Waugh and Patrick Leigh Fermor

In a posting on the Patrick Leigh Fermor Society website there is a reference in which Evelyn Waugh is quoted as describing Leigh Fermor and Joan Rayner (later his wife) as “the Nicotine Maniac and his girl.” This appears in a November 1952 post card from Waugh to Diana Cooper, who was an admirer of Leigh Fermor. The cryptic message seems to relate somehow to Leigh Fermor’s involvement in a 1949 visit to Mentmore where Peter Beatty, possibly a mutual friend from Army days, apparently lived or was staying before his suicide. Waugh’s contemporaneous comment on that event in a letter to Nancy Mitford does not mention Leigh Fermor. Letters, p. 312. The quote on the PLF Society site comes from the draft of a biography of Joan Rayner being written by Simon Fenwick :

…when they met Paddy may have been an officer but it took Joan to make him a gentleman. Paddy was totally undomesticated and remained so. He flooded baths and spilt drinks over sheets. He also smoked 100 a day, habitually set the bed on fire and woke up in clouds of smoke. In one of his letters Evelyn Waugh refers to Paddy and Joan as ‘the Nicotine Maniac and his girl’. Not unnaturally Joan and he had separate bedrooms although hers was invariably covered in cats which he wasn’t keen on. I suppose Paddy was quite a good advert for the fact that smoking doesn’t always kill you.

In her response to Waugh’s post card, Cooper (also sensitive to Leigh Fermor’s smoking habits) referred to the pair as “the chimney and his girl.” Mr Wu and Mrs Stitch, pp. 148-49.

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