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 THE DIARIES OF EVELYN WAUGH, 1919-26

 

Arthur Evelyn St John Waugh (28 October 1903 – 10 April 1966) was a prolific English writer who wrote several highly-acclaimed novels. Never quite involved in Greek love himself, various characters in his youth were described as being so in his diaries covering the years 1919 to 1926.

Waugh kept diaries intermittently for most of his life, the earliest surviving entry being from September 1911, when he was eleven. However, he destroyed some of the diaries, including apparently those recording his homosexual experiences as an undergraduate. The diaries were not intended for publication, but a selection from them was posthumously published. They could not in any case be published in their entirety because of the English laws of libel. Besides twenty-three libellous references, the editor, Michael Davie, also omitted twenty phrases that would have been intolerably offensive or distressing to living people or their relations, and some entries he considered tedious.[1]

The Diaries of Evelyn Waugh were first published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson in London in 1976, but the text in the extracts presented here, all those of Greek love interest, are from the second, slightly revised edition, published by Penguin in Harmondsworth, London in 1979.

 

2  The Lancing Diary 1919-21

In May 1917, aged 13, Waugh went to Lancing College, a boarding-school in Sussex, where he remained until December 1921. However, his surviving diary there only began in September 1919.

Friday 28 November 1919

I heard from O’Connor another excellent story of Gordon.[2] When O’Connor[3] was suspended from playing in Leagues for a month he took up fives and the only man[4] he could find to play with was the little boy Lushington. That evening Gordon had O’Connor in his room and accused him of having a keenness on the child. He really has the manners of an Olds House underschool.[5]

Sunday 13 June 1920

O’Connor and I are getting a trifle worried about the little boy ----, in whom both of us have a friendly interest. He has been getting in with a very unpleasant set lately, as his case[6] Wilson has left and we have rather suspicions that they may be making him foul. He has seen far too much of ----, who is a corrupt little brute in every way, and now he has started going out with out-House men like ---- whose life in the Olds is quite notorious. It will be more than a pity if he does go to the devil as he was a charming little man as well as the possessor of a profile that excites my artistic senses. Heaven knows O’ Connor’s and my interest in him is pure enough.

Thursday 10 February 1921

This morning at 12:30, while I was impatiently waiting with a tinful of dirty china, Ford had Fulford into his pit and ticked him off about his keenness on young Woodard.[7] He said that he was quite prepared to believe that their relations were at present perfectly moral, but that they had to cease. It was unfair on Woodard to accustom him to the company of his seniors; when Fulford left he would be friendless and quite probably with a bad reputation, in which state he might well become a prey to his many admirers whose affections were less Platonic. He was sorry that Fulford could not see things in the same light, but was afraid it would have to stop. All this Fulford told me when at last he came to help with the crockery.
     I am convinced Ford is wrong and that Hill, who presumably instigated the scene, has been making a complete fool of himself. He, at least, ought to be able to differentiate between men like Tubbs and Wisden and Fulford and Hale.[8] I do not approve of keennesses, myself, and have always tried, I think with some success, to suppress any such emotions; but I do think that to Woodard, with a pretty face in a house like Olds, Fulford’s friendship has been one of the most fortunate things that could happen. Hale, to my disappointment, has caved in once. I do not understand him. Fulford at my advice has had the whole thing out with Woodard, and they have agreed to keep on their friendship less ostentatiously and to discuss it all with Dick. I think they are both very sensible in rather an awkward situation.

Sunday 20 February 1921

There have been fresh developments in the Fulford and Woodard show. On Wednesday Fulford went to Dick[9] and he, rather to my surprise, was quite on our side and thought it would be wrong for Fulford to give in. The Gods[10] saw Fulford give him a letter and went to Dick to find out what advice he had given. Dick most gallantly refused to say and told Fulford all about it. Today we went out for a walk and discussed it. I can’t conceive what Hill is driving at and mean to ask him. I can’t see that he has any right at all to order people to order people to stop being friends unless he thinks they are being immoral. He knows Fulford isn’t. If he thinks it bad for Woodard he can ask him to stop, but cannot possibly demand it officially.

Head's House, Lancing, 1917: Roger Fulford & Waugh are the new boys sitting at the far left

 

Monday 21 February 1921

In the gym I met Hill and told him I wanted to talk about Fulford and Woodard.

Tuesday 22 February 1921

This afternoon Hill and I talked over the Fulford show. He came to my pit and for about twenty minutes argued in the way he had all along; we of course got no further towards a settlement. Then Fulford called me to the telephone. Hill met me outside the porter’s lodge and we walked out behind the chapel down the prefects’ garden and round by the farm. There he told me a good deal which quite alters the case. Where I was wrong in supposing that Woodard was like Fulford thinks he is. He appears to be greatly flattered at the notice taken of him, only fond of Fulford’s position in the school. He doesn’t understand Fulford at all. All this forced me to see that the Gods are in the right. I am sorry.
     Afterwards I had to go down with Fulford to Shoreham. He wanted to know all about our interview. I couldn’t tell him all that Hill told me and he was naturally enough hurt at my deserting him on such obviously half-hearted grounds as I could suggest.
     I am in rather an awkward position. Fulford will still rely on Dick’s support. Dick will still think him in the right until he knows what Hill told me about Woodard. I can’t tell Dick because I was told in strict confidence. I can’t ask Hill to tell him as I should be betraying Dick’s part in the show. I have got in a devilish difficulty over someone else’s affairs. I don’t know what I ought to do.

