ANTHONY POWELL

Or

DANCING TO THE MUSIC OF TONY




Nancy knocks and enters. Evelyn is sitting at the window of his room with a champagne flute in front of him.

"Do you drink fizz on your own, then?"

"If there is no-one to drink it with me, certainly."

"There is a whole castle of people gagging to drink with you, Evelyn. But right now you'll have to settle for me."

"Enchanted."

"Glad to catch you on your own, actually. I've been reading this book. I have to say it's absolutely marvellous…"

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"…And I have ever so much to say about it. But where to start?"

"Let me help you. A twelve volume sequence of books by Tony, who I've known since Oxford days. The pairing off of complex analysis with knockabout farce. This the first, published in 1951. I was alive to read the first seven books of his Dance to the Music of Time, but died in the year of publication of the eighth. I have been trying to make up for lost time since, which is one reason why you find me alone tonight. Really, Tony's books were one of the very few things that kept me going towards my end. I was so bored with life."

"There are enormous connections between the best of your work and the best of Tony's. And I want to come back to that in a few minutes. But first let me just have a splurge about the novel itself. Author to author; reader to reader."

"Please do. But first let me refill our flutes."

"It's a
roman a clef. It begins at a school that is effectively Eton. The book is in four slow-moving but captivating parts. In part one, Tony (Nicholas Jenkins) introduces us to the two boys he messes with, Charles Stringham and Peter Templer."

"Tony told me that Stringham, the charming, melancholic-to-be, man-of-action schoolboy, was based on Hubert Duggan at Eton. Hubert's death from alcoholism in 1944 gave me the death of Lord Marchmain scenario for
Brideshead. I dare say that it also gave Tony the idea that, having known him all the way since Eton, he could understand the whole arc of his life as it might go through a series of books. A dance to the music of time, no less."

"Part one is slow-burning. Jenkins introduces us to another boy, Widmerpool, running on his own through a misty afternoon. And to Jenkins's Uncle Giles who is obsessed with the family trust. But all that really happens is that Stringham plays a trick on a master which causes that master to be interviewed by the police."

"Poor Le Bas. Identified by an anonymous caller as being a dangerous, escaped convict. Or something like that."

"Part two also goes down remarkably smoothly. Jenkins is still at Eton, though you would hardly know it. At the end of term he lunches with Stringham's family in London, which means coping with Stringham's mother's second husband, his mother's competent but cold assistant, and his complicated, powerful, opaque mother herself."

"I suppose it's how we as children learn about adult life, by being exposed to it, and gradually unravelling the motivations behind people's words and actions."

"Yes, there is little to be learnt by analysing the words and actions of the other boys at school. Or at least Tony does very little of that. Because he lets a year pass very briefly and then the main incident of part two happens, when Jenkins is visiting Templer at his home, a large villa on the coast. This time there are more visitors and family members to keep track of, a relationship between Templer and a mysterious and sensual woman, and then a farcical denouement that involves Sunny Farebrother's hat-box and a chamber pot carried by a man called Jimmy Stripling."

"Jimmy Stripling being - let me see - Templer's married sister's husband."

"We are now at the halfway point of the book and Nick Jenkins has done literally nothing except stand and stare and listen and try to understand."

"And at the end of part two, when Sunny Farebrother gets into a taxi, he passes out of Jenkins's life for twenty years."

"The incident that culminated in the hat-box farce is vivid. And Sunny has played a huge part in it. But then he's gone. Just like that. And it's obvious he won't be back for several volumes."

"But as a reader you don't mind, because in part three Tony takes us to the summer in between Eton and Oxford, where Jenkins stays at a French house which has its share of complex and inscrutable guests. Moreover, Widmerpool is staying there too, and as the relationships between the various guests build up, Widmerpool plays a key role in stopping the rivalry of two Swedish men getting out of hand. No time to rest on his laurels though, because someone has drawn a mocking picture of Widmerpool on a wall. What we understand of Widmerpool is greatly developed in this sequence, but there are contradictions and ambiguities. The man is not one-dimensional."

