If you've come to this text via the link from the 'Mad for Madders' essay, then you'll expect to be in the library at Madresfield. As you can see, you're in the right place - take a seat! If you haven't come from that link, you're just as welcome.


Of course, you'll need something to read as well. And not just any book but
School For Horse and Rider. There's a copy on a table underneath a first edition of A Handful of Dust (which we'll be coming to later). Or there's one with a torn dust-jacket on a shelf behind the sofa opposite the fireplace. Take your pick - they're both examples of the first, and only, 1932 edition.

IMG_1341Screen shot 2019-03-05 at 23.41.35

Two other books are going to be referred to.
The Letters of Evelyn Waugh, edited by Mark Amory, published in 1980, and the more recent Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead, by Paula Byrne. But it's best if I handle these books as I know my way around them. You, dear reader, will be better off lounging on the couch with School For Horse and Rider.

Lounging comfortably? Then I'll begin. Evelyn was in love with Teresa Jungman or 'Baby'. Baby was an accomplished rider who had recently been at Captain Hance's Riding Academy in Malvern, near Madresfield. She recommended that Evelyn learn to ride at that school, and, realising that it might be a way of getting into her jodhpurs, he signed up for a course of lessons.

According to Paula Byrne:
'Baby Jungman's friendship with the Lygons helped to ease Evelyn's passage into this new environment. Maimie and her younger sister Coote introduced him to the ferocious Captain Hance. Evelyn wrote to Baby to tell her how grateful he was that the girls had helped to break the ice with the captain, who was devoted to the Lygon family.'

Apparently, Captain Hance had spent eleven years as an army riding instructor.
'He swore profusely and could reduce hardened cavalrymen to jelly with his barbs. Famously he had shouted at one unfortunate horseman: "You're not a cadet. You're an old Piccadilly prostitute on a night commode!"'

Such turns of phrase would come in handy when Evelyn was writing the part of Ben in A Handful of Dust, but we mustn't getting ahead of ourselves.

The Lygon girls (Sibell as well as Maimie and Coote) took immediately to Evelyn. Maimie insisted on his going to Madresfield to dine. She picked him up after one of the lectures by Captain Hance that ended each day at riding school.

Mutual knowledge of the captain's character became something Waugh could joke about in his letters to the Lygons. In the first one, written in October 1931, Evelyn tells Maimie and Coote that Malvern is not the same place without them and that
'all those girls get very uppish without you to keep them in their place.'

Why was he writing to them? Because their brother, Lord Elmley, who Evelyn had known at Oxford, was standing for parliament in Norfolk and they there helping him with his campaign. Waugh may only have known the sisters for a day or two by this stage. The first letter to them may have included this photograph which would certainly have been taken in October, 1931.

riding school

Clearly, Evelyn had learned the term 'snaffle'. His other words:
'My whip...my right hand...my left hand with glove...my stole...my nose...my face...my eye...my horse...horse's eye...my whip...reins...' are all terms that may have been barked out at him on day one. Note the reference to 'my BTM'. Captain Hance may have mentioned his novice rider's arse in no uncertain terms, but Evelyn was not yet ready to be as forthright with his new lady friends. Actually, he was.

'As for Miss Nicholson, well, there was a very ugly scene on the first morning when she was upbraided for idleness and disobedience and the Captain left the school in a rage. However, they had a jolly up after that which ended in the Captain calling her Beryl. Then this afternoon she wanted to take his photograph and said oh but it must be with your whip in your hand and then she said please raise it as if you were going to hit me – so all my worst suspicions are confirmed. It is what is called Masochism and if you ask Elmley and he thinks you are old enough he will explain what that means.'

Elmley had acted alongside Evelyn in
The Scarlet Woman five years before. But it seems that the oldest Lygon sibling had got more serious as he'd aged. After all, Lord Emley would be inheriting Madresfield in due course (when his exiled father died) and was standing for parliament in the meantime. But back to Evelyn who was not getting more serious as he grew into his twenties. Who was not thinking of standing for parliament. He was about to turn 28 at this time.

