Rolle’s Ramblings (More)

Elisa Rolle, chronicler of the LGBT community in a series of books describing their lives and locations, has posted from her books another entry mentioning Evelyn Waugh. See earlier post. This is from Queer Places, v 2 (2016) and describes the area around Canonbury Square where Waugh lived briefly with his first wife in the late 1920s:

Canonbury is a residential district in the London Borough of Islington in the north of London…A dark red brick, traffic free estate, it was praised as an example of municipal architecture, but acquired a bad reputation and has since been extensively redeveloped to improve security for residents…Many significant figures from the arts and literary worlds have lived on the square, including George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh and Samuel Phelps. Notable queer residents at Canonbury Square:
• Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), King James I’s Lord Chancellor, lived in Canonbury Tower, N1 1616-1626
• Evelyn Waugh (October 28, 1903- April 10, 1966), writer, lived at 17a Canonbury Square, N1; he left after a couple of years in 1930, claiming he was tired of having to explain to friends why he was livng in so appalling a district. Waugh lived also at 145 North End Road (London, W14) [sic].
• Duncan Grant (1885-1978) and Vanessa Bell (1879-1961), painters and designers, lived at 26a Canonbury Square, N1 from 1949 to 1955.

The source for Waugh’s statement of the reasons for his leaving the area is not cited. He may well have said that somewhere to cover up the fact that he vacated the flat after his first wife dropped him and later married another man, John Heygate. According to Dudley Carew, Waugh’s friend from Lancing days, Waugh was no longer using the flat in the late summer of 1930 and allowed Carew (whose own marriage had also recently broken up) to move in. Carew remained there until 2 April 1931, and he recalls that, shortly thereafter, Waugh wound up the lease. The postal code for the Waugh family residence on North End Road should be NW11, not W14.

Rolle has also written about Waugh in another of her books. This is in Days of Love (2014) which “chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples through history.” Among the entries is one entitled “Evelyn Waugh & Hugh Lygon” at p. 375. This item may not yet have been posted on the internet among Rolle’s “reviews and ramblings”, but it can be accessed on Amazon. It describes Lygon as “the inspiration” for Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited and claims that he and Waugh were lovers on the strength of the suspicions of Prof A L Rowse, whose book Homosexuals in History (1983) is cited.

It is odd that Rolle chose this “couple” for inclusion in her book because Waugh’s homosexual affairs at Oxford with two other men (Alastair Graham and Richard Pares) are much better documented. She mentions both of these men in her later book Queer Places, v 2 (p. 109) in an entry on Piers Court where she describes them as Waugh’s partners in his “most lasting of…several homosexual relationships.”  Waugh’s biographers are inconsistent on whether Waugh and Lygon were lovers. Most recently, Paula Byrne has said that they were and Philip Eade is more doubtful. In the book by Prof Rowse, cited by Rolle, discussion of Waugh is limited to a brief citation of Brideshead Revisited as reflective of homosexuality among those of his generation at Oxford (p. 318), but the book doesn’t even mention Hugh Lygon. 

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