"By this time, of course, Jenkins has managed to do one single thing. On the day of his leaving the
pension, he has managed to squeeze the hand of a woman he mistakes for the girl that he feels himself to have fallen in love with!"

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"Hilarious."

"In part four we are in Oxford. Jenkins attends salons given by a don called Sillery."

"That's Sligger in real life. Sligger took a boy called Richard Pares away from me."

"Jenkins takes Stringham to Sillery's, where we meet several other students including Mark Members, based on Peter Quennell. Peter Templer has not gone up to Oxford, but is instead working in London. However, he comes to Oxford for the day, and, following a meeting at Sillery's, Jenkins and Stringham get into Templer's car along with two local girls and go for a joy ride. This ends up in a car crash. No one is hurt, but it becomes clear to Jenkins that Stringham will not be seeing Templer again. Another parting of the ways comes shortly after that. Sillery backs up Stringham in his wish to leave the university, in opposition to his mother, and that is skilfully pushed through. Stringham then invites Jenkins to dinner with him in the city. However, when Jenkins gets there, it is to discover that Stringham has had a better offer. So Jenkins has to settle for dinner with Uncle Giles and an evening of talk about the family trust fund."

"Let me see if I can provide a perspective, having read the book a long time ago and it having circulated through my mind ever since. The reader realises that he or she has been introduced to four boys, two of whom are mediocre and unexciting (Widmerpool and the narrator) and two of whom are exciting and charming (Stringham and Templer). And one realises one is somehow more curious about the charmless also-rans. Would you concur?"

"Top up, please."

"My pleasure."

"I'm just going to switch the emphasis of our conversation for a bit, if you don't mind. From a particular fiction to real life, though I will get back to
A Question of Upbringing. Do you remember when you first met Tony?"

"He was around at Oxford. We coincided for three terms, I think. We were both members of the Hypocrites Club."

"His recollection is more detailed. From
Infants of the Spring, which came out in 1976, the first of four volumes of memoirs which he called collectively, To Keep the Ball Rolling. ."

"Tony played a long game."

"Shortly after he came up in the autumn of 1923, he went to a morning gathering hosted by a don, someone other than Sligger."

"Kolkhorst's. We called him Gu'g."

"Tony first met you then. He tells us that you were wearing a blue double-breasted suit under an open coat. He describes you as small, rather pink in the face with reddish hair. You didn't speak much, probably because you were hungover from Saturday night. (Sorry, that's my surmise, not Tony's.) He observed that you made a high-pitched affirmative sound, a mannerism that's never left you. You gave the impression of a man disillusioned with human conduct. But he does accept that this may be because you were by then in your third year. Tony also went to at least one of the lunches that you hosted in your room at Hertford. He describes you as the most generous and compelling of hosts, though innate melancholy was never far away.

"Tony goes on to say that you really came to life as any day wore on, and that this was to do with your drinking. You had great powers of improvising, and Tony reckons you could have been professional comedian. In these days, you had the gift of being intensely funny when drunk. (Intensely funny. I know exactly why he puts it like that.) Tony admits that it was chiefly at crowded gatherings where he saw you, and that if you were in good form you'd be putting on some kind of performance. Escaping out of college rooms on the end of a rope, or singing songs outside Sliggers's rooms, songs whose words accused the Dean of Balliol of sleeping with men. He says that
tete-a-tete meetings between you didn't take place until his early days of working in London."

"Ah yes, I say this in
A Little Learning. Three years after I came down I tried to learn cabinet making at the School of Carpentry in Southampton Row. There in the drawing class I found Tony, who was studying typography."

"You may have forgotten just exactly how you got back in touch. Tony initiated your reunion in London when he sent out a letter to his Oxford contacts asking whether they had any interest in publishing something at Duckworth's, where he'd gone to work after going down. He introduced you to the firm and the result was a commission for Rossetti. EW happened to bring along a copy of the slim book on the Pre-raphaelites that your Alastair had printed - as a writing sample. I have it here."

