BOOKS DO FU-FU-FURNISH A ROOM




"Graham."

"Evelyn."

"What took you so long?"

"This castle is a pig of a place. It's corridors take some negotiating."

"Well, I'm pleased you finally got here. Drink?"

"When did I ever say no to champagne? But I suspect I have disturbed your concentration."

"Not so. I have been studying for hours and am due a break. The book is uncommonly absorbing, though it was written by a man who, I believe, was described as a dwarf by his prospective in-laws, the Pakenhams. You would have been still very much alive when this came out in 1971."

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"I remember it. Though Tony seems to have developed the idea that I don't like his books. He seems to forget that I employed him as a reviewer on
Night and Day on the strength of his pre-war novels."

"Let me say this about
Books Do Furnish a Room. Though I dropped dead in 1966, the tenth novel of the Dance deals with London just after the Second World War. Naturally, this interests me. My time, as it were. I have been doing some calculations. In 1944, in the pages of Brideshead, I wrote about Oxford in the 1920s, looking back twenty years. In my war novels published in 1952, 1955 and 1961, I was writing about the Second World War: a ten to twenty years retrospect. Tony's three books about the same war didn't come out until 1965, 1967 and 1969."

"Tony always did like to pace himself."

"But the book we're presently considering, published in 1971, dealing with 1945-50 as it does, reminds me of
Brideshead in the atmosphere it evokes. Though nostalgia is not quite the word. It is a magnificent achievement on many levels. Would you be interested in going through it in some detail?"

"I didn't know you liked to do that, Evelyn."

"It seems that I have been reborn an 'intellectual'. Though I always felt myself to be a craftsman, working with words and sentences. You know that."

"I would be delighted to go along for the literary ride, once we have assuaged our thirst a little."

Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh seem at ease in each other's company. Certainly they enjoy making inroads into the fizz together. Then they get down to it. Evelyn being first to speak:

"
Books Do begins with Nick Jenkins travelling to Oxford to research a life he's writing of Richard Burton, author of The Anatomy of Melancholy. A neat autobiographical conceit, as in reality Tony spent 1945 researching the life of Burton's near-contemporary, John Aubrey. He needed to work in Oxford as so many of Aubrey's manuscripts are kept in the Bodleian. But Richard Burton was an author and all-rounder of the same period, and he too had links with Oxford. So the parallel makes sense. Though the first part of Books Do concerns itself with revisiting the salon of the don, Sillery, so that the reader can be updated with what's been going on in the lives of various characters."

"I'm tempted to say: 'another bloody boring book'. But things do improve."

"Part two concerns itself with a funeral. The deceased character is called Erridge, but one understands that Tony is writing about his good friend, Eric Blair. Erridge is not portrayed as a writer, but, in previous instalments, Erridge disguises himself as a tramp, has left-wing views, and fights in Spain."

"Were you at Eric's funeral?"

"No, but Tony was. I believe he came up with the service. Or he and Malcolm Muggeridge did. Tony and Malcolm were great friends of Eric when he lived in London towards the end of the war. Then Eric isolated himself in Jura in order to write
1984. After reading that, and being told how ill with TB its author was, I visited him in the Gloucestershire nursing home he stayed in for several months of 1949. It wasn't that far from Piers Court. Not only did we admire each others books, we shared strong views on the work of PG Wodehouse. Indeed, I went to see him in the company of neighbours of mine who'd known Wodehouse at the beginning of his career. Anyway, when I was there, at his bedside, Eric talked about Tony and Malcolm, grateful that they'd travelled all the way from London to see him, walking the seven miles from the station to do so. Cyril too of course."

"Cyril walked seven miles to visit a sick contributor to
Horizon?"

"No, Cyril didn't walk there. But he did visit Eric in the sanatorium."

"Let's see. Just before Eric died, he married Sonia, one of Cyril's bright young women."

"Some say she married him on Cyril's say-so."

"And so, as Mrs George Orwell, Sonia became a rich widow."