Sunday 27 February 1921

After lunch Hale and I went with Fulford to meet Woodard on the downs – a damn compromising thing of his to do. The latest complexity is that Hill may well have been lying to me. Much of what he said – what I could tell Fulford – has proved to be exaggerated and some either untrue or Woodard is lying – bad sentence, misspelt.[11]

Sunday 19 June 1921

Waugh at Lancing, 1921

I think Fulford has been playing a dirty game the last week or so. It has been rather a beastly slew. He heard from Hale, who apparently had been told by one of his tweetles, that the Upper Dormitory are very immoral. I expect it is quite true. Overcome by reforming fervour, he reported this to Ford, who commissioned him to find out more. He accordingly set up a sort of competition with Hale to find out the more. Hale, by a despicable breach of trust, told Fulford all he could find out from his junior friends, and Fulford, without his knowing, has passed it all on to Ford. I think both of them have behaved contemptibly. Longe attempted Jesuitically to justify them. We had a long talk about it in the bathroom last night.

Tuesday 11 October 1921

Driberg has got a scandal about J.F. [12] He went to his room the other night and found it in darkness but J.F. and someone else in a chair very embarrassed. The boy turned out to be ----. ----‘s reputation would of course stand anything but I should have thought J.F. had better taste.

 

3  The Twenties Diary 1924-28

Waugh destroyed the diaries he wrote covering his time as an undergraduate at Oxford. The surviving ones resume immediately thereafter, in June 1924. From January to July 1925, the 21-year-old Waugh was a master at a prep school called Arnold House in Llanddulas, Denbighshire.

Arnold House, Denbighshire, Friday 1 May 1925

There is a new usher called Young[13] in Watson’s place.

Thursday 14 May 1925

Young, the new usher, is monotonously pederastic and talks only of the beauty of sleeping boys.

Friday 3 July 1925

Two things have happened to comfort me a little. […] The other thing was that Young and I went out and made ourselves drunk and he confessed all his previous career. He was expelled from Wellington, sent down from Oxford, and forced to resign his commission in the army. He has left four schools precipitately, three in the middle of the term through his being taken in sodomy and one through his being drunk six nights in succession. And yet he goes on getting better and better jobs without difficulty. It was all like Bruce and the Spider.[14]

29 December 1925

by Michel Gourlier

[…] At about 6 we went to the Chatham Bar and had some cocktails and Bill[15] questioned the waiters about the addresses of brothels and then to the Café de la Rotonde for more cocktails. Dinner at Prunier’s where I ate Clam Chowder, Homarde Americaine, and artichokes and drank some white wine. then for brandy to the Café de la Paix. From there to a brothel. The porter of the Chatham had given us the wrong number but the right street, Rue des Ourses, I think, but we were directed a few doors down to a dreary-looking café called Roland. Inside we asked how we could amuse ourselves. “Montez, messieurs, des petits enfants.” Upstairs was a hot little room with some tables and a waiter with a face exactly like My Lord Swinfen, but I do not think it can have been him. We drank some expensive champagne – 120 francs – and presently the petits enfants came down with many cries all in dowdy fancy-dresses. A gawky peasant boy[16] arrested Bill’s attention and for the rest of the evening they sat and chatted while the rest of the troupe howled and squealed and danced and pointed to their buttocks and genitalia. A boy dressed as an Egyptian woman sat himself beside me and pretended to understand my French. He admired my check trousers and made that an opportunity to squeeze my legs and then without more ado he put his arms round me and started to kiss me. He was nineteen he said and had been at the house for four years. I thought him attractive but had better use for the 300 francs which the patron – a most agreeable young man in evening dress – demanded for his enjoyment. Bill, rather drunk, began an enormous argument in execrable French about the price of his peasant boy. I arranged a tableau by which my boy should be enjoyed by a large negro who was there but at the last minute, after we had ascended to a large divan at the top of the house and he was lying waiting for the negro’s advances, the price proved prohibitive and, losing patience with Bill’s protracted argument with the patron, I took a taxi home and to bed in chastity. I think I do not regret it.

From September 1925 to February 1927, Waugh was a master at a school for backward boys at Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire.

Friday 26 March 1926

Today I have been entertaining Young – the lecher from Denbighshire. He came on a marvellous bicycle – a Sunbeam. We lunched at the Bell and went to see the children at football. He fell in love with R----.

