WHEN EVELYN MET PETER
I can't resist writing about this minor episode. In February of 1955, having finished the writing of Officers and Gentlemen, Evelyn Waugh spent a couple of weeks at a house in Jamaica. The household consisted of Waugh, Ian Fleming, Ann Fleming and Peter Quennell. All were accomplished writers and two of them (Quennell and Ann Fleming) wrote vividly about the foursome's time together. Not Evelyn, who wasn't keeping a diary at the time. And not Ian Fleming, who was shut away in his room every morning, writing the fourth James Bond novel, Diamonds are Forever.
Consider the setting: house called Goldeneye above; private beach and turquoise lagoon below. You'll be seeing more of it further down this page.
Before that, I'd better introduce the cast. First, the Flemings. Ian had married Ann in 1952. Previously, Evelyn had known her as Ann Rothermere, but he hadn't much liked her husband, the owner of the Daily Mail, Lord Rothermere, so his friendship with Ann hadn't blossomed. Evelyn didn't like Ian much either, but Ann and Evelyn got into the habit of writing to each other. Ann Fleming was a sharp and funny writer and Evelyn responded to those qualities. With relish.
To get the full story of Ann and Evelyn's rapport, a reader needs two volumes. The Letters of Evelyn Waugh (1980), and The Letters of Ann Fleming (1985) which contains many letters from Evelyn that are not included in the former volume. As the diagram below tries to show, a summary of correspondence between the pair throughout the Piers Court years.
In other words, this essay is going to owe a lot to the book slightly misleadingly called The Letters of Ann Fleming. In Evelyn's letter to Ann of June 1954, Waugh told her that he'd read Ian's new Bond novel, LIve and Let Die, 'with interest', and was 'moved to notice' how fully her husband shared Ann's marine interests. The book has a Jamaican setting.
In Ann's letter to Evelyn of November of the same year, she followed this up by telling her friend that she was arranging spear and goggles so that he might share her passion for octopi when he visited. Two days later, Waugh replied, saying that the plural of octopus was octopodes or octopuses. Never octopi. Given how suggestible Ian Fleming was to his wife's advice, one wonders if the title of a later Bond novel, Octopussy, owed anything to this exchange.
Ann had also said in her November letter that Peter Quennell had been told that Evelyn would be at Goldeneye when he was. News that had so depressed Peter that she felt it likely that he would hurl himself into the sea with a view to being eaten by sharks.
Time to say something about Peter Quennell and Evelyn. This is Peter, looking a little smug, standing with the woman, Sonia Leon, who would become his fourth wife eighteen months after the holiday on Jamaica.
Sonia Quennell and her husband Peter in 1956. Photo: REX.
Not only had Quennell had many sexual partners by the time of which I speak, he had written or edited more than thirty books. The ones he'd written himself were mostly biographies on literary figures such as Baudelaire, James Boswell, Virginia Woolf, Lord Byron and John Ruskin. He was also a reviewer and an intellectual, very chummy with Cyril Connolly. And with Evelyn? They despised each other.
In The Marble Foot, an autobiography by Quennell that appeared in 1976, he tells us about his early relationship with Waugh. He'd first met Evelyn at the Berkhamsted home of the writer W.W. Jacobs. The latter's daughter had become engaged to Alec Waugh, and Evelyn had come along with his brother that day. Still at school, Evelyn struck Peter as a lively, cheerful youth, fresh-cheeked and bright-eyed. Presumably Peter, eighteen months younger than Evelyn, made a reciprocal impression.
The Marble Foot. Was it an attractively packaged book when it came out in 1976? You decide: no illustrations inside and this for a cover.
At Oxford, Evelyn had gone to see Peter in his rooms at Balliol, and again they'd got on well. Evelyn was carefree and most attracted to bohemian misfits like Terence Greenidge. And it was with Evelyn (or Harold Acton) that Peter had gone to the Hypocrites Club and got extravagantly drunk for the first time. Peter tells us that from his room at Balliol, Evelyn once threw an empty bottle of champagne at an inoffensive passer-by. This sounds a bit like the opening of Decline and Fall, poor Paul Pennyfeather being set upon by Alastair Trumpington. Usually, one thinks of youthful Waugh as the Pennyfeather type, but of course there was a drunken lout in him too.
Actually, Peter Quennell had great admiration for Decline and Fall. In a book called Time Exposure, first published in 1942, Quennell gives us a frustratingly equivocating sentence: 'Mr Evelyn Waugh has neither the learning and aesthetic sensitiveness of Mr Huxley nor Strachey's humanity and gift of portraiture; but his gift, in its own limited manner, is extremely brilliiant.'
