Sale Announced of Anthony Powell’s Waugh-Inscribed Books

Bonhams has announced the sale next month of several books by Evelyn Waugh, including some of biographical interest inscribed to his friend Anthony Powell. For example, Waugh inscribed Powell’s copy of Decline and Fall (1928) with the message, “For Tony who rescued the author from Worse than Death.” The inscription is an expression of gratitude for Powell having arranged the publication of Waugh’s first commercial book, Rossetti: His Life and Work, by Powell’s employers, the publishers Duckworth. Ironically, Duckworth turned down Decline and Fall when Waugh offered it to them, a decision usually attributed to their objections to some of the book’s language, but Powell says it was more likely motivated by the personal animus of Duckworth’s owners to Waugh because of his marriage to Evelyn Gardner over her family’s objections. There was some distant relationship between her family and the Duckworths. Decline and Fall was eventually published by Chapman and Hall who made similar objections to the book’s language, but Waugh agreed to revisions.

It is interesting to note the existence of a fairly steady stream of presentation copies from the early 1930s after Waugh’s marriage to Evelyn Gardner had failed. Powell remained close friends with John Heygate and Evelyn Gardner after her divorce and their marriage, and Powell and Heygate made several trips to Europe together which they each later wrote about in their respective novels and memoirs, but this did not prevent Waugh from continuing to express his continued friendship with Powell with gifts of books containing warm inscriptions. The friendship between the two novelists continued after the war when the Powells moved to a village in Somerset not far from the Waughs.

Also of interest are the two copies of Scott-King’s Modern Europe. The first is enigmatically inscribed “To Tony the host of Bats with deepest respect. Evelyn.” There follows a full page drawing below the signature of a large-eyed and veiled woman beside a man in a dinner jacket that might be a self-portrait of Waugh.  The second copy contains the inscription, “Dear Tony, I am conscious of having abused your hospitality by defacing a copy of the story. I accordingly inscribe this with simple esteem & gratitude.”

Thanks to Duncan McLaren for bringing this sale to our attention.

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