This week’s New York Review of Books (June 4) has a retrospective article (“The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”) by Robert Gottlieb on the life of Evelyn Waugh’s good friend, Diana Cooper. The occasion for the article is the U.S. publication of Diana’s letters to her son, John Julius Norwich: Darling Monster. The article lists several books consulted by Gottlieb by and about her and her husband, including her letters to Evelyn Waugh and Conrad Russell.
Her friendships with these two men are contrasted. In the company of the older Russell she could relax, but her relationship with the younger Waugh was “punctuated by friction, disagreement, asperity.” Diana referred to it as “that jagged stone.” But, according to Gottlieb, their correspondence shows “that they enjoyed snapping at each other as much as they enjoyed being together.”
The article concludes with a description of her driving habits. Not mentioned is the fact that Waugh’s own first description of her in his fiction involves a driving incident. This is in Scoop where she appears for the first time as Julia Stitch. According to her son, driving remained her favorite “occupation” until she was 89 when she drove into a traffic island on Wigmore Street. “She drove straight home, locked the car, went to bed and never drove again.” Nor did she ever leave the bed where she died a few years later in 1986, shortly before her 94th birthday.
The article is behind a paywall, but your public library may have a subscription that you can use online without having to visit the library.