"She did indeed. But what Tony sets up in the book is - amazingly enough - just as interesting. Widmerpool is there at the funeral of Erridge…"

"Why?"

"Good question. Widmerpool didn't know Erridge, but was going to be a fellow backer of the new post-war literary magazine
Fission. Fission was to be published by Quiggin and Craggs and edited by Bagshaw, whose nickname is Books Do Furnish a Room. This Bagshaw was based on Bobby Roberts, a young man who was an alcoholic all the time I knew him. This literary group turned up with Widmerpool and his wife, the beautiful and inscrutable Pamela. Having arrived late at the graveside, Pamela walks out of the church during the service, and, in the next scene, set in the stately home that Erridge lived in a corner of, is sick into a Chinese vase."

"Remind me, why is she sick?"

"Out of sheer rage."

"Ah yes, Pamela is a loose cannon, if I remember rightly."

"Indeed. One of her roles in the book, perhaps the most important, is to blast away at Widmerpool's self-esteem."

"Shall we pause in our analysis long enough to open a second bottle? By the way, where did the ceramic figure come from?"

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"It's on loan from Dick Young, who was the model for Captain Grimes in my first novel."

"Ah, yes, the self-confessed paedophile in my much-read copy of
Decline and Fall."

"Dick is quite the fan of Tony's
Dance, whatever his sexual preferences. The series begins with reference to the Poussin painting in which four figures dance to the playing of old Father Time on the harp. Dick, in choosing this figurine for my room, may be suggesting that Time itself is ageless."

"Let's drink to that."

"It's in part three of
Books Do that we are introduced to the character that will dominate the rest of the book."

"I should remember"

"X. Trapnel."

"I do remember."

"I was surprised to learn from Tony's memoirs - the volume that is poignantly sub-titled
The Strangers All Are Gone, which appeared in 1982, eleven years after Books Do appeared and sixteen years after my death - that this character was comprehensively based on a single, real person. To demonstrate the fact and the importance of this, I am going to read a few short excerpts from the aforementioned memoir. How ugly the cover is. See here…"

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"One feels the mottled background was a mistake…. One feels the indistinct cat was a mistake."

" A background, a cat and a black-lined box too far. Anyway, Tony's writing is good throughout, his voice unmistakeable, though there is an unsettling amount of French words. Listen up:

"Among convives warmly canvassed by Roberts was a certain Maclaren-Ross, whom he propagated as a writer of excellent short stories, and - very acceptable recommendation after nearly eight years without publishing a book - a fan of my own pre-war novels. Roberts positively insisted on the introduction. Violet and I gave in, and agreed to meet this Roberts literary discovery at a pub in Great Portland Street, the name of which I have forgotten.

"In due course I took some liberties with the theatrically projected personality of Maclaren-Ross in constructing the character of X. Trapnel, who appears in the later volumes of
Dance. "I warn you," said Roberts, "He's rather an egotist."

"This prefigurement turned out to be no less than the truth, even the first few minutes making plain the colossal ego that Maclaren-Ross wielded. At the same time one was impressed by the unusual texture of this tall, dark, good looking, faintly foreign figure (then about 32) with an unstemmable flow of talk. That was about books (chiefly novels of the past twenty years but capable of extension back over time), and movies (chiefly gangster films though not exclusively).

"An habitual
tenue of semi-tropical suit, ancient suede shoes, teddy-bear overcoat, stick with silver (gold when in funds) knob, gave the air of a broken-down dandy, though just what brand of dandyism was not easy to define. There was something Mediterranean about the get-up. Hints of even more distant climes, Gauguin in the South Seas, though the walking stick seemed to denote boulevardier rather than beachcomber. The equally invariable dark green sun-spectacles (their lenses latterly of a kind to reflect the vis-a-vis) belonged to much the same geographical regions, at the same time hinting of security agent or possibly terrorist."

