FOUR GO MAD IN DORSET





It's Barley Mow time! What I mean is, Evelyn Waugh is ensconced in the lovely pub, finishing off
Decline and Fall. But I've told that story in chapter five of Evelyn! Rhapsody for an Obsessive Love. Here, the story can be retold, via the points of view of She-Evelyn and Pansy Pakenham. One a lot more grounded than the other.


Picture_1Screen shot 2018-11-14 at 09.40.59
Olivia Wyndham, Portrait of Evelyn Gardner. 1928. Henry Lamb, Portrait of Pansy Pakenham. 1927.

East Boro’ House
Wimborne
Dorset

March 19
th 1928

My Dear John,

I was delighted to get your letter in the quiet seclusion where we have now fled since our flat came to an end, and feel very guilty at not having answered your other one before with its quite explicable anxieties about E. & E. But first I must explain where we are and why. To begin with, you may or may not know that this fine old minster town is only six miles from Poole and therefor eminently suitable for a lovelorn maid who must keep an eye on the King’s Proctors.

To continue, Evelyn G. Evelyn W. and I all thought a little country air would do us good so we decided to move into the great open spaces. I took advantage of a weekend at Poole, chaperoned by Francis and Edie Macnamara to look about for lodgings. Lamb and I discovered an almost ideal spot in Wimborne in an old Georgian house with lovely garden looking onto the river, kept by a kind of gent of a rather morose nature where one can have board and lodgings and a private sitting room for 3 gns a head a week. The only other inhabitants are two lady doctors who we only see at meals which are rather forbidding affairs as we each have a table in a separate corner of a large and chilly dining room and Mr Durham sits in solitary state at another table listening to everything we say and occasionally shouting remarks to one or other of us. He is really rather a horrid old man who ill-treats the sweet little “boots” but is preferable from our point of view to someone oily and genial.

To return to our affairs, Evelyn Waugh has come down here to finish a novel he is writing and in the interests of economy and proprietary is staying in a hotel near by. His engagement still prospers and if his book on Rossetti is a success there is some chance of the marriage taking place in June. Evelyn G. is really much better than I have known her for a long time. Her appetite has come back and she is even putting on a little weight. Of course it is rather trying for them being so poor but he really seems to be very talented and I should think would get on. Of course, as regards their chances of future happiness it would be very hard to prophecy. The Gardners have not a tradition of married happiness (Mary has gone to Bolivia with Allan, thank God! She has a very bad effect on Evelyn) but Evelyn seems to have a little more guts than the rest. I don’t think she is wildly in love with E.W. but I doubt if she is capable of sustained passion, but she is very fond of him and looks up to his brains and respects his strength of character. At any rate she will not be able to despise him when the first raptures are past which would inevitably have happened with Barry and his like. She has to work hard for him which is the best thing for her. Taught by Mary she was so terribly inclined to fascinate the sort of man who required no effort and could be won with one hand tied behind her back and her eyes blindfolded, so to speak.

I am afraid this is a very dull letter but since I started writing my book I have grudged every literary effort not spent on it. I have reached half-way in it and find it very absorbing though terribly flat to read afterwards.

Interesting point about Pansy's novel, The Old Expedient, seeming flat when she read it over. Waugh used to read the manuscript of Decline and Fall to friends (Tony Powell and Dudley Carew) and they would fall about laughing, reader and listener both. A completely different kind of book, then, to the essentially serious, opaquely metaphorical novel that Pansy was producing.

What does Pansy mean by keeping an eye on the 'King's Proctors'?Something to do with making sure her beau, Henry lamb, behaved himself? Or did they have a solicitor in Poole acting on their behalf?

Who or what is "boots"? Possibly a cat, or a dog. Maybe She-Evelyn will clarify. Her first letter from Dorset was written about ten days later.


Eastboro’ House
Wimborne
Dorset

March 28
th 1928

Dearest John,

Thank you so much for your letter. My dear, I am so distressed at your loneliness, and I think I can understand it better than some people, because I have so often suffered from it myself. Personally, I find that I cannot conquer it. To be entirely alone evening after evening is enough to make one want to pick up a man in the street. But, as far as I can make out, it is from mental loneliness you suffer, and I think that is worse, to be with hail-fellow-well-met people, whose minds you cannot probe into, because they have got no minds, must be hell.

