Blanche, Hat, Malpractice and Seal

Author Elisa Rolle, who chronicles the lives and travels of notable members of the LGBT community, has posted some of her reviews and ramblings relating to Brian Howard, Waugh’s contemporary from Oxford days. These miscellaneous excerpts apear to have been first published in her ongoing series of books Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time and Queer Places: Retracing the Steps of LGBTQ People Around the World. In the Brian Howard excerpts she mentions, for example, that he lived at Cobblestone House (formerly Nore House) near Godalming, Surrey which was later occupied by actor Dirk Bogard. The house is described in detail and a visit by Waugh’s friend and fellow writer Daphne Fielding during Bogard’s residence is mentioned (Queer Places, v. 2):

A great platonic love of [Brian’s] was Daphne Fielding, and although she never saw him at Nore, when she went to stay with Dirk and Tony (Anthony Forwood), she “was conscious of Brian all the time, and his own very particular atmosphere seemed to dominate even Dirk’s.”

In another excerpt from Rolle’s books (Queer Places, v. 3) she describes Waugh’s connections with Brian:

He was one of the Hypocrites group that included Harold Acton, Lord David Cecil, L. P. Hartley and Evelyn Waugh. It has been suggested that Howard was Waugh’s model for Anthony Blanche in “Brideshead Revisited.” Waugh wrote, to Lord Baldwin: “There is an aesthetic bugger who sometimes turns up in my novels under various names — that was 2/3 Brian [Howard] and 1/3 Harold Acton. People think it was all Harold, who is a much sweeter and saner man [than Howard].” In the late 1920s, he was a key figure among London’s “Bright Young Things” – a privileged, fashionable and bohemian set of relentless party-goers, satirised in such novels as Evelyn Waugh’s 1930 “Vile Bodies” where the character of Miles Malpractice owes something to Howard. …. In 1929 he was famously involved in the “Bruno Hat” hoax when the fashionable Hon Mr & Mrs Bryan Guinness promoted a spoof London art exhibition by an apparently unknown German painter Bruno Hat … [During WWII] he referred to his commanding officer as “Colonel Cutie” (a trait Evelyn Waugh gave his rebellious rogue Basil Seal in the novel “Put Out More Flags“) … Evelyn Waugh wrote: “I used to know Brian Howard well—a dazzling young man to my innocent eyes. In later life he became very dangerous—constantly attacking people with his fists in public places—so I kept clear of him. He was consumptive but the immediate cause of his death was a broken heart.”

As described in another of Rolle’s “Ramblings,” Howard committed suicide in 1958 a few days after his companion, according to Rolle, died accidentally from gas inhalation at a villa in the South of France occupied by Brian’s mother. Waugh wrote to Bloggs Baldwin in the same letter where he discusses Brian’s death that his companion had  “gassed himself.” A footnote refers to a postcard sent 2 months later in which Waugh corrects himself on this point, noting that Brian’s companion “died suddenly but naturally in his bath”  (Letters, p. 505-06).


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