WHEN HENRY MET EVELYN


or THE POWER OF THE DEAD + VILE BODIES = THE EVELYNS


Back in my library and in front of my computer, I take up from where I left off at Appledore, and with this:

appledore

Let's pick up the story on page 189. Bear in mind that Tony Cruft is to all intents and purposes Evelyn Waugh; Virginia Cruft is She-Evelyn; Piers Tolfield is John Heygate; and Phillip Maddison is Henry Williamson.

'"Anthony Cruft is going to make a name for himself, I fancy," said Piers. "He and Virginia have a flat in a little-known part of London...It's in rather a pleasant square."

Phillip asks Piers how Tony found the flat and is told that Tony's interest in architecture took him to see an old tower nearby, once part of the country residence of the Priors of St. Bartholomew. He decided that an adjoining square was the place for a writer to live.

Williamson has the taxicab travel up Gray's Inn Road, turn east at KIng's Cross Station and travel up Essex Street. Does that take us to Canonbury Square where the Waughs lived at number 17a? Well, let's see. On the map below, I've marked in black the route "Heygate' and 'Williamson' took on the way to see the 'Waughs', whose house is indicated by the green tack. It does indeed make sense, providing one travels along Essex
Road (there is no Essex Street in north London).

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En route, Phillip (Henry) asks Piers (John) if Tony (Evelyn) has published anything yet and is told:

"Yes, a novel of Oxford, a very funny one. I liked it. Desmond Macarthy told me he thought that Tony Cruft was an original writer. We're not far from his place now."

Any sign of the tower associated with St. Bartholomew? Actually, yes, it's on Canonbury Place which leads into Canonbury Square from the north east. In the satellite view of this leafy area of London, the Waugh flat is this time marked with a red tack.

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In the novel, the Crufts live in the top flat. Tony throws the key down to his visitors and Virginia asks if they've found it.

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The Waughs actually lived on the first floor flat, so this is artistic license. Shall we abandon all attempts to link fiction to the real life that inspired it, then? I think not.

Here, though it wasn't recorded until 1961-63, is surely Henry Williamson's first impression of Evelyn Waugh from 1928:

appledore_0002
Henry Williamson, The Power of the Dead. 1963. Copyright The Estate of Henry Williamson.

The paragraph which proceeds somewhat oddly (Polish boy chess champion? Napoleon?) seems to get even odder right at the end (divining the concealed truth of someone made pretentious by fear?). But that doesn't lessen its interest.

The page goes on:

appledore_0002 - Version 2
Henry Williamson, The Power of the Dead. 1963. Copyright The Estate of Henry Williamson.

It's likely that the four were playing cards in the dining room at 17a Canonbury Square, an image of which has been knocking about for about fifty years.

Picture_2 - Version 11
Courtesy of Alexander Waugh, Waugh Family Archive, Milverton.

I'm suggesting this is the room they played cards in, because a close look at the table reveals it to be topped with a glass-covered map, presumably of north London.

Picture_2 - Version 4

This detail suggests to me that at the time of Williamson's visit there may well have been a glass dome containing kingfishers and another of waxed fruit. And why not a clock with a scene of Parliament Square painted on it?

What about the 'electric lightbulb in chandelier' business? Well, the candelabra on the table has an electric wire coming out of it, which runs over the table before disappearing down in front of the chair closest to us. Which suggests that there are lightbulbs under the four lampshades (which are also decorated with maps).

Picture_2 - Version 14

If a stickler for accuracy was to suggest a candelabra was not a chandelier, then a peek into the Waughs' living room would have revealed this:

Living_Room.ew - Version 9
Courtesy of Alexander Waugh, Waugh Family Archive, Milverton.

Electric light bulbs set in an early Victorian chandelier with dependent glass prisms? Perhaps Henry Williamson, in his description, was conflating the lighting in the two rooms.

In any case, we know from the photograph and from the book's description that the decor of the room was a combination of Victoriana, novelty and self-reference (several of the images on the wall are of the Evelyns).

There's a brief scene where the focus passes to Virginia. She describes her relations with the barrow boys ('they are
so sweet'), and on realising she's going to sneeze, pulls the bandana from her husband's breast pocket before sneezing loudly and stuffing it back into his pocket.