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"The pen doesn't lie."

"That was in May of 1927.
Then you met Tony at the Academy of Carpentry at the end of October. You had started writing Decline and Fall and so perhaps that is when he accompanied you back to your parents' home in Hampstead where you read aloud from the manuscript of Decline and Fall. He thought it was hilarious. In a completely original way. And the idea was that Duckworth's was going to publish that as well.

"First, Rossetti came out in April of 1928. Taken through the press by Tony and dedicated to Evelyn Gardner."

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"Unfortunately for you, the director at Duckworth's, who was a relation of Evelyn Gardner's family, got wind of the upcoming marriage and didn't want to be seen to be promoting your career. So his firm's publication of
Decline and Fall was scuppered. It was your own father's firm that published Decline and Fall in September of 1928. You remained grateful to Tony for his efforts, however. Because yo sent him a copy in which the inscription reads: 'To Tony, who rescued the author from Worse than Death.' This, of course, being a reference your career as a schoolmaster."

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"Where are you getting these signed first editions from?"

"Castle Howard has them on display in one of their drawing rooms. I got someone to bring them round to your room for the evening. But look, what I think Tony was one of the first people to recognise, was that not only did you have the ability to be intensely funny when drunk. You could be intensely funny when writing. Perhaps that's not surprising. It's the same brain coming up with the humour. Perhaps it's the same brain recollecting when sober what it was coming up with while stimulated."

"Nancy, you're making me blush."

"Tony published his own first novel with Duckworth in 1931. So that when you sent him a copy of
Remote People, you could inscribe it: 'To Tony, from his brother of the pen.'

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"Tony's novel was called Afternoon Men and its main character is called Atwater. You used Atwater as the name of the man who caused the death of your protagonist's father in Work Suspended a few years later. I think this was because you and Tony got into the habit of complimenting each others writing in print. Tony was a true believer in Decline and Fall, and in his third novel, Agents and Patients from 1936, he called a significant character, Maltravers, which was the name of the man that Margot Beste Chetwynde married in Decline and Fall. What's more, Maltravers was based on John Heygate, and in the book we get a privileged peek into the married life of John Heygate and She-Evelyn in the flat at Canonbury Square. A flat I know well, having lived there for a month or two in the summer of 1929, keeping She-Evelyn company while you moved out to the pub in Beckley in order to write Vile Bodies."

The inscription written for Tony in Vile Bodies, reads: 'For Tony, with deep respect from Evelyn.'

"Christ, Nancy, you know my life better than I do!"

"
Agents and Patients has a Paul Pennyfeather-type main character in Blore-Smith. And when he sees the sophistication of the Maltravers' flat he feels ashamed of his own sitting room, the Medici prints on the wall and his copy of Vision and Design. Oh, and he resolves to move Van Gogh's Sunflowers from the living room into the bedroom when he gets home. You must have referred to this when you wrote about Charles Ryder's own shame about the decor of his rooms at Oxford. Van Gogh's Sunflowers, Medici books and Roger Fry's Vision and Design are all mentioned disparagingly. Though, thinking about it, you could hardly not have taken a serious interest in Agents and Patients."

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"On the contrary, I could so easily have refused to read it."

"Oh yes, Tony gives you credit for that. Though he remained firm friends with both John Heygate and She-Evelyn, he didn't feel any sense of rejection from you. The relationship he had with you was real enough to survive."

"I can still see us laughing together at Underhill."

"20th Century English Literature has a lot to thank you and Tony for. Right at the top of many peoples rankings, there is
Decline and Fall, Brideshead and A Dance to the Music of Time. When it came to the end of the war, you looked back at your life and you came up with Brideshead Revisited. When Tony came to the end of the war, he looked back at his life, and came up with the idea of a writing a novel sequence that would very slowly go through the years, sticking with certain characters, watching them criss-cross each others lives, and watching them develop."

