The Daily Mail has printed an excerpt from the new biography of Evelyn Waugh which will be published in the U.K. in July. This is by Philip Eade and will be issued by Weidenfeld and Nicolson who also published Waugh’s Diaries and Letters. The excerpt tells the now familiar story of Waugh’s homosexual relationship with Alistair Graham at Oxford and of its contribution to Brideshead Revisited and the relationship of Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte. One unfamiliar passage may be new material. This relates to the suggestion of rival affections for Alistair expressed by Harold Acton:
Among the queue of admirers was Evelyn’s friend Harold Acton, the writer and scholar, who gushed in a letter jointly addressed to Evelyn and Alastair: ‘I had erections to think of you two angels in an atmosphere salinated with choir boys and sacerdotal sensuality!’
He later described Alastair as a Pre-Raphaelite beauty and said that he had ‘the same sort of features as Evelyn liked in girls – the pixie look’.
Also new may be the suggestion that Evelyn tried to renew his relationship with Alistair after Evelyn’s first marriage broke up:
He was assumed … to have resumed his love affair with Alastair, a suspicion scarcely allayed by Evelyn’s tendency to camp it up and put on a high-pitched voice whenever they were together, which was most of the time.
The following year he went to stay at Barford when he was trying to start his third novel, Black Mischief, but found it impossible to work with Alastair around.
‘We just sit about sipping sloe gin all day,’ he complained to a friend. ‘I am reading all the case histories in Havelock Ellis [a doctor who studied human sexuality] and frigging too much.’
The last appearance of Evelyn’s name in the Barford visitors’ book was in 1932, by which time he had stayed there on more than 20 occasions.
Barford is the home of Alistair Graham’s family in Warwickshire. Thanks to Dave Lull for emailing a link to this article.