"All this swagger did not entirely mask the hard-up literary man of the post-war London epoch. Maclaren-Ross personified that too, even quintessentially; perhaps as much by leaving his own mark on the times as the times leaving a mark on himself."

Evelyn stops long enough to comment: "One might say that X. Trapnel was the main character in Tony's most important book. Books Do is the only one of the twelve that primarily deals with the literary scene. So it is a great compliment to Maclaren-Ross that he was singled out as the main writer in it. But let me get back to Tony's retrospective commentary.

"When first encountered, Maclaren-Ross had been married and divorced at least once. Considering the world in which he lived he was not temperamentally promiscuous, tending to stick to whatever girl (usually an unusually pretty one) who made up his establishment, until she herself moved off. He liked to boast of deep drinking, together with superhuman powers of remaining sober whatever the intake, and the strength of his head has been confirmed by one or two of those who knew him. He did turn up once at a Chancery Lane pub where we had a rendezvous (when I was on
Punch) in a less than coherent state. That was a unique default in the course of our meetings.

"The Maclaren-Ross
ménage tended to be accommodated in an hotel, preferably a large one in Russell Square. 'Something I could never afford myself', once commented Henry Yorke. Maclaren-Ross greatly admired Yorke's novels (written as Henry Green), and at much later date wrote an accomplished parody of them in a Punch series on contemporary novelists he undertook.

"During a brief period some sort of household was maintained in a decidedly seedy furnished flat in the Holland Park area, but even that comparative domesticity palled. Chronically on the brink of disaster, Maclaren-Ross never, I think, was drastically reduced as in the pre-war years when nights had been spent on the Embankment.

"The battle Maclaren-Ross fought as a writer was an increasingly losing one to keep contact with things worth writing about. At his best - the army stories, the vacuum-cleaner novel, the parodies - there is a touch that remains individual to this day.

"The Maclaren-Ross
ménage used sometimes to dine with us at Chester Gate, and once he insisted that we should be his guests for dinner at the Café Royal. The occasion was marked by John Heygate and his most recent girlfriend joining our table later in the evening. Heygate's girl, who was in a flirtatious mood, kept sending him little notes under the table. Maclaren-Ross, who possessed that peculiar skill some have of being able to read handwriting upside down, deciphered one of these affectionate missives - evidently referring to himself - as commenting: 'He is too esoteric'.

"Maclaren-Ross was too esoteric. Certainly too esoteric to find life easy. For a few years he walked his own unique tightrope above the by-ways of Charlotte Street and Soho, his gifts as a writer never quite allowing the headlong descent forever threatened by his behaviour as a man."

"
Very interesting… Julian Maclaren-Ross… Not an Oxford man, which was a plus in my book. I knew him from 1938 when he came to see me about a radio adaptation he was writing of a novel of mine, A Gun For Sale. We had a boozy lunch at my house, I was still with Vivien at the time, and I was the father of two young boys. I remember Julian for the peculiar day-job he had - vacuum cleaner salesman - and because he could remember everything he'd read and everything he'd seen at the cinema. More than that, he was able to bring out his knowledge at the most appropriate moment. Our association remained close, and when I was director of Eyre and Spottiswode he got in touch on several occasions. Usually, we met in anonymous pubs. I was able to introduce him to André Deutsch, who published several of his books under the imprint of Alan Wingate, a decidedly less German name."

"It was the army stories in
Horizon that first caught my interest."

"I believe it was Julian's conversational qualities that most intrigued Cyril when they first met. Though the selection of his short story for
Horizon was prior to their meeting. So there was no question that Maclaren-Ross could write, however unique and impressive he was in the flesh."

"Cyril managed to mangle his name first time around. See here, three-quarters of the way down the list of contributors. Maclaren spelt with a 'y'.

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Graham: "There was mystery about the name. Maclaren-Ross was half-Scottish but the Maclaren bit was taken from the nurse that delivered him, not inherited from either parent. In the same way that there is a strange story about how the X. in X. Trapnel came about."

