Duncan McLaren has aded another article about Evelyn Waugh’s interest in Anthony Powell’s novel cycle Dance to the Music of Time. In this one, Evelyn and Nancy Mitford continue their discussion of Powell’s books, focussing on the second in the series–A Buyer’s Market. Perhaps the highlight of this discussion is Nancy’s determination that Powell’s characters Mark Members and JG Quiggen are based on Peter Quennell and Cyril Connolly, respectively. Here’s how it begins:
Waugh: “You think Quiggin is Connolly? Though Tony is careful not to describe Boots as short, fat and straight out of an Irish bog, which would have made identification a lot more straightforward.”
Mitford: “Although the name ‘Quiggin’ suggests ‘Quennell’, that is undoubtedly a red herring. Quennell is about to be introduced in the next sentence under the name of Mark Members. In fact, I am going to use the names Quennell and Connolly for the rest of my reading, as that will best test my theory.”
Waugh: “Yes, do that.”
“‘It was at that stage we were joined by Quennell, rather to my surprise, because, as undergraduates, Quennell and Connolly had habitually spoken of each other in a far from friendly manner. Now a change of relationship seemed to have taken place, or, it would perhaps be more accurate to say, appeared to be desired by each of them; for there was no doubt that they were prepared, at least momentarily, to be on the best of terms. The three of us talked together, at first perhaps with a certain lack of ease, and then with greater warmth than I remembered in the past.”
Waugh: “So you’re saying that’s Connolly, Quennell and Powell talking together at a London party in 1928 or 1929. And yet I concluded when reviewing a volume of the Dance – in the Spectator, I think – that in each of Tony’s pre-war novels, I could detect the originals of characters in the books. Yet I couldn’t identify any originals in the superb post-war novel sequence.”
Mitford: “You were wrong, Evelyn. It’s as plain as the nose on your face.”
As usual in this type of analysis, there is some basis in the identification but Powell’s characters are made up of several other people he knew as well as elements of his own imagination. I’ve heard it said that Members had Wavian elements in him. I have also heard A Buyer’s Market compared to Vile Bodies because of its place at number two in the cycle, its time, and its setting in a seemingly endless series of parties. It would be nice to hear what Evelyn and Nancy would have said to that. They seem to be heading that direction in the concluding section of this article. Here’s a link to the article.