William Atwater is the name of the protagonist in Anthony Powell's 1931 novel,
Afternoon Men. That book came out a year after Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies and is, in important respects, strikingly similar. Staccato conversations influenced by the dialogue of Ernest Hemingway; a stream of parties attended by Bright Young Things; relationships between young men and young women not working out to anyone's satisfaction. The treatment being superficial (dry conversation rather than deep thought), sensitive, humorous, but with an underlying pathos.

The book, Powell's first novel, was published by Duckworth's, who had already published Waugh's
Rossetti (commissioned by Powell) and would go on to publish his travel books. Duckworth's had, however, missed out on Decline and Fall, which Powell had lined up for them, thanks to the senior partner's disapproval of Waugh's marriage to Evelyn Gardner, a relative of his. More significantly, the firm had, as a consequence missed out on Vile Bodies, which had been just the kind of bestseller that the publisher could have done with.

All through the early thirties, Anthony Powell worked for Duckworth's. So he was in charge of his own book's production, including the choice of cover art and artist, Misha Black. Here is Black's cover, featuring a mannequin that Powell provided.


An image that could have adorned the front of
Vile Bodies, though Waugh had supplied the superb woodcut of the crashing car that was used instead. I won't reproduce that here, as I want to keep uppermost in our minds William Atwater, the mild-mannered protagonist of Afternoon Men, who works in a museum (though the scenes set there bring to mind a down-at-heel publishing house such as Duckworth's), and spends his free time drinking in clubs and at parties in the company of young men (mostly painters) and young women, who fascinate him, none more so that the elusive Susan Nunnery.

So let's introduce Arthur Atwater. This is the character in the novel that Waugh abandoned in 1939 because of the impending war and his preparations for joining up. It was published in 1942 as the intriguing fragment
Work Suspended.


Arthur Atwater turns up at John Plant's Mayfair club, Plant being a successful novelist who has recently lost his father. Arthur Atwater is on the make, and he has various ways of trying to get money out of Plant, though the only connection between them, it turns out, is that Atwater killed Plant's father while driving a car. In a second long scene, Plant bumps into Atwater at the zoo, and pays Atwater to talk and drink with him at the other's much more seedy club, thereby distracting Plant from thinking about his close friend Lucy giving birth.

As far as I know, both authors have been silent about each other's books, I mean these specific ones. That might suggest that the similar surnames was a coincidence. I suspect it wasn't. Waugh's Arthur Atwater was very much an 'afternoon man'. That's to say a man who was in the habit of drinking from afternoon onwards, so that he was often hungover in the morning. Of course, that in itself proves nothing. So let's start by investigating whether Waugh was deliberately referencing the Powell character.


Some strands of evidence. I'm reminded of the false clues put in a cat house for PC Goon to stumble across in Enid Blyton's
The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat. But never mind the antics of Fatty and the Find-Outers, let's stick to the present obsession.

Firstly, William Atwater
'was a weedy-looking young man with straw-coloured hair and rather long legs'. As for Arthur Atwater: 'A tall young man in a raincoat was standing in the hall. He had reddish hair and an unusually low, concave forehead.' This happens several times, in my opinion: Waugh upped the Atwater ante whenever he could!

We first meet weedy-looking William Atwater in his club, drinking with a friend, Pringle, before going on to a party. He urges Pringle to become a member, so that he can start to pay his share of the drinks. In
Work Suspended, this is echoed by John Plant's request to be taken to Arthur Atwater's club. Plant, a successful novelist, promises to pay Atwater's outstanding subscription and all the food and drink they both consume at 'the Wimpole'.