In answer to what you said. Yes, I understand the attraction you feel for solid 100% he-men, but don’t you think it lies solely in their directness and sex-appeal? I mention the latter because I think it so often sub-consciously influences one. Directness is certainly a charm, and their views are often interesting because they are ordinary and one is not used to that kind of ordinariness. I think the charm wears off. To begin with, you never realised they existed, and consequently they are an interest, besides even if they are ordinary, there is always in nearly every human mind, some strange kink which surprises one. I feel I am putting this very badly. I could talk about it better. I think that what these people lack is the fastidious of the really intelligent mind, the delicateness (I mean mentally!) which really counts if you are going to see a great deal of a person.

But do not think that I fail to appreciate the people of whom you speak. Some of my greatest friends have come from them, the man I loved most in the world (I think I told you about him once) was of them. But, and fortunately I realised this, they are impossible people to live with, their charm wears off, and after a while they become hum-drum, their views irritate one, their whole personality jars, because they lack that fastidiousness which I have mentioned. I think they are a very pleasant interlude, they are more than that, they are necessary, because they add to one’s knowledge of humanity, and prevent one’s mind from becoming too tortured with the original views of the intelligentsia.

We are here, til after Easter, for Lamb is at Poole which is only 8 miles away, and Evelyn has come down to the ‘Barley Mow’ a lovely little pub, about 2 miles from here. It is sweet of you to say that you will order some of Evelyn’s ‘Rossetti’, it is to come out about the middle of April, is being reviewed by F. L. Lucas in the Observer, for Viola Glavin, the editress, has seen it and thinks very highly of it. Duckworths are very pleased with him. They have commissioned the novel which he is writing and it is to be published in the autumn, it is really very witty, but I don’t think our mothers would approve of it, certainly mine won’t! They have also contracted him to write a life of John Wesley, which I should think, will be rather amusing, what with the family ghost and the women in the congregation who fell in love with him. This is all very cheering, but I wish he could find a job, as then we would be certain of some kind of income!

Dudley is to be married on April 12
th. I don’t know whether I told you that he is marrying the daughter of the Dean of Exeter. Her mother has forced them to be married in April instead of October, tho’ what the reasons are no-one can find out, tho’ as you can imagine there have been many suggestions! I haven’t seen her, but Evelyn doesn’t like her very much.

Well, bless you my child. Don’t take my views seriously, they are only those of a person, who would at the shortest notice start travelling again, and go on travelling for the rest of her life.

Very much love, from Evelyn.

PS I am writing a long fairy story which sorely taxes my imagination.

I have not read Pansy’s novel but believe it is very good.

So she hasn't read Pansy's novel yet, but Evelyn's is very witty. I think that's right, Decline and Fall is witty in a structural sense. Paul Pennyfeather is engaged to be married to Margot Beste Chetwynde, But the marriage has to be put on hold as Paul is put in prison somewhere in the south of England. So Waugh is drawing a parallel between his own present existence, with his marriage to She-Evelyn having to be put on hold, and his protagonist's.

It's a happy novel. Evelyn was content while writing it. After all, Rosssetti was just about to come out. He'd got a clever, feisty girlfriend who loved and respected him. OK, her mother was a joke, and making life difficult. But not
that difficult. Not difficult enough to dampen down his sense of celebration.

Over to Pansy:


East Boro’ House
Wimborne
Dorset

April 17, 1928

I am afraid I have been very lazy about writing but my novel has taken up all my time and energy. However, now it is finished and at the typist’s so I can breathe again. I am going to send it to Evelyn Waugh’s father (Chapman and Hall) as he has kindly promised to read it himself and will be favourably disposed towards it. I feel as if I didn’t care what happened to it even if the pillar-box caught fire. One gets so sick of the sight of the blasted thing. However, perhaps by the time it comes back from the typist I shall be able to palpitate maternally again.

