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Obituaries 2000-2006

 

Several people who knew Waugh well have died in the new millennium, though he died as long ago as 1966. I give obituaries of some of them here.

  1. Anthony Powell
 10. The Duke of Devonshire
  2. Auberon Waugh
 11. Sir William Deakin
  3. The Earl of Longford
 12. Stuart Preston
  4. Lady Dorothy Heber-Percy
 13. Bridget Grant 
  5. John D’Arms
 14. Lady Sibell Rowley 
  6. The Duke of Norfolk
 15. Zita James 
  7. Daphne Lady Acton 
 15. Dame Muriel Spark 
  8. The Hon. Lady Mosley
 16. Lord Deedes 
  9. Sir Alexander Glen
  

Other people who are given very brief biographies here include :

  1. Lady Violet Powell
  2. The Countess of Longford
  3. Jennifer Ross
  4. Michael Davie

1. Anthony Powell C.H.

  Anthony Powell

Anthony Dymoke Powell (1905-2000) was one of the few authors writing in his lifetime whom Evelyn Waugh admired. He is most famous for his twelve-volume novel sequence A Dance to the Music of Time, which occupied him for a quarter of a century, the first book, A Question of Upbringing, appearing in 1951 and the last, Hearing Secret Harmonies, in 1975; but he also wrote other novels both before and after this sequence and a four-volume autobiography.

Powell was at Eton with such famous writers as George Orwell, Harold Acton and Cyril Connolly, and at Oxford he got to know others, including Graham Greene, John Betjeman, Henry Yorke (‘Henry Green’) and Waugh himself. At first he made his career not as a writer but as a clever and perceptive publisher’s reader for Duckworth’s. Among the writers whose first books he was responsible for commissioning was Evelyn Waugh (his Rosetti : His Life and Works, 1928). E.M. Forster lived for a time in the flat below his but they never met (‘a writer whose books have never greatly appealed to me,’ commented Powell). He published his first novel Afternoon Men in 1931, and, though he had a few more succès d’estime in the 1930’s, he remained silent during and after the war until the publication of the first novel of his great sequence.

It is undoubtedly A Dance to the Music of Time which will remain his masterpiece. It is the nearest that a British writer has got to emulating Proust in his minutely-observed survey of a small section of society and, in so doing, capturing an age for posterity. The life of his narrator-hero Nick Jenkins parallels his own. Not only do both go to Eton and Oxford, they both publish novels, have jobs script-writing for the film industry, and become officers in the Second World War before moving to the Intelligence Corps and getting liaison jobs with foreign military attachés. One can detect the originals of a large number of the characters in his novel sequence with the result that there has been a lively recognition game played by enthusiasts and the curious. (See the Anthony Powell website.) No one, as far as I know, has detected Evelyn Waugh in A Dance to the Music of Time, though the two men frequently met and often corresponded.

Powell was a noted book reviewer (for over fifty years in the Daily Telegraph) and also wrote a biography of John Evelyn. Though he liked to keep in touch with the latest news his was a retiring personality, and he and his wife Lady Violet née Pakenham lived in Somerset for much of his life. He was naturally polite and gracious; one might say, this was in contrast to Waugh, a near neighbour, who could be very prickly with strangers. The two of them maintained their friendship throughout Waugh’s life and Waugh favourably reviewed the novels in Powell’s sequence as they were published. After Powell was awarded the C.B.E. in 1956 Waugh wrote to him saying :

Delighted to read of your decoration. I should rather like something of the sort myself. How does one set about it? I hope it doesn’t block you from a knighthood. That’s what one really needs.

In fact Waugh was offered the same decoration, the C.B.E., in 1959, but turned it down. In a letter to Nancy Mitford discussing Powell’s award he gave a reason :

Tony Powell has accepted a CBE. No sour grapes but I think it very WRONG that politicians should treat writers as second grade civil servants. Osbert Sitwell opened the breach by accepting this degrading decoration. I trust you will stand out for CH or Dame.

In fact Nancy Mitford accepted the C.B.E. in 1972 and Waugh was never offered the knighthood he yearned for. Powell, on the other hand, was offered a knighthood in 1973 but declined it : he thought it an undesirable award for a writer. He was delighted, on the other hand, when the Queen appointed him a Companion of Honour in 1988. He died on 28th March 2000 at the age of 94 after a long and gradual decline.

In June 2004 Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd published the biography of Anthony Powell by Michael Barber (available from Amazon.co.uk for £6.99 plus postage).

Further note : Lady Violet Powell, herself the author of biographies (especially of slightly obscure literary ladies) and an autobiography, died on 12th January 2002. Anthony Powell’s widow, she was also the sister of Lord Longford (see the next entry but one). Moreover her sister Pansy had been the best friend of Evelyn Gardner, Waugh’s first wife, and shared rooms with her at the time when Waugh was coming a-courting.

2. Auberon Waugh

Cornet Waugh Cornet Waugh in the Royal Horse Guards
1958
Auberon Waugh late in life Auberon Waugh in later life

Auberon Alexander Waugh (1939-2001), known to all as Bron, was Evelyn Waugh’s eldest son. His education at home and at Downside prepared him for a literary life which he fulfilled by becoming perhaps the leading British columnist of the age rather than a novelist like his father, though he wrote five novels in early life which had reasonable success. He himself said that he only got to know and like his father as he matured; Evelyn was notoriously intolerant of children and made his pleasure clear as they were packed off to boarding schools on the approach of term-time.

After school Bron joined the Royal Horse Guards as a cornet though he had won an exhibition to Christ Church College, Oxford. He served in Cyprus before managing to shoot himself through the chest attempting with an unorthodox method to unjam a Browning machine-gun. His life was saved by immediate and competent medical attention though he was near death for many weeks. He lost a lung, his spleen, several ribs and a finger. After recovering he wrote a first novel, the funny The Foxglove Saga (1960) and then took up his place at Christ Church. He left Oxford after a year on receiving a disagreeable letter from his college which commented adversely on his lack of achievement (he had failed his examinations).

He quickly moved into journalism, where he worked for a number of publications. He as quickly (1961) moved into marriage with Lady Teresa Onslow, who, as Teresa Waugh, was herself to develop a successful novel-writing career, with her husband’s encouragement (especially after he gave up writing novels after publishing A Bed of Flowers in 1972). Auberon was a writer on the Spectator in the 1960’s but he achieved the pinnacle of his fame with his Diary in Private Eye from 1970 to 1986. In this column he developed a form of scathing fantasy which spared no-one who came under his glare. Its combination of horrific abuse, funny jokes and fantastic events made him both the most admired and the most feared columnist in the country. When he left Private Eye on its change of editorship he eventually found as congenial a niche in the Way of the World column in the Daily Telegraph.

The vignette of Auberon Waugh
that appeared in his
Way of the World column
in the
Daily Telegraph
Four of Auberon Waugh’s entries in the Private Eye Diaries

The Roman Catholic Church never ceases to distress me. Now its Cardinals have given up their privilege of travelling free on Italian trains, and of reserving first-class compartments for themselves.
This privilege dates from the Congress of Vienna in 1815, when politicians and priests were wiser people than they are today. They understood quite well how disagreeable it would be for private citizens to find themselves in the same carriage as a Cardinal, many of whom bear the stigmata and other unattractive afflictions. (29th January 1977)

After five days of struggle I give up the attempt to review J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion for the Evening Standard. I, who have ploughed through much of Alain Robbe-Grillet and most of Proust, who have read all the bye-laws governing attendance at Taunton swimming-baths and can recite by heart the addresses of all the Special Clinics in the Greater London area, I must admit defeat. The book is completely unreadable. ... I find it hard to believe that J.R.R. Tolkien ever wrote this rubbish. He will be remembered for the important discovery that “Wales” is the plural of “Waugh”. (21st September 1977)

On the 84th day of the Thorpe trial, the judge comes into court accompanied by a stately-looking pooftah in red robes, carrying a posy of flowers.
This is Widdicombes, the ancient ceremony, re-enacted every year on St Gannex Day. In former times, the idea was that these flowers hid the terrible stench which came up from the cells under the court. They were also thought to give protection against jail-fever.
Nowadays there is no jail-fever and prisoners are deodorised, desexed and given artificial breasts shortly after capture. The only reason for carrying pretty posies now is to hide the nauseating smell of the lawyers as they toil away to milk the case for all it is worth. Today I counted 36 lawyers in court, all ticking away like taxometers, before I fainted from the smell. (11th June 1979)

The Prince of Wales’s refusal to join the Freemasons has encouraged speculation ... that he is about to come out of his closet and announce himself a Roman Catholic.
His real reason is quite different, but my lips are sealed. Prince Charles’s problem is of a more personal nature. Several weeks ago he asked me whether it was true that initiates into the Ancient Craft were required to expose their persons to a Committee of very senior Masons so that there could be no doubt about their sex.
When I replied that this was indeed the case he visibly blanched. Of course I understand his difficulty. Nearly two years ago in a romantic mood he had tattooed the name of a certain Young Person indelibly on a certain organ of his body which shall be Nameless. (1st April 1980)

All those who knew him averred that he was in private a kindly, well-mannered man, something which was rarely said about his father. He was noted for his generosity and hospitality. His political views seemed to be reactionary at one moment and anarchist at another; he is best described as a political eccentric. He was, like his father, appalled by the course the Roman Catholic church took after the Second Vatican Council; his defiant proclamation of super-orthodoxy early in his career was muted into a quiet abstentionism by the end of his life.

After his accident in the army his health was never robust. His wounds never fully healed, all his life requiring periodic visits to hospital for a disgusting and painful amelioration of the build-up of unwanted waste products in his chest. He attempted to make his life more agreeable by smoking and by drinking wine, in which he became a noted expert. He had the acknowledged aim of filling his wine cellars in order to drink it all after his retirement (I believe he achieved about two-thirds of this target by the time of his death). He wrote wine columns with ingenuity and gusto, though he gave up tobacco late in life as breathing became more difficult. He died at Combe Florey, his (or rather his wife’s) home, of a heart attack on 16th January 2001. He would have been delighted by both the affectionate tributes and the vituperative abuse which adorned the newpapers.

3. The Earl of Longford K.G. P.C.

Lord Longford Lord Longford

Francis Aungier Pakenham, 7th Earl of Longford (1905-2001), known as ‘Frank’, was for half a century one of the most celebrated peers in Britain. The essential thing to him was his Catholic faith and its translation into action. His particular interest was penal reform, but though he was in two Labour governments (those of Clement Attlee, 1945-51, and Harold Wilson, 1964-68) he was not appointed to the Home Office where he hoped to carry out his policies. Evelyn Waugh, informed that Longford wished to be Home Secretary, said, ‘Then we would all be murdered in our beds.’

Pakenham was the second son of the fifth Earl of Longford. He was educated at Eton and Oxford where he gained a first class degree in Modern Greats. He was always interested in politics, at first Conservative; but his future wife, the beautiful Elizabeth Harmon, converted him to socialism before their marriage in 1931. He then converted to Catholicism and in return prompted her to join him in that church. He became the parliamentary candidate for the city of Oxford in the 30’s but failed to win the constituency even in the landslide of 1945 (Quintin Hogg, later Lord Hailsham, retained the seat). As he had been a helper of William Beveridge’s in preparing the famous Report which mapped out the basis of the future Welfare State, and was already well known for his social views, the new Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, encouraged him to accept a barony and become a Labour minister in the House of Lords. He held a succession of posts including Minister of Civil Aviation, but did not attain a Cabinet post in Attlee’s time.