'I may say that the Captain is dead nuts on me. He talks to me all the time not only about riding but politics and art and everything. He smokes my cigars. Mrs Captain and Jacky came and had cocktails with me this morning and Mrs Captain told me that Jacky’s teeth were false – did you know? – having been rolled out by a horse when she was 14. She also gave me a bright red ointment which cures stiffness so I am well in with that family. Reggie promised me some straps to wear on my trousers so I am very classy now. Also I have been promoted from Master to a finer and gayer horse.'

The Captain's wife was called Min or Mins. Jackie and Reggie were their children. And it's Jackie (Evelyn spells her name incorrectly) that Evelyn will have most to say about in the months to come. This is a picture of Jackie from
School For Horse and Rider. Don't be shy - Jackie's not shy. Look it up opposite page eight in the copy of the book you have in your hand.


Evidently Evelyn was still at Malvern attending the school when he wrote a second letter:

'The captain has more photographers coming and he is wreathing all the jumps with barbed wire and poor Jacky is as frightened as hell.'

This is a reference to the fact that Captain Hance was writing the book you have at your fingertips, and that this would be lavishly illustrated with photographs taken at his Riding Academy, many of which feature his daughter. Indeed, here is the photo of a presumably frightened as hell Jackie doing the business over barbed wired railings.

riding school

'As for Boaz his stock has fallen pretty seriously at the Academy. First on Saturday, a little horse called Tom Tit threw me on my head over a fence.'

Could the picture below be Evelyn riding Tom Tit? It might be fun to assume so. On this occasion Tom Tit has not managed to unseat its novice rider, the esteemed author of Vile Bodies.

madresfield_0005 - Version 2

Captain Hance:
"Keep your head up and your arse down, Waugh. Show Tom Tit who's boss. You can tell your arse from your elbow can't you? At this school we do take certain basic things as read."

Back to Evelyn's letter:
'All the sluts laughed except Miss Jagger who was sympathetic. Then this morning on Gingerbread I muddled up all the school and was in deep disgrace. So I tried to have a comeback by tippling with the Captain. That went fairly well for a bit but he said do you know So and So and I said no so he said HE must have been at Eton about your time and I said I wasn’t at Eton and the Captain was shocked and finished his glass and strode out of the bar and now he doesn’t even like me as a chap. I have also strained my back in a place between my shoulders where I can’t reach it with Min’s red ointment and it hurts like nothing on earth and I do wish you were here to rub it for me.'

At this point there is a bit of a mystery. Mark Amory assumes an undated letter was sent in autumn 1932. True, the postscript suggests as much, with its reference to Evelyn heading for the jungle on another continent in a few weeks. But the part before the signature suggests to me October 1931. I can't check the actual letter so will just have to wait for the appearance of the relevant volume of
Personal Writings that is being edited by Alexander Waugh as part of The Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh. I should say here that it is effectively Alexander I will have to thank if I'm allowed to use these long quotes from the Evelyn Waugh letters in this essay. His volume will be essential reading whether I get permission to use these quotes or not, because it will contain the letters that Evelyn was also writing to Baby Jungman in 1931 and 1932, letters that have not yet been published anywhere and whose contents are unknown to me.

OK, so on with my take of events as I presently understand them. This third letter was written from the Ritz Hotel, one of Evelyn's Piccadilly havens when he was in London.

'First I will tell you about Malvern. I didn’t ride again after I wrote because I found I had broken my back so I went to the stables with Reggie and learned to be a groom and stood about with the Captain (G.B.H.) and heard all his confidences. Miss Bennett – that is the pretty steeplechaser with the fringe – got into better favour through good flexing.'

G.B.H. stands for God Bless Him. Evelyn got into the habit of using these initials most times he mentioned the captain in his letters.

Evelyn was staying at the hotel in Malvern (which is partly why I think this relates to the first visit, because presumably after that he would have stayed with the Lygons at Madresfield). In the letter, Waugh reports that he got a phone call from Hugh, asking him to go round to the big house. This he did, but found that Hugh had been drinking heavily and was walking about the house with a red candle saying he thought the lights might go out. Evelyn drank brandy with Hugh who was despondent because he was broke, having bought a few racehorses that he couldn't afford. They went upstairs where Sibell was in her bed, also down in the dumps, in her case because she couldn't think of anything to write in her gossip column. She wrote for one of Lord Beaverbrook's magazines and she was his girlfriend, on and off.

