A Tale of Two Atwaters

Duncan McLaren has posted an article about an interesting crossover between novels of Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Powell. On Waugh’s side this appears in Work Suspended (written 1939/published 1942) in which the minor character of Arthur Atwater appears. The connection he sees is with Powell’s first novel Afternoon Men (1931). The major character and quintessential “afternoon man” in that novel is William Atwater. But the connection is not limited to the name, as McLaren explains more fully in his article.

McLaren also sees obvious connections written by Powell into Afternoon Men which were he believes based on Waugh’s Vile Bodies published the previous year to great acclaim. Powell was writing about the same Bright Young People as Waugh but Powell’s crowd were less bright and probabably a bit older than Waugh’s. One of the characters in Powell’s novel named Pringle would probably have reminded Waugh of elements of his own life at the time his first marriage broke up.

McLaren also explains Powell’s relationship with Waugh and with Waugh’s first wife and her second husband John Heygate and how this clouded the relationship between the two writers during the 1930s. Powell also wrote the Heygates into his 1937 novel Agents and Patients as characters with the name Maltravers which McLaren thinks was taken from a Waugh chatacter in Decline and Fall.

The article is available here and is worth reading even if one lacks familiarity with Powell’s books.

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