He fully expected to be given a cabinet post with responsibility for social affairs in the coming Gaitskell government of the 1960’s, for Hugh Gaitskell had shared rooms with him at Oxford and always referred to him as his oldest friend. But Gaitskell died before this desirable event could occur and his successor, Harold Wilson, did not esteem Pakenham, who by now had succeeded to the earldom of Longford on the death of his ailing brother. Wilson remarked that Longford had a mental age of 12. He nevertheless gave Longford the job of Leader of the House of Lords and some subsidiary responsibilities which Longford himself felt he never fully succeeded in doing properly, mainly because the poisonous atmosphere of rivalry and back-biting that characterised Harold Wilson’s cabinets was both disabling and discouraging for a man of Longford’s open, generous temperament.

He gained public fame for non-ministerial rather than ministerial interventions in social matters. From 1961 he helped to conduct an investigation into ‘the incipient menace of pornography in Britain’ which the press converted into a too-frequent series of visits to brothels and porn shows. The report eventually recommended more severe penalties for traders in pornography, steps to raise the moral standards of films, television and radio, and a new definition of obscenity; but no government took up its proposals. More’s the pity, some may think today.

Throughout much of his life he extensively visited prisoners, following the pointer given by Jesus Christ. The press of course concentrated on his visits to famous inmates, like Myra Hindley the Moors murderess. His distinction that one should loathe the act but love the person was too subtle (and too Christian) to find favour in the daily newspapers. He did not help himself, perhaps, by insisting that Myra was ‘a delightful woman’.

After he resigned from Harold Wilson’s government in 1968 on a matter of principle (the postponement of the raising of the school-leaving age) Longford devoted his public life to social causes and his home life to writing (such things as an autobiography and a life of Pope John Paul II). He remained a loyal and devout Catholic, stating that his main aim in life was to live up to Christian standards. He died on 3rd August 2001 and was succeeded as Earl by his son Thomas, the historian, traveller and writer of the Remarkable Trees series of books.

Further note : Frank Longford’s widow, Elizabeth, Countess of Longford, herself died on 23rd October 2002. She was a noted writer, especially of biographies. Many of them were not only best-sellers but recognised as unconditionally outstanding : in particular, Victoria RI, and her two-volume life of the Duke of Wellington, Years of the Sword and Pillar of State.

4. Lady Dorothy Heber-Percy (née Lygon)

 EW & Ladies Mary & Dorothy Lygon Evelyn Waugh with the bespectacled Lady Dorothy
and her sister Lady Mary ‘Maimie’ Lygon in the 1930’s

Lady Dorothy (1912-2001) was the youngest child and fourth daughter of the 7th Earl Beauchamp. Her father was a bisexual who could not be trusted not to molest his daughters’ male guests; he was eventually rooted out by his vengeful brother-in-law, ‘Bendor’ the Duke of Westminster, and forced to go into exile. Her mother then deserted the family home, Madresfield Court, with her youngest son, and the rest of the children were allowed to live there as they liked (all but Lady Dorothy were already through their teens). It was in this period that Evelyn Waugh became a frequent visitor; he stated that he fell in love with the whole family. In fact he had known Lady Dorothy’s brothers Hugh and Lord Elmley at Oxford in the 1920’s.

Their relationship was joyful and candid; you might describe it as idyllic if you were unaware of the smut which became almost a condition of their communication. After the disastrous failure of his first marriage, Waugh often went to Madresfield to find a congenial place to write, and it was there that he finished Black Mischief, which he dedicated to Lady Dorothy and her sister Mary. In many ways Dorothy remained for the rest of Waugh’s life the closest of the family to him despite the fact that she was plain in a cosy way while the rest of her brothers and sisters were handsome. He wrote her many letters in which he called her ‘Poll’ (or ‘Pollen’) though for others her nickname was ‘Coote’.

Lady Dorothy was undoubtedly a simple, nice woman. All who knew her agreed that she was good without qualification. She pursued several careers. She joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force during the war and became an expert photograph interpreter. After the war she had spells as a social secretary and a governess and ended up as an archivist at the London auction house, Christie’s. She and her sister Lady Sibell remained active in the hunting-field until late in life; she was one of the few women in England still to ride side-saddle. Even after giving up hunting in old age she remained a passionate supporter and was distressed by the activities of hunt saboteurs and politicians in curbing the sport.

She developed a friendship with the inhabitants of Faringdon, the Oxfordshire home of the reclusive and painfully shy composer-writer Lord Berners until his death in 1950. His companion, Robert Heber-Percy (1911-1986), was the heir to the estate, and though it was a difficult matter he managed to keep it in good order. Heber-Percy found Lady Dorothy a cottage nearby but it was still a surprise when in 1985 they married. At the age of 72 she became a typical blushing bride, nervous with anticipation. The marriage was not a success and within a year Lady Dorothy went back to live in her little house. When Heber-Percy died the executorship of the Berners estate devolved upon Lady Dorothy, a duty she managed with skill and success, publishing all his books, securing recordings of all his music and commissioning a biography. Even in her eighties she continued to drive to Greece or the south of France for her holidays.

When she died on 13th November 2001, she had already written the invitations to her ninetieth birthday party at Madresfield, which would have fallen on 22nd February the following year. Old friends would have been present to wish her many happy returns, though sadly not Waugh or his wife Laura, who said about her ‘She is the nicest of all your friends’.

Further note : Robert Heber-Percy’s first wife, Jennifer Ross née Fry, died on 10th December 2003 at the age of 87. She married Heber-Percy in 1942 to the surprise of his lover Lord Berners. They had one daughter, Victoria. The marriage was doomed to failure and Heber-Percy soon packed her off home. They divorced in 1947. She later married Alan Ross, most famous as editor of the London Magazine, but that marriage too ended in divorce.
For Waugh devotees, perhaps the most interesting fact about her was that her mother Alathea was the sister of Evelyn Waugh’s first wife Evelyn Gardner.

5. John H. D’Arms

John D'Arms John D’Arms

Professor John D’Arms (1934-2002), the husband of Evelyn Waugh’s eldest daughter Maria Teresa, died of a brain tumour after five months of illness on 22nd January 2002.

He was one of the most eminent classical scholars of the age. Born at Poughkeepsie, New York, on 27th November 1934, he early discovered a love of history and the classics which resulted in first a degree at Princeton (1956), then a B.A. degree in Greats (i.e. Ancient Greek and Roman history, literature and philosophy) at New College, Oxford, in 1959, and finally a doctorate in classical philology at Harvard in 1965. While he was at New College, Teresa Waugh was at Somerville College; during this period they met and fell in love. Evelyn Waugh sought information about D’Arms as early as 14th July 1959 when he wrote to Anne Fremantle :

Do you know, or can you discover from your diverse sources of information, anything about a fellow countryman of yours named John d’Armes, D’Armes, Darmes, a Rhodes scholar from Princeton now in his last year at Oxford? His father, I understand, has academical connexions and is employed by the Rockefeller Foundation ... My eldest daughter expresses a romantic interest in him.

Later Waugh described him as dim and studious (letter to Elizabeth Pakenham (Lady Longford), 4 January 1961 [mistakenly dated 1960]) but recognised that Teresa seems to have taken a great liking to him. When D’Arms went to Harvard, Teresa followed him to the United States. They were married at Combe Florey in June 1961.

D’Arms then proceeded to carve out for himself a glittering career in classical studies and academic administration. Much of it was based at the University of Michigan where he became a faculty member in 1965, served as chairman of his department for nine years, and was named the Gerald F. Else Professor of Classical Studies in 1983. He was also Guggenheim Fellow and Visiting Member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 1975-76, and was selected to receive Michigan’s Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award in 1982. He was named Dean of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies in 1985 and Professor of History in 1986. From 1990-95 he was Vice Provost for Academic Affairs. But not all of his work was at Michigan : periods of teaching, research and administrative positions in Italy intervened, and from 1977 to 1980, he was Director of the American Academy in Rome.

D’Arms came to prominence in public affairs first when in 1994 President Clinton nominated him to the National Council on the Humanities, where he served until 1997. In that year he was appointed President of the American Council of Learned Societies. In this prestigious position he had a distinct agenda to push forward : he wished to claim a position of importance for classical and humanist studies in modern society. He was tireless in stressing the need for academic humanists to shed obscurity and jargon, and to engage themselves with wider audiences. He felt that excessively specialized vocabularies and overly rigid disciplinary structures ... have held the humanities back. He also wished to develop inter-disciplinary interactions, a goal which required him to have sympathy with and understanding of other disciplines than his own. He believed that these interconnections and interdependencies with other fields ... are needed in order to address increasingly urgent social problems. Tributes that flowed in after his death showed that many academics had appreciated and valued his contributions as President. They recognised that he had strengthened ACLS immeasurably and multiplied many times the support it could offer to the humanities and social sciences.

His scholarly work focused on the history and archaeology of ancient Rome and the Bay of Naples, especially social, economic, and cultural history. His publications included Romans on the Bay of Naples (Harvard, 1970) and Commerce and Social Standing in Ancient Rome (Harvard, 1981). At the time of his death he was working on a study of the social and cultural conventions concerning food and drink in Roman society.

He leaves his widow, Teresa, and two children, Justin and Helena.

6. The Duke of Norfolk K.G. G.C.V.O. C.B. M.C. P.C.

 The Duke of Norfolk The late Duke of Norfolk in his robes as Earl Marshal
at the State Opening of Parliament

Miles Francis Stapleton Fitzalan-Howard (1915-2002) was an acquaintance of Waugh’s especially in the thirties when their paths crossed at several house parties and other functions. At that time the Duke was known only as ‘Miles Howard’, which is the title under which he appears in Waugh’s Diaries and Letters. Fitzalan-Howard could not at that time have expected to become the premier duke of England : his cousin the then duke was a young man with a growing family, and no-one could have known that all his children would be girls. As it was, Fitzalan-Howard himself was the heir to other titles which began to fall on him in profusion in middle age. He succeeded his mother, a baroness in her own right, as the 12th Lord Beaumont in 1971, then his father as the 4th Lord Howard of Glossop in 1972, and finally he became the 17th Duke of Norfolk, Earl of Arundel, Surrey and Norfolk, Baron FitzAlan, Maltravers, Clun and Oswaldestre in 1975. For good measure he also became Earl Marshal as well as premier Duke, premier Earl and Chief Butler of England ex officio.

By this time Miles Fitzalan-Howard had pursued and completed a distinguished military career. Before the second World War he was commissioned into the Grenadier Guards and served in northern France in 1940. He was mentioned in despatches during the evacuation from Dunkirk and so impressed General Montgomery with his conduct on the beaches that he was sent to Staff College. He then served in North Africa and Italy, where he was awarded the Military Cross. He took part in the D-Day landings as Brigade Major of the 5th Armoured Brigade in the Guards Armoured Division. After the war he was stationed in the Suez Canal zone as commanding officer of 2nd Battalion, the Grenadier Guards, and then became head of the British military mission to the Russian Forces in Germany. He liked to cross into the Russian zone in order to take photographs and steal parts of Soviet equipment though he was frequently stopped by Russian troops. (He wondered how they always seemed to know he was coming; later he realised that the spy George Blake was informing them of his activities.) His next jobs were to command the 70th Brigade of the King’s African Rifles in Kenya before independence, and then the 1st Division, Rhine Army, in Germany. His final post was as Director of Service Intelligence at the Ministry of Defence, a post he resigned in 1967 in disgust at the red tape he encountered in Whitehall. After the army he worked part-time for Robert Fleming, a merchant bank with family connexions; his command of German and French meant that he found a useful job as director in charge of euro dollars and eurobonds. He spent his years of retirement travelling, championing many causes (often Catholic), and organising restoration work at both Arundel Castle and Carlton Towers, the family seats. Of the two he preferred Carlton Towers, which is in Yorkshire, but made his family home at a smaller house he bought in Oxfordshire.

