This week’s “Low Life” column in The Spectator describes a Waugh-themed literary/artistic pilgrimage in Wiltshire and Dorset. This is by Jeremy Clarke who starts with an Augustus John exhibit in Salisbury before proceeding to the Henry Lamb exhibit in Poole. This is where his first Waugh encounter takes place:
[Lamb’s] portrait of Waugh was three times larger than I thought it was. […] Waugh sat for Lamb at Lamb’s Poole studio in 1928. At the time Waugh had taken a room at the Barley Mow pub on the Wimborne Road to finish his comic novel Untoward Incidents, named after the Duke of Wellington’s terse assessment of the annihilation of the Turkish fleet at Navarino. Chapman and Hall needed Waugh to pad out his virtuoso beginning to bring up the word count before publishing the funniest book in the world as Decline and Fall. Lamb spent boozy evenings with Waugh and their prospective fiancees at the Barley Mow. Eating a pilgrims lunch there would make a seamless transition from the painterly to the literary part of our tour. […] I imagined that at the Barley Mow, self-identifying Evelyn Waugh nuts on pilgrimages would be greeted by the landlord with a sly, highly civilised little smile. Perhaps their attention would be drawn to an old Windsor fireside chair or a brash little signature in the visitors’ book.
Alas, the stop at the Barley Mow does not end as expected when the pilgrims arrive a bit late for lunch. But the article concludes with a properly Wavian flourish.
Clarke mentions Waugh’s association with other watering holes such as the Easton Court Hotel in Chagford, Devon and the Abingdon Arms in Beckley, nr Oxford. In the course of that discussion the Evelyn Waugh Society is credited with the erection of the Blue Plaque commemorating Waugh’s association with the Abingdon Arms. The Society certainly supported that effort but credit for the plaque as well as celebratory events at the venue (perhaps “binges” does not strike quite the right note) must go to the pub and the residents of Beckley who took over the pub’s ownership and management when its commercial owners decided to close it.