EVELYN AMONG THE RUINS

After writing
Men at Arms in 1951, Evelyn did remarkably little literary work in 1952. That's something I may come back to, but for now I'll push on.

In January 1953, Evelyn made a note in his diary that he'd half-remembered some engravings of Canova's work which might be adapted to decorate his story
Love Among the Ruins. He meant The Works of Canova, with engravings by Henry Moses, which was published several times in the Nineteenth Century. The copy I bought recently and which features in the photo below, was published in 1824 by Septimus Prowett of the Strand.

Photo on 2014-09-13 at 11.48

It's a gorgeous book, its large thick creamy pages have taken the type well. While the illustrations have been placed on finer, greyer paper inlaid onto the cream pages, with generous margins all round.

P3233912

Love Among the Ruins is a story that Evelyn had written in October 1950, shortly after the general election of February which saw the post-war Labour government returned to power with a narrow majority. Then it had been called 'A Pilgrim's Progress' and it had been rejected by the editors it had been sent to. One said: 'It seems to me sad that this man's talent should be wasted on such a story'. Another: 'The theme is almost implausibly apt for satire by Waugh and yet his handling of it is, for the most part, dull-witted and tedious.'

Martin Stannard tells us that Waugh re-read the story and hurriedly withdrew it from the market. However, Evelyn must have been fond of his creation in order to come back to it, polish it up and push for it to be published as a volume in its own right in 1953. Or was it purely his enthusiasm for the scheme of illustration that motivated its promotion from rejected magazine short story to self-contained novella?

canova_0011
Illustration from Love Among the Ruins. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

Evelyn tells us in his diary entry of 18 January, 1953, that with 'dazzling eyes', a magnifying glass and razor blade he went to work on
The Works of Canova. That is, he cut up a few of the engravings that the English artist Henry Moses had made in 1822 of sculptures made by Antonio Canova, a neo-classical Italian sculptor, who had died that year. The plate to be manipulated in order to get the cover illustration - also used on the half-title page shown above - was 'Cupid and Psyche', as seen below.

canova
Cupid and Psyche. Sculpted by Antonio Canova, engraved by Henry Moses

Here is a detail, showing the delicate work of Henry Moses:

canova
Cupid and Psyche (detail). Sculpted by Antonio Canova, engraved by Henry Moses

Evelyn's razor lopped off Cupid's wings and his pen placed a beard on Psyche. I'm not sure from where Evelyn sourced the temple backdrop he used on the cover and half-title page. I like to think he was evoking the temple at Barford and thus the figures were alluding to Evelyn Waugh and Alastair Graham. But I just say that in passing, given where this piece is going.

canova_0012
Illustration from Love Among the Ruins. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

Below is the image that Evelyn used in order to create the above title page. He's used the exact shape of the monument and excluded the woman, the bust and the plinth the bust is standing on. In place of that he puts in the title of the book, the information that it is a 'romance of the near future', title, publisher and date of publication. Oh yes, and he includes the statement that the book is illustrated by several eminent hands, including his own.

canova_0003
Monument of Giovanni Falier. Sculpted by Antonio Canova, engraved by Henry Moses

I don't think the manipulation of the above image is particularly significant (or symbolic). Evelyn was simply clearing a space so that he could announce the appearance of his story, using an aesthetic (provided by Henry Moses and Antonio Canova) that was going to recur throughout the book's pages.

Before going on with the visual work, I need to say something about the text itself. The protagonist, MIles Plastic, was brought up in an Orphanage. Large sums were spent on his upbringing, ensuring he had fresh air, modern art, regular psychoanalysis and a balanced diet. On becoming an adult, he was transferred to the Air Force, a place devoid of aeroplanes, where he was set to dish-washing. However, MIles deliberately set fire to the building causing much loss of life and damage to property. As a result he was sent to prison, a country house where he had a room of his own, an environment where peacocks wandered about and where the strains of classical music could be heard of an evening. Was Waugh suggesting that Miles had gone from a Modernist/Labour environment to a Conservative/Classical one?

