Evelyn Waugh (1903-1996), acclaimed author of over 50 literary masterpieces, had affairs with three men during his years at Oxford University, according to a new book about his life entitled, Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead, by Paula Byrne. Although he later married (twice), and raised seven children, Ms. Byrne hails him as a "great bisexual" writer and reveals that he “cherished the fully fledged (homosexual) affairs.”
Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) portrait photo 1930
Of Evelyn Waugh's relationship with Alistair Graham, Byrne said: “That was an incredible, tense affair. It clearly was very romantic, very full on. In one of the letters, Alistair sends a naked photograph of himself. (But) Graham became a diplomat and adopted a gay life overseas. Waugh disapproved and turned his back on Graham, who he believed was following a ‘seedy, expatriate life.’”
In a review of this new biography, Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead, Telegraph.co.uk notes how homosexuality flourished throughout Waugh’s life:
Hugh Lygon is the most tragic figure in this book. His sisters always said he suffered from second-son syndrome, and perhaps they were right. He was the favourite of his father, and had been popular at Eton. Owing to his beauty he was always given female parts in plays—even appearing as Helen of Troy in a production of Dr Faustus. It was this fragility that drew Waugh to Hugh—he wanted to protect him.
Cover photo of Evelyn Waugh's 4th novel, A Handful of Dust (1934)
The lives of the Hypocrites (a club Waugh belonged to at Oxford) were full of day-long lunches, outrageous clothes, plovers’ eggs and strenuous homosexual activity—there wasn’t much else to do, after all. Waugh had affairs with at least two men—delicately beautiful, hard-drinking, self-destructive boys—and almost certainly slept with Hugh.
Waugh was largely unhappy at Lancing (the school to which he was sent after his brother Alec had published a scandalous novel, The Loom of Youth, about homosexual affairs at Sherborne).
The 2008 version of Brideshead Revisited was shown world-wide, as this German poster of the film attests
The catastrophe for the Lygons was the Earl Beauchamp. Devoted to public service and a man of deep culture, he had “a persistent weakness for footmen.” When interviewing them he would squeeze their buttocks and emit the same noise that grooms do when inspecting horses. His children would warn their good-looking male friends to lock their bedroom doors at night.
Lady Christabel Aberconway, on arriving at the Beauchamps’ London house for tea, found the flamboyant actor Ernest Thesiger naked from the waist up and adorned with ropes of pearls. Scandal was inevitable: the Earl was brought down by his wife’s brother, the obscenely wealthy Duke of Westminster, who, when he had succeeded in hounding him out of the country, wrote: “Dear Bugger-in-law, You got what you deserved, Yours, Westminster.” Beauchamp was to become the inspiration for Brideshead Revisited’s exiled Lord Marchmain, Sebastian’s father.
The 2008 U.S. movie, while passionate, focuses more on the protagonist’s affair with his lover’s sister, and much of the book’s underlying steam and power is lost.
Photo of the cover of Evelyn Waugh's 2nd novel about the decadent rich, Vile Bodies (1930)
A wealth of information on all of Evelyn Waugh’s books can be foundhere.
You can buy Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead (cover pictured above) atAmazon.com after August 20, 2009.
1981 film version of Brideshead Revisited photo with Jeremy Irons (left) as Charles Ryder and Anthony Andrews as Sebastian Flyte
In the meantime, watch this BRIDESHEAD REVISITED visual love poem for the doomed love between Charles and Sebastian video. Photos and Film from the original Brideshead Revisited Mini-Series (Granada TV, 1981). Music by ABC:
Also visit http://www.galechesterwhittington.com/ for free humor, short stories, poems, and book excerpts from the award-winning gay author