I don’t know what our future plans are at all. Evelyn’s mother has returned to London and E. Waugh is writing to her to suggest announcing their engagement at once. He is still without a job though trying hard to find something but I should say his success as a writer is pretty certain. His book on Rossetti comes out this week and Duckworth’s is booming it well, also they are very pleased with his burlesque novel which he has just finished. Only of course he and Evelyn can’t live on prospects and it would be nice if he could find some temporary work. I really think they are a very well-suited couple, They both suffer tremendously from jealousy which keeps each other up to the mark and will provide a stimulant when everything else fails. This may sound cynical but I think there are only two kinds of successful marriages, those which rest on mutual confidence and those which rely on tension. But the Evelyns are too restless and excitable to settle down on the mutual “live and let live” basis, they would only be bored by such an unexciting prospect. As you have said yourself it is only Faith and Michael’s quarrels which keep them together and the same thing will probably happen here. It seems from one point of view a frightful waste of energy and one sometimes worries if so much rage, jealousy and recriminations is not too heavy a price to pay for mutual fidelity.

The Bloomsbury Group would say so and are never tired of vilifying Mrs Lapp whose life consists of keeping Darsie in love with her by fair means or foul. I am not so sure. After all a happy marriage is a work of art and not so common a one as to be lightly despised. I think it is worth sacrificing a certain amount of time and energy towards making it a success. We went to a particularly doubtful beginning of one last week, Dudley’s. He is marrying the Dean of Exeter’s daughter and though the girl seems a pretty and harmless creature her family are a good crew of toughs and crooks. The mother is an ex-beauty with a passion for the stage and was determined to get her daughter married as quickly as possible.

Dudley was fairly well trapped once he entered the Deanery doors and there was an element of mockery about the whole proceeding. We all (E.W. E.G. H.L. and I) went down to Exeter for the night and stayed in the same hotel with all Dudley’s family. We therefore had all the fun of observing the hatred which goes on between bride and bridegroom’s family before a wedding. Ursula Gammon (Dudley’s ex-fiancee and one of the few women with whom he was never in love) turned up out of bravado but was very much upset. Anita did not appear. The Cathedral was lovely and the Bishop of Exeter superb, the only thing that was really worth the journey. The Gambles looked so horrible and Dudley and the girl (Anthese Gamble) seemed such helpless victims that the whole thing was rather depressing. It almost reconciles me to my hole-in-corner nuptials only I wish you could be there.

That letter is a good example of Pansy Packenham's writing. She thinks things through. The prose is fairly dense, and is all in one register, but she has empathy and insight into the lives of those she lives with and comes across.

However, no-one's prose was as sparky as He-Evelyn's. Though clearly his partner had a spark of her own.


30 Green Street
Park Lane
W1

4/5/28

Dearest John,

You will be surprised to see my address but here I am for the next fortnight. We have had an awful time. Evelyn and I came up from Wimborne yesterday thinking all was going smoothly and our engagement would be announced this week. I was greeted by Mama who said that she had interviewed the authorities at Oxford about E’s past career. A Mr Crutwell (palpatating with perverse vices) and the Dean of Hertford. They said that he used to live off vodka and absinthe (presumably mixed) and went about with disreputable people ((there followed a string of French remarks about ‘ces vices’ something or other, all beautifully pronounced but unintelligible).
She then added that Evelyn

    To all of which we said fiddlesticks and flummery, and –beat her into agreeing that our engagement should be announced in September and before that if E. had been in a job 2 months.

    Victory to the Evelyns!

    She is determined to be amicable and so am I, so I expect there is bound to be a row.

    Alec is back, his book (‘the Last Chukka’ what a name!) is selling well, and he seems very kindly-intentioned. ‘Rossetti’ has sold 240 copies with only one big review so far, and Duckworths are allowing E. to illustrate his novel, which is to come out in the autumn.

    I left Pansy at Wimborne and she is not coming up for a fortnight. I threw away an old pair of knickers of mine, and the footman returned them to me neatly wrapped up in newspaper. I flung them back into the wastepaper basket, but I feel sure he will either give them to Pansy or wear them himself. (God help him, they are full of holes.)

    We dined with some friends of Lambs just before we left. A Mrs Summers (an amazing Lesbian, with a terrific personality, she crouches over her food, bursts into shrieks of xxxxxxxx laughter, has a platinum tooth, and is very untidily beautiful) her husband, common but amazingly dignified, Mrs Augustus John (charmingly elusive) and Mrs Summers flame. Divine food, a Rolls Royce, a delightful house, pictures by Lamb, what could people want more?

    Afterwords we danced to 10-years old records and Lamb did the cake-walk. I enjoyed myself v. much.