Two government ministers come to see rehabilitated Miles on the date of his release from Mountjoy Castle. At this stage in the book, Evelyn slips in an illustration that is loosely based on the many busts that crop up at the beginning of Volume 2 of
The Works of Canova. However, the fact that Waugh himself was responsible for the portraits is suggested by what's written under the drawing: 'E.Waugh inven et delin.'

canova_0013
Illustration from Love Among the Ruins. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

The word 'Coalition' may be a a reference to the coalition government that presided during the war years, headed by Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee. But, with the story written in 1950, the work of Aneurin Bevan, the Minister for Health from 1945-1951, who introduced the National Health Service and did much to promote social housing, is perhaps being alluded to. Especially as, in
Love Among the Ruins, the Minister of Rest and Culture talks in a working class way, repeatedly referring to Miles as 'lad'. Anyway, whip off Aneurin Bevan's wig-like mop of hair in the left-hand image below, and judge for yourself whether the busts bear some resemblance to he and Clement Attlee:

aneurin-bevan-2676538
Portraits of Aneurin Bevan (left) and Clement Atlee (right).

Miles is sent to work in the Dome of Security in Satellite City. He finds himself in the Euthanasia Department, which we are told had not been part of the original 1945 Health Service but was a Tory measure designed to attract votes from the elderly. The
Brave New World-style department had been very successful and looked to be taking over from Pensions.

Miles's job is to open the door at ten o'clock to welfare-weary citizens, admitting half a dozen at a time. He adjusts the TV in the waiting room but never passes through the door from which occasionally comes a faint whiff of cyanide. He lives in a hostel containing the same modern art that had been at the Orphanage and he is already bored with his new life. Time for another fire?

A strike among coal-miners means that the work of the Euthanasia Department comes to a standstill. Once the ovens are glowing again, the queue stretches halfway around the building. Cue another illustration:

canova_0014
Illustration from Love Among the Ruins. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

This is mainly based on the following engraving:

P3213900
Socrates Sending Away his Family Before Drinking the Poison. Sculpted by Antonio Canova, engraved by Henry Moses.

Waugh removes Socrates from in front of the doorway which he embellishes with signs: 'EUTHANASIA' and 'CLOSED DURING STRIKE'. To the left of the door, he retains the original figures and adds another from a different engraving. Of the figures to the right of the door, he puts the two on the far right of the original behind the window and again adds another figure from a different engraving.

At this stage in the story we are introduced to the second main character. Clara is a dancer, a beautiful girl who, as a result of Experimental Surgery, has grown a long, silken, corn-gold beard which is not acceptable for the stage. She has been sent along to Euthanasia by the Director of Dance but she does not want to die, much to the irritation of MIles's boss. MIles thinks her beard is beautiful and they get into conversation. Clara explains her philosophy: it's through dancing that she knows that life is worth living. That's what Art means to her. Miles has also been a dancer, twice a week all through his time at the Orphanage. Clara points out that such therapeutic dancing is quite different from Art. Miles begins to fall in love with Clara.

They spent much of their time in a Nissen hut which was unlike anyone else's quarters because of two paintings. In one, a naked goddess fondles a peacock on a bank of flowers. In the other, a party in silk clothes are embarking in a pleasure boat on a lake under a broken arch. When summer comes, Miles and Clara make love among the cow-parsley and willow-herb of the waste building sites. Miles asks her if she's as happy as she was when dancing, a question she won't answer.

Clara becomes pregnant and Miles is delighted. He suggests that if their child is a girl that she be encouraged to become a dancer. This upsets Clara and the next day she disappears. Months later, on Christmas Day, Miles traces Clara. She is recovering from an operation in Experimental Surgery. Her pregnancy has been terminated and her beard has been removed. In fact the skin of her lower face has been replaced with a shiny pink artificial rubber substance that can take grease paint. Miles discreetly vomits at the sight and regrets the loss of Clara's beautiful beard.