"I wrote somewhere that what Tony seems to have realised is that in the end most things in life - perhaps all things - are appropriate. It is this realisation that separates the five novels that Tony wrote before the war from his novel sequence after it. The first were studies of the grotesque. In the later books the characters behave as anarchically, but they are seen as cohesive. There is homogeneity and rule in apparent chaos; and this is the natural order of experience."

"But he had to start somewhere, and he began to write the first novel in 1949 or so. He took some time to think over what it was he was going to do. And he took some time putting to bed the historical project he'd concentrated on during the war years.
John Aubrey and Friends wasn't published until 1948, and then there was another Aubrey project that was edited in 1949. The delay in the first Aubrey book was partly Graham Greene's fault, as he was a publisher at Eyre and Spottiswode during the war, and he put back the publication date, partly because it was in his opinion 'a bloody boring book', which resulted in an argument between him and Tony, and Tony getting out of the contract for Eyre and Spottiswode to publish his next few books."

"One has to hand it too Graham. He really pulled out the stops in order to get cutting edge cover design!"

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"I'm glad you mention Graham at this juncture, because he and Tony were very much their own men. They were in the book business for the long haul. By the time I died they were barely getting into their stride. But what astonishingly different strides! Graham's heroes never knew anyone. They always existed alone and in existential agony, in Havana or Burma or Mexico or in the middle of Africa. While Tony's narrator, Jenkins, seemed to float through a very English life, regularly meeting a group of people he'd known since school that would come to define his existence. Everyone knows everyone else, that's what Tony was getting at. Perhaps at the removal of one. Everyone's path crosses and recrosses everyone else's. There are no barriers of class or calling that can divide the universal, rather cold intimacy which the human condition imposes."

"Henry!"

"Henry who?"

"Yorke slash Green. Arguably Tony's best friend at Eton and Oxford. Arguably your best friend all through the 1930s on the back of your regard for
Living. He had just written a series of novels of his own. Caught (1943), Loving (1945), Back (1946), Concluding (1948), Nothing (1950), Doting (1952). But he just ran out of steam and never published another book after that, just when Tony was warming up. That is such an odd pattern. And of course their philosophies were poles apart. Tony's characters' personalities were established at Eton. Often in Henry's case - although he was at Eton with Tony - his characters have no past. They are as locked into the present as Graham Greene's characters are."

"We are having an Oxford dance to the music of time,"

"Yes, and this dance is taking place in or around 1950. That was when
Horizon ended and you asked Cyril Connolly, non-believer, to go with you to Rome for Easter. He turned you down and you met up with Harold Acton instead, but Cyril dined out on the story. So much so that Osbert Lancaster drew a cartoon of it. He suggested it was a sketch for a gigantic mural to go up by public subscription in the coffee-room at White's. But the sketch itself was framed by Tony and put on the wall of Tony's new house in the country. You saw it there, didn't you?"

"I gazed at it for a long time, finally deciding:
'Not in the least like.'

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"Really?"

"I gazed on it trying to reassure myself that it was Cyril who was made to look enormously fat, and not me. But I couldn't help asking myself: 'Are Cyril and I becoming objects of ridicule because of our figures?'"

"I think it's great, knowing that this cartoon was on a wall of Tony's house just as he was beginning his Dance to the Music of Time. And there's more. Though I can't quite pin it down. The sketch says to me something about Tony's creative process. Widmerpool is not you or Cyril, of course not. You and Cyril were blindingly creative lights in the background of Tony's life. He was content to be inspired by you both, not to render you as characters in his work. But you are there, behind the scenes. Always."

"Nancy, you are giving me so much to drink about. Cheers."

"What did you think of Tony's house in Somerset? He who had always lived in London."

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"That a family trust fund had finally come up trumps… That he had retired to the country as I had done, though over ten years later… That it was within walking distance of Mells, where I had several friends…That to drive from Piers Court to The Chantry and back took less than two hours… That we would visit each other regularly… That it was a place where I might well bump into my old Oxford chums."

