Another Inez Holden Reprint

The Herald (Glasgow) has a review of another reprint of a book by Waugh’s early literary friend Inez Holden. This is entitled There’s No Story There (1944) and is reviewed by Malcolm Forbes. Here are the opening paragraphs:

Inez Holden is one of those cruelly forgotten figures of 20th-century British literature, a writer who tasted all-too-brief success before being cast off into obscurity. Born in Warwickshire to a gentry family in 1903, she moved down to London where she immersed herself in the bohemian world of Bright Young Things. She made many artistic connections – she modelled for Augustus John, worked alongside Evelyn Waugh, and was a friend (and lover) of George Orwell – embraced socialism, and earned a living as both a novelist and a journalist. However, by the time of her death in 1974, she had faded from view, her name barely known, her books out of print.

Two years ago, Handheld Press, an independent publisher specialising in long-neglected books, launched something of a literary salvage operation by reissuing two of Holden’s short works in one volume. Blitz Writing comprised It Was Different at the Time, an account of Holden’s life from 1938 to 1941, and Night Shift, a novella which drew on her wartime experience working in an aircraft factory.

The Herald’s reviewer goes on to summarize the book and concludes:

Whether with dialogue on the factory floor or streams of consciousness in [a character’s] head, Holden captivates her reader. No single protagonist emerges to steer the proceedings but the snapshot portraits and potted histories of the rotating cast members add up to a satisfying whole. […] With luck, more of her lost-and-found work will see the light of day.

Waugh’s friendship with Holden was explored in greater detail in a review of Handheld’s first reprint that appeared in Evelyn Waugh Studies 50.1 (Spring 2019). Here are some excerpts:

Waugh first mentions Inez in his Diaries as a “charming girl” he met while they were both working at the Express (9 May 1927, 284). A few weeks later, she joined him after work at the Express for a night on the town: “We sat in the Savoy for a long time then went to a cinema, then to the Gargoyle, then to the Night Light where she spent all my money on a shilling in the slot machine then back to the Gargoyle” (1 July 1927, 284-85).This was the same day Waugh had collected his last pay packet from the Express.

He then describes a meeting with Inez and Anthony Powell at the Gargoyle Club after which Waugh took Inez to the pictures. “Later in the month, Waugh recorded a dinner with Inez and afterwards a casual visit to her flat in William Street (apparently SW1, Knightsbridge) where he “sat for so long a time…that, for poverty, I was obliged to walk home” (n.d., September 1927, 289).”

Waugh describes an odd meeting with Holden’s parents at their home in rural Warwickshire:

When he told Mrs. Holden that he had seen Inez recently and that she was “living on cachets de faivre,” Mrs. Holden replied: “I don’t think I know the de Faivres” (2 October 1927, 291). Waugh […] says that there were lots of other people there, including Inez’s unprepossessing brother (“…looking like death. He showed indecent pictures and talked of night haunts.”)…

Waugh reviewed Inez’s first book (Sweet Charlatan) in the 4 September 1929 issue of Vogue magazine (the same review in which he discussed Henry Green’s novel Living). Both books get favorable coverage.

Waugh mentions seeing Holden a few more times during and shortly after his marriage. The last meeting with Inez that he records in his diaries took place about a year later, after his divorce (Diaries, 28 June 1930, 318). This would also have been after his success with his first two novels:

Inez lunched with me. I said ‘How bad-tempered Harold [Acton] was last night’ to make things easier. Inez said, ‘He was sweet to me. But then I know him so well he wouldn’t think of being anything else.’ Inez has taken to kissing me lately…

Why they drifted apart after that 1930 meeting is not clear. There seems to have been no row or other falling out. It could be that, with her left-wing political outlook, Inez didn’t fit in with the more upper class clique Waugh formed in the 1930s (although that didn’t affect his friendship with Nancy Mitford).


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