The English writer and painter Denton Welch was born in Shanghai in 1915. Apart from a few horrid years at an English boarding school he was raised in the International Settlement, holidaying either at Moganshan or Weihaiwei, and living within a family known for their taste and sophistication. However, Welch's life was to be largely tragic – his beloved mother died when he was a boy; he lived much of his life in excruciating pain following an accident; and he died of spinal tuberculosis at just 33 in 1948.
However, Welch left us one of the very few honest and open memoirs of Shanghai in Maiden Voyage (1943). This autobiography provides us with not only a detailed view of a Shanghailander family between the world wars, but also offers us glimpses of the gay demimonde of Shanghai in the early 1930s. While we have several frank accounts of foreign LGBT lifestyles in Peking at this time; such memoirs are far rarer concerning Shanghai.
Paul French will look in more detail at Welch's upbringing and lifestyle hoping to fill in one of the major gaps in the inter-war research on Shanghai's nightlife.