Secondly. While sitting with his friend at his club, William Atwater reads about an accident in the newspaper:
'Titled woman in Motor Tragedy.' Two pages later we learn further that: 'It was a knight's wife in a Bentley and on the Brighton Road.' That information is left to hang in Afternoon Men. In Work Suspended, Waugh seems to pick up on the theme when he describes the demise of Plant's father. Arthur Atwater explains: "It was an accident too. No one can try and hang the blame on me and get away with it. I was on my proper side of the road and hooted twice. It wasn't a Belisha crossing. It was my road. The old man just wouldn't budge. He saw me coming, looked straight at me, as if he were daring me to drive into him. Well, I thought I'd give him a fright. You know how it is when you're driving all day. You get fed up to the back teeth with people making one get out of their way all the time. I like to wake them up now and then when there's no copper near, and make them jump for it. It seems like an hour now, but it all happened in two seconds. I kept on waiting for him to skip, and he kept on, strolling across the road as if he'd bought it. It wasn't till I was right on top of him that I realised he didn't intend to move. Then it was too late to stop. That's how it was. No one can blame it on me."

Thirdly. Money is a scarce commodity throughout Afternoon Men. At the end of the book, when Pringle is saved from his suicide bid by a fishing boat which picks him out of the water, his friends have to decide how much money to give the fisherman who comes round to collect the fishing clothes that Pringle was given for his safe return to their rented cottage. Half a crown? Ten shillings? A pound? No-one can put price on Pringle's life. So they wake up Pringle and ask his opinion, before settling on the sum of fifteen shillings, of which Atwater contributes a half-crown.

Waugh plays it more for laughs. Having killed Plant's father, Atwater wants to borrow fifty pounds from Plant so that he can emigrate to Australia and make a fresh start in life.

"Mr Atwater," I said. "Have I misunderstood you, or are you asking me to break the law by helping you to avoid your trial and also give you a large sum of money?"

"You'll get it back, every penny of it."

"And our sole connection is the fact that, through pure insolence, you killed my father."

"Oh, well, if you feel like that about it…"

"I am afraid you greatly overrate my good nature."

"Tell you what. I'll make you a sporting offer. You give me fifty pounds now and I'll pay it back in a year plus another fifty pounds to any charity you care to name. How's that?"

"Will you please go?"

Before he does go, Atwater informs Plant that he spent his last ten bob on a wreath.

"I'm sorry you did that. I'll refund that."

'He turned on me with a look of scorn. "Plant, he said, "I didn't think it was in you to say a thing like that. Those flowers were a sacred thing. You wouldn't understand that, would you? I'd have starved to send them. I may have sunk pretty low, but I have some decency left, and that's more than some people can say even if they belong to posh clubs and look down on fellows who earn a decent living. Goodbye, Plant. We shall not meet again. D'you mind if I don't shake hands."

Later, Plant receives a phone call. Atwater has changed his mind. Should he call round for the money or would Plant send it? Plant says he will send it.

'"Fifteen bob they cost."

"You said ten this afternoon."

"Did I? I meant fifteen."

"I will send you ten shillings. Good-bye."

"Good scout," said Atwater.

So I put a note in an envelope and sent it to the man who had killed my father.'

Fourthly. On two occasions in the opening chapter of
Afternoon Men, William Atwater suggests he's 'a dying man' when the prospect of going on to a party is raised. "I can't. I'm a dying man." He says the first time. "I'm not coming to the party. I'm going home to die," he says, four pages later. In Work Suspended, there is a scene involving Arthur Atwater, when Plant bumps into him at the zoo while trying to distract himself from Lucy's delivery pains. After a long drinking session at the Wimpole, entirely funded by Plant, Plant invites Atwater home with him. "I've got a house in the country, plenty of rooms. Stay as long as you like. Die there." That line seemed odd to me when I first came across it, it makes more sense when one realises that one of the things Waugh was doing was playing off Atwater in Afternoon Men.

Do these four points, taken together, establish that something was indeed going on in this apparent echoing of Powell's Atwater? If so, the question becomes, what motivated Evelyn Waugh to write in such a manner in 1939? Why write about an afternoon man of his own?

The answer to that has to be given in stages. First, it has to be made explicit what Anthony Powell was writing about in
Afternoon Men. That will take a separate section to outline. Bear with me.