Next, Phillip asks Tony if he's read James Joyce's
Dubliners, which he waxes lyrical about. Following the gush of enthusiasm from his guest, Tony doesn't say anything, instead sitting in what appears to be a good mannered silence.

And that's the end of the visit. Phillip fears that he may have pushed things too far with his praise for Joyce. Piers reassures him but suggests that Tony's talent is for satire. Piers goes on to say that Tony's favourite book is Alice Through the Looking Glass and that Virginia wants to write about her stifled childhood. According to Piers, Tony's view is that Virginia should write a satirical version of her childhood. All of which is interesting when it's remembered that when He-Evelyn was writing Decline and Fall in Dorset, She-Evelyn was also attempting to write a novel. About her childhood?

Perhaps to reassure Phillip, over port Piers suggests that Phillip was the only one of the four who had the real urge to create. GIven that it's 'Phillip' who's writing, this comes close to being an author stroking his own ego.

Now, this very meeting was mentioned by Evelyn Waugh in his diary for Thursday 8 November, 1928. Only it's 'Bobbie' Roberts that brings Henry Williamson round, not John Heygate. I'll reproduce what Waugh wrote, then I'll make a few points about it.

'He won a prize with a book called Tarka the Otter and has now had a great success with a novel. He is quite elderly - though I find him coupled with me in reviews as promising young writers - and wholly without culture. Very gauche and suddenly earnest-minded, but capable of fun. He stayed some time and took away a copy of
Decline and Fall.'

Strange that Waugh found Williamson to be old. One was 26 and the other 33. Perhaps with Waugh having a brother, Alec, who was five years older than him, an age-gap that had always seemed especially significant, Waugh was sensitive to signs of greater age.

Strange too that Waugh found Williamson 'wholly without culture'. Evidently, the visitor had shown his knowledge of James Joyce. But then I suspect therein lay the trouble. Although Evelyn had expressed admiration for TS Eliot and other Modernists while at university he was by now pulling in another direction. Typical of Waugh to arrogantly downgrade what he didn't personally favour.

Strangest of all is the Bobbie Roberts/John Heygate disparity. I do not believe Waugh would have substituted one name for another in his diary. Whereas Henry Williamson, who clearly knew Bobbie Roberts as well as John Heygate, and has also included the former in
The Power of the Dead as the character Archie Plugge, may have preferred to use the Heygate character in this scene for plot reasons. Piers Tolfield is a more important character than Archie Plugge, so Piers it is who introduces Phillip Maddison to Tony.

Bobbie Roberts is interesting in his own right, though. And I'll add a note about him at the end of this essay. Here I'll just place this image of (from left to right) Henry Williamson, John Heygate and Bobbie Roberts, drinking each others' health.

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Courtesy of the Estate of Henry Williamson.

OK, so the meeting at Canonbury Square was in November, 1928. On 29 January 1929 HW wrote to EW from his cottage in Devon. It's full of character and is worth quoting extensively (if I may):

'I’ve kept Decline and Fall too long, but I can’t apologise & feel sincere about regrets, so I will be brazen and say that I feel quite a man for returning it in practically the same condition in which I took it. (I believe it showed hand-marks then; if not, write me off as a dirty person).'
That's fine because Decline and Fall is a mucky book, best held by mucky hands.

'And thank you for it. You have an authentic gift "all right", and I expect you will go a decent way with it – and what way, it will be interesting to see. (I feel quite old as I write the sort of letter to you that was written to me five years or less ago). There are definite signs of an élan vital(e?) that should expand and diffuse its power over human life generally. If that sense of human life had already appeared in the concrete, I think it would have been a bad sign, for it would be muzzling your own natural expression. The grubby marks on the paper, by the way, are off oak branches, or ‘sticks’ as we call them here, which I saw every morning for my fire.'
The same grubby hands that held the book now write the letter. That's fine by me and I'm sure it was fine by Evelyn.