He allowed Carlton Towers to be used for the filming of the exterior scenes of the cinema version of Evelyn Waugh’s novel A Handful of Dust, where the building represents Hetton Abbey, Tony Last’s adored but unfashionable home. The Duke himself takes a small part in the film, as a gardener sweeping up the debris on the lawn of his own estate. In fact this was not uncharacteristic : he liked to build and repair walls and to thin out bushes and trees, and he could make his guests quake at the thought that they were expected to go out whatever the weather and help him on the estate.

In July 1939 Waugh travelled from London with Fitzalan-Howard to stay with him at Carlton Towers, which was the home of his mother’s family. His diary entry gives his impressions of the family and, especially, the house.

Carlton Towers, Goole, Yorks, Saturday 29 July 1939

... Went to King’s Cross, where in a crowded train Miles had happily engaged a carriage which we had to ourselves with two other members of the party, Loftus and Lewis. Tedious journey to Selby, arriving Carlton about 5. First sight of the house is staggering, concrete-faced, ivy-grown, 1870-early-Tudor bristling with gargoyles, heraldic animals carrying fully emblazoned banners, coroneted ciphers; an orgy of heraldry. Two prominent towers, water and clock, the latter in the style of a Flemish belfry, which from the younger Pugin’s original drawings were to have been mere turrets compared with a vast Norman tower which was to complete his wing, leading to church and ‘Hall of the Barons’. The inside gives every evidence of semi-amateur planning; space where none is needed, cramped arches and windows where one cries out for space, harsh light everywhere from bad stained glass. The main corridor is completely lightless, except for little, stained windows in the ceiling which give into a box-room attic above. All state bedrooms face north over stable yard while servants’ quarters command the south terrace. Large numbers of indifferent paintings ascribed to Italian masters. The great drawing-room wainscotted in sham ebony with, above, sham Spanish leather, atrocious paintings in the panel of Shakespearian characters, more escutcheons with countless quarterings. Closer inspection, however, reveals many charms: the relics of two earlier houses below the 1870 shell, some 1830 Gothic, some first-class pre-Adam Georgian and bits of pre-Tudor rooms. A fine music library with some fairly interesting books. The whole Howard family are together. I never discovered exactly how many, seven or eight of them, each with a Christian name beginning with M. A nice chap called Gavin Maxwell and Maureen Noel were the rest of the party. Lord Howard has little importance in the house and twitches painfully. We played ‘the game’ after dinner. Maxwell, to be civil to me, chose clues from my books which no one recognized. I stayed until Tuesday. On Sunday night we used the Emperor of Abyssinia’s gilt plate which Lord Howard bought for £40, and which I last saw used at Addis Ababa for the journalists’ banquet. I think they were only once used after that, at the Red Cross dinner, then packed for transit and flight. They looked very shoddy beside the fine English silver. Daily Mass but no tiresome piety.

(Notes : Gavin Maxwell is the writer and journalist, most famous for Ring of Bright Water, his description of relationships with otters in the Scottish Highlands.
Lady Maureen Noel was the daughter of the Earl of Gainsborough and a woman Waugh found
enchanting.
Lord Howard is Miles Fitzalan-Howard’s father, Lord Howard of Glossop. He gave all his children Christian names beginning with the letter M : Miles, Michael, Mariegold, Martin, Miriam, Miranda, Mirable and Mark.)

The Duke was a devout Catholic. He made sure that there was enough room in the inside pockets of his suits to take a missal or a prayer-book. He was chairman of the trustees of the Catholic periodical, The Tablet, and undertook many other public duties. He died in his sleep at his home in Oxfordshire on 25th June 2002. He leaves his widow, the former Anne Constable-Maxwell, whom he married at Brompton Oratory in 1949, and two sons Edward the Earl of Arundel and Surrey, now the 18th Duke, and Gerald. He also leaves three daughters: Tessa, married to Roderick Balfour, great-nephew of the prime minister Arthur Balfour; Marcia, the actress Marsha Fitzalan, who was formerly married to the actor Patrick Ryecart; and Carina, married to Sir David Frost, the television personality.

7. Daphne Lady Acton

Daphne Lady Acton, née Strutt (1911-2003), was the daughter and granddaughter of scientists. Her grandfather, the 3rd Lord Rayleigh, won the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the inert gas argon. She became a Catholic convert after her marriage in 1931 to the 3rd Baron Acton, grandson of the famous historian. She did not convert at first because of her family’s rationalist and anti-Catholic convictions and they were married at a registry office rather than a church. The religious crisis came to a peak when her second child, a few months old, lay dying of pneumonia and she felt compelled to have her baptized, an act that she had refrained from doing with her first two children out of respect for the views of her father and her family.

The priest chosen to guide her into the church was Monsignor Ronald Knox, one of the most famous priests in Britain and a man whose biography was to be written by Evelyn Waugh. Knox was aghast at the prospect (he was notoriously uncomfortable with women) but found her a delightful and captivating student. In turn Lady Acton was utterly charmed by him; their many letters to one another could be considered love letters of a platonic kind. (In later life she was disarmingly frank about being attracted by Knox.) She was received into the Catholic church in 1938.

It was in this period that Evelyn Waugh got to know the Actons, through his friend Douglas Woodruff, the editor of The Tablet, whose wife was Lord Acton’s sister Mia.

During the war Lady Acton managed her husband’s estate, Aldenham in Shropshire, while he was away in the Army, and brought up a growing family, though the work was presumably eased by the presence of a London convent school on evacuation. In the end she was to have eleven children, five sons and six daughters, one the unfortunate baby who had died early. Knox was offered a shelter at Aldenham to find time and peace to write his translation of the New Testament and to begin that of the Old. He was, however, expected to help with the farm; he seems to have been allotted the task of looking after the pigs.

After the War, though they were politically liberal, the Actons viewed life under the Labour government with dismay. No paradise seemed to await the country, and the frustrations of governmental and bureaucratic restrictions impelled Lord Acton to sell Aldenham and to emigrate with his family to the then Southern Rhodesia. Aldenham today is a sad shadow of its former self, the chapel, for example, having been converted into a swimming pool and the library into a gymnasium. Fortunately the books that once graced the great Acton library are now at Cambridge University.

In Rhodesia the family farmed in a much freer manner than they were allowed to at home. Their home, M’bebi, became a beacon of reason and charity, though very few would think it a place of comfort. When researching for his biography of Ronald Knox in 1958, Evelyn Waugh visited M’bebi and described the community in a couple of his letters home :

Daphne thin and austere looking but very friendly. A long drive in the dark. John Acton (i.e. Lord Acton) thin and ill, diabetes, not allowed wine, deaf but genial. Host of pretty & polite children. The house hideous surrounded by the roughest rough grass you could want with a few gaudy flowers emerging. Tin roofs, concrete walls, large bare rooms, everything painted white and awfully dirty ... The name of this house is pronounced MeBaby. Daphne has built a mission school on the farm. We had Mass there this morning. She has converted all her serfs ... It isn’t hot. Just as Ronnie said a wet English August, 5000 feet up. Insignificant country so far as I’ve seen it. No fine trees, no tropical birds or flowers, scrubby hills, wire fences, bungalows. The staple dish at all meals is corn on the cob ... (Letter to Laura Waugh 9-2-1958)

Children were everywhere, no semblance of a nursery or a nanny, the spectacle at meals gruesome, a party-line telephone ringing all day, dreadful food, an ever present tremendously boring ex-naval chaplain, broken aluminium cutlery, plastic crockery, ants in the bed, totally untrained black servants (all converted by Daphne to Christianity, taught to serve Mass but not to empty ashtrays). In fact, everything that normally makes Hell, but Daphne’s serene sanctity radiating supernatural peace. She is the most remarkable woman I know. (Letter to Ann Fleming 10-3-1958)

When Ian Smith declared Unilateral Independence for Rhodesia, the Actons, opposed to his policies, decided to leave. After a few years in Swaziland they went to live in Majorca for the remainder of their married life, Lord Acton dying in 1989. Lady Acton then moved around living with various members of her family, finally ending up with one of her daughters in Moseley, Birmingham, where she died on 18th February 2003.

8. The Hon. Lady Mosley

Portrait (1938) by William Acton
(Harold’s artist brother)
Lady Mosley in later life with her home,
Le Temple de la Gloire at Orsay, in the background

Lady Mosley died at her home in Paris on 11th August 2003 after suffering a stroke, one of many victims of the exceptionally hot weather in western Europe during that month. (Great Britain witnessed a temperature of above 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time in history on the 10th, 38.5 degrees Celsius - 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit - at Brogdale near Faversham in Kent.)

Lady Mosley had spent her life in a strange mix of acclaim and controversy. The Hon. Diana Freeman-Mitford was the fourth child and third daughter of the 3rd Lord Redesdale and became famous early in life for being the most beautiful of the six notorious Mitford sisters. She was born on 17th June 1910 and spent her early life being educated at home, which was first the Batsford estate in Gloucestershire and then, from the age of nine, Asthall Manor in Oxfordshire. It was this lifestyle that her sister Nancy immortalised in The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate.

Diana escaped the family home at the age of 18 by marrying Bryan Guinness, heir to the brewery business, a union which was much against her parents’ wishes. She was in the set which had already become characterised as the Bright Young People, but her husband was a much quieter person altogether. The birth of two sons, Jonathan (the present Lord Moyne) and Desmond, seems not to have satisfied her taste for excitement, and nor did her budding talent for interior decoration, which she lavished on their country home, Biddesdon near Andover. When she met Sir Oswald Mosley Bart., though at the time he was also married, she fell in love and pursued him to the extent of leaving her husband in 1932. The fortuitous death of Lady Cynthia Mosley from peritonitis in 1933 cleared the way for their marriage once Diana had obtained her divorce.

It was in this period of her first marriage that Evelyn Waugh met Diana. Like many young men, he was smitten by her, stating that her beauty ran through the room like a peal of bells, and he dedicated his second novel Vile Bodies to her. In the period when she was running after Sir Oswald, Waugh seems to have largely avoided her, and later still circumstances were against a friendship such as that he enjoyed with her sister Nancy. In a letter of 9th March 1966, a month before he died, Waugh tried to answer the question Diana had obviously put to him - why had their friendship petered out? He states that it was

Pure jealousy. You (and Bryan) were immensely kind to me at a time when I greatly needed kindness, after my desertion by my first wife. I was infatuated with you. Not of course that I aspired to your bed but I wanted you to myself as especial confidante and comrade. After Jonathan’s birth you began to enlarge your circle. I felt lower in your affections than Harold Acton or Robert Byron and I couldn’t compete or take a humbler place. That is the sad and sordid truth.

Then in what was probably his last letter (30th March 1966) Waugh explained to her that Lucy Simmons in his novella Work Suspended was not a cruel portrait of her at the time they were close, though Lucy like Diana was pregnant. He had just used details of pregnancy that he did not know about until he observed Diana’s.