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"Do you recall reading A Question of Upbringing? It was in your library when you died, but not an inscribed copy."

"Indeed. I read it soon after it came out."

"Were you impressed?"

"Certainly."

"Did it influence you in the writing of
Men at Arms?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Tony's
Question of Upbringing came out in January, 1951. You began writing Men At Arms a few months later. Both books share a philosophy that no plot is needed, just structure. And that events in our lives create sufficient structures. So Tony set his scenes at Eton, then in France in the year between school and university, and then at Oxford. Simple and satisfying. In Men at Arms, Guy Crouchback decides to join the army, he gets his officer training in the Halberdiers, and he goes into battle with his regiment. Again, straightforward, and following life closely. The devil is in the detail, of course. In the intimate following of characters as they go about their business over time, thereby revealing themselves."

"That's hardly a convincing connection."

"Wait. It was when I had just read a particular sentence in
A Question of Upbringing that I thought of Apthorpe. Widmerpool is talking to the narrator, Jenkins. He says: "You must meet my mother. She is one of those rare middle-aged women who have retained their youthful interest in matters of the mind. If you like books - and you tell me you do - you would thoroughly enjoy a chat with her about them." Something about the presumption, the inappropriate confidence, the air of absurdity that lurks just below the surface, made me think that sentence could just as easily have been spoken by Apthorpe to Crouchback."

"You may have something there, young Nancy."

"Oh, thank-you, Professor Waugh."

"Apthorpe nearly took over my book in the same way that Widmerpool nearly takes over Tony's. And the battle of wits between Apthorpe and Brigadier Ritchie Hook over the right to exclusive use of the Thunderbox does bear some relation to Widmerpool's
modus operandum."

"Goody."

"I will add this. I was interested in Tony's technique, and paid great attention to the way his situations unfolded. In the French section, when the two Swedes got into an altercation during the doubles tennis match in which Jenkins and Widmerpool made up the four, one Swede was a better player than the other. But the bizarre nature of the court evened things up somewhat, and the poorer player had a trick up his sleeve, in which he would occasionally serve underhand, always winning the point when he did so. One day, just after the better player had to put up with a number of lets, on points that he had been sure to win, the trick serve caught him out again, and he said something in frustration and retaliation. Something that the other Swede found completely unacceptable, and so he left the court. But what exactly had been said? And how did Widmerpool eventually manage to get them to be friendly to each other again. Though when one of the Swedes had to leave the hotel at the end of his holiday, it became obvious that both were relieved. In other words, the relationship had only been patched up on the surface. Meaning Widmerpool had been able to bring them together by appealing to their better natures. Perhaps he had suggested that the honour of their nation was at stake. In short, I thought it was very interesting what Tony did and didn't say during all that. You can't just give the reader everything and expect to create interest. You have to leave judicious gaps in the reader's knowledge of a crucial situation. Get the reader's imagination working overtime. Really, it struck me as something of a master-class."

"Going back to Connolly at Canossa. I don't think you saw that hanging on the wall of The Chantry until 1955."

"Why do you say that?"

"I have feeling that your first trip to see Tony was delayed for a few years. I have circumstantial evidence for saying that. You can tell me I'm wrong, if you like."

"I suspect I dropped in on Tony on visit to Mells. But go on."

"The key is your correspondence with me and with Tony. When the second volume of the Dance,
A Buyer's Market, comes out in 1952, you told me that readers were saying great things about it. The copy that was in your library at your death was without an inscription. It's only when the third volume, The Acceptance World, came out that your enthusiasm becomes solid. But what came shortly before a fan letter to Tony was a visit to see him at The Chantry in spring. While there, at the end of what may have been an evening of drinking, you drew this in the first edition of Scott King's Modern Europe that you'd sent him in 1947."