In the summer of 1929, Anthony Powell, working for little reward at Duckworth's, was an interested party as Evelyn Waugh's marriage broke up. He regularly met Waugh around the time of the publication of
Decline and Fall in the autumn of 1928. That was when Powell first met John Heygate, who he was to become so friendly with. Heygate was great chums with the Evelyns as well. So much so that He-Evelyn encouraged Heygate to go around with she-Ev while he made a start to Vile Bodies while living in an Oxfordshire pub, rather than living with his wife in their Canonbury Square flat in North London.

Messengers of Day, Powell sets out just how close he was to the participants of the drama that took place in summer of 1929. 'Towards the end of June, I dined with Balston [one of the two partners of Duckworth's]. The other guests were Rose Macaulay, Evelyn Gardner, Heygate and an obscure male Duckworth author, whom I remember being furiously disapproving of Firbank [a deceased author who Powell had arranged a collected edition for at Duckworth's]. There had been a party at the Friendship the night before, where Heygate (more resolute than I) had stayed til dawn. In consequence, such was his fatigue at Balston's dinner table, that, quite quietly like a child, he went to sleep between courses.'

The party on the
Friendship would have been the one on Tuesday, June 26. First, Waugh's friends went to the Victorian party held at Diana Guinness's house near Buckingham Palace. Although He-Evelyn was writing in Oxfordshire, She-Evelyn and Nancy Mitford were there, and so was Robert Byron, photographed by the press. Many went on to the Friendship's party, whose theme was Watteau's painting 'Embarkation for Cythera'. John Heygate appears in the foreground of one photo, grinning hugely, and in the background of another, talking intimately with Evelyn Gardner. Seems from what he writes in Messengers of Day that Anthony Powell was there too. Though he remained unsuspecting that anything sexual was going on between Heygate and she-Evelyn.

Powell tells us that in this same week, he and Constant Lambert hosted a cocktail party to celebrate their new accommodation in Tavistock Square. This began at six o'clock and went on until three in the morning. Again quoting from
Messengers of Day: 'The Waughs turned up at Tavistock Square separately, neither staying long, nor seeming greatly to enjoy what they saw of the party; Evelyn Gardner having a brisk disagreement with Heygate. This was the first public occasion when there was a sense of something being wrong between the Waughs. Quite how wrong I did not even then take in. Heygate, one of the first to arrive at the party, was present until the most final moment of its extended revels.'

Difficult to avoid the conclusion that John Heygate was a party animal.

The fact that Powell and Heygate had quickly become close friends, is underlined by the fact that in July they went on holiday to Germany together.


This was after Evelyn Gardner had admitted the relationship with Heygate to her husband. And it was during the Waughs' attempted reconciliation - a fortnight trying to be nice to each other, though the photos of them taken at the Tropical party on the
Friendship on July 15, show what a strain the attempt was for them both.

It had been arranged that Powell and Heygate would get forwarded post at Munich. The first thing Powell opened was a telegram from Waugh, which read
'Instruct Heygate return immediately'. Heygate received a similar message. 'It was clear that our trip together was at an end. The blow had fallen; crisis come.' As an aside, Powell notes that he and Heygate had not spent much time of their holiday discussing the Waugh marriage. Though the sudden change of plan surely instigated some kind of discussion about it. After all, an entire friendship group was affected.

Powell then explains in his memoir, that as a consequence of the split, and what with him remaining very close friends with John Heygate and Evelyn Gardner, who ended up marrying each other a year later, Powell did not see Waugh for several years.
'No immediate awkwardness took place, partly because Waugh himself was often abroad during the period following the divorce; partly because he had largely ceased to inhabit the sort of world in which we had formerly met.'

What Powell doesn't say is that the book he wrote in 1930 and published in 1931 can readily be understood as a reworking of Waugh's predicament written with half an eye on the style and success of Vile Bodies. What I mean is that in Afternoon Men, although Hilary Spurling has suggested - no doubt accurately - that characters in Afternoon Men are based on other specific individuals that Powell knew at the time, the characters are also employed in such a way as to tell the story of the Waughs' marriage breakdown. According to this, Atwater, Pringle, Harriet and Barlow schematically represent Powell, Evelyn Waugh, Evelyn Gardner and Heygate, respectively. Barlow's sleeping with Harriet prompts a crisis for Pringle, Atwater's drinking buddy, who is prone to mood swings and depression.