'I saw S P B Mais roaring with laughter over your book; I chuckled myself; and by the open smile that broke out on the face of Arnold Bennett when I mentioned your name I knew that you were in very safe hands – for such work comes from a genuine sensitivity, which at the beginning is about as delicate as the feelers of an anemone waving under water.'
A lovely change of emphasis. From dirty hands to the delicate feelers of an anemone. Which is what the allegedly dirty hands were from the start!
'Decline seems to me to reveal you at a forked road; but then everyone, except hermits who have chucked the gregarious life, are always at forked roads – although one may be a foot track scarcely ever traversed, even in thought – but for most they are about evenly metalled and laid. Yet I suppose a truly sympathetic man would understand all who walk one road or the other – 1) the way of the flock 2) the way of the imaginative spirit.'
The irony here is that Evelyn is going to find himself at a forked road in the summer of 1929. And the road he takes (without She-Evelyn) is going to be chosen for him.

'Which I hope isn’t too mystifying. Au revoir, and please continue to be yourself. I say this rather sadly, for the years seem to crust this self – in this room – more and more.'
With best wishes to Mrs Waugh & yourself: give my love to B.R. when you see him & take a bit for yourself if you’re not too scornful of this familiarity.
In 2011 Bonhams sold a letter that Evelyn Waugh wrote in reply to Henry's magnanimous letter. It's a little perfunctory in comparison, but here it is:

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Copyright the Estate of Evelyn Waugh. Reproduced with its forbearance, I hope.

The exchange suggests that the Waughs had not yet visited Williamson in Devon (per
last week's essay and the story of Charles Churchill). At the end of the above letter of February 6, Waugh mentions travelling to Constantinople for a month or two from the end of the week. That's a reference to the Evelyns' Mediterranean cruise, which stopped in Constantinople, which they didn't return from until the end of May, 1929. After that Waugh was writing the first half of Vile Bodies at the Abingdon Arms, Beckley, near Oxford. But he did get together with She-Evelyn most weekends. John Heygate may have driven the Waughs to see his good friend Henry Williamson sometime in the first half of that summer. A possibility I'll be coming back to.

In
The Power of the Dead, time is squeezed so that it's only a short time after the visit to the Crufts' flat that Phillip is due to meet Piers and go to a party with him in north London. The party is in the house of Mr Channerson at Haverstock Hill. (This is a reference to the war artist, C.R.W. Nevinson, according to Anne Williamson.) Phillip has to go there on his own because Piers is tied up with something. At the party, he is approached by Archie Plugge who works at Savoy Hill with Piers (a reference to the BBC for whom both Bobbie Roberts and John Heygate worked). At the party, Virginia is on her own. She is extremely self-possessed but she is also rather keen to speak to Piers. Several times Phillip remarks that she looks like a mermaid. Piers eventually turns up and takes a suddenly happy Virginia away. Phillip makes his way back to Piers flat, where he is staying. Piers gets back there late at night and tells Phillip that Tony Cruft has left London as a result of Virginia's dalliance with him. It turns out that Archie Plugge also sleeps at Piers' flat that night and in the morning Archie tells Phil of his role in introducing both Tony and Piers to Virginia.

The above paragraph is a summary of chapter nine of
The Power of the Dead, which is called 'Bottle Party'. It strikes me that the narrative is convoluted, perhaps because Williamson has stuck to the order things actually happened one summer evening in 1929. It sounds as if it could have been an evening towards the end of He-Evelyn's two-week attempted reconciliation with She-Evelyn. In other words, towards the end of July, 1929. But I wouldn't make too much of it.

More concretely, Chapter 13, 'Back to the Estuary', begins by telling us that Phillip Maddison motors to Devon where Piers and Virginia are staying in his cottage. This is effectively a reference to Skirr Cottage in Georgeham where Henry Williamson was living in 1929. Below is a picture of HW standing outside it.

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Courtesy of the Estate of Henry Williamson.

Philip describes Piers as the ideal companion, while Virginia has 'the candour of a boy, which she resembled with her cropped hair and slight figure'.

We're told there is a boatbuilder's shed beside the creek leading to the estuary. The map below shows Skirr Cottage in Georgeham, marked with a green tack. You can also just about see the course of the creek that meanders south from Braunton to the Taw estuary.

