Waugh’s Illustrators in the News

Two of Waugh’s illustrators have been prominently mentioned in recent newspaper articles, and in one case a TV series:

Rex Whistler provided the illustrations for Waugh’s post war booklet Wine in Peace and War. These were based on drawings he had submitted in his correspondence to his wine dealers Saccone and Speed who were also publishers of Waugh’s book. Whistler features in this week’s episode of the UK Channel 5 TV series Secrets of the National Trust presented by Alan Titchmarsh. This is described in an article in the Daily Mail:

The latest episode of the Channel 5 show sees Alan Titchmarsh visit Plas Newydd House, in North Wales, where the painter worked for a year on a mural for the sixth Marquess’ family, which would become known as his masterpiece. Whistler fell in love with the Marquess of Anglesey’s daughter Lady Caroline Paget, and although the pair became friends, she did not return his affections to the same extent. Tonight’s show unveils letters sent by ‘obsessed’ Whistler to Lady Caroline, telling her, ‘I love you still even though you are so horrid.’ It’s also revealed that he sent Lady Caroline a declaration of love inscribed on a box of Camembert, which only arrived after he’d been killed on his first day serving in Normandy with the Welsh Guards during Word War II.

The National Trust seems to be turning Plas Newydd House into a repository for Whistler’s work. The article explains several recent acquisitions the Trust has housed there in addition to the mural and other works commissioned by the Angleseys. The article by Claire Toureille concludes:

Whether Lady Caroline and Whistler were lovers is a mystery to this day. A nude portrait of the heiress may seem to hint that their friendship might have turned into something more, but some art historians have suggested that Whistler could have painted it from imagination. But out of the heartbreak was born the beautiful Whistler mural that can be admired in Plas Newyyd House.

The TV program can be viewed on demand on My5 in the UK and from overseas with a UK internet connection.

This is the second recent article in the Mail that has featured Caroline Paget. Last month the Mail reviewed an autobiography written  by her adopted son Charles Duff. This is entitled Charley’s Woods. According to the Mail’s reviewer Sebastian Shakespeare:

Described by her aunt Diana Cooper as ‘a dream of physical beauty . . . classic long legs’, Lady Caroline continued to have affairs with men, including her uncle Duff Cooper and the artist Rex Whistler. But, after falling pregnant at 36, she urgently needed a husband. An arranged marriage followed with Michael Duff. They were ill-suited — he had a stammer, was a half-wit and gay — but he liked the idea of marrying a marquess’s daughter, needed an heir and he hoped more children might follow. No wonder Isaiah Berlin called it ‘a very peculiar marriage’. […]

The highly unusual domestic set-up provoked endless speculation among his parents’ friends about Charles’s true paternity. Charles details his parents lives being fueled by alcohol, sex abuse and drugs. He remembers wondering why his father wanted him dead. For years, it was thought he might have been the son of Sir Anthony Eden, another of Caroline’s conquests, who mistakenly believed he was the father.[…] The startling, heart-stopping twist in this extraordinary tale is that Charles was not high-born at all, but was adopted as a baby by Caroline ten days after she had a miscarriage. ‘I was the understudy for the baby who died,’ he remarks, ruefully. No more children followed.

The review goes on to describe some of the rackety details of “Charley’s” life as a child and teen-ager as detailed in his book. Also mentioned are

…some splendid pen portraits. My favourite? His beloved great-aunt Diana Cooper, with whom he lodged in London in exchange for alcohol, was wont to lie in bed all day with her chihuahuas, in pink nylon sheets. ‘They never need ironing,’ she trilled.

On his parents’ death, [their estate at] Vaynol was left to his cousin, Andrew Tennant, as the law at the time forbade adopted children from inheriting. As a result, Charles felt robbed twice over — deprived of his real parents and of his childhood home. A reconciliation with his birth family offers some consolation.

Waugh seems to have known Caroline (or at least knew of her), through his friendship with her aunt Diana Cooper. I believe she is mentioned in his letters but cannot confirm that at the moment. Both of these Daily Mail articles are accompanied by detailed illustrations depicting the people and items discussed in the articles.

Quentin Blake is the other illustrator. He drew the cover art for the Penguin editions of Waugh’s books published in the 1960s: “I like them; I did them all.”. He is still active at age 86 and is featured in an Evening Standard article:

Right now, at 86, he’s bringing out the Quentin Blake Papers, a “suite of pictures, like a tiny exhibition” on themes that he likes: five are published tomorrow, with more to follow. “I can’t get exhibitions up fast enough,” he explains, “so this is the format instead”. A Mouse on a Tricycle is one — “the mouse is a joke; it’s a pretext for people’s reactions,” he says, one being that of a horrid little boy who’s about to hit it with a mallet. […]

It’s not his only project. He’s recently had an exhibition at the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings of spikily suggestive drawings of uncanny forms of transport called The Only Way to Travel, now published as a book, Moonlight Travellers, with an accompanying text by Will Self (“he was very eloquent about it and very enthusiastic”). So instead of illustrating other people’s words, people are writing to his drawings.

His Waugh covers began to appear in the early 1960s when Penguin shifted from orange to gray for what came to be its “Penguin Classics” editions. The Evening Standard refers to “dust jackets” designed by Blake, but Penguin had dropped those during the war because of paper shortages and never resumed them.

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