Soon after Diana met him Sir Oswald, who had only recently left the Labour Party, formed the British Union of Fascists, which in the early thirties looked like attracting numbers of politicians from all the other parties. Throughout the rest of the decade Mosley was therefore linked strongly with Fascist and Nazi movements on the continent, and he frequently travelled there to meet their leaders and further his interests. Through her younger sister Unity, Diana met Adolf Hitler and was charmed by him; he seemed to find the English girls attractive and amusing. Unity may even have cherished the fantasy that Hitler would marry her. Diana also accompanied Sir Oswald on many of his political campaigns in Britain, some of whose events ended in violence as right and left wing thugs slugged it out. Diana seems to have accepted the politics without much thought; in her eyes the enemy was Communism and any outrage committed by her own side could be justified or ameliorated if it countered that menace. To the end of her life she believed that Sir Oswald had developed the right policies for Britain in the thirties.

Diana and Sir Oswald were secretly married at the villa of Dr Josef Goebbels in Berlin in October 1936; his wife Magda had become a particular friend of Diana’s. Hitler himself attended the wedding dinner. Diana records that she and Mosley had their first nuptial quarrel that evening and went to bed in high dudgeon.

Back home, Sir Oswald took the line that Britain should stay away from European conflict in order better to preserve the Empire, allowing Germany a free hand on the continent. This was by no means an unusual idea in the thirties. When war did break out, Mosley announced that he would fight for his country in the event of invasion, but this statement did not save him from being imprisoned in Brixton under the new Defence Regulations, which gave the Home Secretary the power to imprison anyone without trial. After the birth of her son Max in 1940, Diana herself was placed in Holloway under the same regulations. The couple were imprisoned until November 1943, though from December 1941 they were grateful at being allowed to be together in married quarters at Holloway; and then for the rest of the war they were placed under house arrest. Diana did not help her cause by her statements under questioning. She stated that Churchill (with whom she had frequently stayed at Chartwell) and all the Tory ministers (whom she knew) should be shot. Her indifference to the Jews (to put it kindly) resulted in her saying that she agreed with Nazi policies towards them up to a point. But in gaol she maintained a light-hearted demeanour, appearing to the prison staff to be confident and capable despite the poor conditions (which for some time included a broken sewer).

After the war the Mosleys lived quietly before deciding to base themselves in France from 1951. The previous year they had bought a Directoire house in palladian style grandly named Temple de la Gloire. It was situated in the village of Orsay near Paris, and this became Diana’s main home for the rest of Mosley’s life and for most of hers. A consuming interest was to beautify its interior and to maintain the garden.

Sir Oswald did not give up his political ambitions after the war. They now centred on the necessity for a strong, unified Europe as a counter-balance to an overweening United States of America, and he cherished a belief that he would still be recalled to power in the manner of De Gaulle. He made many enemies when he announced as early as 1958 that the then Tory government was wrong to allow wholesale Commonwealth immigration (at that time in effect, blacks from the Caribbean). Diana busied herself until 1959 with editing a magazine called The European, a venture which showed that she, like Nancy, possessed literary and organisational acumen.

Among their friends in France were the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, who for a time lived just a few miles away. This relationship eventually resulted in a book about the Duchess which Diana published in 1980. She found the Duchess friendly, and admired her courage, her high spirits, her perfectionist efficiency.

Her relations with her sisters were not entirely smooth. Pamela, the equable, capable one, was a consolation in times of stress; and Deborah, the youngest one who became the Duchess of Devonshire, was always friendly and helpful. Unity had been closest to Diana perhaps, but she had shot herself when Britain declared war on Germany and died disabled nine years later. During the war the oldest sister, Nancy, wrote to the government to warn ministers of Diana’s dangerous predilections and to advise them to keep her in prison, but this unaffectionate act did not stop them from resuming their friendship afterwards. Diana helped to nurse Nancy through her long and agonising final illness before she died in 1973. Jessica, however, had become a Communist and lived in the United States where she and her second husband engaged in labour politics. Diana and she could see little that was creditable in the other and never regained intimacy. At the end of the war Jessica declared that the Mosleys should be thrown back into prison permanently, and the political gulf between them meant that her portrait of Diana in her autobiography Hons and Rebels (1960) was unsympathetic.

In 1977 Diana published her own book of memoirs, A Life of Contrasts (reissued with additions in 2002), in which she gave an enjoyable account and as reasonable a defence of her life and opinions as could be expected in the circumstances. Her love and devotion for Sir Oswald come over strongly, as does her cultivation of many valued friendships. She stoutly maintained her opinion that Hitler was an interesting, quiet, reasonable man, and that he was not unique in his atrocities. She never seems publicly to have accepted that his appalling policies, based on an abhorrent morality, were entirely unworthy of credence or support and deserved only utter condemnation; but in private she did express a sense of remorse for some parts of her life.

After Sir Oswald’s death in 1980 she maintained her quiet life, mainly in France. Late in life she moved to a convenient apartment in Paris. She retained her faculties right to the end. She leaves four sons, two by each husband. Her eldest son Jonathan is the 3rd Lord Moyne, and her youngest, Max Mosley, is the president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile.

Lady Mosley’s autobiography is available in paperback from Amazon.co.uk for £8.99 plus postage, and a selection of her later journalism, The Collected Diana Mosley, was published in October 2004 at £14.00 plus postage.

9. Sir Alexander Glen K.B.E.

Sir Alexander Glen (back turned to us) at a signing session for his book Target Danube (2002)

Sir Alexander ‘Sandy’ Glen died on 6th March 2004 at the age of 91. He was the young Oxford undergraduate who led the small exploratory party to Spitzbergen in 1934 that Evelyn Waugh joined almost on a whim, bringing the numbers up to three - the third being Waugh’s friend Hugh Lygon who had casually mentioned that he was going to the Arctic and aroused Waugh’s interest.

Two accounts of the expedition exist, Waugh’s in a chapter (called The First Time I Went to the North) of a book edited by Theodora Benson entitled The First Time I .... (1935), and Glen’s in his account of a series of expeditions to Spitzbergen which he called Young Men in the Arctic (1935). To Waugh, who was unfit and getting somewhat plump at the age of 30, the whole thing was a compound of blunders, dangerous situations and horror; to Glen, aged only 22 and knowledgeable about the country (he had already visited Spitzbergen twice), it was a time of exciting exertion and amounted to little more than an extended romp.

After a pleasant enough journey to the islands, the three then took a ‘fairly heavy whale boat’ and rowed it sixty miles up a river to a collection of four abandoned huts incongruously named Bruce City. At least, Glen and Lygon (who was a pretty good amateur heavyweight boxer) did the rowing while Waugh sat glumly at the tiller and wondered what he was doing there.

Attempts to use a sledge to transport stores up a glacier failed when a thaw prevented much movement even with stupendous effort (it was a warm July), so they were reduced to shuttling backwards and forwards over a period of a week, carrying the required equipment and foodstuffs on their backs, thirty or forty pounds a trip. Their attempts to fetch water from a stream were always distracted by dive-bombing from the many local terns who deemed their presence a threat. The party ingeniously fended off these attacks by placing a mess tin on a stick and holding it up above their heads as they moved around. The clang of beaks on metal was almost incessant.

Waugh’s mood was not improved by the diet. They intended to live on boiled oatmeal and soaked pemmican, dishes that Waugh found disgusting and almost inedible, though Lygon and Glen ate them heartily enough. They also had large tins of margarine for which, Glen assured Waugh, they would all soon have a craving. ‘We did not find it so,’ is Waugh’s dry remark. Waugh was also an intractable novice on skis, though Lygon quickly became adept at using them.

The original plan for the expedition was to cross the Martin Conway glacier and explore the northern district but the thaw meant that the glacier had developed deep crevasses and was impassable, so they set off to find an old trapper’s hut on the sea-shore and use it as a base for exploring the coast. By this time Waugh was so pessimistic he doubted that the hut existed, but they did find it after wading comfortably across a trickling stream which disconcertingly became a roaring icy torrent overnight. Suddenly they could not easily get stores from their base camp across to the hut. Glen devised a system of twine ropes linking the men with which he hoped to help Lygon get the stores across the river on his back. Lygon was an extremely strong man and the only one who could possibly do it. In the attempt to help Lygon recross the river, the rope broke and both Lygon and Waugh got swept away in the icy current, made the more dangerous by the large blocks of ice which it carried along. Waugh states that he tumbled over and over helplessly and had the impression that he was done for but then found himself in shallows from which he could easily escape. Lygon too got to the river bank and was amazingly still carrying stores on his back. In the hut, the three men had to rub each other’s bodies with sand in order to get their circulation back.

Glen saw this incident as unpleasant, but also as the sort of danger one expects to cope with on such expeditions. Waugh thought it life-threatening and attributable to Glen’s faulty leadership. Indeed the whole of the expedition with its necessary changes of plan seemed to Waugh’s orderly mind to be remarkably disorganised and ill-advised. ‘If I hadn’t joined the Church of Rome, I could never have survived your appalling incompetence,’ Waugh once informed Glen as they sheltered from a storm on a mountain ledge.

The final straw was the journey back to the whaler. Glen says they started after a day’s rest, but Waugh states that an injury to Lygon’s knee required four days to heal sufficiently for them to be able to move. According to Waugh, Glen wanted to cross the icy river again or build a turf cabin and wait, but then realised that in their weakened state these policies would certainly be unsuccessful and probably fatal. The only course of action, which Waugh presents as his own idea, was to walk round behind the glacier which was the source of the river water in a kind of loop through the mountains, a journey of perhaps forty miles, without tent, climbing rope, ice axes, crampons, with half a bowl of pemmican once a day as our only ration. Waugh did not expect to survive this walk; but in fact Glen had explored the area the previous year and knew the countryside well enough to take the safest route. In his account he presents this walk as the only course they had open to them.

There is no doubt that Waugh was aggrieved and appalled by the experience. He belittled Glen’s decisions and leadership, at least by implication, but there is certainly another view possible. Glen in his account states that he found Waugh extremely pessimistic : He proved himself an irrefutable prophet by consistently forecasting the worst. Glen expected to experience obstacles and difficulties like those that did occur - they were a normal part of exploring life. He saw Waugh as an inexperienced neophyte who had undertaken something he did not entirely understand. He nevertheless appreciated Waugh’s endurance and resolution, and thought of the whole expedition as a jolly, irresponsible six or seven weeks. Such youthful bravado, if expressed, would no doubt have offended Waugh at once.

Unfortunately we do not have an account of the expedition from Hugh Lygon. He suddenly died during a motor trip to Germany in 1936 and seems not to have written anything down. I have no evidence that Waugh and Glen ever met again after their Spitzbergen trip, though in later life Glen became one of the most remarkable agents in British Intelligence circles and part-inspiration for the character of James Bond in Ian Fleming’s novels.

Alexander Richard Glen was born in Glasgow on 8th April 1912, a member of a famous ship-owning family. He always stated that he was idle at school (Fettes College, Edinburgh) but he obtained a place at Balliol College, Oxford, in 1931, to read geography. It was at Oxford that he formed his love of adventure. He was on three exploratory expeditions to Spitzbergen (including the one with Waugh) before leading the full-scale Oxford University Expedition in 1935-36. It had the backing of both the Royal Navy and the Royal Geographical Society. He showed how to survive a polar winter by constructing a series of tunnels and rooms under the snow where the expedition lived for almost a year. He was, he stated, a contented mole under the ice. The temperature there reminded him of a June day at Henley though it was minus 40 degrees on top. The expedition carried out valuable research in glaciology as well as topographical and geological mapping. Its work on the propagation of radio waves in high latitudes contributed to the development of radar. Glen’s account of this expedition was published as Under the Pole Star (1937).

