Connolly’s Letters

A London auction house (Forum Auctions) has listed for sale 5 letters from Cyril Connolly to Evelyn Waugh. Here’s the description from their online announcement:

Connolly (Cyril) 5 Autograph Letters signed to Evelyn Waugh, [c. 1948], discussing “The Loved One”, to be published in Horizon magazine and with references to Aldous Huxley, Ronald Knox and George Orwell who, Connolly tells Waugh, “has written a horrific anti-totalitarian book about the future in this country, called 1984”.

The source of these letters is not revealed. The interesting question is why they are not included in the British Library’s archive catalogued as the Evelyn Waugh Papers.  This contains incoming correspondence to Evelyn Waugh from his friends and associates such as Connolly. The BL archive includes a manuscript volume # MS 81051 that contains 47 pages of letters from Connolly to Waugh between 1946-1964. The letters to be auctioned apparently cover the period late 1947-early 1948 when Waugh arranged for the publication of The Loved One in Connolly’s Horizon magazine. They may contain discussions about edits to the text of that novella which appeared in the magazine’s February 1948 issue. Some of Waugh’s side of the correspondence about The Loved One publication appears in his collected Letters, pp. 259 ff.

It is apparent from the annotations that the editor of the collected Letters (Mark Amory) had copies of Connolly’s side of the correspondence (or at least some of it) about the Horizon publication of The Loved One. At p. 260, this note appears relating to Waugh’s proposal dated 16 September 1947 offering the novella to Connolly for publication in Horizon:

Connolly was enthusiastic. “One of your very best I think. I shall be honoured to publish it.” He made several detailed suggestions, most of which Waugh adopted. The Loved One was published in February 1948 in Horizon and in November as a book. [Letters, 260.]

Additional comments from Connolly are quoted at p. 262. Waugh’s biographer Philip Eade quotes a letter from Connolly to Waugh that discusses the Horizon publication; this is dated 2 September 1947 and is cited to the BL archive as its source (Eade, pp. 283, 368). That quote also includes some of the same language of Connolly quoted in the collected Letters annotations (p. 260, n.2). Whether other letters among those to be auctioned may be the source for additional references to  Connolly’s publication of and editorial suggestions for The Loved One is not clear.

The Forum Auction notice includes a copy of one page of Connolly’s correspondence. This is where he describes George Orwell’s convalescence in a sanatorium near Stroud, Gloucestershire, which was in turn near where Waugh was living at Piers Court in Dursley. Waugh took up Connolly’s suggestion and visited Orwell there.  A least one Orwell biographer (DJ Taylor, p. 409) was aware that it was Connolly who was responsible for Waugh’s visiting Orwell at the sanatorium. But whether the discussions of Waugh and Connolly about Aldous Huxley or Ronald Knox or about Connolly’s early personal assessment of 1984 and Orwell’s state of health have been available to and discussed by the several biographers of those various writers I couldn’t say. The Ronald Knox discussion probably relates to Waugh’s essay on Knox that appeared in the May 1948 issue of Horizon.  Perhaps the BL or one of the repositories of Connolly’s papers will acquire these letters and assure their future availability to scholars.

The auction is scheduled for 10 February 2022. For more details see this link to the auction notice.

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