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"'For Tony, the host of Bats with deep respect.' I would guess that a woman that you referred to as Bats was your fellow guest that time. She may have worn a veil. Her beauty - her batting eyelids - may have reduced you to tears, as well as to your performance with pen and ink. I dare say you were very funny. I wish I had been there. In mid-April you supplied Tony with another copy of Scott-KIng's Modern Europe, this time with the restrained inscription: 'Dear Tony, I am conscious of having abused your hospitality by defacing a copy of this story. I accordingly inscribe this with simple esteem and gratitude. Easter Tuesday, 1955.'

I don't know how Tony responded to this, but on April 25 you wrote the following marvellous letter, perhaps having been given a copy of Tony's new book during your visit:
'I have now read Acceptance World slowly and with great relish. I think it even better done than its predecessor and congratulate you with all my heart. I prefer Mrs Erdleigh to Mr Deacon as a piece of apparatus and the climax of Le Bas's seizure to the cascade of sugar. The whole Old Boy dinner is superb. The plot seems to me altogether denser and I prefer the economy in comment. In fact it is an admirable book. I am glad I haven't to review it. I don't know quite how I would define my admiration. I feel each volume of the series is a great sustaining slice of Melton Pie. I can go on eating it with the recurring seasons until I drop.'

"How Tony must have enjoyed getting this letter from no less than the author of
Decline and Fall. I suspect he showed his appreciation in letter, and by enclosing an inscribed copy of the book. His simple inscription reads:

'For Evelyn from Tony,
With admiration and regard
May, 1955.'


At the beginning of July, you wrote him a postcard. Firstly about
Officers and Gentlemen, which Tony must have read and raised point about. And then about a mutual friend. You signed off by scribbling: 'Do pop over one day soon.'

Tony popped over soon enough. In your diary for 16 July, 1955, you wrote: 'Tony Powell came to luncheon. We were unable to find anyone to meet him.' In other words you could not provide him with a woman who could bat her eyelids. 'It was an unrewarding long hot drive for Tony. I opened a case which I thought contained champagne and found only Anjou Rosé.' "

"Oh, dear."

"I wonder if Tony had a lot to drink. After all, he had the long drive home to contend with."

"I think I drank most of the bottle. And then a second."

"Look I must go."

"But I'm not drunk, and have yet to become even mildly offensive… Yet here you are scurrying off like Tony that afternoon in 1955."

"Sorry, but the second volume of Tony's dance is burning a hole on my bedside table."

"Ha! Just as the tenth volume is burning a hole on mine. Very well, you must go and we can both get back to our reading. But, please, on no account put your luggage outside your room tonight, as if you were going away very early in the morning. For then I cannot be tempted to come along and rummage around among your hat boxes."

"Why would you do that?"

"I would be looking for the most exquisite hat with a view to replacing it with my chamber pot, full to the brim of non-champagne."

"What do you mean non-champagne?"

"I think you know what I mean."

"Oh, I know what you mean all right! Call me Sunny Farebrother."

"Good night, Sunny. Sweet dreams. To the music of Time."

"You too, darling. Try not to dream of Connolly at Canossa."

"Oh, don't say it. I'm sure to now… I may have to ring for another slice of Melton pie."

"Remember Cyril at Canossa."

"Get out! Out, slim thing!"

And there we have it. Two empty bottles.



TWO

Evelyn couldn't sleep. When had he ever been able to sleep?

To amuse himself he began to recite a poem. 'Ten Little Oxford Men'. He thought for a minute about changing it to 'A Dozen Little Oxford Men' as a mark of respect to Anthony Powell's Dance to the Music of Time. He could do this by adding the two Johns, Betjeman and Heygate. But he decided against it. No way did he want to come across John Heygate at the Brideshead Festival.

'Ten little Oxford men, feeling rather fine.
One wrote 'The Road to Oxiana', and then there were nine.'


1941. Poor Robert. Dead so long before the rest. Dead so long before his time. Had Evelyn hated him? Surely not. Not now.