At this stage Waugh presents us with another illustration:

canova_0015
Illustration from Love Among the Ruins. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

Waugh has constructed the above image from two Canova/Moses scenes. The three male figures are taken from the image below, 'The Death of Socrates'.

canova_0005
The Death of Socrates. Sculpted by Antonio Canova, engraved by Henry Moses.

But the female figure lying on the operating table is taken from the engraving below, 'Monument of the Countess D'Haro'.

canova_0002
Monument of the Countess D'Haro. Sculpted by Antonio Canova, engraved by Henry Moses.

Evelyn plays a little joke in the creation of his 'Experimental Surgery' illustration. He has one of the surgeons hold aloft the removed beard in triumph. The implication is that it has come from the woman on the operating table. However, Evelyn has made the surgeon whose head is close to the female patient's clean-shaven. So, on another level, the beard held aloft is that surgeon's! What fun Evelyn had with his razor blade and his pen. The visual arts were always a playground for Evelyn. Literature often seemed like hard work in comparison.

Although Waugh admired 'traditional' Victorian painting, and collected such, he also had
avant garde taste. His Canova exercise in collage would now be seen as an appropriation. Jake and Dinos Chapman, nominated for the Turner Prize in 2003, bought a set of prints of Goya's Disasters of War. They then added Mickey Mouse masks and other embellishments to the characters, the killers and their victims, and called the resulting work Insult to Injury.

Marc Quinn, another well-known contemporary artist, commissioned anonymous Italian sculptors to create white marble statues of named individuals who had been born without - or had lost - limbs. He then displayed these statues in a room at the Victoria and Albert Museum which also included
The Three Graces by Antonio Canova. Quinn's work questioned conventional notions of beauty, as of course does Waugh's bearding of Canova's lovelies. When it came to visual art as well as literature, Waugh was drawing on much sophisticated knowledge and instinctive understanding.

Actually, the illustration, with three surgeons around the patient, one holding the shorn beard in triumph, reminds me of the drawing that Waugh made for the first page of his childhood diary, showing the appendectomy operation that he had undergone. In the nine-year-old's drawing, the central surgeon has his hands aloft, bearing surgical instruments. The figure to the side, waving a flag, shows that young Evelyn may have suffered under the knife, but that he was not dead yet.

 - 01
Evelyn Waugh's appendectomy at age eight, from his diaries. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

When doing the Love Among the Ruins illustrations, Evelyn wrote to Diana Cooper that he didn't have the guts to do original drawings any more. But by the time he'd finished with paste and scissors and Chinese White and Indian ink the images were all his own work. However, he never attempted anything like it again. Nor went back to making his own drawings.

OK, back to
Love Among the Ruins. Clara is happy because she will be able to dance again. She has chosen her art over her child and her relationship with MIles. Miles excuses himself from Clara's bedside and goes for a walk. He comes across a sign telling him it's less than a mile from Mountjoy Castle. So he walks to his old prison, the place where his eyes were opened to tranquility and culture, and sets it on fire. The destruction, which MIles watches from a marble temple some distance from the house, is terrible, much worse than the Bullingdon Club get up to in the opening pages of Decline and Fall. Chandeliers fall and boiling lead cascades from the roof. The lily-pond hisses with falling brands and a vast ceiling of smoke shuts out the stars. I can't help thinking Evelyn is back at the temple at Barford in the grounds of Barford House, but I shouldn't make too much of that observation given what I really think and which I'm coming to shortly.

Returning to the Department of Euthanasia, MIles goes back to work. An old poet called Parsnip finally makes it through the door to join his old chum Pimpernell, once the editors of
New Writing and founders of the Left Book Club.

canova
Illustration from Love Among the Ruins. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

Evelyn extracts the figure on the right of the Canova scene called Charity, see below, though not without stripping him of musculature and hair, to represent Parsnip on page 45 of
Love Among the Ruins. In a letter to Nancy Mitford, he mentions that when making his collages, drawing on figures with black and white, he sometimes changed the expressions. This is true in the case of the Charity adaptation, Waugh's Parsnip being given a feverish, mad expression in place of the resigned original.

canova_0006
Charity. Sculpted by Antonio Canova, engraved by Henry Moses.

