Brian Howard: Portrait of a Failure
It has been suggested that Howard was Waugh's model for Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited. But Waugh wrote, to Lord Baldwin, "There is an aesthetic bugger who sometimes turns up in my novels under various names—that was 2/3 Brian [Howard] and 1/3 Harold Acton. People think it was all Harold, who is a much sweeter and saner man [than Howard]."
At this time he had already been published as a poet, in A. R. Orage's The New Age, and the final Sitwell Wheels anthology. He used the pseudonyms"Jasper Proude" and "Charles Orange." His verse also was in Oxford Poetry 1924. His poetry was admired and promoted by Edith Sitwell in the late 1920s.
In the late 1920s, he was a key figure among London's "Bright Young Things"—a privileged, fashionable and bohemian set of relentless party-goers, satirised in such novels as Evelyn Waugh's 1930 Vile Bodies where the character of Miles Malpractice owes something to Howard. Apart from Waugh, Howard knew all this circle, including Nancy Mitford, Henry Yorke, Harold Acton, and especially Allanah Harper and Nancy Cunard. He maintained contact with both throughout his life.
In 1929 he was famously involved in the "Bruno Hat" hoax when the fashionable Hon Mr. & Mrs. Bryan Guinness promoted a spoof London art exhibition by an apparently unknown German painter Bruno Hat (impersonated by the German-speaking Tom Mitford, brother of Nancy and Diana Mitford—the latter at the time Mrs. Guinness, a socialite, arts' patron and friend of Howard, Lytton Strachey, Evelyn Waugh, Boris Anrep, Dora Carrington, John Betjeman and other artistic and literary figures, before her second marriage to British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley). Bruno Hat's paintings were the work of Brian Howard.
Howard is credited with coining the phrase, "Anybody over the age of 30 seen in a bus has been a failure in life",often wrongly attributed to Margaret Thatcher. According to Daily Telegraph correspondent and historian, Hugo Vickers, (writing in November 2006), the author was Brian Howard. The phrase came into wider use when used by Loelia, Duchess of Westminster, in her memoir Grace and Favour (1961).
Subsequently he led a very active social life, tried to come to terms with his homosexuality, and published only one substantial poetry collection God Save the King (1930, Hours Press). He was active as a poet during the Spanish Civil War, but did not ultimately invest in his work with seriousness. He drank heavily and used drugs.