'Nine little Oxford men, sat up very late. One wrote diddly-squat, and then there were eight.'

1958. Poor Brian. Dead by his own hand. Having lost his lover. Had Evelyn really felt contempt for him? Tony hadn't been able to see the point of him either. How had he put it again?
'I never liked Howard, nor found his performances in poetry or painting of interest. He seemed to me the essence of that self-propagation for its own sake which has nothing whatever to do with creative ability. At the same time, his self-confidence and sophistication were both startling in a boy of that age.' That seems to say it all.

'Eight little Oxford men, praying up to Heaven. One wrote 'Brideshead', and then there were seven.'

1966. Evelyn finds it hard to think of himself as dead. Lying there unable to sleep was the reality of the situation. He could remember that last year of life in particular. Waiting for the eighth volume of Tony's Dance really had been one of the things that had kept him going. That and the gin. That and the daily crossword. The gin and crosswords and Tony's novel sequence. Tony who Evelyn had laughed and laughed with at Underhill.

'Seven little Oxford men, chopping up sticks. One wrote 'Loving', and then there were six.'

1973. Poor Henry. Where did it all go wrong? Best friend of Tony at Eton. Some say that the character Charles Stringham, womaniser and alcoholic, was based on him. But Henry was his own man: womaniser and alcoholic. Evelyn suspects that Henry never got to see The Chantry. He was too far gone by then and couldn't be trusted in any kind of social setting.

'Six little Oxford men, drinking in a dive. One wrote 'The Unquiet Grave', and then there were five.'

1974. Dropping like flies now. Poor Cyril,
I knew him Horatio. How did Tony put it again? 'Conviction of his own "genius", that virus of the Twenties, had infected Connolly too, at an early age. He wanted, in his own words, to be 'Baudelaire and Rimbaud, without the poverty and suffering'. One of Tony's skills: to be able to sum up a man in a few elegant but penetrating sentences.

'Five little Oxford men, didn’t know the score. One wrote 'Grand Tour', and then there were four.'

1976. Dear Patrick. Does he deserve to be on this list? Should it not be John Betjeman? I have a soft spot for both Patrick and John. So let it stand. Besides, I kept on bumping into Patrick all our lives.

'Four little Oxford men, going on a spree. One wrote 'End of the Affair', and then there were three.'

1991. What - no deaths in the Eighties? Graham lived so much longer than I did. 25 years. And the books kept pouring out of him, it seems. He didn't know the rest of us at Oxford. Went about in an alcoholic haze by his own admission. But then I went about in an alcoholic haze and was right bang at the centre of things. Something to investigate there.

Three little Oxford men, wondering what to do. One wrote 'Four Portraits', and then there were two.

1993. Fuck you, Peter, and your 26 extra years. You who had been a member of the Living Dead for so long. Best moment of my life? Jumping up and down on Peter's feet in White's Club.

Two little Oxford men, whose idea of fun? One wrote his Memoirs, and then there was one.

1994. Poor, dear Harold. A life spent at the beck and call of his parents. True, the long leash they put him on stretched all the way to China. But a twitch on the thread brought him back to La Pietra. My friend, though I sorely tried his patience in later years.

One little Oxford man, dancing all alone. He danced right up himself, and then there were none.

2000. I'm glad one of us made it into his nineties and into to the 21st Century. And I'm glad it was Anthony Powell. I always said Tony was in it for the long haul. Never have I known anyone give so little of himself on a minute by minute basis. There was I - swinging from the chandeliers, champagne glass in hand - and there was Tony, soaking it all in, soaking it all up.



Where to next? Just trying to track down
Graham Greene.







Notes

1) I may have posted this a bit too soon. Hilary Spurling's biography of Anthony Powell has just arrived on my desk and first glance suggests it will be essential reading.

2) Thanks to Jeff Manley of the Evelyn Waugh Society for advising on the time-line after Evelyn left Oxford up until the publication of
Decline and Fall. He introduces this essay in a generous way here.