MIles calls on Clara but only to watch the News on TV, he isn't interested in her any more. The next day he finds he has been moved to Whitehall, London. Due to the destruction of Mountjoy Castle and the death of so many prisoners there, he is now seen as the only rehabilitated prisoner. He is to go on a tour, with a model of the new Mountjoy Castle, which will be a plain cube (suggesting the fate of King's Thursday in
Decline and Fall). Miles likes the model and realises that he - Modern Man - has come home.

The Ministers suggest that MIles be accompanied by a wife. The 'gruesome' Miss Flower is suggested, and, though MIles is given the option of choosing someone else, he goes along with the suggestion. However, in the last paragraph of the book, at the wedding ceremony, MIles finds himself fingering his cigarette lighter. It seems a third fire is in the offing.

Three times the figure on the far left of the image below, a cherub brandishing two torches, is used in
Love Among the Ruins, once etched into the red linen cover of the book itself.

canova_0007
Venus Dancing with the Graces. Sculpted by Antonio Canova, engraved by Henry Moses.

In addition the female figure with the lyre is used on page 28, of
Love Among the Ruins...

canova_0007
Venus Dancing with the Graces (detail). Sculpted by Antonio Canova, engraved by Henry Moses.

...with beard painstakingly added by Evelyn's hand.

canova_0001
Illustration from Love Among the Ruins. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

And the three young women in the middle of 'Venus Dancing with the Graces' are used opposite the title page. In Evelyn's illustration, the middle figure - the woman being crowned with flowers...

canova_0007_2
Venus Dancing with the Graces (detail). Sculpted by Antonio Canova, engraved by Henry Moses.

...is also blessed with a Mickey Mouse mask - sorry, a beard - courtesy of Evelyn's sharp eye, his magnifying glass and steady wit.

canova_0002
Illustration from Love Among the Ruins. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

But the cherub is surely the pick of the bunch. Each time he crops up, I imagine a beard being set alight. Forgive me for not taking the trouble of putting the original Canova image into Photoshop and removing the cherub on the right.

canova_0007
Venus Dancing with the Graces (detail). Sculpted by Antonio Canova, engraved by Henry Moses.

Also, a little bit of work is needed to remove that second child's fingers from the torch and to make it convincing that the first child's hand is holding that torch, something in which Evelyn doesn't entirely succeed for all his patience and skill.

canova_0003
Illustration from Love Among the Ruins. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

In May of 1953, three months after completing the collage work, Evelyn went to Chapman and Hall and found the first printing of the de luxe edition to be defective. I wonder if the quality of the printing in the NIneteenth Century book seduced Evelyn into expecting more than he should have. Below is another detail from one of the original engravings. Note how the thickness of the inked line varies in a way most satisfying to the eye. Such a finish would not be available to Evelyn's book, even if the edition de luxe, was on very fine paper, because Evelyn's collage technique would require a photograph to be taken of his cut and ink job, resulting in a loss in sharpness that is certainly evident in the trade first edition.

canova_0005
The Death of Socrates (detail). Sculpted by Antonio Canova, engraved by Henry Moses.

The
edition de luxe consisted of 350 copies, 300 of which were for sale. Nine of these are presently for sale on abebooks at prices ranging from £265 to £1050, the high prices being a consequence of the books being signed by Evelyn Waugh.

The 50 that were not for sale at the time went to old friends. On Feb 10, 1953, Nancy Mitford was told by Evelyn that he'd just had a lovely fortnight doing the collages. When the
edition de luxe arrived in Paris in May, Nancy thanked Evelyn for number 44, saying that she'd loved it though it had almost been too disgusting.

In February, Evelyn also told Diana Cooper (again living in France) about 'concocting pretty pictures for a silly little book'. When she received her copy in June she described it as a miniature masterpiece, read once quickly and once savoured at length. She told Evelyn that it reconciled her to a natural death of cancer or whatever. Evelyn replied, telling her that the book had been greatly abused in the Beaverbrook Press but was selling briskly and that he did not think it as bad as they said.