After Oxford he went into banking but was soon finding adventure in World War II. After training as a meteorologist, he was appointed to Naval Intelligence (where one of his colleagues was Ian Fleming) and sent to Belgrade as a naval attaché in the period when a jittery expectation of war pervaded the Balkans. There he organised the sabotage of German supply routes along the Danube. He had an eventful escape from Yugoslavia when the Germans did invade, being eventually repatriated by the Italians. In his book Target Danube (2002) he tells the fascinating story of British efforts to disrupt German oil supplies in the Balkans, an extensive campaign whose full story had not been told before.

His knowledge of Spitzbergen meant that he headed the allied attempt to preserve the islands from German occupation. In 1941 the Russian and Norwegian miners were evacuated and their mining facilities destroyed, and in 1942 Glen and his Anglo-Norwegian force held out against German air assaults. Their aim was to prevent the Germans using the island as a base against the Arctic convoys on which the Russians depended at that time. For his success Glen was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Norwegian War Cross.

In the autumn of 1943 Glen returned to the Balkans where he linked up with Tito’s partisans in eastern Serbia. He was with Tito when the Yugoslav met Stalin. He liked to tell the story of the Soviet leader leaning down from a dais to pick Tito up by his armpits, saying, ‘Remember, I may be old but I am still very strong.’ Glen then headed a British mission to identify and help with the clearance of mines from the Danube (which he himself had helped to plan), but the Russians made it clear that they wanted no help. For his intelligence work in this region - which he said consisted as much of drinking as of spying - he was awarded the Czechoslovak War Cross and a bar to his D.S.C. Certainly his life-long interest in vodka dated from his time in the Balkans.

After the war he continued with Naval Intelligence on a part-time basis until 1959, retiring then with the rank of Captain. He also became Chief Executive of Clarksons Shipping and helped it expand into the bulk carrier business with great success. He was knighted in 1967 by an impressed Labour government. The company’s diversification into Clarksons Holidays was a disaster, however, after the oil crisis of the early 1970’s virtually destroyed the holiday industry. He blamed himself for not taking a firm hand earlier in dealing with problems as they arose. He attempted personally to deal with customers’ complaints on the phone.

He resigned from Clarksons in 1973 but found many posts were still open to him. He became chairman of the Air Safety Committee and of the British Air Line Pilots’ Association. From 1968 to 1977 he was Chairman of the British Tourist Authority, a government-created organisation he compared to a four-legged animal with no head. He nevertheless made it work, becoming involved in all stages of the industry’s development and setting up 24 overseas offices. He was especially interested in developing tourism in the provinces away from London. He was also chairman of the Advisory Council of the Victoria and Albert Museum from 1978 to 1984. After resigning from B.T.A. in 1977 he became chairman of British Transport Hotels from 1978 to 1983; much of his later life was taken up by his interest in hotels. He helped his friend Fitzroy Maclean’s son Charles open Creggans Inn Hotel on Loch Fyne in Argyll when he was already well into his eighties.

Sir Alexander was married twice : to Nina Nixon from 1936 until 1945, when their marriage was dissolved; and to Baroness Zora de Collaert in 1947. He had met his second wife, a Serbian aristocrat, while serving in Belgrade and escaped with her when the Germans invaded. She died in 2003. His only son, by his first marriage, died before him. In 1975 he published his memoirs, Footholds Against a Whirlwind.

10. The Duke of Devonshire K.G. M.C. P.C.

The Duke of Devonshire  
The Duke of Devonshire as
Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, 1960
u
The Duke opening an appeal for
the John Rylands University Library of Manchester,
in January 2003
t

The 11th Duke of Devonshire died on 3rd May 2004 at the age of 84. He was of a younger generation than Evelyn Waugh’s, but ran across him on many occasions in the forties and fifties. It is clear from Waugh’s letters that they moved in the same circles and were often together on social occasions, especially in the period before the mid-fifties when Waugh was an enthusiastic social animal. Moreover, the Duke actually owned Pratt’s Club, one of the eminent London men’s clubs to which Waugh was sometimes invited. (He was in fact a member of White’s Club.) The Duke was invited to Waugh’s daughter Teresa’s coming-out party in 1956 : had he noticed it, Waugh would have been offended by the Duke’s wearing a dinner jacket when, even as late as this date, he would have expected tails. To make the situation more piquant, the Duke loathed the word jacket anyway.

It seems, reading between the lines, that Waugh and the Duke drank largely when together. Waugh commented ironically in a letter to Ann Fleming (January 1966) that she and the Duke must have drunk £400 worth of whisky together. In fact, for most of his life the Duke struggled against excessive drinking and then alcoholism. He regretted the occasions when he was rude to others in his cups and eventually defeated his addiction, remaining teetotal for his last twenty years.

Andrew Robert Buxton Cavendish was born on 2nd January 1920, the second son of the 10th Duke. He always expected his brother William Marquess of Hartington to inherit the title and the estates, and indeed admired him very much. Waugh did too : in a letter of 28th December 1942 (to his wife) he states that he had met the Cavendish boys - an excellent pair. But Hartington was killed in action in 1944 only four months after his marriage to Kathleen ‘Kick’ Kennedy, sister of the future President of the United States, who was herself killed in an air crash in 1948. Suddenly Lord Andrew Cavendish was the heir to the dukedom. This state of affairs was a surprise to his father too, for he had already advised Andrew that he would inherit nothing and that he had to make his own way in the world.

Andrew had married the Honourable Deborah Freeman-Mitford in 1941. She was the youngest of the Mitford sisters and a born organiser, a true mover and shaker. He could not have chosen better. When his father died suddenly in 1950, Andrew found himself faced with a daunting situation. He had to pay death duties amounting to over half of the value of the estates. His father had tried to avoid this burden by putting his shares in a discretionary trust, but he had to live for five years after the formation of the trust for his successor to avoid the duties. He failed to do so by 14 weeks.

It took seventeen or so years to pay off the death duties. The Devonshires did this by a number of remarkable stratagems and strategies. The Duke realised that he could earn more interest than he had to pay on his outstanding debts to the Inland Revenue by holding on to his money as long as possible, and so deliberately procrastinated in his responses to demands from that body. Nevertheless he realised that property had to go : the most striking was probably the great family house of Hardwick Hall - ‘more glass than wall’ - which ended up in the hands of the National Trust, though many acres in several areas of the country were also sold. Famous pictures in the Devonshire Collection went too, including Poussin’s The Holy Family (now in the Getty Museum in Los Angeles) and a picture whose value has since been degraded by being classed as a product of the school of Rembrandt.

Most famous of all was his opening of Chatsworth House, his great family seat in Derbyshire, to the public. He deliberately did not make the estate a popular fairground, zoo or public amenity in the manner of some of his fellow peers. He and the Duchess wanted a visit to be a quality experience, which meant that the house and estate had to be returned after a period of relative neglect to a first-class working condition. The Duchess has supervised all aspects of the refurbishment of the house for the last forty or more years.

The Duke, in making the estate an attractive proposition for visitors, ensured that the fabulous Cascade and the Emperor Fountain were in good order. The Fountain, which was built for and named after Czar Nicholas I of Russia though he never in fact visited Chatsworth, has been recorded as having a maximum shoot of 296 feet (90 metres). The Art Collection has been placed on show too : it is one of the outstanding private collections in the world, with paintings by Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Landseer, Lely, Lawrence, Van Dyke, Hals and Holbein and also by more modern masters such as Lucian Freud and Gwen John, purchased by the Duke. The library is a superb collection in itself, and there are many other objets d’art to be seen : the War Horse by Dame Elisabeth Frink, placed at one end of the Canal Pond, is a most impressive recent addition.

The result of the Duke and Duchess’s endeavours is that Chatsworth is now visited by around half a million people a year and is self-supporting. They are proud to have maintained Chatsworth as a working estate and to have combined this with visitor attractiveness. Indeed they rightly think that being a working estate is part of Chatsworth’s attraction for its visitors.

The Duke’s career and interests by no means began and ended with Chatsworth. During World War II he joined the Coldstream Guards, rose to captain’s rank and gained the Military Cross for an action in which his company captured a German salient and then held it for thirty-six hours against powerful counter-attacks on three sides, until relieved by supporting forces. According to his citation he kept up the morale of his very tired troops by his endless cheerfulness, energy and disregard of danger. The Duke used to say that the Army made a man of him : until then he had idled his way through Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, and failed to find a career.

After the war, which he entered with the expectation of having to make a career afterwards in his uncle Harold Macmillan’s book-publishing business, he moved into politics. He tried twice to enter the House of Commons but lost both times in the strong Labour seat of Chesterfield. In the Lords he made little impression though eventually his uncle, now Prime Minister, gave him ministerial posts, first as a parliamentary undersecretary, then as Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations and finally as Minister of State for Colonial Affairs. The Duke himself ascribed these ministries to pure nepotism and stated that his uncle had been grateful for some good shooting on his Yorkshire estates.

Shooting Party 1959 A Shooting Party in 1959 :
Hugh Fraser, the Duke, Harold Macmillan,
‘Boofy’ the Earl of Arran, and the Duchess

In later years he left the Conservative benches for the newly-formed Social Democratic Party but then sat on the crossbenches (the seats for the independents). Later still he considered standing as an anti-European candidate in the 2001 General Election but decided he was too old to do the campaigning.

In later years he developed a plethora of interests and charities that demanded his attention. He used to boast about being yet another of the Cavendishes who were no good at school sports, but in fact he was a tolerably good tennis player and maintained a strong commitment to horse-racing all his life. He owned Park Top, the winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Coronation Cup at Epsom, all in 1969; she finished three-quarters of a length down when favourite for that year’s Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe. So proud was the Duke of his mare’s performance that he wrote a book about her, A Romance of The Turf - Park Top. His love for the sport remained to the end : his colt Bachelor Duke ran seventh in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket just a few days before his death.

He had a great love of gardening and of books, which was instilled in him from childhood by his mother. The gardens at Chatsworth bear evidence of his attention; his bibliophily is less well known, though his library is a remarkable indication of it. In later life he bought the bookshop Heywood Hill, where his sister-in-law Nancy Mitford had worked fifty years before. In 1995 he founded the Heywood Hill literary prize of £10,000, awarded annually for style, wit and elegance in literature and open to publishers, writers, collectors, reviewers and cartoonists. He was made a Vice-President of the London Library in 1993 in recognition of his help in achieving an appeal for £3,000,000.

Towards the end of his life the Duke prepared his memoirs, Accidents of Fortune. They went to the printers a few days before his death. They were anticipated with both excitement and apprehension, for his life was by no means a pure and spotless one. He had a number of mistresses, a fact his wife seems to have accepted with continental fortitude. In his later years, however, the Duke expressed himself as both happy and fortunate in his marriage; I think the secret of our success has been tolerance. Stick it out, and you will get your reward, he commented.

The memoirs have now appeared in the United Kingdom, published by Michael Russell Publishing. Amazon.co.uk are selling the book at UK£13.95, plus postage and packing. They are a series of loosely-linked sketches more than a true autobiography and more discreet perhaps than was expected (some episodes are omitted entirely), but the tone of deprecation and amateur dabbling is most characteristic and attractive. It has not yet been published in the United States.

Leaving Chatsworth

The Duke received many honours in his lifetime, culminating with the award of the Garter in 1996. He leaves his widow, one son (Peregrine, now the 12th Duke), and two daughters. He is sincerely mourned by all came into contact with him, for he had no grandeur and no arrogance (his motto was Never make a fuss). No wonder all his workers and servants turned out in their work-clothes to line the route as he made his last journey from Chatsworth House.