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At the boatbuilder's yard they come across a canvas canoe with a small mast and a red sail that Phillip thinks will take the three of them across the estuary to 'the fishing village beyond the line of the sand hills'. That's to say, Appledore.

The boat needs painting but Phillip decides to take it out for the day first: 'They carried it down to the creek, getting black with mud below the knees. It floated, they moved down to the estuary, and thence close inshore to Point of Crow. They landed and hauled up their craft.'

Crow Point can be seen on the north bank of the estuary towards the right edge of the map below:

appledore - Version 4

Are Phillip, Piers and Virginia (aka Henry, John and She-Evelyn) closing in on Appledore and He-Evelyn? Yes, they are. But let's take this slowly. It's worth doing so because Anne Williamson, daughter-in-law of Henry Williamson, has confirmed that the chapter of
The Power of the Dead I'm now exploring was based on an actual event. John Heygate and She-Evelyn did indeed visit the Royal George while Evelyn was staying there finishing Vile Bodies.

All three of Williamson's characters are dressed in shorts and shirts, and are bare-footed. 'They were alone on the shelving shore in which were embedded ancient root-clumps of riverside trees, wicker crab-pots, herring boxes and other jetsam of the sea. Piers lay back to enjoy the sun, Virginia stretched out beside him. Phillip watched the Sharshook as it appeared to be shortening and sinking fast, while gulls flew to the rigging of ketches by the distant quay-side.'

The Sharshook is the gravel island between Crow Point and Appledore (where Sprat Ridge and Shelfhook are indicated on the above map). Perhaps from time to time He-Evelyn looked up at the same piece of disappearing land, only from the south, in between adding to the manuscript of
Vile Bodies. Yes, I'm tempted to think that.

Henry Williamson's evocative book carries on with Phillip lying on the sand when he hears Virginia's voice from close to his head. She says that she ought to hate him.

'"Why should a mermaid hate me?"

"Because you tried to take Piers away from me."'

This is a reference to Phillip recounting to Piers an incident concerning a married woman from his own experience. Phillip apologises for having interfered. Virginia goes on to say she's had advice from her cousin saying she should be careful about getting too involved with an heir to a baronetcy and that she certainly shouldn't marry him.

The scene ends with Virginia laughing and Phillip being moved by her friendliness. He then takes a dip in the sea. He's quickly carried up estuary, parallel to the shore. He can't touch bottom so he strikes out for the gravelly shore just in time to stop being whisked out into the middle of the stream beyond a shingle tongue.

Piers and Virginia also take a dip, Phillip watches to make sure they don't get into trouble with the fast-flowing current. Then the pair sun-bathe. After that Virginia and Piers get up and walk hand-in-hand into the sand hills. To make love? Phillip remains on the shore, thinking of a former lover. Then he wanders past the lighthouse and around 'Aery Point'. An 'Airy Point' is marked on the above map, to the west and near the top edge.

The picture of the three fictional friends is very clear. Not only that, She-Evelyn, John and Henry are vividly brought to mind. And it reminds me that just a few months earlier, the three friends exploring the countryside would have been He-Evelyn, She-Evelyn and John. In fact, John Heygate's son, Richard, was told by his father that the three had had some good times together.

Yes, it's so tempting to envisage He-Evelyn, ensconced in his room in the Royal George, watching the tide come in. Perhaps thoughts of dangerous cross currents caused him to lose control of his narrative. Certainly, he deleted the draft of a passage from chapter 11 in the following way:

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But soon Waugh took up his pen again, and this time the dialogue made it into the published book. Nina to Adam:

"Darling, is that you? I've got something rather awful to tell you"

"Yes?"

"You'll be furious."

"Well?"

"I'm engaged to be married."

"Who to?

"I hardly think I can tell you."

"Who?"

"Adam, you won't be beastly about it, will you?"

"Who is it?"

"Ginger."

"I don't believe it."

"Well, I am. That's all there is to it."

"You're going to marry Ginger?"

"Yes."

"I see."

"Well?"

"I said, I see."

"Is that all?"

"Yes, that's all, Nina."