    This street is hell! All the workmen, patent dulls renames (?) of London are installed in it. From six in the morning til ten at night they dig, bore and shovel. It adds to the nerve strain.

    Billy Jolliffe is engaged to a young man called Lothimen of whom her parents do not approve and who has scarlet hair and a job in the RES in India. She says she is going to be married in September and they say he must get another job.

    The act of birth is a mistake, but really the worst part about it are the parents. It is a pity we cannot spring from the earth or even the results of sexual relations between storks.

    Bless you my angel,
    yours, Evelyn

    This correspondence as a whole, and this letter in particular, reveals what huge power upper-class parents had in those pre-benefits days.

    Their adult children knew enough of the ways of the world to realise how important it was to have money. Hence She-Evelyn's angst. But the parents - and her mother especially - wouldn't allow the younger generation to have money unless they toed the line.

    The most important part of toeing the line was to marry someone 'respectable'. That is, someone who could provide yet more money. Or at least not be a waster of that precious asset. And what Lady Burghclere had established by talking to the Dean of Hertford College and the History don, Mr Crutwell, was that Evelyn Waugh could spend money with the best of them.

    'More vodka, more absinthe! My name is Evelyn Waugh and I am a penniless writer! While you, my dear Dean of Hertford, are a lover of dogs. How they howl in pain and humiliation. But neither you nor your fellow dog-lover, Crutwell, ever show any mercy to those beasts, until your ugly lust is quite sated.'

    'More vodka, more absinthe. My name is Evelyn Waugh and I really want some more vodka, more absinthe.'


    East Boro’ House
    Wimborne
    Dorset

    May 8, 1928

    Since my last letter, Evelyn’s affairs have reached a mild crisis. Her mother is making a last desperate effort to reclaim her daughter. To effect this she (the Baroness) asked Evelyn to stay at Green Street for a fortnight with the inducement of publicly announcing the engagement. Evelyn, anxious for general pacification and economy accepted and is now in her mother’s house for the first time in eighteen months. On arrival she was confronted with a long list of E. Waugh’s enormities (culled by the Baroness during a scavenging visit she paid to the Oxford authorities) and the ultimatum that the marriage could not possibly take place for two years. E. Waugh was called and seems to have behaved with most admirable firmness threatening to get married within a week. Collapse of the Baroness who tearfully agrees to consent to a wedding in September only E. Waugh must find a job first. Henry thinks it is very absurd E. W. having to find a job as he is obviously going to be a successful author in a few years time and with a little help the couple could scrape along til then. A ‘job’ will only waste his energies. Unfortunately, E. Gardner is
    really afraid of poverty and so is anxious for a certain solid support from relations. Curiously enough her intense hatred for her mother seems to have evaporated and she is anxious for a reconciliation. On the other hand I dislike the Baroness as never before, whose gross materialism and snobbery are really revolting. Apparently, during her arguments with E.Waugh she made frequent allusions to the late Lord Burghclere. “The late Lord Burgchlere always said ‘a man is known by his friends.’" + “The late Lord Burghclere always said that ‘a young man might drink champagne but not spirits’": Fortunately. E. Waugh has a sense of humour. I do hope for both their sakes that he will find a congenial and remunerative job speedily.

    I am going up to London next week and we are going into lodgings again. Not Ebury Street of sentimental memory but somewhere north of the Park as both our young men live in those regions, Lamb in Maida Vale and Evelyn in Hampstead. I don’t quite know what I’m going to do during the summer. I am correcting the type-written edition of my novel at present but when that has been refused by an editor I shall be rather at a loose end.

    It is so hard to settle to anything with the big changes in September looming ahead, so distant and yet so disturbing. Henry has practically bought a new house in a village called Coombe Bissett about 8 miles SW of Salisbury, in lovely Down country with a little river at the bottom of the garden. He is going to sell the Poole one as it is really too townified now. One might as well live in London.

    I am afraid there is no interesting news to tell you as life is naturally v. quiet here. Evelyn grew quite fat before she left. I only hope her mother’s company won’t take it all off again. Evelyn Waugh stayed some of the time with Henry in Poole and he (H.L.) has painted a portrait of the youthful genius, pipe in one hand, pencil in the other. V. successful I think, but I know I am quite incapable of judging H.L.’s pictures dispassionately.