In a June '53 letter to Graham Greene, Waugh is more candid. He tells his fellow author that
Love Among the Ruins was 'a bit of nonsense begun three years before, hastily finished and injudiciously published'. He added that he didn't think it as bad as most reviewers did. Actually, at the same time that it came out as a book published by Chapman and Hall, it appeared as a short story in a magazine called Lilliput, who had bought the story in November 1952. What's particularly interesting about this is that the magazine version was illustrated by Mervyn Peake.

Mervyn Peake was, of course, a writer as well as an illustrator. He published
Titus Groan in 1946, and together with Brideshead Revisited, these two novels lit up Britain's post-war years, just as they lit up my teenage years. By 1950, Peake had followed up Titus Groan with Gormenghast while Waugh had published Men at Arms, the first of his Sword of Honour trilogy. So the two had maintained their positions as writers of imagination of the top rank. How intriguing that at more or less the same time, each was coming up with a scheme of illustration for Love Among the Ruins.

Apparently, when Peake was at work on his drawings (I don't mean specifically the
Love Among the Ruins drawings), his wife would read aloud the novels of Dickens or Waugh to him! Alas, I don't think Evelyn read the Gormenghast books, despite them being well liked by some of his closest chums. Graham Greene, in one of his forays into publishing, was Mervyn Peake's editor at Eyre and Spottiswode, personally responsible for knocking Titus Groan into shape. And John Betjeman said of the book when it came out in March 1946 that 'it was a cobwebby, candlelit escape from life'. Surely Waugh couldn't have known about Gormenghast or he would have said something in a letter or in his diaries about Peake's illustrations when the May/June 1953 edition of Lilliput came out.

In Evelyn's silence, I'll say something about Peake's illustrations. There was one full-page, two-colour illustration and five smaller pencil drawings. Below is the painting:

01
Illustration of Love Among the Ruins, published in Lilliput.. Mervyn Peake. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

It took me a while to work out what scene in the story Peake was illustrating here. It's close to the beginning, when MIles returns to his room in Mountjoy Castle having been walking in the exquisite gardens. His next-door neighbour, a prisoner called Mr Sweat, pauses at his door to say good-night. They talk about music, of which Miles is not fond. Here is a brief extract of their exchange:

"What price the old strings tonight, chum?"
"I wasn't there Mr Sweat."
"You missed a treat. Of course nothing's ever good enough for old Soapy. Made me fair sick to hear Soapy going on all the time. The viola was scratchy, Soapy says. They played the Mozart just like it was Haydn. No feeling in the Debussy pizzicato, says Soapy."

When I read that again it puts me in mind of Paul Pennyfeather at his school in Wales, the young school teacher coming across Grimes, Prendergast and Philbrick. Alas, that aspect of the
Love Among the Ruins is not sustained. Waugh at times found it more difficult to access the playful part of his personality as he got older. So we are left with a few short paragraphs that do what? Show the absurdity of casting classical musical pearls in front of swine like Sweat and Soapy? If so, that seems a bit snobbish, given that they seem to appreciate the music.

Below is one of Peake's drawings for
Love Among the Ruins. The doctor on the right looks like Doctor Prunesquallor from Gormenghast. And the bearded Clara? It puts me in mind of the scene in Gormenghast where Steerpike sweeps a three-armed candlestick across the face of Barquentine, setting fire to the old man's dry beard and bringing on a fiery fight to the death.

02
Illustration of Love Among the Ruins, published in Lilliput.. Mervyn Peake. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

I don't suppose I've done that before, mentioned Paul Pennyfeather in one paragraph of prose and Steerpike in the next. As a teenager I found the trajectories of their lives particularly interesting and have never forgotten them. Of course, their experiences were very different to one another's. Pennyfeather, the innocent, moved about by forces he has no control over. Steerpike, the ambitious, exclusively responsible for his own dizzy rise to power.