'The first Maclaren-Ross story in
Horizon was called 'A Bit of a Smash in Madras'. While the X. Trapnel novel that the characters in Books Do are familiar with is called Camel Ride to the Tomb.'

"Tony may also have been thinking of a lighthearted piece of his called 'My Father was Born in Havana'.

"
My father was born in Havana;
A short camel's ride to the tomb.
"

"
My father was born in Havana;
A bit of a smash in Madras
."

"Fill me up, Evelyn."

"I am filling you up, Graham… I am now going to quote from part three of
Books Do. Bagshaw - the Bobbie Roberts character - is about to introduce Nick Jenkins to X. Trapnel. Hopefully, you will pick up most of the equivalences to Maclaren-Ross.

"'
The licensed premises he chose for the production of Trapnel were in Great Portland Street."

"Check."

"I had come prepared for Trapnel to turn out a bore. Pleasure in a book carries little or no guarantee where the author is concerned, and Camel Ride to the Tomb, whatever its qualities as a novel, had all the marks of being written by a man who had difficulty in getting on with the rest of the world."

"Check."

"
'He looked about thirty, tall, dark, with a beard… Even if the beard, assessed with the clothes and stick he carried marked him out as an exhibitionist in a reasonably high category, the singularity was more on account of elements within himself than from outward appearance."

"Check."

"
Although the spring weather was still decidedly chilly, he was dressed in a pale ochre-coloured tropical suit, almost transparent in texture, on top of which he wore an overcoat, black and belted like Quiggin's Partisan number, but of cloth, for some reason, familiarly official in cut. This heavy garment, rather too short for Trapnel's height of well over six feet."

"Is that paperback copies of the novel? Let me see them please, Evelyn."

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"Looks like Maclaren-Ross all right, except for the beard. That must have been Tony's own touch."

"Now part three of Books Do largely concerns two meetings involving Nick Jenkins and X. Trapnel. The first, in the pub, has been set up so that Nick can commission a review from Trapnel. Tony writes: 'Trapnel's personality began to take clearer shape after another round of drinks. He was a talker of quite unusual persistence. It turned out in due course that Trapnel's impersonations of Boris Karloff were to be taken as a signal that a late evening must be brought remorselessly to a close.'"

"In real life it was the mention of Sidney Greenstreet that had to be taken as a signal to round things off."

"In other words, Tony was playing a version of his Richard Burton/John Aubrey trick. Boris Karloff and Sidney Greenstreet both being masters of contrastingly villainous roles in Hollywood films."

"Observant of you, Evelyn."

"The second scene involving Trapnel is at the launch of the first issue of
Fission. Rather oddly, Widmerpool has a piece in it called, 'Affirmative Action and Negative Values'. He - by now a Labour MP - is at the launch party, and Trapnel introduces himself in a very respectful manner, enabling Widmerpool to waffle on at length. This shows a different side of Trapnel, who then meets Pamela Widmerpool who is cold and rude to him, much to Trapnel's amusement. Trapnel ends the evening by borrowing a pound from Widmerpool so that he can get a taxi home. Indeed that taxi has just arrived as part three of the book ends. Nick has left the launch with Widmerpool, and Trapnel offers them a lift home in his taxi. Neither takes up the offer.

"Now, Graham, before the plot of
Books Do takes off, it is time to draw your attention to a third book. Having had Tony's fictional take on Maclaren-Ross, and having dipped into his memoirs on the subject, let us have Maclaren Ross's own record of himself. It didn't come out until the year after his death from a heart attack in 1964. I ordered copy from my bookseller in 1965. As you can see, the designer of the Penguin edition of Books Do owes a debt of gratitude to the designer of this earlier dust jacket…"

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"The first chapter describes meeting the publisher Jonathan Cape in his office. The second goes into his first meeting with you at your London home in some detail. Let me quote:
'I had not expected him to be so tall… Greene took long lounging strides and his shoulders were well above mine as we walked across the grass. Though very lean he had high broad straight shoulders from which his jacket was loosely draped as if still on its hanger.' Now I must stop there and read what it very oddly says about Maclaren-Ross on the back flap. 'Julian Maclaren-Ross, born 1912, height 6 ft 2 in…' Which is implying that you are upwards of 6ft 4in, Graham. Can this be so?"