What was young Waugh's gift? Quennell has a go at describing it a paragraph or two later, talking about Evelyn's first three novels: 'Mr Waugh's sense of humour had an almost hysteric energy. It exploded under the public's nose with the vividness of a magnesium flare, rang through the reader's imagination with ribald emphasis, shook him up and disconcerted him, left him pleased and gaping.'
The effect that Evelyn had on Peter as an individual, rather than as a reader, was to leave him displeased and gaping. Quennell puts it down to the change that took place in Waugh's character as he went through his twenties, turning conservative and becoming, in his opinion, a spokesman for the upper classes.
Waugh might have put the deterioration in their relationship down to something much more personal. When his first book, Rossetti, came out in 1928, Quennell gave what was seen by Waugh and his friends as a completely unnecessary put-down in the pages of the New Statesman. Following the outcry, Quennell wrote a half-apologetic letter to Waugh, which included the statement: 'Let us avoid anything so silly as a definite quarrel, and content ourselves with being, perhaps, a little frigid and surprised at the mention of each other's name. Though even that, I very much hope, won't last forever.' The letter ended with the sentence: 'I am sad to think that the other Evelyn should be in a white heat of indignation. Give my love to her.'
A letter of apology was something, but it wasn't enough. It might have helped if Peter had let his very positive opinion about Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies be seen in print, but I'm not sure he did that until 1942, by which time the damage was long done.
Quennell recalls Waugh insulting him in 1943, when in a London club he was 'giving a good imitation of a military tough', though the insult seems fairly innocuous, little more than the frigidity that Quennell had facetiously called for in his letter. Apparently, Evelyn said to Peter: "I always seem to be meeting you nowadays in the most unexpected places".
Another recalled insult, was from a period where Peter Quennell and Cyril Connolly shared a flat together on Bedford Square. On hearing that they were quitting the flat, Evelyn had asked "For what reason? FInancial? Sexual?" Neither was the answer, but before Peter was able to explain that their lease had run out, Evelyn went on. "Oh, then for sanitary reasons, I suppose," and, waving Peter aside, turned his attention to a plate of oysters. Quennell describes these experiences as conversational kicks-in-the-stomach.
Another kicking took place in a London bookshop. Peter told Evelyn that they would be meeting again soon, in Paris, with Duff and Diana Cooper. At this news, Evelyn registered profound shock, his eyes goggling. He demanded to know who had introduced Quennell to the Coopers.
Significant, perhaps, that Evelyn's indignation on all three of these occasions was to do with a person and his proper place. Evelyn didn't want Quennell in his club; Connolly and Quennell were about right for each other; Quennell was not fit to fraternise with his friends at the British Embassy in Paris.
Waugh's diary entry about that third occasion is revealing. After writing that he'd shaken hands with three owners of champagne brands (Roger, Rothschild and Polignac), Waugh noted that Quennell had arrived at the embassy that day and had done badly on three counts. First, by sending a telegram to Diana Cooper saying he was arriving and that he was 'afraid Evelyn wouldn't like it'. Second, by wondering aloud over dinner whether anyone read Browning these days, a cue for Duff to recite Sordello for twenty minutes. Third, by making a grossly indelicate remark about a lady, claiming that she was shared between himself and another man. Later in the same diary entry, Waugh claims that on Sunday night Quennell had palpitations brought on by sexual excess. That was long before Peter met his fourth wife, but let's put in this image now anyway. Again, noting what Evelyn may have interpreted as a smug expression on the face of PQ.
Sonia Quennell and her husband Peter in 1956. Photo: REX.
Quennell hadn't helped Evelyn in his career when he could have done. Tall, urbane Peter was too busy having affairs with a series of attractive women. At least he was in Evelyn's eyes.
In letters to Nancy Mitford in particular, Waugh is scathing about Quennell. But it's in a 1949 letter to Diana Cooper that he says that Cyril Connnolly was worth six of Quennell. And, in a bizarre 1953 letter to Christopher Sykes, Waugh writes: 'Dear Miss Quennell, What a sad season this must be for your cousin Peter! But I suppose all seasons are sad for him really. At any rate they fucking well ought to be.'
Still smarting over the Rossetti disloyalty, Evelyn? Even though by then Quennell had written very positively in the pages of the New Statesman about A Handful of Dust and Edmund Campion?