    Again, Pansy summarises the situation with intelligence, empathy and acumen. Lady Burghlere should have interviewed her about the suitability of the Evelyns to each other and to marriage. Not Mr Crutwell and the Dean of Hertford, for goodness sake.

    Pansy wrote again before She-Evelyn did. This time most revealingly about She-Evelyn's complex character.


    7 Upper Montagu Street
    W1

    June 12, 28

    My dear John,
    I must apologise for not having written to you for ages. There really is no excuse except that I am now in the throes of re-writing the novel. Having had it typed I showed it to H.L. who was so revolted by certain parts, while showing a flattering regard for others ,that I was persuaded to redo it. This is much harder work than writing for the first time but I hope to finish it in another month.

    We have moved into new lodgings kept by charming though rather slatternly Irishwoman.... I suppose this will be the last abode that Evelyn and I will share together. It has been a strange little partnership and I am afraid I have been no help to her in her struggles. Perhaps she never does struggle, only drifts with the tide and that is why she gets into such difficulties. Her marriage still seems remote and it is hard to imagine exactly how much she cares for the other Evelyn. Not enough to follow him barefoot through the world, certainly, but on the other hand she is happier with him and since this engagement than she has been for a long time. The absence of Mary and the necessity to slave and intrigue and feel for her is also a great relief. The most trying part of that friendship was that Evelyn’s loyalty forced her to tear her heart out of her breast every few minutes to make it bleed as much as Mary’s and as she (Evelyn) had far more depth of feeling it naturally bled a great deal more. Now the only point is whether they are to raise a little money and elope or wait til the maternal sanction wafts them to St. Margaret’s Westminster. Evelyn Waugh is for the former course, E.G. for the latter. That’s why I don’t consider her passion for him can be illimitable or has she prematurely exhausted her capacity for passion? I wonder if the emotions can be worn out from too much use? I don’t see why not.

    That letter was written in early June. By the end of that month, the marriage of the Evelyns had taken place.

    Waugh_P9_001 (ryan)
    Olivia Wyndham, Portrait of Mr and Mrs Evelyn Waugh. 1928.


    But let's allow she-Evelyn to break the news.


    145 North End Road
    Hampstead
    NW11

    July 18
    th

    Dearest John,

    I wonder whether you have seen that Evelyn and I have married. As a matter of fact we married secretly, and Mama is in a furious anger. Owing to all this excitement I have not thanked you for the really lovely scarf you sent me. I do like it so very much.

    We were married about three weeks ago at St Paul’s, Portman Square which is a horribly low church plastered with texts and a table covered with a black velvet pell for an altar.

    Robert Byron gave me away. Harold Acton was best man, and Pansy and Alec witnesses.

    The clergyman had a cockney accent, a moustache and the largest pair of black boots I have ever seen, also they were
    dull with heavy polish.

    There was a mid-wife in the vestry (which was unnecessary) and afterwards we all lunched with Harold at Boulestin’s.

    Three days ago we told Mama. She wrote me a very fine letter saying ‘to avoid scandal and misconstruction I purpose to put an announcement of your marriage in the papers immediately,' which she has done, and she has commanded us to come and see her tomorrow. We are to be seen separately, and I expect it will be a hideous interview.

    However, we are happy which is the main thing.

    Evelyn’s novel is to be called ‘Decline and Fall’ and is to come out in September, it is really screamingly funny, and I think there is a good chance of it's being a success if not a best-seller. Do write to me and tell me how you are enjoying your holiday.

    With love from Evelyn

    Victory to the Evelyns! Married by a dull-booted clergyman; tick. Screamingly funny novel due to be published; tick.

    There are more letters to come from She-Evelyn and Pansy to John Maxse, but not many. I'll embed them in those subsequent pages of this website which are already written.

    The next page of this EW, EG, HL, PP trilogy is
    here.




    Notes

    1) Thanks to Columbia University, New York, for supplying copies of these letters. In their correspondence they include the line:

    '
    Please note that the Rare Book & Manuscript Library owns only the physical objects in our collections, not the copyright to these items, and will neither grant nor deny copyright permission regarding such materials.'

    2) These letters are still in copyright which will, I assume, belong to the descendants of Pansy Packenham/Lamb and Evelyn Gardner/Nightingale. If either copyright holder wishes me to remove the letters from this site, then I will do that, and replace the actual words with paraphrased versions.