The remaining Peake drawings are as follows: A sketch of Miles being interviewed by the Ministers for Welfare and Rest and Culture. A drawing of Parsnip on the way to Euthanasia. A second, smaller drawing of bearded Clara. And a tiny one of Miles and Miss Flower at the altar.

Mervyn Peake's illustrations are accomplished enough, but how could he have resisted the temptation of showing Mountjoy Castle going up in flames? A picture that could have made reference to Steerpike's burning of Sepulchrave's library in
Titus Groan.

The
Lilliput version of Love Among the Ruins is also worth looking at for certain text variations. Clearly, Evelyn amended the text after the tale was sold to the magazine, possibly in the light of his own illustration scheme, possibly simply because of having to read the story again - for Chapman and Hall - in the proofreading process.

Anyway, the changes are as follows. Well, there are several minor ones that I'll pass over in silence. Significantly, Waugh changed the name of the bearded dancer from Clare to Clara. Clara is a more classical name, better suited to the Canova illustrations. Waugh also added the last paragraph of the story. That is, the
Lilliput version ends with Miles standing at the altar with Miss Flower 'in perfect peace of heart'. In the Chapman and Hall version, MIles is said to be ill at ease during the ceremony and to finger a cigarette lighter. If the last sentence of the final version: 'He pressed the catch and instantly, surprisingly there burst out a tiny flame - gemlike, hymenal, auspicious', had been in the magazine's script, I like to think that Mervyn Peake would not have been able to avoid all visual reference to fire, as is the case in his extant illustration scheme.

For now I need to get back to Waugh's own visuals. Let me open again
The Works of Canova and turn over the heavy pages until I arrive at this particular bust.

canova_0001
Laura. Sculpted by Antonio Canova, engraved by Henry Moses.

Yes, it was the name, LAURA, that grabbed my attention when I came across this image yesterday. It got me wondering if there might be a connection between Laura, Evelyn's second wife, and Clara, the final name of the love interest in
Love Among the Ruins.

First, Waugh may have been conscious that in his last piece of extended fiction,
Men at Arms, which took him much of 1951 to write, the main way he altered his diary for 1940 was to drop Laura from the scene so as to make room for a different kind of love interest, one that harked back to his first marriage.

Then there's this. In 1934/35, when Evelyn was getting to know Laura, she was studying drama at RADA. According to Selina Hastings, this was to get the 18-year-old away from home at Pixton rather than because of any real vocation. As her end of term reports made clear, her talents were unremarkable. All the same, it was at this stage in her life that Waugh wooed her, when she was 18 and he 31. In the end, she chose marriage to Evelyn over any career in acting. This is the opposite to what happens in
Love Among the Ruins. Clara knows she won't be able to dance anything like as well after having a child. So she has an abortion. She chooses her own life, her own art, over a family life with Miles. When Evelyn was waiting to see whether Laura would marry him (he also had to wait until the Catholic Church annulled his first marriage) he would have had in mind that several women had chosen their own 'art' over a life spent with Evelyn. Olivia Plunket Greene and Baby Jungman had consistently rejected Evelyn's advances, while Evelyn Gardner had rejected him in the end.

Oh, and there's this. Evelyn used to call Laura 'Whiskers' as a term of endearment. It crops up every now and again in his letters to her.

June 1941:
'All my love to you, my darling. I read a book Old Curiosity Shop in which there was a pony called Whisker and it brought me near to tears.'

Jan 1945:
'Darling Laura, sweet whiskers, do try to write me better letters.'

Jan 1945:
'I had a long charming letter from your ma. It is curious how that unliterary lady is most herself pen in hand – unlike her daughter whiskers.'

Feb 1945:
'All my love sweet whiskers.'

Nov 1948:
'Time marches on and no word from the Whisker.'

April 1950:
'Darling Whiskers...'

June 1951: 'Foul Whiskers, No letter from you. Why not? I miss your sweet company.'