"When shall I see you again?"

"I don't ever want to see you again."

"I see."

"Well?"

"I said I see."

"Well, goodbye."

"Good-bye....I'm sorry, Adam."

Moving swiftly back from Chapter 11 of
Vile Bodies to chapter 13 of The Power of the Dead... Two days after the first excursion, the canoe has been painted and the intrepid threesome venture forth once again. They carry the canoe down to the creek on the last of the morning tide, finding an empty estuary of ridged sand around fresh-water pools. Then they come to deeper water, almost still, through which the river moves slowly into the Pool beside the Sharshook. Appledore Pool is marked on the map which I'll place below for ease of reference. It looks like it's right outside He-Evelyn's window!

appledore - Version 2

Bottom left of the map is a Life Boat Station, nowadays. The canoe is drawn up on a sandbank to the west of there. Walking barefoot, Virginia, Piers and Phillip reach the rock below the quay, avoiding rusty bicycle frames, fish-heads and other litter. (This puts in mind the perambulator and bottles that Adam can see from his room in the Royal George in chapter 10 of
Vile Bodies.)

They then walk down the street. The street below, in fact, as it appeared when Kate and I walked down it last week. It was all cobbled, back in 1929, not just the central drainage track, and the terraces of fishermen's cottages were described as 'scrupulously clean' rather than colourfully painted.

Is there room for Kate and me; Adam and Nina; He-Evelyn, She-Evelyn, Henry Williamson and John Heygate; Phillip, Piers, Virginia and Tony, all walking down this street? You decide.

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Piers comments what a pleasant place this would be to live, and adds that three friends of his come to the little town and stay in a pub somewhere.

They go into the lime-washed inn overlooking the Pool, the lighthouse and the sand hills across the estuary. Into the Royal George in fact, though it's not named as such in
The Power of the Dead.

Inside the pub, the woodwork of the bar, bench and skittle table is dyed by tobacco smoke. They order bread, cheese and pickled onions. Phillip teaches Piers and Virginia how to play skittles, a game which Virginia takes to with enthusiasm.

Piers asks the landlord if he knows where a number of young people from London come down to stay. And the landlord confirms that they stay at his pub. Piers asks if anyone was staying there at the moment.

pierscourt
Henry Williamson, The Power of the Dead. 1963. Copyright The Estate of Henry Williamson

My first reaction to this instinctive response of Virginia's is the same as Phillip Maddison's. How touching that she cares so much about her ex-husband's art.

My second reaction is to recall that She-Evelyn and John Heygate are by now (September 1929) living together at 17a Canonbury Square. And so it looks so bad for them to be invading this seaside hidey-hole of He-Evelyn's. I mean, give the guy a break - he's had to give up his map-covered table, his kingfishers in a glass bowl, his Henry Lamb portraits, even his marriage bed!

I'm glad that these symbols of her husband's loss are not She-Evelyn's first reaction. She rises above all that and puts his art first. Accordingly, at this juncture the least I can do is dig out a suitable photograph of She-Evelyn.

Picture_1
Courtesy of Alexander Waugh, Waugh Family Archive, Milverton.

Phillip plans how to get his friends out of the pub without them being spotted. As Tony Cruft passes the window, Phillip tells Virginia and Piers to hop out the window that he's opened. He then closes it after them and makes himself inconspicuous in the corner of the bar.

The image below is of the relevant side of the Royal George, taken from the Beaver Inn.

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You can see the slipway leading up to the Royal George from the shore which is several yards below. Would Tony/He-Evelyn really have gone round to the side door in Irsha Street? Or simply walked through the main door that's facing the slipway? It doesn't really matter. In an email to me, Anne Williamson has said: 'I understand that they [John Heygate, She-Evelyn and Henry Williamson] saw Evelyn Waugh arriving from a boat trip in the harbour from the pub window and hid – escaping perhaps through window or slipping out of door.'

Phillip, with his back to the bar, hears Tony ask the landlord if there is any mail for him. (In those days there were two posts per day, so if one had been out for the afternoon it would have been a reasonable question.) Phillip assumes Tony is hoping to hear from Virginia, but in reality Evelyn might have been waiting for a letter from Henry Yorke, some other friend, or from his literary agent, who he also wrote to from Appledore, enquiring as to the chances of getting individual episodes from
Vile Bodies published in journals.