11. Sir William Deakin D.S.O.

Sir William Deakin died on 22nd January 2005 at the age of 91. He was the man who did most of the early preparatory work of the Military Mission to Yugoslavia that Evelyn Waugh joined in the summer of 1944. It was his advice, and a two-hour conversation with Winston Churchill in Cairo, that led to the British government switching its aid from the royal resistance leader Mihailovic to the Communist partisan Tito. Despite this fact, Waugh had a real affection for Deakin and kept up their friendship after the war.

Frederick William Dampier Deakin was born on 3rd July 1913. He was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, where he took a First in Modern History. He was elected a Fellow of Wadham College in 1936 and later Tutor in Modern History, but is now more famous for being Winston Churchill’s historical assistant, helping him in his research for his biography Marlborough: His Life And Times and for A History of the English-Speaking Peoples. In 1941 he transferred to Special Operations Executive. He was at first based in Canada but was later seconded to the Yugoslav section at Cairo, soon to be transferred to Bari in Italy. Here he seems to have imbibed some of the left-wing enthusiasm of the deputy director, James Klugmann, who was later strongly suspected of being a Soviet spy.

Sir William Deakin at St Antony’s College for his 80th birthday

Sir William Deakin at 80

In May 1943 Deakin was parachuted into Yugoslavia with another officer to make contact with Tito, the Communist leader. He was to assess Communist strength and create a good relationship before a full military mission was established. He arrived at the very worst time, when these partisans were virtually surrounded by German forces in one of their highly-organised offences. Tito and Deakin had to cross quickly to safety in eastern Bosnia by undertaking a gruelling forced march. During this period Tito and Deakin grew to respect and like one another; they conversed in German which they could both speak well, though Tito had a Viennese accent. Deakin managed to save Tito’s life during a low-level aerial attack though both of them were wounded.

Deakin was so favourably impressed that he became convinced not only that the partisans were providing very much stiffer opposition to the Germans than Mihailovic’s forces but that the latter were in active collaboration with the enemy. When Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean landed to take charge of the mission, Deakin was able to use a vast amount of evidence, most of it supplied by the partisans, to convince him that Britain had to support the left-wing resistance movement. In November 1943 Deakin was lifted out of Yugoslavia to meet his old boss Churchill, and it was then, as he later admitted in his account of these times The Embattled Mountain, that he gave the Prime Minister the impression that the Royalists were near-collaborators and that the Partisans were the main fighting force. Deakin was then rewarded by becoming head of S.O.E. Cairo.

Deakin with Marshal Tito William Deakin with Tito

On Tito’s victory, Deakin was reassigned to the Embassy in Belgrade as First Secretary and Chargé d’Affaires but after the war he resigned from the Foreign Office and resumed his old civilian lifestyle at Wadham College and with Churchill, helping him to prepare the early volumes of his History of the Second World War. His scholarly and organisational talent was recognised when he was appointed the first Warden (or head) of St. Antony’s College, Oxford (1949), a post which required him to raise funds and establish many new areas of academic study. He continued with his historical studies, publishing an account of the relationship between Hitler and Mussolini in The Brutal Friendship in 1962 and The Embattled Mountain in 1971, as well as in 1965 The Case of Richard Sorge (co-written with G.R. Storry), an account of the life of a German based in Tokyo who as head of a Red Army spy ring warned the Russians of forthcoming invasion in 1941 before being detected and executed by the Japanese.

After his retirement as Warden in 1968, Deakin decided to live in France with his second wife Livia “Pussy” Nasta, a Rumanian. He continued to visit Tito in Yugoslavia and was a member of the official British delegation at Tito’s funeral in 1980. As the history of Yugoslavia began to be examined minutely by historians and others of varied partisanship, Deakin’s role was treated ever more controversially until for some people he became a villain of the piece. For them he was a highly controversial figure and implicit in the loss of Yugoslavia to the West; Evelyn Waugh was one to take this line though he liked Deakin as a man. Deakin maintained absolute silence, relying on his account of the events and the impartiality of true scholars to give him his due. His friends and some historians attribute to his work and friendship with the Yugoslav leader, Tito’s confidence in severing his links with the Soviet Union after the war and establishing a position of non-alignment.

Waugh does not mention Deakin in the Yugoslavian sections of either his diaries or letters, but does refer to meeting him at Bari. His laconic comment is Hindu legs, ascetic face. In meeting Deakin after the war, he noted that Deakin’s attitudes had changed : Bill Deakin full of guilt about Tito, he stated in his diary for 24th May 1946. He invited the Deakins round to dine and to stay with him at Piers Court. In a letter to Nancy Mitford (8th June 1946) he asked her, Do you know a very nice war hero called Bill Deakin? but her reply does not survive, as far as I know. Later still Waugh wrote to Ann Fleming (7th June 1954), Bill Deakin is a very lovable & complicated man. He can’t decide whether to be proud or ashamed of his collaboration with Tito.

Deakin received several honours, from Soviet Russia, France (Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur), Germany and Yugoslavia as well as his own country. He received the Distinguished Service Order in 1944 for his service in Yugoslavia and was knighted in 1975. He was elected an honorary Fellow of the British Academy in 1980.

12. Stuart Preston

Sergeant Preston Sergeant Preston
(photograph by Cecil Beaton)

Stuart Preston died in the American Hospital, Paris, on 9th February 2005 at the age of 89. He was the American sergeant who iluminated London society during the second World War and whom Evelyn Waugh immortalised as the Loot in his war trilogy Sword of Honour.

Stuart Duncan Preston Jr. was born at Hampton Bays, Long Island, on 22nd October 1915, and was educated at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, and at Yale. Soon after graduating he visited France and England in 1938, where Harold Nicolson, who had already met him in the States, took him under his wing. He developed close friendships with the architectural historian and writer James Lees-Milne and the critic Raymond Mortimer before returning to the United States to do post-graduate studies and briefly work as a curator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. But already he had caused a stir in London drawing-rooms and great hostesses, including Sybil Colefax and Emerald Cunard, vied to have such a handsome and well-educated young man at their receptions.

Preston returned to England in 1943 as Technical Sergeant Preston - he never accepted an officer’s commission. His exact role was never clear to many of his friends, but this did not stop the Sergeant from conquering Society even more completely than before. He became an indispensable ornament because he knew everybody of any consequence in that world. He was seen and wanted everywhere because he had a remarkably sweet nature which stood out in the brittle, sardonic society he frequented. King George VI was once heard complaining, I always meet the generals and brigadiers; when am I going to meet the Sergeant?

It is this aspect of Preston’s activities that Waugh dwells upon in the third part of his trilogy, Unconditional Surrender. Naming his character Lieutenant Padfield, he has the Loot turn up at the funeral of Guy Crouchback’s father, at several functions in London society, and even on a mission to the Yugoslav partisans! He seems to pop up everywhere and always knows what is going on behind the scenes.

In fact Sergeant Preston was an Intelligence Officer attached to General Eisenhower’s headquarters. After the Normandy invasions he was assigned to the Arts and Monuments Commission and given responsibility for identifying and keeping tabs on works of art denominated as war booty, work which began in France and extended into Germany. For this work, which prevented many works of art from simply disappearing, France awarded him the Croix de Guerre.

After the war Preston returned to the States and became first a reporter for Art News and then, in 1949, art critic for the New York Times. He became a respected commentator on matters artistic, his views always sought and considered. He found time to write or edit books on El Greco, Vuillard, Titian and the contemporary Italian painter Nicola Simbari. He was also a respected writer on modern American painters. He had an absorbing interest in opera which resulted in his production of a splendid memorial to the old Metropolitan Opera, Farewell to the Old House (1966).

Stuart Preston in Paris Stuart Preston
in Paris late in life

In 1965 Preston resigned from the New York Times to devote himself to freelance writing. In the early seventies he decided to settle permanently in France, where he spent his last thirty years. He occasionally wrote articles and reviews for art magazines and kept up his London friendships, including those with the two Dianas, Cooper and Mosley, who shared his francophilia. He was estranged from James Lees-Milne for a time when Lees-Milne published his diaries in 1975 and included some disobliging comments on Preston’s character and activities, but they were reconciled in old age. After the war Preston expressed an aversion to being addressed by his erstwhile nickname, the Sarge.

Stuart Preston never married.

Evelyn Waugh’s description of Lieutenant Padfield conveys a considerable measure of the impact that Sergeant Preston had on London society in World War II :

Everyone knew Lieutenant Padfield; even Guy who knew so few people. He was a portent of the Grand Alliance. London was full of American soldiers, tall, slouching, friendly, woefully homesick young men who seemed always in search of somewhere to sit down. In the summer they had filled the parks and sat on the pavements round the once august mansions which had been assigned to them. For their comfort there swarmed out of the slums and across the bridges multitudes of drab, ill-favoured adolescent girls and their aunts and mothers, never before seen in the squares of Mayfair and Belgravia. These they passionately and publicly embraced, in the blackout and at high noon, and rewarded with chewing-gum, razor-blades, and other rare trade-goods from their P.X. stores. Lieutenant Padfield was a horse of a different colour; not precisely, for his face, too, was the colour of putty; he too slouched; he, too, was a sedentary by habit. But he was not at all homesick; when not in a chair he must have been in rapid motion, for he was ubiquitous. He was twenty-five years old and in England for the first time. He had been one in the advanced party of the American army and there was no corner of the still intricate social world where he was not familiar.

Guy first met him when on leave he went reluctantly to call on his uncle Peregrine. This was during the Loot’s first days in England. “ … Brought a letter from a fellow who used to come to Cowes. Wants to see my miniatures …”

Then during the same week Guy was asked to dinner at the House of Commons by his brother-in-law Arthur Box-Bender. “… Told we ought to do something about some of these Americans. They’re interested in the House, naturally. Do come along and give a hand …” There were six young American officers, the Loot among them.

Very soon he had ceased to be a mere member of the occupying forces, to whom kindness should be shown. Two or three widows survived from the years of hospitality and still tried meagrely to entertain. The Lieutenant was at all their little parties. Two or three young married women were staking claims to replace them as hostesses. The Loot knew them all. He was in every picture gallery, every bookshop, every club, every hotel. He was also in every inaccessible castle in Scotland, at the sick bed of every veteran artist and politician, in the dressing-room of every leading actress and in every university common-room, and he expressed his thanks to his hosts and hostesses not with the products of the P.X. stores but with the publications of Sylvia Beach and sketches by Fuseli.

When Guy went to have his hair cut the Loot seemed always to be in the next chair. ... He had no apparent military function.

(Sword of Honour, chapter 8 ‘State Sword’)

13. Bridget Grant

Anne Bridget Domenica Grant, née Herbert (1914-2005), died on 8th July 2005 at the age of 91. She was the sister of Evelyn Waugh’s wife Laura and possibly the only other member of the Herbert family that he could both love and tolerate.

She was born on 22nd February 1914, the daughter of Aubrey Herbert, second son of the 4th Earl of Carnarvon and a traveller, professional solder and member of parliament for Yeovil, and Mary Vesey, daughter of Viscount de Vesci. Bridget was the middle daughter of three, her only brother Auberon being born well after the girls. She was brought up at the family home, Pixton Park, a Georgian mansion in Somerset. After her father’s death in 1923 her mother embraced Roman Catholicism and was followed into the church by all her children. Bridget remained a devoted Catholic to the end of her life.