Peter Quennell became the main reviewer for the Daily Mail, which, along with the Daily Express, was read by millions in those pre-Sun days. How had he got the position? As he freely admits, through his social network. Quennell was very friendly with Ann Rothermere (as she was before marrying Ian Fleming). And her then husband, Lord Rothermere, owned the paper. In fact, Quennell was the literary critic on the Mail from 1943 to 1957. A cushy, well-paid little number. And he'd only been able to take up the position because his various civilian posts during the war meant he was always ready to take advantage of the next opportunity that came his way. At least that's what I imagine Evelyn thought.
Any love lost between Peter Quennell and Evelyn Waugh? No love lost. So let's see what went down on the island in the sun in February 1955. When Ian and Ann hosted Evelyn and Peter.
But first a bit more about their immediate environment. The picture below captures the main attractions of Goldeneye. The beach of silver sand about the length of a cricket pitch. The single large rock about ten yards out from the beach which Ian Fleming thought of as his island. The coral reef, starting about twenty yards out from the beach, and which appears as darker blue in the picture.
The house that Fleming built on this idyllic spot in 1946 was dominated by a large main room looking out over the sea. Can you imagine Evelyn, Peter, Ann and Ian sitting in this room gossiping about their friends in London?
Garden and sea from inside Goldeneye. Island Trading Archive.
The bedrooms were all small, with shutters rather than glass windows, so that whatever breeze was blowing would keep the house cool. I don't suppose Evelyn would have been particularly enamoured of the small bedroom on offer (there were no cupboards, just hooks for hanging clothes), but he must have patted himself on the back every time he thought of Piers Court back home, its inhabitants shivering in an English February.
Fleming at the back bedroom of Goldeneye. Getty Images.
Ian.: "Will this do you, Evelyn?"
Evelyn: "Ian, you're an officer and a gentleman."
In The Wanton Chase, a second volume of autobiography that was published in 1980, Quennell tells us in more detail about the set-up at Golden Eye. A garden ran down to a rocky cliff, and under the cliff. '...The shallow pellucid lagoon and its crescent-shaped beach, where the rosy conch-shells its wavelets rolled up lay drying on the hard white sand.'
Does that last sentence make sense to you? I suppose I get the gist of it, despite the author's lax grammar.
In this volume, Quennell goes on to say that Ian Fleming would write every day from early breakfast until one o'clock, shut in his bedroom behind wooden blinds. There he would rattle out 2000 words of Diamonds are Forever. He wrote all the Bond books while ensconced in Goldeneye. He was based in England most of the year, working as foreign news editor for The Sunday Times, but it was in his own house in Jamaica he found he could do his own thing.
Fleming writing On Her Majesty's Secret Service. TopFoto
Ian Fleming did need his routines though. One of his pleasures was to lie in bed soon after dawn, observing the freshness of the garden. Now, Peter Quennell, making his way towards the beach, leaving a dark track on the dew-silvered lawn, carrying a garishly coloured towel, disturbed the tranquil scene. So Ann had to ask him if he would take a longer path from the house to the shore.
It's in The Sign of the Fish - yet another dull looking book produced by Collins - that Quennell waxes lyrical about Goldeneye. The book, a study of the art of writing, is dedicated 'To my friends at Goldeneye'.
Strangely, there is a seven-page section that says nothing about the art of writing, just goes on about a particular enchanting environment: Goldeneye. Thus there is half a page about conches on the beach. A page about the fish that inhabit the lagoon. A page about the sea creatures that can be found on the coral reef, which divides the lagoon from the ocean. Then a page on bird life in general that leads in to three pages of description of a particular bird, the Jamaican long-tailed humming bird, known colloquially as the Doctor. 'And, in the garden of a Jamaican house, the Doctor, though its smallest inhabitant, seemed the presiding genius of the place.'
I'll take that as a cue to add Evelyn to the mix. Quennell says elsewhere in The Sign of the Fish: 'Of one well-known novelist I have heard it said that he is entirely unresponsive to the life of nature; and indeed I have watched him, a cigar in his mouth and a large straw hat crammed on his angry head, wearing a striped suit that increased his resemblance to a rich plantation owner of the last century, stumping ponderously along a Caribbean beach without a glance for the spectacle of sky and sea.'
Good! - no show without Punch. Actually, by then Evelyn had already been on the island for a week, staying in the house of another friend, Lord Brownlow. From there he had written to his son Bron, ending: 'Tiny hummingbirds are hovering round the flowering trees. It is really most agreeable here.' Not entirely unresponsive to nature, then.