There is no mail for Tony. Phillip listens to him walking wearily upstairs to his room. Then Phillip tiptoes to the landlord and urges him not to disclose to Tony that he and his party have been in the pub. He lets the landlord know that he would never have brought his friends along if he had known who was staying there.

Williamson tells us that Phillip then joins Virginia and Piers on the rocks below, invisible from the pub windows, and that they walk back along the bottom of the sea wall towards the canoe. The scene ends with the threesome sailing across the estuary to the village of Instow (see above map) where they leave their vessel above the high tide mark and catch the next train to Barnstaple on their way home.

What if He-Evelyn got to hear of this intrusion on his privacy? Let's think about that as the tide comes rolling in.

appledore3
Detail of Evelyn Waugh by Henry Lamb, 1930, used by permission of the Estate of Henry Lamb.

There's an interesting passage in chapter twelve of
Vile Bodies. Ginger visits Adam at the hotel Adam has been staying at in London for most of the book. (He's only at the Royal George for one night.) Ginger asks Adam to stay away from NIna and Adam agrees to do so for the price of the hotel bill: seventy-eight pounds, sixteen shillings and tuppence. Insouciant Adam has the upper hand throughout most of the exchange and it's Ginger who is shown to be lacking in conviction about the strength of Nina's bond to him. Not something I can imagine Evelyn Waugh writing if he'd realised that John Heygate and She-Evelyn had been playing skittles in the pub he was staying in, or had been making love in the sand hills he could see in the distance from his window.

So my thoughts are pushed along to the last chapter, the book's 'Happy Ending'. Ginger and NIna are enjoying home life while Adam is wandering about a battlefield. He ends up in the back of a Daimler, while in that same back seat, stand-ins for Ginger and Nina - the-drunk-major-turned-general and Chastity-turned-prostitute - canoodle together. A picture of Adam's misery, made concrete by the book's final sentence: 'And presently, like a circling typhoon, the sounds of battle began to return'.

Did Waugh find out that She-Evelyn and Heygate had been within a few metres of his writing room, his precious manuscript, the place where he transformed the disappointments of life into fiction? I don't know.

OK let's summarise my Appledore research over the last fortnight. Do I have to return to the Royal George to do that? Yes, at least in my mind's eye.

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First, some arithmetic:

Adam + Tony = He-Evelyn.
Nina + Virginia = She-Evelyn.
Ginger + Piers = John Heygate.

In which case it follows that Evelyn Waugh + Henry Williamson = Experience transformed into art. Therefore,
Vile Bodies + The Power of the Dead = An extremely interesting love/art/life triangle.

But I feel I have to spend a little more time weighing up the evidence. So let's do that.

According to the perfectly lucid Charles Churchill of 2015, when he was a young man in 1969 he was told by Henry Williamson, by then getting on a bit, that HW drank with Evelyn Waugh in the Royal George before the Evelyns split up. She-Evelyn would be seen walking towards the pub from the Beaver Arms (which I'm looking at now) and He-Evelyn would make himself scarce by disappearing out of the side door into Irsha Street at the moment she entered the main door (behind me).

Anne Williamson, Henry's daughter-in-law, tells me she suspects that Charles is mixing up the story with the more-or-less true one that's told by Henry Williamson in
The Power of the Dead. In other words, it was She-Evelyn who was in the Royal George with Henry Williamson, and it was she that took evasive action when He-Evelyn was spotted coming towards the pub.

And I have to agree with her, because I'm not at all sure how the Evelyns could have fitted in a pre-split trip to Devon. They returned from the Mediterranean cruise at the end of May. The table below shows the Evelyns' movements once they were back home, the data coming from He-Evelyn's mother's diary via Alexander Waugh, Evelyn's grandson:

May 31: Evelyns return from abroad (last stop, Lisbon).
June 2-3: Evelyns in London.
June 4: The Evelyns lunch with John Heygate at Hampstead
June 5: Alastair Graham in London.
June 6: 'Evelyns left after lunch for Canonbury,' per Catherine Waugh.
June 7 'Evelyn went to Beckley to write' (per Catherine's diary, though Evelyn himself says 'about 10th').