"Would you like me to stand up?"

"No. For then I would be expected to stand up too, and the nine-inch difference in our heights would become oppressive. You and Maclaren-Ross can stand to your full heights together, if you must. Tony and I will remain seated while that exercise takes place."

"I wondered where that 'dwarf' remark at the beginning of this evening came from. But let me say that I have long been familiar with Maclaren-Ross's
Memoirs of the Forties and would like to say something about it. Near the beginning, there is a chapter about Julian's first meeting with Cyril Connolly. It comes across as two sly foxes sniffing around each other, but what's rare about it is that it's a tête-à-tête featuring Cyril on home turf. There is a document in Julian's handwriting that suggests there was a second chapter on Cyril Connolly planned. And a second excursion in 'Greeneland' planned also, possibly focussing on our long term relations. And the title of a chapter on Tony was to be called 'Anthony Powell Plays Happy Families'. No chapter was planned on yourself, Evelyn. There was some suggestion that Julian may have met you, perhaps at the Hyde Park Hotel. But I suspect that no such meeting did happen, because surely Julian would have been intent on writing about it."

"I never met Maclaren-Ross. I did write letter on his behalf to the Royal Literary Fund. It appears in this fourth book called
Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia, by Paul Willetts, which was published in 2003."

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"My letter reads: 'I have followed Mr Maclaren-Ross's work since the first publication of a sketch of military life which I read in Horizon...I think now that he has developed his talent well and that, given proper opportunities, he shall develop into a first-class writer. I believe that one of the things he needs most is financial support during this crucial stage of his career. I therefore greatly hope that you will be able to give him the freedom from immediate anxiety which is needed to mature his undoubted talent.' On the back of the book appears the quote: 'Accomplishment of a rare kind - Evelyn Waugh'. I think that may have been lifted from the same letter."

"Yes, I can picture you happily writing that in your library at Piers Court. Generously doing your bit for a fellow writer. However, what I'd much rather picture is you dressed in your bookmaker tweeds, talking to Julian dressed in his finery. Cane to stick. But that didn't happen, as you inhabited mutually exclusive worlds. He would have been as out of place in White's Club as you would have been in the Wheatcheaf, or any other Soho dive. And yet if you
had shared a drink somewhere, you would have found you had so much in common. Books, first and foremost. Julian was a fan of Tony's, in particular From a View to a Death. He was a fan of mine, hence the radio-play. He was a fan of Henry's, having read all his novels. And, of course, he was a fan of yours."

"I know he was. Upon the publication of
Work in Progress, he wrote to me asking if he could write a critical assessment of the book and its place in my oeuvre. I told him, a little sharply perhaps, to wait until I was dead. The reason I lived in exile from London, was that entire days and nights spent in licensed premises would have been all too tempting for me. I would soon have drunk myself to death. As it seemed Maclaren-Ross did, seeing he died at the age of 52. I have to hand it to both Tony and yourself, you were able to live in London after the Second World War, and take part in the literary scene, while developing your solo writing careers."

"I have become aware of this extraordinary book. It tells me that on the day of Julian's death, in the company of his then girlfriend, Eleanor, his last words were "Graham Greene" and "I love you."

"Meaning he loved you, or his girlfriend?"

"His girlfriend I suppose. But all the same!"

"Do you wish to explore this further now, Graham?"

"No. Not right now. Let's stick to Julian as I recall him… If only you two had met just once. I can't help wondering what would have transpired. I dare say you would have worn him down."

"Oh God, here we are in the civilised surroundings of Castle Howard and I am opening a third bottle of champers. But I know that if Maclaren-Ross was here as well, the situation would be much worse…On my rare excursions to London in the 1940s, I would come back to Piers Court with a hangover that would last for three days. But, no, I never did clash antlers with Maclaren-Ross."