I find at this point that I need to slip in the second of the Mervyn Peake illustrations that show Clara in all her complex beauty:

canova_0001
Illustration of Love Among the Ruins, published in Lilliput.. Mervyn Peake. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

It was in September of 1950 that Evelyn wrote
Love Among the Ruins. In June and July he was alone at Piers Court while Laura had their seventh baby, Septimus, at her family home, Pixton. Waugh wrote to her on several occasions but did not employ the whiskers epithet at this time of physical distress for her. Was he thinking of his wife when he wrote Love among the Ruins in September? I believe so.

The photo below might be called
Love Among the Ruins. Rather than devote herself to the stage, Laura chose Evelyn, and their six children that survived infancy are shown in this picture. What a triumph of self-sacrifice! Whose self-sacrifice? Laura's self-sacrifice. Just count up the months and years of pregnancy, the months and years of looking after very young children, and calculate what's left for one's own art. Nothing.

As early as 1943 Evelyn wrote in the following terms to his wife:
'I do hope that your nursery life is not proving unendurable. I think I have not said enough about how deeply I admire your patience and resignation in this and in the threat to your future happiness in the birth of another child. If I have seemed to make light of it, that is my rough manner; my heart is all yours and sorrowing for you.'

When was the following photo taken? Well, it looks as if Septimus, the youngest of Evelyn and Laura's children, who as I say was born in July 1950, is between one and two years old. So the photograph was taken in between the writing of
Love Among the Ruins in September, 1950, and the illustrating of the book in February, 1953.

pierscourt_0006
Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

The temple at Piers Court - not Barford! Margaret - Evelyn and Laura's third child - who is sitting on the right of the above group, received two letters from her father between the Canova-ing of
Love Among the Ruins and its publication. On February 19, 1953, Evelyn wrote from Piers Court to his daughter at boarding school making jokes about a recent storm and the floods that affected the part of the countryside that she was living in. He enclosed a picture of a Chinese woman painted on rice paper which he suggested would fall apart at the gentlest touch. He further suggested it was a pretty picture, a hundred years old, and that he would like his daughter to be able to paint as well as that.

Evidently, Margaret was not happy at her school. On May 24, Evelyn wrote to her deploring the letter she had just sent him. He tells her that he is unhappy that she is unhappy but needs to know if she really is unhappy or whether it's a mood that will pass. He writes that he loves her and will not let her be unhappy if he can prevent it. Love among the ruins, indeed.

Back to the story. Twice MIles Plastic is motivated to burn down his environment through rejection of it. But the middle time, when he sets fire to Mountjoy Castle, that's a different situation. He burns the beautiful building because he has been rejected by Clara, whom he loved.

If Laura had rejected Evelyn, there would have been no Piers Court, no growing family. I suspect Waugh visualised that from time to time. See the whole thing going up in flames -
Whoosh!

Oh, but I mustn't make too much of Evelyn Waugh the family man. We already know that his relations with his wife and children were complicated. He may have been a family man, third or fourth, but he was something else first and second.

Waugh
Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

I suspect the above photo may have been taken the same day as the family group in the classical feature at the north west corner of the house. Waugh is wearing the same jacket, waistcoat, shirt and tie combo. I suspect also that the suit EW was wearing is the one described by his first biographer, Christopher Sykes, in the following way:

'A grey bowler hat worn with the right sort of clothes can have dignity, but not when worn with the sort of suit Evelyn ordered shortly after. There is a cloth exclusively woven for officers of the Household Cavalry, used in the making of travelling or sporting overcoats and now usually for country caps. Never in history had this cloth been used for the making of a suit. On a light reddish-brown background it has a bright red check about three inches square. Evelyn made tailoring history by ordering a suit in this cloth. The result surpassed the wildest extravagances of an old-fashioned music-hall comedian. A weird touch of obscenity was added as the tailor cut the cloth in such a way that a bright red line from the checks ran down the fly buttons.'

Evelyn was first an aesthete and second a bibliophile. Or have I got that the wrong way round? Let me follow Evelyn into his library at Piers Court, where the voices of his family seldom intrude.

Evelyn sits down facing the portrait of George III. Which of them is the aesthete
par excellence? Well, I have no trouble answering that question. The king is the pampered peacock, Evelyn is the aesthete.