At Goldeneye, Quennell was correcting proofs of his latest book, Hogarth's Progress. While on the boat on the way out from England, Waugh had finished correcting proofs of Officers and Gentlemen, which he sent to his American publisher when he reached Jamaica. It's possible that Waugh - when Quennell spied him walking along the beach - was taking mental stock of his accomplishment. The first half of the book is based on his Commando training on the Isle of Arran; the second half deals with the evacuation of Crete. Perhaps this third island, Jamaica, encountered in the peace and sunshine of 1955, gave Evelyn a new perspective on those other islands in 1942. Of course, Waugh could and would have been thinking about anything. And whether he turned his head to overtly consider the sky or the sea is, I suspect, neither here nor there.
Ann Fleming was worried that the presence of Peter and Evelyn might put strain on her husband's writing routines. And perhaps Ian's routines put a strain on his guests. Quennell observes in The Wanton Chase that it wasn't always easy to get a drink at Goldeneye. Or at least there was nothing served with dinner, and it almost caused a scene when he asked for a beer with his. Ian Fleming drank a hell of a lot, but not until late at night, when vodka martinis and whisky flowed freely. Not quite Quennell's regime, and certainly not Evelyn's who didn't like to eat without drinking.
According to Ann, Ian packed the three of them off to raft on the Rio Grande. A long drive and a night in a hotel preceded a day spent on long narrow bamboo rafts poled by locals over stretches of wide calm water alternating with moments of bouncing and slithering through rapids.
Ann describes the scene vividly in a letter she sent to another writer friend, Patrick Leigh Fermor, in March of that year. She also wrote about it much later in an essay for Evelyn Waugh and his World, edited by David Pryce-Jones. What follows quotes from both pieces, so that the reader can both savour her style and picture the scene. I've taken the liberty of interweaving a few images within the text, in tribute to Ann, Evelyn and Peter's day out.
'The three of us went rafting on the Rio Grande while Ian was polishing up horror comic number four. It was a strange party. Evelyn wore blue silk pyjamas and a panama hat with a pink ribbon.'
It's interesting that Ann Fleming was so specific about what Evelyn was wearing that day. Peter Quennell also had a tendency to be precise about Waugh's apparel. So when he met Evelyn at the Jacobs' when both were teenagers, Peter noted that Evelyn was wearing 'a dandified pearl-grey suit and a yellow waistcoat' (The Marble Foot). At Oxford, Quennell describes Waugh as wearing a light blue suit of rather hairy tweed, accompanied by a loose silk tie, with a thick stick which he would thump the pavement with (The Sign of the Fish). While, post-Oxford, Quennell recalls seeing Waugh walking up St James's Street, wearing a particularly glorious top hat, with a small orchid in his button-hole (The Wanton Chase). Pity that more of Waugh's costumes haven't been preserved for posterity in photographs. Double pity that the first colour photos of Evelyn Waugh were not taken until 1959. Ah well, we do our best with what history hands down and technology gifts us.
'Evelyn ordered a stupendous lunch from Titchfield Hotel - wine packed in ice in biscuit tins, cold roast fowls and legions of hard boiled eggs. He had delegated to Peter the role of head boy on a safari, and Peter did not protest.
'"Peter," said Evelyn, "Shall walk five paces behind us and carry the luncheon basket. We will travel on the advance raft, and he will travel on the second, seeing that the comestibles do not become damp."
'Once afloat, Evelyn sadly confided that he got no pleasure from natural beauty. Unsympathetically, I requested silence for bird-watching. We were passing a flock of wading egrets. "Owls!" cried Evelyn, loudly, frightening them all away.'
'Whenever we shot a tiny rapid Evelyn roared over his shoulder "stop looking so poetical and mind the lunch".'
Sir Peter Courtney Quennell. Cecil Beaton.
Instead of talking about the wildlife, what did Evelyn and Ann speak of? Well, in their letters they sometimes spoke of Peter, so I don't suppose that Evelyn was able to resist taking advantage of the situation. "Have you ever noticed how everything beastly begins with Q? Like Quennell and queers and the queen, quibbles, quod, quagmire, quantum theory, queues, quiffs, most Quentins, questionnaires, quarrels - well, everything."
I wonder if, when Evelyn wrote 'quarrels', he was thinking of the one that Quennell urged them not to have in the letter he wrote Waugh after his unhelpful review of Rossetti.
Evelyn could be scathing about Quennell's writing. Just before the holiday, he had written to Ann asking if she was sure Quennell wasn't dead, as his recent articles suggested that he was. Evelyn wondered if Jamaicans raised zombies.
