Roundup: A Legacy, a Plaque, 2 Lists and a Mystery

British Heritage Travel Magazine has published a profile of Alexander Waugh entitled “A Legacy Revisited”. This is by Stephen G and is datelined 29 March 2018. It opens with a brief summary of the ongoing difficulties of securing and restoring the Waugh family graves in Combe Florey and continues:

He’s already spearheading the Collected [sic] Works of Evelyn Waugh, with an amazing 43 volumes planned for the series. Yet he’d still like to safeguard the man’s grave, as he does his legacy. The biographer of both the Wittgenstein family (The House of Wittgenstein) and his own (Fathers and Sons), Alexander acts as general editor for the project—just one of his interests. … When we visited his home, before any of the books in the series were published, he took us through the archive room, overflowing with Evelyn’s papers: “As you can see, thousands and thousands of documents.” He leafed though press clippings–“That’s war correspondence from his time in Abyssinia”–and plucked out a few letters at random. “Ah, Nancy Mitford!” he said, noticing a special missive, and shared his worries about the possibility of water damage: “Does it feel damp in here to you?” He is considering electronic archiving, just to be safe. “This is a massive work of biography, essentially,” according to Alexander. “The letters in order, with the diaries in order, with news stories all collated. Incoming, outgoing. It’s fact, fact, fact. Primary source material of Evelyn Waugh, and, to me, that is the greatest biography you can ever get.”

An article in the current Canonbury Society Newsletter: Conserving Canonbury (Spring 18, p. 5) also focuses on an Evelyn Waugh conservation project. This is a plan to erect a commemorative plaque at his former residence in the first-floor (i.e., second-story) flat at 17a Canonbury Square in Islington. In the article (“Evelyn Waugh: Invisible Tenant of 17A”), David Ireland, noting the plaque for George Orwell’s brief residence at 27b,  makes a strong case for the Waugh plaque:

Waugh, with new wife Evelyn Gardner (the ‘She-Evelyn’), took on the unfurnished first-floor flat for £1 a week in August 1928. The flat had five rooms, with a communal laundry in the basement (of which She-Evelyn remained unaware throughout her stay). There is a generous dollop of hyperbole from Waugh himself – ‘half a house in a slum’, ‘our dilapidated Regency Square’ – but all biographers agree that Canonbury in 1928 was neither up nor even coming with Canonbury Square being considered a cheap place to rent in the ‘unfashionable district of Islington’. Waugh’s brother, Alec, thought ‘the houses were solid, well built, in the Georgian style. You would imagine yourself in Bloomsbury. For fifty years it had been occupied by humble families.’

Humble, or perhaps not, Waugh was keen to entertain and many famous literary figures visited. The highpoint was the housewarming cocktail party at the end of November 1928; invitations included routes from Buckingham Palace to 17a Canonbury Square. It was at this party that Alec met Diana Mitford. Waugh’s diaries record that ‘Tony Powell came to see us full of scandal about the Sitwells’. A 17a lunch could be an elastic affair: ‘Harold Acton came to luncheon … he stayed until about 5, talking with his usual luminousness but with every sign of a slightly deranged mind’. Cyril Connolly recalled that his lunch at 17a ‘lasted all day’.

The article goes on to recount the success of Waugh’s early writings published and written during his brief residence and the breakup of his marriage. It concludes:

The publicity surrounding the Heygate affair put an end to Nancy Mitford’s month-long stay as a lodger at 17a. She had hoped to have ‘great fun’ there but ‘fearing scandal’ (writes Martin Stannard), left in a hurry. Surely a case for another green plaque in Canonbury Square? Thanks to Waugh biographers over the years (including, latterly, Duncan McLaren).

The Orwell green plaque on 27b was erected by the Borough of Islington. There are 99 of these green plaques scattered around the borough, the most recent of which, according to information on the internet, was erected at the Finsbury Park Empire music hall in October 2017. These are officially denominated “People’s Plaques” and convincing a socialist council to erect one for Evelyn Waugh could be a hard sell.

Entertainment Weekly has published a list compiled by David Canfield and Seija Rankin of what it considers the 25 best (or most entertaining) Hollywood novels, and Waugh’s The Loved One appears in the list:

A little Six Feet Under here, some Golden Age romanticizing there, and you’ve got Evelyn Waugh’s crackling The Loved One. A poet and pet mortician becomes enraptured by the golden gates and paradise aesthetic of Whispering Glades Memorial Park, located in the heart of Los Angeles, where he falls into a bizarre love triangle.

Also included on the list is the less frequemtly mentioned novel Laughing Gas by P G Wodehouse.

Another Waugh novel appears in a compilation of the best war novels of all time on

Men at Arms is the first novel in Evelyn Waugh’s lauded Sword of Honour trilogy. It examines the lot of Guy Crouchback, a 35-year-old divorced Catholic who, as World War II commences, is clearly unhappy with his lot in life. War, he believes, can give meaning to his life once more. What transpires is a glimpse into the foolhardy consequences of leaving idiots, fools and the graduates of England’s public schools in charge. The noted critic Cyril Connolly proclaimed Waugh’s series to be the ‘finest novels to have come out of the war’.

Finally, a book with an apparent Waugh connection that has received little attention has appeared in a Google search. This is a Spanish language paperback entitled Kamasutra Gay (or Gay Kamasutra) by Sebastian Flyte published in two editions by Libro Latino and by Ediciones LEA. According to its description on (translated from Spanish):

The gay Kamasutra is an ancient work of which fragments are preserved and the true origin is unknown. Some of its historical references allow one to suppose an antiquity of, at least, 3,000 years. It is possible that the book circulated secretly between citizens and slaves of archaic and classical Greece. The gay Kamasutra was subversive and pernicious not only because it fostered all kinds of physical relationships between men, but because, moreover, it equaled all human beings between the sheets. Citizens and slaves, whites and blacks could enjoy each other and enjoy the exchange of roles and positions….

Another site ( listed a co-author as Sebastian Aguilar. I did check, and can tell you that Aguilar is not Spanish for flight or flyer. You are unlikely to find copies in your local family bookstore or public library. It is, however, available in both editions from (reader discretion advised).

This entry was posted in Alec Waugh, Alexander Waugh, Diaries, Evelyn Waugh, London, Men at Arms, Newspapers, The Loved One and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.