Evelyn Waugh’s Old Neighborhood

This week’s Observer ran an article about the recent transformation of the borough of Islington from the London home of New Labour’s founder Tony Blair to a district that now seems to be exemplified by a movement to revert the Labour Party to its socialist roots. The latest upheaval is lead by Jeremy Corbyn. He is MP for Islington North and is also a resident.

The article also briefly summarizes Islington’s history as a haven for artists and intellectuals in earlier years. Among those mentioned are Charles Dickens, George Orwell, Charlie Chaplin, Vladimir Lenin, and Evelyn Waugh. In fact, when Waugh lived there briefly in the late 1920s, after his marriage to Evelyn Gardner, it was described as the sort of place where City gents rented spaces for their mistresses. The Waughs’ flat was in Canonbury Square, now heavily gentrified.  This was the only London residence Waugh ever called home as an adult, independent of his parents who lived further north in Hampstead. After his first marriage broke up, Waugh lived a rather nomadic existence until his second marriage to Laura Herbert in 1937 when they settled in Gloucestershire.

Another later resident of Canonbury Square was George Orwell who lived there in the 1940s and whose flat is marked by a plaque. Waugh’s Islington flat, unlike Orwell’s, is not marked by a plaque, but Waugh would probably prefer it that way, since the brief part of his existence that was lived there was not one he cared to remember.

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