So I’ve written a book called EVELYN! Rhapsody for an Obsessive Love. Simon Cunningham's cover blurb reads: ‘A most personal and surprising biography of Evelyn Waugh which, for the very first time, also examines in full the love triangle between Waugh, Evelyn Gardner and John Heygate. Adopting the same disruptive and inquisitive approach as his previous works, McLaren manages to produce an entirely new portrait of Evelyn Waugh to those painted by more traditional recent biographies.’
These three images show, from left to right, Evelyn Gardner, Evelyn Waugh and John Heygate. Well, they don’t actually, though you might trust me to very soon establish the connections. The love triangle, or at least its membership, inspires three of Evelyn Waugh’s best books. He wrote the sparkling Decline and Fall when engaged to Evelyn Gardner. He was writing Vile Bodies when she-Evelyn left him for John Heygate. In this second novel, an exercise in restrained fury, he introduces Ginger Littlejohn, a character who finally brings to an end the on-off engagement of the book’s main characters, Adam and Nina. Then, in A Handful of Dust, which many people think is the author’s most sublime creation, Waugh has his protagonist travel far from the houses and gardens of England - to the Amazon jungle - to get away from the home truth of his wife’s infidelity.
Fine, but the Gardner/Waugh/Heygate triangle was preceded by another love triangle. I’m thinking of the Evelyns and Alastair Graham when I say this. And I’ll clarify that as this website unfolds. Now again, the person on the right of this film still is not Alastair Graham, Evelyn’s lover from his days at Oxford, but he will become so in the reader’s mind if I do my job properly. The person in the middle of these photographs really is Evelyn Waugh (though he looks like Anthony Andrews who so famously played Sebastian in the TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited). And he’s standing in the garden of Underhill, the house in between Golders Green and Hampstead in which he was raised, the house which was his London base, on and off, until he reached his early thirties. Alastair Graham, Evelyn Gardner and John Heygate all visited Underhill while Evelyn was in residence and no doubt they stood by the sundial and... And what? Engraved their names into each others hearts? Well, that’s one of the things the rest of this website will explore.