Bridget completed her education in London and Paris. She became used to foreign travel as her mother took her on several tours abroad and anyway holidays were often spent at the family villa at Portofino in Italy. It was here that Waugh first met her and her younger sister Laura. He was invited to Portofino by their elder sister Gabriel after a Mediterranean cruise with friends for which he had the ulterior motive of doing his best to prevent Alfred Duggan from succumbing to his alcoholism. In a letter to Katharine Asquith (September 1933) he described the people there, among them a “white mouse called Laura; fat girl full of sex appeal named Bridget”. The visit was enlivened by an incident when Mrs Herbert decided that Waugh and Peter Acton were mocking her (they were making jokes about her homeland, Ireland) and she pelted them with hard Italian buns. Gabriel had to drive the two young men around the Italian countryside for six hours afterwards while Bridget tried to calm the atmosphere at home. In fact Mrs Herbert bore no grudge.

Bridget married Captain (later Major) Allister Edward Grant, always known as Eddie, in November 1934. He was twice her age and might best be described as an experienced man of the world. He was a talented horseman and had managed to break his neck not once but twice when riding in the Grand National. He worked in publishing so they settled at first in London. Their daughters Christine (known as Polly) and Anne were born there and then in 1942 their son Robin. During the war Eddie went into MI5 while Bridget left London and took her daughters to Pixton, where she became billeting officer for the area. She managed to save Pixton from being occupied by the army by having it overwhelmed with evacuee children, the enemy with whom the young Auberon Waugh waged a relentless campaign, for Evelyn’s family too had moved there for the duration.

In 1945 the Grants moved into Nutcombe, a delightful if dilapidated Elizabethan manor house in Devon. But Eddie died suddenly in 1947, leaving Bridget to cope with three young children. Like her sister Laura, she was interested in farming though inexpert in its ways, and tried to eke out more of a living on the land. The sisters remained close, and each helped the others in many ways. Waugh approved of this : in a letter to Laura dated 13th October 1940 he begs her, after the death of their baby Mary a few hours old, not to have the local doctor to attend her again. “Make Bridget take care of you,” he urges. (He was on the Dakar expedition at the time.)

The strength of the sisterly bond can also be seen in what might be considered an odd letter that Waugh wrote to Laura in October 1944. He is thinking about the time of peace to come and exercised about how he can practise his craft of writing while Laura gets on with farming, which she loved. “Why should we not dispose of Stinkers (their nickname for their home, Piers Court at Stinchcombe) and buy you a simple farm house and property near Bridget for yourself & the children where I will live when not working, and for my work and collecting mania and your frequent visits retain my aunts (sic) house at Midsomer Norton.” In this message we can see all Waugh’s impatience with the disorderliness produced by having children around the place. It occurs also in a later sentence in the letter : “I could not work near my children, I could not live permanently near the Grants.” Perhaps fortunately, nothing transpired of this plan.

After Eddie’s death Laura was unwise enough to write to Evelyn that she felt for the first time in her life that she had been of use to someone. She meant that she had been able to be of service in dealing with Bridget’s grief and the distress of the children. Waugh rather pointedly told her that he could recall numerous occasions when she had been of use to their children and “several when you have been of use to me”.

But the statement does show how close the sisters were, and how their families counted for very much in their lives. For Bridget, her extended family supplied her major interest along with hunting and desultory farming. In 1971 she moved from Nutcombe to a cottage on the Pixton estate where she lived for the rest of her life. Her house was always open to whoever wished to visit her. Tidiness, sophistication and good order were never on the agenda with Bridget, but warmth and welcome were.

Bridget’s contribution to Waugh’s literature can best be discerned in the description of the preparations for hunting towards the end of Scoop. Priscilla’s careful preliminaries are based on Waugh’s observation of Bridget going about the serious business of making her hunting arrangements :

For over an hour the details of Priscilla’s hunt occupied the dining-room. Cold she send her horse overnight to a farm near the meet; could she leave the Caldicotes at dawn, pick up her horse at Boot Magna, and ride on; could she borrow Major Watkins’s trailer and take her horse to the Caldicotes for the night, then as far as Major Watkins’s in the morning and ride on from there; if she got the family car from Aunt Agnes and Major Watkins’s trailer, would Lady Caldicote lend her a car to take it to Major Watkins’s; would Aunt Anne allow the car to stay the night; would she discover it was taken without her permission? They discussed the question exhaustively, from every angle; Troutbeck twice glowered at them from the door and finally began to clear the table ...

Scoop, page 196 (Penguin edition)

Bridget Grant is survived by her children Polly and Robin, and by nine of her ten grandchildren as well as several great-grandchildren. (Anne died in 1984.)

14. Lady Sibell Rowley (née Lygon)

Lady Sibell with Evelyn Waugh Lady Sibell Lygon with EW
at a party in the 1930’s

(She was nearly a head taller than he)

Lady Sibell, who died aged 98 on 31st October 2005, was the last remaining member of the Madresfield family that cheered Evelyn Waugh in the difficult time he went through in the thirties after his divorce from his first wife.

She was the second of the Lygon sisters, born on 10th October 1907. Her early family history was much the same as her sister Lady Dorothy’s, and you should read my obituary of her for further information about this. Lady Sibell was not as close a friend of Waugh’s as were her sisters Maimie and Dorothy, and in the fun and childishness of the Madresfield excapades one can sense that hers was a cooler, more detached and observant personality. This appearance of self-control may have been partly due to her height, which was over six feet. Nevertheless, Waugh mentions her with a light comic touch in many of his letters.

Nevertheless an account of her life could easily have provided passages for many of Waugh’s novels. In London in the thirties she dabbled like many young women of the time in such things as helping to run hairdressing and beauty parlours though she was not a noted habituée of late-night parties and night-clubs. She differed from many in becoming a socialist. She attempted journalism, contributing to Harper’s Bazaar and the Daily Express. Unfortunately she managed to provoke a writ by her own uncle, the famous Duke of Westminster, which required an apology to circumvent. She had a number of affairs, some of them with famous men, including Max Beaverbrook, the publisher and Tory politician; Aneurin Bevan the fiery socialist, who seems to have wanted to marry her; and later in life, after the death of her husband, the Earl of Rosebery.

In 1939 she married the aircraft designer Michael Rowley, who soon joined the Royal Air Force as a pilot on the outbreak of the Second World War. Unfortunately he had already been married, as a strange sort of joke, to a German girl named Eleonore, but the partnership proved to be only too legal. Sibell and he actually went to Germany to see Eleonore; her attitude seemed to be one of resignation and at the time she did not cause trouble. But during the war (when Michael was already ill with the brain tumour which was to kill him) Eleonore asked for information through a Swiss intermediary. Lady Sibell told her he had been killed. This falsehood rebounded after the war when Eleonore found out the truth and instituted a law-suit for damages at the shock that the news had given her. The jury found for Eleonore and awarded her the sizeable sum for the time of £814. Naturally the first marriage was dissolved and the Rowleys then married for a second and legal time in 1949.

Michael was declining, however, and died at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, in 1952 after a long illness. Sibell nursed him in those last, difficult years with considerable devotion and selflessness. She was resolved, however, to live her life without Michael to the full, and so she accepted the Mastership of the Ledbury Hunt a month after his death. Her hunt secretary was Major Peter Philips, father of Mark the Olympic gold medallist and first husband of Princess Anne, and together the two made a formidable team. Throughout her life she was a keen huntswoman and unlike her sisters always preferred to ride astride. She managed to be present at Madresfield for a meet of the Croome Hunt early in 2005 as a sign of her defiance of the imminent application of the laws against fox-hunting. She had waged many campaigns against hunt saboteurs, generally without violence, in the decades leading up to the ban.

In her later years she lived first at Droitwich and then in the lovely little town of Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire. Lady Sibell is buried at Madresfield. She had no children.

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The editor of Evelyn Waugh’s diaries, Michael Davie, died on 7th December 2005 at the age of 81. He had a varied career as a journalist, being at different times a diplomatic correspondent, a religious correspondent and a sports correspondent before becoming a highly successful deputy editor of The Observer at its twentieth-century peak. He then had a four-year spell in Australia, a country he loved, as editor of The Age in Melbourne. When he returned he concentrated on writing and had a great success with a biography of Lord Beaverbrook, co-written with his wife Anne Chisholm. Other books dealt with subjects as various as the Titanic, cricket (he was a great supporter of the game), California and President Lyndon B. Johnson. At the time of his death he was engaged on a biography of Maurice Bowra, a project that would certainly have interested Waugh aficionados. Let us hope it will be completed.

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15. Zita James

 Zita Jungman Zita Jungman,
by Ambrose McEvoy

Zita James, née Jungman, was the elder sister of one of Evelyn Waugh’s early loves, Teresa. She died at the age of 102 on 18th February 2006.

She was born on 13th September 1903, a little over a month before Waugh himself, the daughter of the Anglo-Dutch artist Nico Jungman and Beatrice Mackay. Her mother divorced her father in 1918 and then married Richard Guinness, who was distantly related to the brewing family. The sisters lived in some comfort in London and suffered the usual education of society’s teenage girls, predominantly social in character. Their mother was fond of the company of the gliterati of the time, and the girls soon learned how to entertain both their guests and themselves.

Zita was perhaps unfortunate in having a life as a young woman that completely outshone her middle years and long old age. In the early twenties the sisters met Lady Eleanor Smith, daughter of F.E. Smith (the Earl of Birkenhead), and with Loelia Ponsonby, Enid Raphael and three others created the original Bright Young People. They became quickly famous with their bottle parties (created supposedly because it saved the hostess the embarrassment of being unable to serve an adequate supply of alcohol), their charades and their treasure hunts. Their escapades were strangely attractive to a society starved of amusement, glitter and cheerfulness in the years immediately after World War I.

Baby & Zita Jungman Teresa ‘Baby’ and Zita Jungman,
dressed for performances
in a review at the London Pavilion

The two sisters were both attractive young women, slim and almost boy-like in the fashion of the time. Among those who were drawn into their circle were Cecil Beaton, the photogapher, who took many snaps of them (see this site - the National Portrait Gallery), and Sacheverell Sitwell, a member of the famous literary family. Evelyn Waugh got to know them well after his disastrous first marriage, and fell in love with Teresa, whose nickname was Baby. His attempts to seduce Baby, or at least get her to acknowledge his love for her in a reciprocal manner, were bound to fail because of the sisters’ firm Catholicism and the fact that she found Waugh physically unattractive.

The girls soon tired of their creation when the inventive pranks of the Bright Young People degenerated into media events organised by hordes of society people in search of adrenalin and publicity, and they withdrew from the scene. Zita became preoccupied with romance. Sacheverell Sitwell, despite having recently married Georgia Doble, found her irresistible. She nevertheless became friends with Georgia and her relationship with Sachie, though long-lasting, seems to have been entirely platonic. But the fact was that she was more interested in his brother Osbert, an attachment that proved to be doomed when he teamed up with David Horner.

In the end she married Arthur James in 1929. It was an unsatisfactory marriage from the start, as was clear when Sachie Sitwell turned up on their honeymoon. He was certain that Zita would soon tire of such a blinkered man, and he was right : the divorce took place in 1932. The friendship with Sachie petered out in the thirties too as he found other loves.

In later life Zita and Teresa bought a cottage together in Gloucestershire. Waugh visited them in 1953 and in a letter to Nancy Mitford wrote :

Their condition of destitution and privation, though serious, has been greatly exaggerated. Very pretty little cottage, clean & sweet smelling, two sorts of jam (Tiptree), hot scones, plum cake, China tea, lilies-of-the-valley.

In old age the two sisters moved to Ireland, to a cottage on the Leixlip Castle estate. There Zita celebrated her 100th birthday in 2003. Her sister Teresa, who is herself approaching her 100th birthday in 2008, survives her.

