John Heygate Archives on Offer

The auction house Bonhams, in Knightsbridge, London, will hold an auction on 4 December that will include archived letters to John Heygate.  Several of these contain information that relates to Evelyn Waugh. Heygate was a friend of Waugh and his first wife (also Evelyn) until her affair with Heygate ended Waugh’s marriage. Her marriage to Heygate was also short-lived. The letters on offer are in two lots:

Lot 390 are letters from various senders who were friends and acquaintances of both John Heygate and Evelyn Waugh. Most were sent after Waugh’s death in 1966 but a few were written while he was still alive. The letters were written by Harold Acton: 1970-76, 20x; John Betjeman: 1969-73, 20x; Diana Mitford: 1975-76, 2x; Evelyn Nightingale (formerly Heygate, and before that Waugh, and born Gardner): 1974-76, 7x; Peter Quennell: 1954-73, 5x; Gerald Reitlinger: 1953-76, 35x; Christopher Sykes, 1974, 1x; and Auberon Waugh: 1970-76, 11x. See link. Much of this material is dated in the 1970s and probably arises from Christopher Sykes’ research for his biography of Waugh. This was published in 1975. The correspondence ends in 1976 when Heygate committed suicide in March of that year at his estate in Northern Ireland.

A larger trove is separately offered in Lot 377. This involves 60 typed letters and in excess of 60 post cards from Anthony Powell to Heygate between 1954 and 1974. Most of these include  descriptions of Powell’s drafts for successive volumes of Dance to the Music of Time. But several also implicate Waugh who was the mutual friend of both of Powell and Heygate and actually introduced them to each other during Waugh’s first marriage. Powell remained on friendly terms with Heygate and more distant terms with Waugh after Waugh’s marriage broke up. Powell and Waugh resumed their closer relationship when Powell moved to Somerset in the early 1950s. Here is Bonham’s summary of those portions of the letters in this lot that relate to Waugh:

[…] there are also a good many comments on their friends and contemporaries, including Evelyn Waugh, with whom [Powell] stayed in 1951 (“…The Waugh visit went off very well. Evelyn was in the best possible form and food and drink flowed, though I must say the sense of tension is pretty acute all the time. Every single object in the house had been bought because it is ‘amusing’ which is rather unrestful as you may imagine…”) and later sightings (“…I saw Evelyn W the other night who had been hitting the bottle pretty hard…”), plus comments on his books (“…I thought Officers and Gents full of technical faults and failings but was never actually bored. In a kind of way I prefer that sort of Evelyn to something very finished like the Loved One…”), news of his death (“…It was indeed sad about Evelyn, though I suppose for him to come back from church on Easter Day and go to sleep in his chair was just the sort of thing he would have chosen – quiet yet dramatic. I can’t say I was altogether surprised after my last view of him…”), Sykes’s biography (“…I was surprised how horrified everyone was at hearing of EW on his less attractive side. One was so used to stories about him that one assumed everyone else knew how bloody he could be when in the mood…”) and his own reminiscences (“…I have some plans to write some sort of an autobiography after I’ve finished the [Dance to the Music of Time], and (if I’m spared) I shall deal with EW against the larger background…”) […]  See link.

There are also inscribed copies of two volumes of Waugh’s war trilogy (one of which was inscribed to novelist L P Hartley): Lots 388 and 389.

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