Waugh Connections

Times gossip columnist Patrick Kidd discusses Phiip Eade’s identification of models for Waugh characters in today’s “Diary”:

…Lord Parakeet in Decline and Fall was based on Gavin Henderson, an exceedingly camp noble who, on becoming Lord Faringdon, opened a speech in parliament with “my dears” instead of “my lords”. Then there is Lord Beauchamp, model for Lord Marchmain in Brideshead Revisited, who had to flee to France after his homosexual activities were exposed by his brother-in-law, the Duke of Westminster, known as Bendor. 

There is nothing original about these identifications, all of which have been noticed by previous biographers, although Eade may be the first to cite Henderson’s campish address to the House of Lords. Kidd fails to note that the Gavin Henderson character was originally called Kevin Saunderson in the first printing but was changed to Lord Parakeet in subsequent editions for fear of libel actions.

Another Decline and Fall character features in the RIBA architectural website’s story about its exhibition called “At Home in Britain.” One of the exhibits is based on the modernist Isokon flats built in the 1930s in Hampstead:

The Isokon was designed in 1934 by Wells Coates, a Canadian expatriate and early pioneer of Modernism in Britain who provided the inspiration for Evelyn Waugh’s functionalist architect Otto Silenus in ‘Decline and Fall’. The 34 flats were designed “with special reference to the circumstances of the bachelor or young married professional or businessperson” and offered a minimal urban existence inspired by Le Corbusier’s ‘machine for living’.

The exhibition continues through 29 August, at the RIBA Architecture Gallery, 66 Portland Place W1.

A Waugh architectural association (along with that of George Orwell) is used in another newspaper to help shift some new flats in another of Waugh’s North London neighborhoods. This is in the Islington Gazette which refers to Waugh’s and Orwell’s residences in Canonbury Square:

Orwell’s flat at 27b Canonbury Square, moments away from the new properties, in what was then a very down at heel part of London was described by friends as “bleak”. But it is unlikely that the Animal Farm author, who left London for Scotland in 1947, would recognise either the flat, which sold for just under ÂŁ900,000 in 2014, or the area now.Canonbury is one of the most sought-after parts of Islington with its grand Georgian architecture and pretty city squares a short stroll from Upper Street…

The [new build] houses will be finished with an eye to luxury in a mode more appealing to that other illustrious literary light of Canonbury Square, who lived at number 17 [sic] during the 1920s…Author Evelyn Waugh lived in Canonbury during his disastrous first marriage in the late 1920s.

According to a letter Waugh wrote from the Canonbury Square flat, its address was No. 17a. Orwell’s building is marked by a plaque, Waugh’s is not. 

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