In a letter following the holiday, Ann must have rebuked Evelyn about telling a joke against Quennell, for Waugh replied. "I should not dream of making a joke about Quennell - I regard him as a subject for shame and sorrow."
Another time, Evelyn wrote to Ann suggesting that her brother Hugo go into partnership with Fuddy Duddy Fish Face, his nick-name for Quennell. According to Evelyn, Fuddy Duddy had nothing to say, but had, in a dry vacuous way, a mastery of language.
Nothing to say. That's quite an insult for one writer to make of another. And so I imagine Evelyn turning around again, in his seat at the back of the leading raft, and shouting at the isolated figure behind: "Nothing to say, Fish Face? Well, open the fourth of the biscuit tins. You'll find it contains a copy of my first book, Rossetti, a pen and some paper. Thats right, I'm giving you a second chance, you bastard!".
'But alas it was Peter's victory for the river was in spate, our punter inexperienced for he lost his balance and fell overboard. We cannoned into the rocks and subsided slowly into the river.'
'Peter said it was like watching an old-fashioned carriage accident. We swam for the shore, Evelyn doing a slow breast stroke, blue eyes blazing and mood much improved, for he liked things to go wrong.'
Blue eyes blazing? Blue silk pyjamas soaking, more like. Still, I don't suppose it would have taken long for Evelyn's PJs to dry in the sun once they found a clearing on the bank. Soon, the biscuit tins would have been opened and the wine and the fowls and the boiled eggs enjoyed by all. Possibly with Ann and Evelyn sitting on one rock, Peter and the hired hands on another.
As good a picnic as enjoyed by Sebastian and Charles on a sheep-cropped knoll in the English countryside, on the way to Brideshead, in June 1923? That day Sebastian had been wearing a dove-grey flannel, white crepe-de-chine shirt and a Charvet tie. While Charles's tie had a pattern of postage stamps on it. But that was then and this is now. Let's see if we can overhear Evelyn and Ann at picnic:
"Just the place to bury a boiled egg," says Evelyn. "I should like to bury something edible in every place where I've been happy and then, when I was old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and eat it... Did you hear that, Peter? Another Rossetti reference. Obscure enough for you?"
Back to Ann Fleming's account: 'Peter departed. Ian wrote, and I tried to entertain our entertaining but exigeant guest. Danger was the best stimulant; alarming trips in the very small rubber boat on or over the edge of the reef where it was always possible that a jagged coral rock would sink us. The bows sank low with Evelyn's weight. He looked solemn and hopeful, wearing a large Panama hat borrowed from Lord Brownlow.'
Ah, so the Panama hat survived the Rio Grande outing. I must bear that in mind.
'Then one day his hopes were realised. A gust of wind blew the Panama out to a rough sea, and into barracuda-infested water. Evelyn said it was not his property and he must retrieve it. I flung him the oars and swam ashore. His was a far from safe adventure, but he returned gleeful and heaped reproaches on my head for cowardice.'
Ann tells us in a letter to her brother, Hugo, that Evelyn took gallantly to the underwater mask, and that his rowing in a rubber boat over coral pinnacles took commando courage.
She tells us, in the Pryce-Jones book, that it was Lent and Evelyn's morning task was to spear a lobster of neither more nor less than two-and-a-half pounds for lunch, as it seemed that this did not break the rules of Waugh's Catholic fasting. Apparently, Evelyn ate a jolly good meal in the evening. Moreover, alcohol was not stinted because, Evelyn told his hosts, 'water was a great health risk when the church was founded.'
'For the remaining days he spent with us, he amused himself by forcing Ian to rewrite all the current Bond love scenes over and over again. An author', he decreed, 'must be in a state of lustful excitement when writing of love.'
Not quite sure how this follows, but apparently Ian Fleming wasn't allowed a drink until he was judged by Evelyn to be in the right mood. LIke here, perhaps:
Ann, Fleming and Miss Myrtle. National Portrait Gallery, London.
Let's take a look at the fruit of the literary collaboration between the creators of James Bond and Brideshead Revisited. Below is a scene from Diamonds are Forever in which Bond is in a restaurant talking to the love interest, Tiffany Case.
“Hell’n” Marier,” said the girl. “I must say this really is life with a small l. Can’t you tell me something nice about my dress or something instead of grumbling the whole time about how expensive I am? You know what they say. ‘If you don’t like my peaches, why do you shake my tree?’”
