The Daily Telegraph has announced the death of Henrietta Phipps who was the child of two of Waugh’s friends from the beginning of his career. She was 84. Her maiden name was Henrietta Lamb and she was the daughter of Pansy Pakenham and Henry Lamb. Pansy was the flatmate of Evelyn Gardner, Waugh’s first wife, at the time they met. She married artist Henry Lamb who painted the well known portrait of Waugh that illustrates the dust jacket of the 1973 collection of essays Evelyn Waugh and His World. Pansy’s sister Violet married Anthony Powell and her brother Frank Pakenham married Elizabeth Harman, all friends of Waugh.
Henrietta’s childhood in Coombe Bissett, south of Salisbury, was described in a poem attributed by the Telegraph to John Betjeman:
O the calm of Coombe Bissett is tranquil and deep,
Where Ebble flows soft in her downland asleep;
There beauty to me came a-pushing a pram
In the shape of the sweet Pansy Felicia Lamb.
The last line as quoted doesn’t quite scan, and I wonder if “the” before “sweet Pansy” is not supposed to be there. Henrietta attended Somerville College, Oxford, and became a landscape gardener who was active in the Kensington and Chelsea area.
NOTE (25 June 2016): The ever-helpful and vigilant David Lull has confirmed my suspicions that the version of Betjeman’s poem as quoted in the Telegraph is incorrect. There is an extra “the” in the final line that shouldn’t be there. The poem is included in a letter Betjeman sent to Pansy Lamb in 1983 and is published in vol. 2 of his Letters, p. 577. The quoted poem also differs in other minor respects:
The calm of Coombe Bissett/ Is tranquil and deep
Where Ebble flows soft/ Mid her downlands asleep
And beauty to me came a-pushing a pram
In the shape of sweet Pansy Felicia Lamb.
As explained in a footnote, the poem was, according to Pansy Lamb, originally written in 1932 “at a time when [Betjeman] had a romantic image of me. It is now lost but it was a sort of a pastiche of a poem by Campbell…All I can remember is: ‘I too could be arty, I too could get on/With the Guinnesses, Gertler, and Sickert and John.'”