The next day Evelyn went to dinner with Sibell, who was still in her bed, but not as despondent because 'Frisky' Baldwin was there. Frisky then came back with Evelyn to the hotel and ate ham in Evelyn's bedroom and said there was no such person as God.

The letter goes on:
'Oh but much more important I went to tea with the Captain and Min (G.B.T.) and ate lettuce and there was a girl called Olive who had broken her back too and cracked her skull into the bargain and Olive was very fresh and kicked the Captain and punched his arm and Robert Bartleet was there and talked knowingly about art so Jackie and I felt small and sat in the corner and I think Jackie is in love with me only I often think this about girls and it is hardly ever true so I dare say she isn’t.'

Lots to point up in that paragraph. First, Paula Byrne tells us that Robert Bartleet was a vicar's son, a hearty beer drinker, another great favourite of the Lygons. He contributed three cartoons to
School For Horse and Rider, of which this is one.


Clearly, in any conversation about art with Robert Bartleet, the author of
Decline and Fall would come off second best.

Was Evelyn, as a beginner, practising for some time on an old horse? Not a bit of it. As in all things, Evelyn was as bold as brass and game as a monkey. That's why, deep down, the captain admired him so much!


Captain Hance:
"You're not a promising young author-cum-rider, Waugh. You're an old Piccadilly prostitute pissing her bloomers for want of a night commode!"'

As for whether Jackie was in love with Evelyn, how could she not be? They'd been thrust into each other's company and were finding that they were made for each other. Made to perform athletic acts together for her father at least.


As I said, the letter I'm in the middle of was written from the Ritz. Waugh explains that after his time at Malvern he felt the need for some SOCIETY. So he'd got himself invited to a dinner party on the sympathetic grounds that he'd broken his back. He sat between Lady Birkenhead and Lady Colefax and told them about the Captain (G.B.H.) til they thought '
golly what a dull young man'.

The next day at lunchtime he was put at a table with a young woman and he told HER all about the captain til she thought '
Golly what a dull young man'.

OK so that covers autumn, 1931. Evelyn was invited to Madresfield for Christmas then he was back to Chagford, Devon, to get on with the writing of
Black Mischief. Throughout 1932 there was the occasional letter referencing the riding school.

To Frisky Baldwin, 16 April 1932:
'So Boaz is temporarily a social lion and Lady Cunard (whom God preserve) calls him Evelyn and makes him sit on her right hand at luncheon and dinner every day of the week but is his head turned by these favours? No he remains the same simple lad who bounced round the Malvern Academy on the broad back of Mater (God bless her).'

A picture of Evelyn Waugh bouncing round the Malvern Academy on the broad back of Mater is required at this point. This will have to do:


To Lady Mary Lygon, August 1932

'If you can’t see this joke read it aloud:


In his correspondence with the Lygon girls, Waugh is constantly making reference to the penis. Not tits or fanny but cock. What could that possibly signify? A robust auto-eroticism, I suspect.

The next letter is the postscript to the one that I have split between autumn 1931 and 1932.
It seems to have been written to one person (Lady Mary) rather than two (Lady Mary and Lady Dorothy) which supports my contention that Mark Amory may be mistaken about the dating of the section up until the signature. This bit's correctly dated though, as being autumn 1932.

'Well you will say how Bo must have hated staying with me this week-end. However, no, not at all, quite the reverse. I love it and will look back on the noble line of the Malvern Hills that I love so dearly and...

I was interrupted by the lady I was to take tiffin with and now I am in the Savile Club. I was going on to enumerate all the glories of Malvern then I would say how wistfully I would look back on them from the jungle. We are both going to suffer a lot in the next few weeks but when we meet again it will be gay and terribly exciting and not at all like a biscuit box.


Wait til you are a little older Tommy and you will understand.

Last night I saw a terribly drunk man with a prostitute.


Ask your little playfellow xxxx, she will show you, Tommy.'

Who is this Tommy? He is Thomas MacDougall, another Malvern worthy, a dashing Master of Foxhounds, whom Evelyn affected to believe was illiterate and simple.

From British Guiana in South America, Evelyn wrote to Maimie on Boxing Day, 1932, thinking back with nostalgia to the previous Christmas spent at Madresfield.

