First edition cover by Augustus John
Author Ronald Firbank
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Novel
Publication date
Media type Print

Valmouth is a 1919 novel by British author Ronald Firbank. Valmouth is an imaginary English spa resort that attracts centenarians owing to its famed pure air.[1] The town's name evokes actual seaside towns in the southwest peninsula of Britain, such as Falmouth, Dartmouth, Teignmouth, Exmouth and Weymouth.

The novel's plot concerns, among other things, the effects of a black woman and her niece moving into a spa resort inhabited by wealthy centenarians. The ironic novel is about eroticism and exoticism in the milieu of quaint but lewd old British ladies at the fictional spa. The novel is noted for its florid and baroque style and parody-like humor, and its sexual innuendos both heterosexual and homosexual.[1] There is also a fanciful brand of Catholicism, a blend of mortification of the flesh, high-flown mysticism, and proselytism.

In 1958, a musical adaptation was made by Sandy Wilson.


Two wealthy elderly Valmouth-area ladies, Mrs Hurstpierpoint and Mrs Thoroughfare, are concerned with the marriage prospects of the latter's son, Captain Dick Thoroughfare. The Captain, away at sea, is rather scandalously engaged to a black girl, Niri-Esther, but he also favours his 'chum', Jack Whorwood.

Thetis Tooke, a local farmer's daughter, is obsessed with Captain Thoroughfare. Meanwhile, the exotic Mrs Yajnavalkya, a black masseuse and chiropodist, attempts to procure a sexual dalliance with Thetis's virile brother David for the centenarian Lady Parvula de Panzoust.

Eventually, Captain Thoroughfare returns to England. It comes to light that he has virtually married Niri-Esther, that they have a baby, and that she is also pregnant with his second child.

Main characters

Musical theatre adaptation

In 1958, a musical of the same name was adapted by Sandy Wilson from this and other Firbank stories.[2][3][4] It opened at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith, in London. The musical has since been staged several times, and several cast album recordings have been released. The musical has also been performed on BBC radio, first broadcast in 1975.[5]

References to Valmouth in other works


  1. 1 2 Blackmer, Corinne E. "Firbank, Ronald (1886-1926) - Page 1". Retrieved January 30, 2015.
  2. Valmouth at
  3. Valmouth at The Guide to Musical Theatre
  4. Valmouth (musical play) at AllMusic
  5. Valmouth, BBC Radio Cast at
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