Duncan McLaren, author of Evelyn! Rhapsody for an Obsessive Love, has given us the results of another of his ambitious research projects and much to think about. He follows the trajectory of the relationship between Waugh and Audrey Lucas, which goes from their North London childhoods to an affair that followed Waugh’s first marriage. He also plots Audrey’s life after the affair, when she became a novelist, leaving intriguing allusions to her life with Waugh in her published works. McLaren makes an interesting case that Audrey inspired the character of Angela Lyne in Black Mischief, playing the neglected woman in an affair with Basil Seal (who McLaren argues is heavily autobiographical).
McLaren concludes his article, published on his website, with a thoughtful assessment of Audrey’s impact on Waugh’s life and career:
Lucas’s importance, as far as Evelyn Waugh’s history is concerned, was in loving him in 1930 and in giving him the confidence to portray himself as Basil Seal in Black Mischief. Equally, I suspect it was the recovery of Evelyn’s self-confidence as a sexual being that allowed him to go on to write in depth and with maturity about the failed affair with She-Evelyn.