'So yesterday was Christmas and I thought of you and little Poll and Lady Sibell and Hughie and Lord Elmley and Mr and Mrs Arthur Waugh and Mr and Mrs Alec Waugh, and the Capt G.B.H. and Min and Jackie and Reggie and Bartleet and Diana and the Dutch girl and the tarts or pouncers and bubbleses and mannerlesses and Knatchie and Mr Conrad and Frisky and Tommy and poor TOMIE etc etc etc. God how S.'

The Dutch girl is of course Baby Jungman, who Evelyn can't stop loving. That is, if it's not the Captain he doesn't really love!

The next letter is written just a few days later, on New Year's Day, to Lady Dorothy.

'Dear Poll, It is only five weeks since I left Madresfield. Now I am four thousand miles away and oh what a changed world. Instead of the smiling meadows of Worcestershire and the noble line of the Malvern hills that I love so dearly, I look out upon a limitless swamp.'

Waugh's travel through Amazonian jungle takes him to the dismal yet unforgettable Boa Vista, where he writes longingly on Feb 10, 1933:

'Darling Blondy and Poll,
Well I have gone too far as usual and now I am in Brazil. I shall have to learn to ride again because I have been so long riding dago horses and they behave in quite a contrary way to Captain Hances (G.B.H.) and are differently saddled and bridled in fact you would hardly know they were horses at all they behave so oddly. One lay down on top of me but luckily it was so small that it did not kill me outright.'

There is no photograph in
School For Horse and Rider that does this message justice. But perhaps this cartoon by Robet Bartleet comes close:


Oh, and you may choose to forgive Evelyn his use of the word 'dago'. It was common parlance at the time. If you focus on Evelyn's politics to the exclusion of his personality, then you miss out on so much.

The next letter was written in April from comparative comfort.

Darling Blondy and Poll, Well I am back in Georgetown and all the world is Highclere. I long to hear of the meeting between Sexy Beaton and Capt. G.B.H. If he laid so much as a finger on Jackie’s ____ [sic] he will have to answer to me for the consequences.

Cecil Beaton at Captain Hance's Riding School? Was it such a fashionable place, then? Anyway, let's get the most out of Evelyn's Beaton joke. Evelyn was always at his cruellest and funniest when ripping the piss out of supercool Cecil.

Shame that Evelyn's sense of decorum made him omit that which better not have been touched by Sexy Beaton. But it means that I can indulge myself in a multiple choice quiz. Dear reader, please choose the correct option between a), b), c), d) etc.

a) I long to hear of the meeting between Sexy Beaton and Capt. G.B.H. If he laid so much as a finger on Jackie’s ponytail he will have to answer to me for the consequences.


b) I long to hear of the meeting between Sexy Beaton and Capt. G.B.H. If he laid so much as a finger on Jackie’s
horse's ponytail he will have to answer to me for the consequences.

c) I long to hear of the meeting between Sexy Beaton and Capt. G.B.H. If he laid so much as a finger on Jackie’s
horse's arse he will have to answer to me for the consequences.


d) I long to hear of the meeting between Sexy Beaton and Capt. G.B.H. If he laid so much as a finger on Jackie’s
riding boot he will have to answer to me for the consequences.

e) I long to hear of the meeting between Sexy Beaton and Capt. G.B.H. If he laid so much as a finger on Jackie’s
stirrup he will have to answer to me for the consequences.


f) I long to hear of the meeting between Sexy Beaton and Capt. G.B.H. If he laid so much as a finger on Jackie’s
side-saddle (rhyming slang for snaggle) he will have to answer to me for the consequences.

Riding gear has a tendency to fetishise all parts of the body and even bits of equipment that, strictly speaking, apply to the horse. This is the view that may have been too much for poor Cecil, causing him to break the strict rule of 'no touching'.


Actually, I'd love to see the photographs that Cecil Beaton took that day. A series called 'old-fashioned seats in old fashioned saddles'? If so, I suspect Evelyn didn't find out about it. Otherwise he would have skinned Sexy Cecil alive.

Towards the end of what is a long letter, Evelyn laments that by the time he gets home he will not be able to understand any Madresfield jokes. Perhaps it dawns on him that he's keeping alive a set of references that came about eighteen months before. Time to move on.

