Rosalind Morrison (More)

The Australian literary magazine Quadrant has posted a story by Mark McGinness which provides more details about the life of Rosalind Morrison who died recently at the age of 74. See previous post. He explains among other things her connection to the Lygon children who were friends of Evelyn Waugh. She was the daughter of the youngest of the seven Lygon children–i.e., the youngest brother of Hugh, Mary and Dorothy. This was Richard who was taken from Madresfield by his mother when Lord Beauchamp was forced into exile in 1931. According to McGinness:

The unhappy youngest son, Dickie, married Patricia Norman, a vicar’s daughter, in 1939. Rosalind was born on 13 October 1946 and grew up on another Lygon property, Pyndar House in Worcestershire, with her elder sister, another Lettice. […] In 1989, ten years after death of Elmley [the oldest Lygon child who had inherited Madresfield] and the extinction of the earldom, Mona Beauchamp [Elmley’s wife], died aged 94 and Rosalind unexpectedly inherited Mad. There could have been echoes of the endless Jennens court case, which touched the Lygon family, and was taken up by Dickens as ‘Jarndyce v. Jarndyce’ in Bleak House. But handing the estate to the last of the Lygons avoided all that

Although Rosalind Morrison had no known connection to Evelyn Waugh (or at least not that I am aware of) and none is mentioned by McGinness, he does take the opportunity to explain Waugh’s connection to the other Lygons and to Madresfield:

Waugh fell in love with the family and spent much time there in the early thirties between his novels, travels and two marriages. In fact, he wrote much of Black Mischief there and dedicated it to Dorothy (Coote) and Maimie. In the absence of an older generation, Madresfield became a centre of jokes and fun. They called home ‘Mad’. Mad also inspired Hetton Abbey, the setting for A Handful of Dust (1934), which Waugh later wrote, should have been dedicated to Hugh, Beauchamp’s second son and favourite child.

Both Dorothy and Waugh’s brother, Alec, agreed that it was the Lygons’ situation rather than their characters which he absorbed when writing Brideshead Revisited a decade later. Like Lord Marchmain, Lord Beauchamp spent most of the rest of his life abroad, returning to Madresfield, like Marchmain to Brideshead, for only the last two years of his life. He had time to throw a bust of his countess into the moat and to whitewash her image from the chapel walls. But unlike Lord Marchmain, he made no deathbed reconciliation. Instead, his last words were apparently “Must we dine with the Elmleys tonight?”

Sebastian Flyte was thought to be an amalgam of Alastair Graham, for Waugh “the friend of his heart” at Oxford, and Hugh Lygon. Mamie Lygon (“a flawless Florentine quattrocento beauty”) clearly contributed to the portrait of Julia Flyte, her plain but enchanting sister Dorothy is a near match for Cordelia, and Elmley bears a striking and not altogether complimentary resemblance to Lord Brideshead. Lord Marchmain’s disgrace and exile (“the last, historic, authentic case of someone being hounded out of society”, as Anthony Blanche puts it) is based on that of Lord Beauchamp, though made heterosexual. Lady Marchmain’s fervour and froideur owe something to the Countess.

She died in July 1936, aged 59, and poor, alcoholic Hugh three weeks later, after falling out of a car in Germany. A distraught Beauchamp returned quietly to Madresfield for Hugh’s funeral and died two years later (in New York). Sibell, Maimie and Coote left the house as Elmley became the 8th and last Earl, and he and his older, widowed Danish wife, Mona (but glamorous; No Mrs Muspratt she), took over Madresfield.

The article is entitled “Brideshead’s Bricks-and-Flesh Inspiration”, is well written, nicely illustrated and can be read at this link.


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