Discreetly, I search the shelves of the library at Piers Court for
Titus Groan, which was published, thanks to Graham Greene, by Eyre and Spottiswode in 1946. From that publisher and date I find only Acton: the Formative Years, by David Mathew, a Catholic author who sent a copy of his book to Evelyn with a covering letter. Fine, but it's no substitute for Titus Groan. No matter, for I have a copy of the first edition with me. I show Evelyn the volume, trusting that he will approve of Mervyn Peake's own marvellous cover art.

137545_1
Cover of Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

A crow perched on a crown tethered to the very earth. Not sure if George the Third would be able to cope with that image, but I feel Evelyn Waugh would have been stimulated by it. I dredge up courage and ask Evelyn if I can read out an extract down through the years: 2014 comes to 1953 via 1946, as it were. EW, still besplendent in check suit to die for, does me the honour of looking me in the eyes by way of answering what was in any case a rhetorical question.

canova1
Evelyn Waugh. Photograph by Douglas Glass. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

I read from the post-war masterpiece that is not
Brideshead Revisited. I read the reverie of Sepulchrave, 76th Earl of Gormenghast, who at this point in the story is turning into a death owl similar to the ones who nest in the tower above the castle's library:

"… and there will be a darkness always and no other colour and the lights will be stifled away and the noises of my mind strangled among the thick soft plumes which deaden all my thoughts in a shroud of numberless feathers for they have been there so long and so long in the cold hollow throat of the Tower and they will be there for ever for there can be no ending to the owls whose child I am to the great owls whose infant and disciple I shall be so that I am forgetting all things and will be taken into the immemorial darkness far away among the shadows of the Waughs."

Did I say 'Waughs' instead of 'Groans'. I'm not sure that I didn't. I check to see that I still have Evelyn's attention.

canova
Evelyn Waugh. Photograph by Douglas Glass. Cropped and reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

It seems I do, so I carry on with my impertinent reading:

"...and my heartache will be no more and my dreams and thoughts no more and even memory will be no longer so that my volumes will die away from me and the poets be gone for I know the great tower stood above my cogitations day and night through all the hours and they will all go the great writers and all that lay between the fingered covers all that slept or walked between the vellum lids where for the centuries they haunted and no longer are and my remorse is over now and forever for desire and dream has gone and I am complete and longing only for the talons of the tower and suddenness and clangour among the plumes and an end and a death and the sweet oblivion for the last tides are mounting momently and my throat is growing taut and round round like the Tower of Flints and my fingers curl and I crave the dusk and sharpness like a needle in the velvet and I shall be claimed by the powers and the fretting ended … ended … "

I really can't believe I'm getting away with this. Reading one masterly work from my teenage years to the author of other masterly works from that hallowed time. Perhaps I'm not getting away with it. Perhaps these thoughts of Sepulchrave would have been better saved for Evelyn's Combe Florey demise. Perhaps I'm anticipating events somewhat by introducing this perspective when Evelyn, though ageing fast, was still going strong.

"Do you mind if I finish this off, Evelyn?"

canova
Evelyn Waugh. Photograph by Douglas Glass. Cropped and reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

"One thing you've said today entitles you to be standing here."

"Owls?"

"Whiskers."

"Laura!"

Thus encouraged, I read on: ".
..and in my annihilation there shall be a consummation for he has come into the long line and is moving forward and the long dead branch of the Waughs has broken into the bright leaf of Septimus who is the fruit of me and there shall be no ending and the grey stones will stand for always and the high towers for always where the rain-drifts weave and the laws of my own people will go on for ever while among my great dusk haunters in the tower my ghost will hover and my blood-stream ebb for ever and the striding fever over who are these and these so far from me and yet so vast and so remote and vast my Margaret dusky daughter bring me branches and a field mouse from an acre of grey pastures …"

Crikey - I've done it! Having achieved somewhat more than I set out to do today, I creep quietly from the library, slip out of the front door and stride down the path that takes me - strictly for the time being only - away from Piers Court.