Although the first two-thirds of the book take place in London, the crisis and suicide attempt of Pringle take place in a house by the sea. Powell tells us in
Messengers of Day, that following the two parties he mentions - before things had blown up, as it were - Heygate invited the Waughs and Powell to stay for the weekend at his parents' house, Salt Grass, on the Hampshire coast. It seems that Powell may have been drawing on the atmosphere there when writing up the goings on at the Pringle menage. Although, again, Hilary Spurling makes the convincing suggestion that another house by the sea was significant in Powell's creative process at the time.

Given these links, an interesting complication is that Atwater also sleeps with Harriet in part three of
Afternoon Men. In fact, the sex takes place just after watching Pringle lay down his clothes and go for his seemingly insignificant swim. Though both characters (Atwater and Harriet) tell each other that they love someone else, they go through with the sex act. It makes one wonder if Anthony Powell ever slept with Evelyn Gardner in the summer of 1929. If he had done, he is unlikely to have admitted as much in print, being too fond of Evelyn Gardner as a long-term friend, and too gallant to take advantage of the situation for his writing and his reputation.

And, of course, it has to be said that Evelyn Waugh did try and commit suicide in the way ascribed to Pringle, though that had happened a few years before, when Waugh had been an unhappy teacher in North Wales. Like Waugh, Pringle leaves a suicide note. Like Waugh, Pringle changes his mind about ending it all, and survives to live another day. Powell explicitly says in
Messengers of Day that, although he and Evelyn were not close friends from years 1925 to 1929, Evelyn did not hesitate to say what was going on in his private life when they met up. He would most certainly have talked about the suicide attempt, no doubt playing up the tragicomedy, and the pathos of it all.

I've recently come across a line in a letter that Evelyn wrote to Henry Yorke in the summer of 1931. Evelyn had been spending the summer in the south of Franc of that year and the previous year, as did Tony Powell, though not as part of the same party. The line reads:
'Will it make Dig shy if I appear in fisherman's clothes.' That seems significant given the scene whereby the fishermen who saved Pringle from drowning first dress him in fishermen's clothes, then come round to collect the clothes, at which point there is the protracted conversation about how much the fisherman should be paid for saving Pringle.

Having established that Evelyn Waugh might wish to get his own back on Anthony Powell for being humiliated in
Afternoon Men, we need to work out what form that revenge might take. Again, this will take a whole section as we zero in on why Waugh wrote what he did about Atwater in Work Suspended.


Vile Bodies
was a best seller. Yes, in 1930, there were seven impressions made of the novel in as many weeks, at least eleven in all.


But Evelyn's personal life was in ruins. Diana and Bryan Guinness picked him up and offered Evelyn their friendship, their first class homes and their upper class place in society. It was in one of the Guinness homes that Evelyn managed to write
Labels, the book about a Mediterranean cruise undertaken with she-Evelyn that Duckworth's (where Tony still worked) published towards the end of 1930. The dedication reads: 'With Love to Bryan and Diana Guinness without whose encouragement and hospitality this book would not have been finished.'


The friendship with the Guinesses finished in summer 1930 when Diana's pregnancy came to an end and she gave birth to a son. She wanted to get back to society at large and Evelyn, who had become her closest friend, felt a sense of rejection. It is Diana's pregnancy, and the closeness between them, that Waugh is principally thinking of in the second chapter of
Work Suspended, in its final form, which is called 'A Birth'.

Post-marriage, post-Diana, Evelyn turned to Roman Catholicism and travelled to Africa. Out of the trip came
Remote People, published by Duckworth's (where Tony still worked) in November 1931 (by which time Afternoon Men had appeared and been read by Evelyn). One assumes Tony was not involved in choosing the cover design. One assumes nobody was given responsibility.