Undoubtedly, Waugh spent the week days of June writing and got much done in this time. Waugh tells us in a letter to Henry Yorke, which was replied to on June 22, that on Sunday the 16th of June, Nancy Mitford drove the Evelyns to Savernake near Marlborough. That's the home of Robert Byron that the Evelyns had visited the year before when staying at Geoffrey and Alethea Fry's house. So they surely didn't go to Devon that weekend.

Waugh also said in his letter that he was thinking of going (he didn't) to Bryan and Diana's party on Tuesday, June 25, mentioning that he'd been in London on Sunday and Monday, June 23 and 24. So there was no trip to Devon that weekend either.

The next weekend, June 29 and 30, John Heygate drove the Evelyns to his family home in Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire. Very shortly after that, John Heygate slept with She-Evelyn, and on July 9th She-Evelyn wrote to He-Evelyn at the Abingdon Arms saying she'd fallen in love with John and didn't know what to do. A group outing to Devon to meet up with Henry Williamson would have been out of the question after that. And as this analysis shows, there does not seem to have been an opportunity to fit in a trip to Devon beforehand.

So it seems I'm now questioning Charles Churchill's story. Either he's misremembered it, or Henry Williamson was spinning a yarn when he told him the story.

Which leaves us with the perspective that Evelyn Waugh came to the Royal George to finish
Vile Bodies. That is, to write about an unfaithful woman who was stabbed - in the form of Jemima - prostituted - in the form of Chastity - made to drive a racing car until it crashed - in the form of Agatha Runcible - and who vacillated between lovers as if it didn't matter which one of them she ended up with - in the form of Nina. And at some level, She-Evelyn, the woman who had inspired all these negative female representations, must have thought that all this was fair comment: honest, if subjective; nothing if not highly-crafted.

"My God if he knows I'm here it will spoil his book."

From angel to prostitute and, finally, to big-hearted mermaid. Thank-you, Henry Williamson, for handing down an important insight.

Perhaps if He-Evelyn had known She-Evelyn was there at the Royal George - and was loyal to his art rather than dismissive of his masculinity -
that would have spoiled his book.

Gosh, it's nice in Appledore. I could sit here forever. Or at least until this fine October weather breaks. Maybe I should wander down the street and have another word with Charles. Yes, maybe I should, in all humility, take off my jersey and shoes and do that.

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"Not so fast," says a voice that seems to come from all around me.

"Sorry, Evelyn, have you got something else to show me?... I need to go up to your old room do I?... And look closely at the sheet of paper that sits proudly on the top of a whole pile of papers? OK, I'll do that. Just give me a minute."

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Yes, a bold sweep from the author's pen. Positively tidal. In comes the fictional sea, covering the real world. Out it goes again, laying bare the actuality.

The high tide of fiction or the low water of reality: one makes one's choice. Or one embraces the ambiguity.

In; out. In; out. Oh, that must be wonderful...



Notes

1) Thanks to Jeffrey Manley for alerting me to his 1996 essay 'Evelyn Waugh as a Fictional Character', which can be found in Evelyn Waugh Newsletter and Studies, volume 30 number 1. It was the second thing I read on my return from Appledore last week. The first was pages 298 and 299 of
The Power of the Dead.

2) Thanks to Anne Williamson for corresponding with me about various aspects of the Henry Williamson/Evelyn Waugh interaction.

3) Thanks to Alexander Waugh for providing me with the text of Henry Williamson's January 1929 letter to Evelyn Waugh.

4) Bobbie Roberts real name was Cecil A Roberts, not to be confused with Cecil Roberts the novelist. Evelyn Waugh knew him first while teaching at Aston Clinton, and the diaries mention him until 1930. Those mentions, plus Henry Williamson's portrayal of him as Archie Plugge, plus Anthony Powell's analysis of his character and summary of his career in
Messengers of Day, might add up to some kind of portrait. I may put that together at some stage.