All Fools Day 1926

Young of Denbighshire came down and was rather a bore – drunk all the time. He seduced a garage boy in the hedge.

Waugh on his Francis-Burnett motorcycle at Aston Clinton, February 1926

 

[1] Preface, pp. VI-VIII.

[2] E.B. “Pussy-foot” Gordon was the house tutor (the master next in line to be housemaster) of Head’s, Waugh’s house at Lancing. [Webpage editor]

[3] D. M. O’Connor, a boy slightly senior to Waugh. [Webpage editor]

[4] In some public schools, all the boys (even those of 12) were called “men”.  [Webpage editor]

[5] Junior [Book editor’s footnote]. Olds was another boys’ house at Lancing. [Webpage editor]

[6] Friend [Book editor’s footnote]

[7] F. E. Ford was the head-boy of the Head’s house, and Roger T. B. Fulford (later a historian) was another senior boy there, then aged 18. On leaving Lancing in July, he became a preparatory schoolmaster [Webpage editor]. Woodard was a nephew of the Head’s House-tutor, a grandson of the founder of Lancing, and a neighbour of Fulford’s in Suffolk. When Fulford said to Ford, “But I know him in the holidays!” Ford replied: “Everyone says that”. [Book editor’s footnote]

[8] Hill and Hale were boys in Waugh’s year. [Webpage editor’s footnote]

[9] Dick was a Lancing housemaster. [Webpage editor’s footnote]

[10] House-captains and prefects. A Waugh word, not general Lancing slang. [Book editor’s footnote]

[11] Spelling in MS is in fact correct. [Book editor’s footnote]

[12] Tom Driberg, later a Labour Member of Parliament, Baron Bradwell and an open homosexual, was then sixteen. He had been befriended by Waugh and was much under the influence of “J.F.” (whom he described as “a magnetically brilliant teacher”). “J.F.” was John Fergusson Roxburgh, a young housemaster at Lancing whom Waugh, in his autobiography  A Little Learning (1964), described as one of his two mentors at Lancing and a lover of boys. Roxburgh went on to become the first headmaster of Stowe. [Webpage editor’s footnote]

An example of the 18th century German porcelain bequeathed to the Ashmolean Museum by Young

[13] The model for Captain Grimes in Decline and Fall [Book editor’s footnote]. Young responded to this depiction by portraying Waugh as an alcoholic in his own novel about Arnold House, The Preparatory School Murder (written under the pseudonym Richard Mac-Naughton and published in 1934), where he is called Charles Erard. Waugh recounted other lively anecdotes about his pursuit of boys in A Little Learning (1964). From the available evidence, he appears to have been a pedophile, and a pushy one.
     William Richard “Dick” Blackman Young was born in Hastings, Sussex on 4 October 1894. He matriculated at Keble College, Oxford in 1912, and took a B.A., in absence in 1918. He served in the First World War as a Lieutenant in the Welsh Regiment, 1915-19. He left Arnold House soon after Waugh last saw him, perhaps over boy trouble too great for him to continue as a schoolmaster, since he had been an unenthusiastic solicitor for nine years by 1936, when, unsurprisingly, his indefatigable pursuit of little boys led to yet more serious trouble. A mother complained to the police that on 24 June he enticed her son to his London home with a promise of strawberries and cream, and there “sexually assaulted” him. It transpired he had also done something sexual with two others boys brought to him by another man a week earlier. On 17 July, he was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment (then a “serious punishment”, as the magistrate put it) for common assaults on the three boys, aged 8⅓, 9½ and 10¼ years. In 1963, Waugh tracked him down and obtained his permission to write about him as Grimes in A Little Learning.  He was then living, “owing to some unfortunate speculations”, in the Saint Cross Alms Houses of noble poverty at Winchester, where he died there on 2 October 1971. His estate, valued at £58,557, included valuable German and Chelsea porcelain bequeathed to the Ashmolean Museum. (Probate calendar for 1971; death registrations for the last quarter of 1971; 1911 census of Coleshill Lodge, Amersham, Bucks.; West London Observer, 24 July 1936; The Letters of Evelyn Waugh, 1980).

[14] In 1305, the fugitive Scottish noble Robert the Bruce, hiding in a cave, saw a spider finally succeed in connecting its web from one area to another after repeated failed attempts, thus inspiring him to continue his struggle with the English and make himself King of Scots the next year. [Webpage editor]

[15] Bill Silk, an actor-manager and a new friend whom Waugh had known for two months. [Webpage editor].

[16] By “boy”, Waugh meant a male under the then age of majority of 21. This is clear from his diary entry of 29 October 1924: “Yesterday I became a man.” There is no way of telling if Bill’s boy was twelve or twenty. The age of consent in France was then thirteen (though not for prostitution). Though Waugh’s boy in this passage was 19, he had been servicing men in that establishment for four years, ie. since he was fifteen, hence its unquestionable relevance to Greek love. [Webpage editor’s footnote]

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