“I haven’t started to shake it yet. You won’t let me get my arms round the trunk.”
She laughed and looked with approval at Bond. “Why Heavens to Betsy, Mistah Bond,” she said. “Yo all sure do say the purtiest things to a gal.”
I wonder what those glib paragraphs would have looked like before they were 'wriiten over and over'. But back to the published text:
“And as for the frock,” Bond continued, “it’s a dream, and you know it is. I love black velvet, especially against a sunburnt skin, and I’m glad you don’t wear too much jewellery, and I’m glad you don’t paint your fingernails. Altogether, I bet you’re the prettiest smuggler in New York tonight. Who are you smuggling with tomorrow?”
She picked up her third Martini and looked at it. Then very slowly, in three swallows, she drank it down. She put down the glass and took a Parliament out of the box beside her plate and bent towards the flame of Bond’s lighter. The valley between her breasts opened for him. She looked up at him through the smoke of her cigarette, and suddenly her eyes widened and then slowly narrowed again. “I like you,” they said. “All is possible between us. But don’t be impatient. And be kind. I don’t want to be hurt any more.”
I bet Evelyn enjoyed that fact that not just James Bond, but his girl, smoked and drank as much as their creator did. Ian Fleming was on seventy fags a day, complemented by a steady stream of late-night martinis.
On balance, I get the impression that Evelyn enjoyed his time in Jamaica. But Ann didn't think so. In one letter she wrote:
'Poor Evelyn - killing time is his trouble and not a night without sleeping pills for twenty years. Birds, flowers, fishes mean nothing to him but he learnt a great deal of the island by motoring with Jesuits.'
And in another:
'Poor Evelyn, he is deeply unhappy - bored from morning till night and has developed a personality which he hates but cannot escape from.'
Fleming on the beach. Getty Images. Plus Panama.
Ian: "Oh, I think he's escaped, darling. We've found a note by his clothes on the beach."
Ann: "What does it say?"
Ian: "Something about Euripedes and the sea which washes away all human ills."
Fleming on the beach. Getty Images. Plus Panama.
Ann: "Is that all?"
Ian: "There's a postscript asking for the hat to be returned to Lord Brownlow at our earliest convenience, and in any case before the next high tide."
Ann: "That's Evelyn - exigeant to the end."
Ian: "If you say so, darling."
When I say that Evelyn enjoyed himself at Goldeneye, I mean he made an effort. As Ann Fleming noted at the time, he behaved to Peter 'with near-warm civility', so much so that it removed 'Peter's fear-phobia'.
And when Quennell's book Hogarth's Progress came out in summer of that year, Evelyn gave it a positive review in Time and Tide. In his review, Evelyn points out that Quennell's book is full of a padding, as was the only other biography of Hogarth. The difference being that Quennell's padding was enjoyable to read. Quennell knew eighteenth century London. He gave a rich account of the streets, taverns, theatres and political controversies, the milieu in which Hogarth worked and from which he drew inspiration. 'Often there are pages on end with no direct reference to the hero of the story, but they are vivid, elegant pages and they help us to an understanding of his art.'
I think this review may have been Evelyn extending the hand of friendship. In private, Waugh wrote in his diary on June 26, 1955: 'Reading Quennell's Hogarth's Progress, a perfunctory work obsessed with prostitution. Q. imputes debauchery to Hogarth with the slightest evidence. His huge, efficient output alone proclaims him a temperate man. I am saying so in a review for Time and Tide.'
Presumably Quennell could have reviewed Officers and Gentlemen in the Daily Mail or the New Statesman, but he didn't. Perhaps because his close friend, Cyril Connolly, had reviewed it in the Sunday TImes, complaining about its slowness, its lack of ordinary soldiers and the superficial nature of the relationships between the gentlemen-officers. Or perhaps because Peter, remembering the shame of his Rio Grande ordeal, wouldn't have had the stomach to offend either Ann Fleming or Evelyn Waugh, those free spirits who occupied the front seats.
Here is how I'm certain Ann Fleming ranked three books that came out in 1955, written by her nearest and dearest:
1) Officers and Gentlemen
2) Hogarth's Progress
3) Diamonds are Forever.
But before any of those titles were published, Evelyn had enjoyed another foreign jaunt. Next up on this site: When Diana Cooper hosted Evelyn Waugh and Cecil Beaton.
At the start of this page I say there were four named writers in the Goldeneye household in February 1955. There were also several anonymous black servants and if it looks like I'm taking them for granted, I apologise for that. I hope they had a laugh.