"Let us carry on this evening in our sober, low-key way. This by the way, is another of the figurines that Dick Young donated to the Ashmolean Museum in his will of 1971. I point it out so that you can appreciate that he really did collect these boy figures. In full view, as it were. He really did donate them to an august Oxford institution. His very own Dance to the Music of Time."

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"And so to part four of
Books Do. Tony takes a further, full, ten pages to introduce X. Trapnel. Quite an odd structure, really. It contains the memorable quote: 'If you bring off adequate preservation of your personal myth, nothing much in life matters. It is not what happens to people that is significant, but what they think happens to them."

"Was that true of you, Evelyn?"

"Was it true of you, Graham?"

"I asked first."

"I think my own personal myth began to break down latterly. When I realised how alcoholic I had become despite cutting myself off from London's pubs and clubs. When I realised how fat I'd become, yet utterly wasted. When I realised that my old friends found me as boring as I did."

"Come, come. You could never be boring, Evelyn."

"Tell that to Harold Acton. Tell it to Cyril. Tell it to Tony, even. But let's not go there. Let's get back to the matter in hand. Part 4 of
Books Do. A few quotes about women. 'Trapnel said that he preferred women to have tolerable manners. When things were going reasonably well, he would be living with a rather unusually pretty one, who was also to all appearances, bright, good tempered and unambitious. At least that was the impression they gave when on view at The Hero of Acre, or another of Trapnel's chosen haunts.

"The pair of them, when Trapnel allowed his whereabouts to be known, were likely to be camped out in a bleak hotel in Bloomsbury or Paddington.

"Alternatively, during brief periods of relative affluence, Trapnel and his girl might shelter for a few weeks in a 'furnished flat'.

"If the season were summer , the situation might not exclude a night or two spent on the Embankment."

"
Check."

"Good. I can start paraphrasing now… Trapnel phones Nick and asks to meet him. He sounds bit odd. So Nick goes off to The Hero of Acre (a pub) but it takes Trapnel a long time to work up to what he wants to say. His book of short stories Bin Ends,is mentioned. His novel in progress, Profiles in String, is mentioned. The fact that he's lost his latest girlfriend, is mentioned. But none of that is what is really on his mind. He'd fallen in love! Who had he fallen in love with? Trapnel can't say it aloud, so he writes the name down on a slip of paper. 'Pamela Widmerpool'. Nick tries to take in this weird news. Meanwhile, Trapnel is wondering how he could possibly meet her again. Nick facetiously suggests that he could go to Widmerpool's flat to return the pound he borrowed from him. Trapnel thinks that's a grand idea."

Graham looks thoughtful, but doesn't interrupt, and Evelyn carries on with his summary:

"Trapnel drops from view for a while. Nick bumps into Widmerpool near the House of Commons and, with another colleague, accompanies Widmerpool back to his flat. They can hear that a bath is running. Widmerpool goes to tell his wife that they have visitors, but she doesn't acknowledge his words. A few minutes later, there is a knocking on the door of the flat. An embarrassed neighbour delivers the message that Widmerpool's wife has 'left him'. Looking about the flat, Widmerpool realises that the Modigliani (a gift to Pamela from earlier in the
Dance) has gone with her, as well as a couple of photographs of herself. He realises further that the water has long run cold and that no-one in the block will be able to have hot water for some time."

"A significant moment?"

"For me, certainly. It wasn't until I'd finished reading the book for a couple of days that the scene came back to me, along with the recollection of two photographs of the flat I shared with Evelyn Gardner in Canonbury Square back. If you walk to the window you will see them on the table. The photos are from summer 1929, long before our own friendship began, so they will be new to you. One shows the lounge. Henry's book
Living is in pride of place on top of a pile of books on the table. And a painting I made intended as an illustration, perhaps as a cover, for Vile Bodies, is resting on the mantelpiece."