16. Dame Muriel Spark

The novelist Dame Muriel Spark died in her Tuscan home on 13th April 2006 at the age of 88. For the last fifty years of her life she was one of the greater novelists writing in English. Many obituaries tell of her literary and personal life, so this one will concentrate on her relationship with Evelyn Waugh.

Muriel Spark published her first novel The Comforters in 1956 at the age of 38. She had had a notable literary career, working for the Poetry Society and becoming editor of its Poetry Review in the years after World War II, and her poetry had attracted the attention of Graham Greene, who secretly funded her writing. Waugh was astounded by her novel, partly because of its quality and partly because she had tackled the same theme as he was then working on, lunacy in a writer. He even feared that some would think he had written it under a pseudonym. The novelist Gabriel Fielding (Alan Barnsley) had first sent the novel to him, and Waugh wrote to him in a letter of 29th October 1956 :

Thank you for sending me Mrs Spark’s remarkable book.
The first half, up to the motor accident, is brilliant. The second half rather diffuse. The mechanics of the hallucinations are well managed. These particularly interested me as I am myself engaged on a similar subject.

He went on to publish a full review of the book in The Spectator in February 1957. He was both measured and enthusiastic :

This is a complicated, subtle and, to me at least, an intensely interesting novel. I do not think that it is totally successful. Miss Spark has attempted something very difficult. There are elements of gaucherie which a duller, more experienced novelist would have avoided. But at a time when ‘experimental’ writing has quite justly fallen into disrepute, her book is highly exhilarating.

Waugh then goes on to give the drift of the story and then writes :

... the narrator, herself an important character in the story, goes off her head. The area of her mind which is composing the novel becomes separated from the area which is participating in it, so that, hallucinated, she believes that she is observant of, observed by, and in some degree under the control of, an unknown second person. In fact she is in the relation to herself of a fictitious character to a story-teller. It so happens that The Comforters came to me just as I had finished a story of similar theme and I was struck by how much more ambitious was Miss Spark’s essay and how much better she had accomplished it.

Waugh then explained why he thought the novel not completely successful - it was difficult for the reader to distinguish the real world from the fantasy of the narrator’s disordered mind. He completes his review with :

In spite of its basic obscurity the surface is alight with happy passages. The scallywags who, mostly, comprise the cast are deliciously portrayed. It is a thoroughly enjoyable work. I can’t think, by the way, why it is called The Comforters.

Such high praise from a novelist of Waugh’s eminence delighted Mrs Spark, and she remained grateful to him to the end of her life. The story Waugh was preparing was, of course, The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, where, it must be said, there is no difficulty in distinguishing the reality from the fantasy.

His interest in her writing never faltered. On 21st April 1959 Waugh recommended Anne Fleming : Read Memento Mori by Muriel Spark.

On 11th October 1960 he wrote to Muriel Spark herself :

Dear Miss Spark
How do you do it? I am dazzled by
The Bachelors. Most novelists find there is one kind of book they can write (particularly humorous novelists) and go on doing it with variations until death. You seem to have an inexhaustible source. Bachelors is the cleverest & most elegant of all your clever & elegant books. I have no idea how wide your success has been up to date. I suspect that you are still the sort of writer whom people rejoice to introduce to their friends. Bachelors should take you clear through that phase into full fame. May you enjoy it.

In later life Muriel Spark escaped the literati of England (who bored and harassed her), living first in New York and then in Italy. She continued writing novels, her last one (The Finishing School) being published in 2005, though her most famous was undoubtedly The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961). There is an anarchic, fantastic spirit in all of them, often with characters who are not quite aligned comfortably with the society in which they live. She was certainly proud of being appreciated by Evelyn Waugh; she may easily be thought of as one of his successors.

16. Lord Deedes K.B.E. M.C. P.C.

Lord 'Bill' Deedes

Lord Deedes, known to all as Bill, died at his home in Kent on 17th August 2007 after a short illness, at the age of 94. He was an increasingly rare kind of old-style politician, the liberal Tory with a social conscience and a clear-eyed view both of his party and of his own capabilities. He was also one of the great British journalists of the twentieth century.

William Francis Deedes was born on 1st June 1913 into an old county family in Kent, several of his ancestors having been members of parliament for the county in previous centuries. (Jane Austen, no less, recommended a vote for another William Deedes.) His father, though, had Labour leanings, but that fact did not prevent him from trying to maintain family property at Saltwood Castle, with disastrous effects for his finances. Young Deedes was educated at Harrow but went into the newspaper industry with the old Morning Post at the age of 16. He started as a humble reporter, but by 1935, when he was sent to cover the war in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), he was a trusted and valued colleague.

Bill Deedes ready to go to Abyssinia,
with one item of his luggage at his feet

It was in Addis Ababa that he met Evelyn Waugh, who was the correspondent for the Daily Mail and had been in the country before, for the Emperor’s Coronation in 1930. Waugh was delighted to see the vast amount of luggage that Deedes in his inexperience of local conditions had brought with him. He was well equipped for tropical conditions but unfortunately Abyssinia is not tropical, so for warmth he was forced to wear the tweed suit he travelled in.

Among other things Waugh taught him to ride, and the two seem to have developed a real friendship, particularly as Waugh could not stand several of the other journalists in the little coterie that the authorities successfully corralled from one non-existent place of interest to another. Waugh’s distance from the usual reporter’s modes of procedure can be gauged by his decision to send a critical report to his London press-desk in Latin, which nobody there could understand, thus losing the scoop Waugh intended for them. Deedes was able to guide him in some of the more dubious or valuable practices of journalism, though Waugh protested at despatching outright fiction. (In 1930 one reporter had sent off an account of the Coronation before the event had taken place.)

Deedes became famous for being the original of the character of William Boot in Waugh’s novel Scoop. In fact, Deedes was not the fumbling though lucky reporter that Boot was, for he was a very experienced and capable journalist. The only point of resemblance lay in the cumbersome luggage that both men brought with them. To the end of his life Deedes kept at his home an example of the zinc-lined trunks in which he carried his luggage. But he suffered the nickname Boot for many years, especially among the Waugh circle.

In later life the two men rarely met, but they maintained a respect for each other. After Waugh’s death, Deedes became a splendid supporter of Waugh’s qualities not just as a novelist but as a journalist and columnist. He appeared at events celebrating Waugh’s centenary in 2003 to outline Waugh’s abilities in a cogent and fluent manner.

Seventy years of public life lay ahead of him in 1936, however. His coverage of the appalling conditions of the poor in Britain during the depression years gave him a social conscience which never left him. When the Morning Post was taken over by the Daily Telegraph in 1937, he found his niche for the rest of his life.

When war broke out he switched from a territorial battalion made up largely of journalists to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, and became the only man who remained an officer with the regiment from beginning to end of the war. Soon after D-Day his company was sent to Normandy, and he fought throughout the western campaign. He won the Military Cross for his bravery and skill in disentangling his men from a dangerous situation while crossing a canal in the Netherlands in April 1945.

After the war Deedes returned to the Daily Telegraph, working mainly on the Peterborough column for more than thirty years. He had developed an interest in politics and was naturally drawn to the modernising camp that was trying to remould the Conservative party after its shattering defeat in the 1945 election. He was selected as candidate for the Ashford constituency ahead of such young lions as Edward Heath, the future Prime Minister, and was duly elected in 1950. He found the House of Commons an agreeable place, partly because he was himself such a pleasant companion and had an open mind. Among early successes was being chosen in 1952 to appear as an interviewer of Harold Macmillan in the first party broadcast on television outside an election campaign. It was, he admitted later, a cripplingly stage-managed affair.

In 1954 he was appointed as Parliamentary Secretary (a first step on the ministerial ladder) in the Ministry of Housing and a year later gained a similar office at the Home Office. He admitted that he began to suspect he was not kitted out to be a good minister, for he found the routine and minutiae well nigh unendurable. He returned to the back benches in 1957, but found that his knowledge was invaluable in a new role at the Daily Telegraph, for he was now writing political columns.

He returned to government in 1962, after Macmillan’s Night of the Long Knives when the Prime Minister sacked seven Cabinet ministers. He became Minister without Portfolio (in charge of the Information Services), and had a seat in the cabinet. He soon became convinced, however, that Britain did not need or want what was effectively a propaganda supremo charged with putting forward the government’s case. As this was the time the Tory government was disintegrating under a series of scandals including the Profumo affair, it was not a happy time for Deedes. He tried to divert the waves of hostility and diminish the effects of scandal, but the situation was (partly) rescued only by Macmillan’s resignation from ill-health in 1963.

Deedes remained as a minister in Sir Alec Douglas-Home’s ministry, and had indeed played an important role in smoothing Sir Alec’s succession to the top job, but he was relieved when the Labour victory in 1964 saw him out of office for good. He remained an influential member of Commons and party committees, but decided in 1974 to concentrate on his journalism and gave up his seat in the Commons. In the same year Lord Hartwell, the owner, offered him the editorship of the Daily Telegraph, and he entered on what should have been his most glorious phase.

In fact he was not always in tune with his employer’s wishes or even with those of his employees. The young men who wrote the leaders tended to have Thatcherite opinions which were not always his own gut instincts. Opposed to them were the unions, whose power in this pre-digital age was paramount : Deedes found their restrictive practices galling. He found it difficult to get change in any field, though he always got on well on a personal level with Lord Hartwell. This did not stop Hartwell from preventing him from re-designing the format of the paper, which Deedes badly wanted to do. Nevertheless the circulation of the Daily Telegraph reached high levels during his editorship.

It was during this period that he again achieved literary fame. This time it was as the recipient of the fictional letters of Denis Thatcher in the satirical magazine Private Eye’s column Dear Bill. In fact Thatcher was a close friend, far more so than was his wife the Prime Minister Margaret, and the two of them were golfing partners. Deedes used to say that Private Eye frequently got the tone of Denis Thatcher’s conversation pretty accurately, though not always the content!

When Conrad Black took over the paper in 1986 he wanted a new editor and Deedes, with some relief, departed. As a sign of her appreciation, and no doubt to please her husband, Margaret Thatcher gave him a send-off dinner at Downing Street. He was however given a role as a columnist on the paper which he maintained to the end of his life, writing his last column only two weeks before his death.

Bill Deedes on TV, 1952  Bill Deedes at Lewa, 2004
Bill Deedes on the first non-election
TV party broadcast, 1952
Bill Deedes in his office  Bill Deedes with friend
in northern Kenya, 2004

In retirement he concentrated on the good causes that had in fact interested him since youth. He involved himself in the work of the charity Care, which tried to help some of the poorest people in the world, visiting several countries in Africa and Asia to plan aid. Wherever he went he was sure to produce a number of newspaper articles that brought the attention of his public to atrocious conditions that needed addressing. He became convinced that land-mines were an appalling imposition on already desperate people and joined with Diana Princess of Wales to impress the world with the problem. He found the princess a joy to work with and became a great admirer, so his shock at her sudden death in 1997 was profound. He wrote a most moving article in response to the tragedy.

He suffered a stroke while on tour in India in 2001 (he attributed it to lack of whisky-and-soda), but that did not stop him, for he visited Darfur and other countries in Africa in 2004.

Lord Deedes became a life peer in 1986, a mark of Mrs. Thatcher’s esteem for him, and was knighted in 1999 for humanitarian services as well as for journalism. He published a book of memoirs, Dear Bill, in 1997. He married Hilary Branfoot in 1942; she died in 2004. He leaves a son, Jeremy, and three daughters. Another son pre-deceased him.

 David Cliffe
page last updated 11th November 2007
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