Also on the back of the African trip, Evelyn came up with the novel,
Black Mischief. This was almost as big a success as Vile Bodies had been, and brought him more rich, glamorous admirers. Below is the limited edition copy given to Lady Mary Lygon ('sweet Blondy') at Madresfield, the stately home where Evelyn ('Boaz') stayed when he was writing the book.


Actually, Waugh found he couldn't concentrate very well at Madresfield, where the party atmosphere was semi-permanent, so it was at the Easton Court Hotel in Devon he wrote most of his African novel. As well as the 250 copies made on large paper, the trade edition went into multiple impressions, at least six in October of 1932 alone.

It was in 1933 that Powell published his second novel,
Venusberg. Like his first book it sold about 3,000 copies. Which is not bad, but there is a huge gulf between the majority of authors, who sell a relatively small number of books, and authors like Waugh who are lionised by the public. Who cares if the cover was original, modern and designed by the same artist who had made the cover for Afternoon Men, in close consultation with the book's author.


In late 1933, Waugh travelled to South America. When he came back he wrote
Ninety-Two Days in the house of the actress Diana Cooper, in Bognor Regis. Waugh dedicated the book to Diana, and Duckworth's duly published it in 1933.


Tony's third novel,
From a View to a Death, was published by Duckworth's, but with no great hopes for it. Indeed the dedication is to the firm's director: 'For Tom Balston with an author's condolences, 17 October, 1933.'


At this point a surprising thing happened. In an article in
Harper's Bazaar published at the beginning of 1934, Waugh went out of his way to write enthusiastically about Powell's new book. The relevant bit reads: ‘I cannot name a single new painter or writer of any real promise who has emerged, or any established one who has added substantially to our debt to him. Except for Mr Anthony Powell whose ‘From a View to a Death’ delighted me, I cannot name any novelist who is really worth watching.’

That tells us, if Evelyn was smarting from
Afternoon Men, he wasn't letting it dominate his relationship with his fellow author and old Oxford chum.

Evelyn followed up the travel book with another bestselling novel,
A Handful of Dust. How many editions? I have a copy of the fifth impression that was printed in September, 1934.


At the time, everyone who read this fabulous novel was stunned by it. Diana Cooper told Evelyn that she'd read the book aloud to Barbie Wallace, Joan Guinness and Sheila Loughborough, and that the success had been dynamic. As she wrote, the book was being fought over by their husbands: the Right Honourable Euan Wallace, Lionel Guinness (part of the brewing dynasty), and Lord Loughborough. Evelyn had made it big. Was he pleased? Oh, he was pleased all right, as we'll see.

In August 1934, Tom Balston was forced to walk out of Duckworth's thanks to the behaviour of its conventional and conservative owner - Gerald Duckworth. Balston had been the bohemian and modernist behind the firm's editorial direction, so with him gone, Tony's prospects sank further. Evelyn took his next non-fiction title to Longman's. For which publishing house
Edmund Campion won the Hawthornden Prize, perhaps the most important literary prize of the time.

Powell's fourth novel,
Agents and Patients, came out in January 1936, published by Duckworth's. Same impressive cover art concept, but who cared?


That's the book which took a close look at the Heygates' marriage. More than that, it's the book where the Heygate character is given the name 'Maltravers', which was Evelyn Waugh's name for Paul Pennyfeather's rival for Margot Beste-Chetwynd's hand in Decline and Fall. What was going on? Well, why shouldn't Tony pay a compliment to the reviewer who had stood up for his generally ignored fourth novel?

In 1936, Evelyn's
Waugh in Abyssinia appeared for Longman's again. By this time, Tony had had enough of Duckworth's, and had resigned in August of 1935. His next book What's Become of Waring? was not published by Duckworth's. Instead, it was Cassel's that had published it, but not until March 1939. The book is an insider's take on what goes on in the publishing industry. On who writes books and why. And I have just ordered a copy. It sold less than a thousand copies at the time, and Cassel's entire remaining stock was destroyed in the war.