So let us indeed move on - to January 1934 when Evelyn was in Morocco to make a start on
A Handful of Dust. There he wrote to Lady Mary:

'God how sad about Jackie. It is a pity she can’t learn to ride better poor child but of course she never had a chance, being brought up by that very incompetent fat man Captain Hance and that very cowardly woman Min. God what am I saying? I think I must have taken a touch of the sun.

So I went to Casa Blanca. WOT? KARSA BLANKER? It is a large town on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, Tommy. WAS IT DESINT? No Tommy it was bloody.

The poor frogs here are so excited about the Stavisky scandal. WOTS THAT WAS IT HIS KOK? No Tommy it is to do with finance and politics.

In a town called Fez, Evelyn worked on his book, and as he did so the riding motif that he'd been nurturing for so long in letters to the Lygon sisters entered into his fiction.

'John Andrew sat on his pony, solemn and stiff as a Life-Guard, while Ben fixed the jump. Thunderclap had been a present on his sixth birthday from Uncle Reggie. It was John who had named her, after lengthy consultation. Originally she had been called Christabelle which, as Ben said, was more the name for a hound than a horse. Ben had known a strawberry roan called Thunderclap who killed two riders and won the local point-to-point four years running. He had been a lovely little horse, said Ben, till he staked himself in the guts, hunting, and had to be shot. Ben knew stories about a great many horses. There was one called Zero on whom he had won five Jimmy-o-goblins at ten to three at Chester one year. And there was a mule he had known during the war, called Peppermint, who had died drinking the company's rum ration. But John was not going to name his pony after a drunken mule. So in the end they had decided on Thunderclap, in spite of her imperturbable disposition.'

I wonder how many in-jokes there are in the names of the horses: Thunderclap, Christabelle, Zero and Peppermint. Certainly there is a private reference as far as the name of Tony Last's son is concerned. John Andrew compares to John Julius, the son of Diana and Duff Cooper who Waugh knew in the early thirties. In particular, Waugh stayed at their house in Bognor Regis to write the travel book
Ninety-Two Days, following his return from the Amazon in 1933.

A little after the above paragraph, John Andrew and Ben are further introduced. Ben sets up a two-foot jump in the middle of the field and turns to instruct John Andrew in the same way that the captain must have to Evelyn Waugh, riding novice.

"Now take it quite easy. Canter up slow and when she takes off lean forward in the saddle and you'll be over like a bird. Keep her head straight at it."
Thunderclap trotted forwards, cantered two paces, thought better of it and, just before the jump, fell into a trot again and swerved round the obstacle. John recovered his balance by dropping the reins and gripping the mane with both hands; he looked guiltily at Ben, who said, "What do you suppose your bloody legs are for? Here take this and just give her a tap when you get up to it." He handed John a switch.
Nanny sat by the gate re-reading a letter from her sister.
John took Thunderclap back and tried the jump again. This time they made straight for the rail.
Ben shouted "Legs!" and John kicked sturdily, losing his stirrups. Ben raised his arms as if scaring crows. Thunderclap jumped: John rose from the saddle and landed on his back in the grass.
Nanny rose in alarm. "Oh, what happened Mr Hackett, is he hurt?"
"He's all right."
"I'm all right," said John. "I think she put in a short step."
"Short step my grandmother. You just opened your bloody legs and took an arser. Keep hold on to the reins next time. You can lose a hunt that way."

Now I see where all that talk of strained and broken backs came from. You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs!

The above scene is early in the book, in the section called 'English Gothic' when we're being introduced to the world of Tony and Brenda Last of Hetton Abbey. In the next chapter, 'Hard Cheese on Tony', the marriage falls apart, its collapse being hurried along by the following incident.

It was during an outing of the Pigstanton Hunt. John Andrew was being allowed to take part, in a limited capacity. Tony had briefed Ben, who would be accompanying John on a horse of his own, about what John could and couldn't do, where he could and couldn't go, and how long he could stay out for. Their day was not without incident, but they were getting by.

'Thunderclap was tossing her head and worrying at her snaffle. Twice while the field was moving off, she had tried to get away and had taken John round in a little circle, so that Ben had said, "Hold on to her, son," and had come up close behind him so as to be able to catch the reins if she looked like bolting. Once, boring forwards with her head, she took John by surprise and pulled him forwards out of his balance; he caught hold of the front of the saddle to steady himself and looked guiltily at Ben. "I'm afraid I'm riding very badly today. D'you think anyone has noticed?"
"That's all right, son. You can't keep riding school manners when you're hunting."'

