New York Times Book Review, June 20, 1982, Charlotte Curtis, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 3; December 5, 1982, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 15; December 21, 1986, Merle Rubin, review of The Last Romantics, p. 14; November 9, 1997, review of No Regrets, p. 7; December 2, 2001, William Norwich, "Palm Beach Story," p. 57.

Observer (London, England), September 12, 1982, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 33; August 20, 1989, review of The Country House: A Wartime History, 1939-45, p. 38; June 24, 1990, review of Private Landscapes: Creating Form, Vistas, and Mystery in the Garden, p. 50; September 3, 2001, review of Boca Rococo, p. 80.

People, October 18, 1982, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 14; June 4, 1990, Joyce Seymore, review of Private Landscapes, p. 33; January 19, 1998, Joanne Kaufman, review of No Regrets, p. 34.

Publishers Weekly, April 9, 1982, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 39; September 19, 1986, Sybil Steinberg, review of The Last Romantics, p. 122; December 18, 1987, review of The Last Romantics, p. 63; November 27, 2006, review of The Innocents, p. 27.

Reference & Research Book News, February, 2004, review of Great Houses and Gardens of New Jersey, p. 204.

Saturday Review, May, 1982, Carol Verderese, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 63.

School Library Journal, April, 2007, Dori DeSpain, review of The Innocents, p. 170.

Spectator, August 21, 1982, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 21; May 23, 1987, review of The Last Romantics, p. 50; November 15, 1997, review of No Regrets, p. 38; January 17, 1998, review of No Regrets, p. 39.

Time, September 20, 1982, Donald Morrison, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 75; February 20, 1993, Nicky Haslam, review of Elsie de Wolfe, p. 39; January 18, 1998, review of No Regrets, p. 39.

Times Literary Supplement, October 1, 1982, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 1056; September 1, 1989, Francis Partridge, review of The Country House, p. 938; April 17, 1998, review of No Regrets, p. 27.

Wall Street Journal Western Edition, December 1, 1987, Manuela Hoelterhoff, review of English Country, p. 34; December 20, 1995, Raymond Sokolov, review of At Home with Books, p. 12.

Wall Street Journal, December 1, 1987, review of English Country, p. 34; December 6, 2002, review of Under Live Oaks: The Last Great Houses of the Old South, p. 13.

Washington Journalism Review, July, 1982, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 56.

Washington Monthly, January, 1998, Sandra McElwaine, review of No Regrets, p. 53.

Wilson Library Bulletin, June, 1982, review of The Man Who Was Vogue, p. 787.

ONLINE

Dig It!,http://www.dig-itmag.com/ (November 12, 2007), Mary Jasch, "All the Right Shoes—Caroline Seebohm, a Legend," profile of Caroline Seebohm.

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