This week’s Spectator reviews a biography of Pater Watson, probably best known to Waugh fans as the financial backer of Cyril Connolly’s Horizon magazine during WWII and early postwar austerity. The magazine and Connolly are satirized as Survival and Everard Spruce in Waugh’s Unconditional Surrender. Watson’s biography is by Adrian Clark and Jeremy Domfield and is entitled Queer Saint: The Cultured life of Peter Watson, Who Shook Twentieth Century Art and Shocked High Society.
Watson possessed seemingly unlimited wealth from an inheritance based on margarine. He once bought a car for Robert Heber-Percy (Lord Berner’s companion) only to be forced to extend the same favor to another of his chums:
Cecil Beaton was so jealous that he demanded one too. And it was forthcoming: ‘Do please select any roadster which catches your fancy,’ replied the exceedingly wealthy Watson, who inspired lifelong unrequited love in poor Beaton.
Waugh was not a particular friend of Watson but would have known him through Connolly and other connections and did benefit from his largesse indirectly through publication in Horizon. That magazine, for example, carried Waugh’s The Loved One in an issue wholly dedicated to that novella. In a Mail on Sunday review (April 4, 2015) Craig Brown wrote that Watson’s name pops up in a letter Waugh wrote to his agent in February 1940:
Is there any chance of selling the two chapters under the title “Work Suspended” to a high-brow paper? Connolly has started one backed by a pansy of means named Watson. (Letters, p. 137)
The material that became Chapter One of Work Suspended appeared as “His Father’s House” in Horizon, v.4, No. 23 (November 1941).
The Spectator review is by Sofka Zinovieff who recently wrote a memoir of Heber-Percy and Lord Berners. See earlier post.