But the hunt hadn't found a quarry by the time John was due to go home. He protested that he hadn't experienced any of the thrill of the chase, but to no avail. On the way back along the road, they come across a Miss Ripon on her bay. She's had a fall and was complaining about the way her horse had been behaving.

Let a photo of Jackie in
School for Horse and Rider give the impression we're after here. MIss Ripon on her bay, looking bedraggled:


However, the horse seemed to have quietened down and the three rode back together, she on the outside with John's pony between her and Ben. The three riders reached a turn in the road and came face to face with a single-decker country bus. The bus slowed down and pulled into the side. There was a motorbike behind the riders, which slowed down to a stop so as not to frighten the horses.

'Ben said, "Let me go first, Miss. He'll follow. Don't hold too hard on his mouth and just give him a tap."
Miss Ripon did as she was told; everyone in fact behaved with complete good-sense.'

They drew abreast of the bus. Miss Ripon's horse didn't like it, but it seemed it would get by.


At that moment the motorbike, running gently in neutral, fired back into the cylinder with a loud bang.

'For a second, Miss Ripon's horse stood rigid with alarm; then, menaced in front and behind, he did what was natural to him and shied sideways, cannoning violently into the pony at his side. John was knocked from the saddle and fell on the road while Miss Ripon's bay, rearing and skidding, continued to plunge away from the bus.
"Take a hold of him, Miss. Use your whip." shouted Ben. "The boy's down."
She hit him and the horse collected himself and bolted up the road into the village, but before he went one of his heels struck out and sent John into the ditch, where he lay perfectly still.
Everyone agreed that it was no-one's fault.'

After all that earlier banter, we get to this point. An innocent child killed by the hoof of a horse. And with the child gone, there was nothing to keep Brenda Last with Tony at Hetton Abbey. Indeed, on first hearing that 'John' had been killed she'd thought that it was John Beaver, her lover, who'd come a cropper. On realising the truth she came out with, "Oh thank God."

I wonder what Lady Mary and Lady Dorothy thought when they read the passage about the accident, in all its equestrian detail. I wonder what Captain Hance and Jackie thought.

But let's not end on that sad sequence of events. The point of this essay is not to argue that the upbeat banter of Evelyn Waugh's letters inevitably led to the poignancy of a tragic fictional death by some literary law of inversion. Far from it. Let's end instead with an extract from a letter to Lady Dorothy that Evelyn sent in October, 1934, after he was back in England with
A Handful of Dust under his belt.

'There is a very nice midget who lives in Cornwall called Diana and I go to stay with her sometimes. She has a smutty frog book called Le Jardin Parfume it says that in rogering the cock should never be withdrawn so much as a millimetre and this gives the maximum pleasure to the lady on account of pressing her bladder.'

I wonder if there is something about horses or riding in that letter, so I can round off this essay more appropriately. Just this one line: 'I have been hunting and it made me so stiff I could not tie up my shoelaces for three days.'

"Ha! You're not an experienced rider, Evelyn
. You're an old Piccadilly prostitute on a night commode." (That is Captain Hance's rough way of saying how much he respects Evelyn Waugh as a writer.)

So there you have it. Evelyn Waugh went to riding school. This essay might be borne in mind when contemplating certain aspects of the next two:
Mad Owl and Pussycat and Lord Beauchamp and Lord Berners.

If you came to this essay from the middle of the Madresfield tour, you'll be wanting to
get back there. You'll have to scroll down a bit to rejoin where you left off, that is just before entering the chapel. So look out for those readily identifiable images.

Personal Writings 1930-1935, edited by Alexander Waugh and Alan Bell will be published as volume 35 of Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh in due course. This will contain the previously unpublished letters from EW to Teresa Jungman, and as well as being of enormous interest in their totality, they are bound to mention Jackie, the captain and the riding school. An eagerly awaited volume, though OUP have yet to announce a publication date for it. Volume 30, Personal Writings 1903-1921, was released in 2017.

2) Country Life Ltd was the publisher of
School For Horse and Rider in 1932. I suspect the company's interest in the title has expired, but should any copyright holder wish to get in touch they are welcome to do so.