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"You tell me it's Henry's
Living that's on top of the pile. It could just as easily be Books Do Furnish A Room. Indeed I'm imagining that every book in the room is Books Do Furnish a Room, as published by Heinemann and not Eyre and Spottiswode. My firm really did pay the price for calling John Aubrey a bloody boring book."

"Can you hear the sound of roaring taps in the background? I heard it as a rushing sound between my ears at the time. But I realise now it was the water of a shared domestic life flowing down the plughole. What a waste."

"
Books Do Turn on the Taps. I can almost hear it."

"If you turn your attention to the companion photo, you will see a dining room table. Evelyn and John Heygate inherited it after I'd walked out of the place. To be clear. She walked out. Then I walked out. Then she walked back in with Heygate. I imagine She-Evelyn writing a note and passing it under the table to him. Can you guess what the note would say?"

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"Turn off the taps?"

"He was too esoteric."

"I suppose that makes more sense."

"On the walls are paintings and drawings of She-Evelyn and I that were made by Henry Lamb. I haven't seen them since the day I took that photo of the deserted flat. Lamb may not have been Modigliani, but I wish I had taken them away with me the day I walked out. I have heard those roaring taps ever since… It was the major turning point in my life. There, I've said it."

"Surely you've only heard the taps since reading the scene in the book?"

"No, I don't think so. I think Tony had what happened to me in mind when he wrote the scene. After all, he was a close friend of mine at the time, and he heard my side of the story. Moreover, he was on holiday in Germany with John Heygate when they received a telegram from me telling Heygate to come back for She-Evelyn, because our miserable attempt at a reconciliation had failed. And Evelyn Gardner was a close associate of Tony's too. And he remained good friends with the pair of them. Even writing of their shared life in the Canonbury Square - and easily recognisable - flat, in his pre-war book, Agents and Patients. Then returning to the fiasco in volume two of his Memoirs, which is also lying on the table in front of you. Yes?"

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"Yes."

"There are pages and pages about the breakdown of my first marriage in that book."

"I think I see what you're driving at. For at least a few pages in Tony's
Dance, you are Widmerpool. Or you understand yourself to be the failure and humiliation that was Widmerpool, the man who nevertheless kept going."

"Good. Come back to the bottle, Graham, and we can carry on with Tony's story. So there is Tony - sorry, Nick - at the offices of
Fission and he has his attention directed to the latest article by X. Trapnel. The article is called 'Assumptions of Autarchy v Dynamics of Adjustment', and he realises that it's a parody of Widmerpool that's been published. Then he gets a phone call from Pamela asking him to bring round a book - any book - for X. to review. He is asked to come in person, to the flat that they are living in near the canal at Maida Vale. When Nick gets there, he observes empty bottles of Algerian wine, two large photographs of Pamela taken by famous photographers, and the Modigliani drawing over the mantelpiece. Trapnel, lying on a divan under army blankets, feeling off-colour, is very pleased to see Nick. Pamela is in her own unemotional way devoted to X. Though she doesn't like the way Profiles in String is panning out. Trapnel tries to reassure her that he will be taking into account all her views. She emphasises that he will indeed be doing that. The doorbell rings. It is Widmerpool. He has come round to - do what exactly? He places his hat absent-mindedly on the manuscript of Profiles in String and Trapnel immediately asks him to remove it. Widmerpool does so, and pulls himself together. He summarises the position. First, Trapnel borrowed a pound from him. Second, he lampooned him in print. Third, he stole his wife. What he has come to say is that he won't divorce Pamela - he is confident she will come back to him in due course - and to express his contempt for the way Trapnel lives and has behaved. The two nearly come to blows. As Widmerpool leaves, Trapnel shouts after him, and here I must quote - 'Coprilite! Faecal debris! Fossil of dung!' Shortly after that, Nick is ejected also, after being thanked by Trapnel. Pamela saying: 'Bugger off - I want to be alone with X.' Which takes us to part five."