Meanwhile, in 1938,
Scoop was a bestseller for Chapman and Hall.


This is how it begins:

'While still a young man, John Courteney Boot had, as his publisher proclaimed, 'achieved an assured and enviable position in contemporary letters'. His novels sold fifteen thousand copies in their first year and were read by the people whose opinion John Boot respected. Between novels he kept his name sweet in intellectual circles with unprofitable but modish works on history and travel. His signed first editions sometimes changed hands at a shilling or two above their original price. He had published eight books - (beginning with a life of Rimbaud written when he was eighteen, and concluding, at the moment, with Waste of Time, a studiously modest description of some harrowing months among the Patagonian Indians) - of which most people who lunched with Lady Metroland could remember the names of three or four.'

Anthony Powell has stated that
Scoop, along with The Loved One, are the Waugh books he likes least. Perhaps he never got past that opening paragraph, what with the gloating irony of a super-successfiul author; what with the witty referencing of Rossetti and Ninety-Two Days; and what with the re-referencing of Margot Beste Chetwynde who had become Lady Metroland upon marrying Sir Humphrey Maltravers!

By this time, Waugh was at the apex of his profession, while Tony had disappeared without trace, It would be another decade - more than a decade - before Tony would bounce back into print as a novelist, with the beginning of the 12-book sequence that made his name,
A Dance to the Music of Time. But for now, Tony was not even a player. As Evelyn sat down to write Work Suspended in the summer of 1939, the self-satisfaction is palpable as Evelyn introduces us to John Plant:

'At the time of my father's death I was in Morocco, at a small French hotel outside the fortifications of Fez. I had been here for six weeks, doing little else but write, and my book, Murder at Mountrichard Castle, was within twenty-thousand words of its end.'

Actually, Waugh wrote
A Handful of Dust in Fez, though he returned to the Easton Court Hotel in Devon before finishing it.

'I was thirty-four years of age at the time, and a serious writer. I had always been a one-corpse man. I took pains with my work and I found it excellent. Each of my seven books sold better than its predecessor. Moreover, the sale was in the first three months, at seven and sixpence. I did not have to relabel the library edition for the bookstalls. People bought my books and kept them - not in the spare bedrooms but in the library, all seven of them together on a shelf.'


I make it six. But of course that's just the Chapman and Hall's. The books published by Duckworth's are on another shelf.

I don't see how Anthony Powell could have read such an opening and kept reading, brilliantly deadpan though it is. So it's just possible Powell was never introduced to himself, or his alter ego from
Afternoon Men, in the form of Arthur Atwater. By my reckoning, Powell mentions most of Waugh's books in print several times, but not Work Suspended. However, we can further introduce ourselves to John Plant:

'I chose my career deliberately at the age of twenty-one. I had a naturally ingenious and constructive mind and the taste of writing. I was youthfully jealous of good fame. There seemed few ways of which a writer need not be ashamed by which he could make a decent living. To produce something, saleable in large quantities to the public, which had absolutely nothing of myself in it; to sell something for which the kind of people I liked and respected would have a use; that was what I sought, and detective stories fulfilled the purpose. They were an art which admitted of classical canons of technique and taste.'

Of course, the sidestepping from literary novelist to writer of detective fiction just adds to the game. 'Absolutely nothing of myself in it'. Oh, you are tease, Evelyn.

'It was immune, too, from the obnoxious comment to which lighter work is exposed. "How you must revel in writing your delicious books, Mr So-and-so." My friend, Roger Simmonds, who was with me at the University and set up as a professional humorist at the same time as I wrote
Vengeance at the Vatican, was constantly plagued by that kind of remark. Instead, women said to me, 'How difficult it must be to think of all those complicated clues, Mr. Plant." I agreed. "It is, intolerably difficult.' And do you do your writing here in London?" "No, I find I have to go away to work." "Away from telephones and parties and things?" "Exactly."

Exactly? Exactly.

So you see, Evelyn didn't need to take revenge on Anthony Powell for
Afternoon Men. You don't kick a man when he's down. Patronise him, yes; take the piss out of him, indeed; but no need to whip him on the steps of White's club.


On to the summer where Evelyn sat down and began his latest work. He had been married for a couple of years and had been living in Piers Court for about as long. He was focussed on penning a portrait of a writer: Evelyn Waugh. Even if that writer was to be named John Plant, writer of detective novels. Waugh wrote in his diary for 27 July, 1939:

'I have rewritten the first chapter of the novel about six times and at last got it into tolerable shape.'

That's the piece called 'My Father's House' that Cyril Connolly would publish in Horizon under that title in 1941.

On 26 August, Waugh wrote further in his diary:

'Worked well at novel. I have introduced the character who came here to beg, saying he was from the New Statesman and an authority on ballistics, as the driver who killed the father.'

That's interesting, because it's obvious that Atwater is not based on Powell as an individual. He is an amalgamation of the educated chancer who visited Evelyn at Piers Court and the Atwater character in
Afternoon Men. Martin Stannard in The Early Years, the first volume of his Waugh biography, has his own theory about the name Atwater. 'The choice of name was perhaps mischievous. A Donald Attwater had written one of the Catholic Press's few unfavourable reviews of Waugh in Abyssinia.' That was in the Dublin Review and I doubt if anyone brought it to Waugh's attention, or that it struck a nerve. But it is worth bearing in mind.

Progress on the novel was slow, what with the distraction of impending war, until Waugh went to the Easton Court Hotel, his old bolthole in Devon. On the 24th of October, he wrote:

'The second chapter taking shape and, more important, ideas springing.'

The second chapter was originally called 'Lucy Simmonds' and deals with his platonic love for this Lucy who is pregnant, just as Laura was pregnant at the time, the pregnancy bringing back the memory of Evelyn's intimate (but asexual) time with Diana Guinness. One of the dead that sprangg was to bump into Atwater again and to pay Atwater to entertain him at 'the Wimpole'.

Evelyn reckoned he was about a quarter of the way through the book when the war stopped him carrying on with it. He was determined to play a part in the war against the Nazis. And to do so he had to sacrifice his inner world - a reflection on where he'd got to in life - with his lovely wife, his Edwardian father, his formidable personality and his successful career.

On the 26th of November he met Henry Yorke in London and took him to lunch after cocktails with Randolf Churchill at the Ritz. Henry's life as a fireman sounded unendurable, but it was to be his war effort. Like Anthony Powell, friend from Oxford, Henry had gone way up in Evelyn's estimation when he published
Blindness in 1927 and Living in 1929. The friendship thrived all through the thirties, and Henry was best man at Evelyn's second marriage in 1937. Henry didn't publish his third novel, Party Going, until 1939, but Evelyn was nothing if not loyal, and so there they were lunching together in 1939 as Oxford men and fellow novelists, ready to do their bit for their country.

Now Henry Yorke had been Anthony Powell's best friend at Eton. And their friendship had continued at Oxford. Tony had witnessed the demise of Evelyn's first marriage, and Henry had been the bast man at Evelyn's second marriage. So how did that leave things?

Henry: "What's Become of Tony? What's Become of
Afternoon Men and Venusberg and From a View to a Death and Agents and Patients?"

Evelyn: "Come friendly bombs and fall on Duckworth's."

Henry: "What's Become of
What's Become of Waring?"

Henry: "Come friendly bombs and fall on Cassel's?"

I think that'll do. But I must end by emphasising how funny the scenes are in
Work Suspended that involve John Plant, star author, and Arthur Atwater, down and out. Atwater somehow holds his own. He might be on his uppers, but there's life in him yet. The afternoon man of the 1930s will become the literary lion of the 1950s and 1960s, by which time Henry Yorke was finished (last book 1952), a mental and physical wreck. And Evelyn was on the way out, completely written out, grossly overweight, yet at the same time wasted.

I say again: "Atwater! Atwater!"

And I translate: "You win some. You lose some."

We're all dancing to the same tune. Just not necessarily at the same time.