"Pause there, Evelyn."

"I intend to."

"First our glasses. Thank-you…. Do you feel as personally involved with that scene?"

"No I don't. Though I wouldn't be surprised if it owed something to a visit of Tony's to the flat of Heygate and Shevelyn. It is surprising to me that Tony made his author specimen so firmly based on the one person. Although one has to remember that the real writer here is Anthony Powell in 1971. The Powell of 1945, as represented by Nick Jenkins, may be completely unassuming. But Tony was building up a picture of human life that would fuel a sequence of twelve novels written from 1950 to 1975. Anyway, let me finish off now. Part five of
Books Do Furnish A Room. Nick gets a phone call from Bagshaw, who is in pub with Trapnel. He thinks Nick could help get Trapnel home. So Nick travels to the pub on the Edgware Road, not that far from Trapnel's flat. He half listens to a long, drunken conversation between Bagshaw and Trapnel, ostensibly about fairly abstruse literary matters. Clearly, in Trapnel's case, a conversation constructed so as to avoid the need of facing personal problems. Eventually, the three leave the pub together and walk towards Trapnel's flat along the canal. Pamela awaits. Trapnel sees a clump of paper floating on top of the water and decides it must be the rejected manuscript of an unhappy writer. He goes to inspect it and reacts furiously, chucking his stick into the canal where it floats on the surface of the water. He explains to the others that it's his own manuscript and that Pamela must have thrown it into the canal because it's ending wasn't right to her mind. A life's work gone, is how Trapnel puts it. Given that he knows he's not the same man who started the work two years before and never will be again. Trapnel confesses what it's like making love to Pamela. 'She wants it all the time, yet doesn't want it. She goes rigid like a corpse. Every grind's a nightmare. It's all the time and it's always the same.' They push on to the flat which is now empty of the photographs and the Modigliani, empty of Pamela. Trapnel, with the help of some pills, seems composed. And so the others leave him to it. Shortly after that, I mean on another day, Nick meets Widmerpool and realises that Pamela has moved back in with him. Though Widmerpool doesn't seem any the happier for the reversal of fortune."

"Congratulations."

"Hold on. Let me just summarise the scenes involving Widmerpool, Nick, Pamela and X.Trapnel….First, Pamela embarrasses Widmerpool at Erridge's funeral…Second, Nick is introduced to Trapnel in a sordid pub….Third, Pamela deadpans Trapnel at the launch of
Fission…. Fourth, Trapnel confesses to Nick that he has fallen in love with (he can't say her name!) 'Pamela Widmerpool'….Fifth, Widmerpool realises Pamela has left him as the bath taps roar… Sixth, Widmerpool turns up at the ménage of Trapnel and Pamela, and badmouths Trapnel… Seventh, a drunk Trapnel stumbles home to find a destroyed manuscript and Pamela gone back to Widmerpool…"

"Congratulations again, Evelyn. Is it you and She-Evelyn all over again?"

"It is and it isn't. And for sure, it's Tony that deserves any congratulations going. In fact, hasn't there been mention of a Brideshead Prize? There is no doubt in my mind it should go to Tony Powell for
Books Do Furnish A Room, and that you should present it."

"Too late, Evelyn. Everyone has gone away. Castle Howard is an empty shell."

"The strangers all are gone? Nancy too? Then let me put it this way. If I should collapse this evening, and you come to my aid, I expect my final words to be "Anthony Powell," followed, after a short pause by, "I love you." Will you know how to interpret such a scenario, Graham? And be willing to accurately pass it on to posterity?"

"I will do my best for you, Evelyn. But what with the sound of running water from the bathroom, and what with the surfeit of water to be found - on close examination - in your lungs, I feel I will have no choice but to report my findings to the coroner."

"Books! What are they good for?"

"They furnish a room."

"Books! What are they good for?"

"Everything."

End of champagne.

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Next up:
Dance 11 of 12