'To write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write.'
Gertrude Stein


Arthur Waugh didn't like Gertrude Stein's writing or Picasso's art. Nor did he like his second son, Evelyn, as much as his first son, Alec. So the first thing Evelyn published - in 1917, when he was 14 - was a defence of Cubism.

'I see before Cubism a glorious future. When it has passed through the fire of prejudice and contempt, it will emerge, purged of all the affectations which now beset it, as it really is.'

Evelyn pretends to write with his head, but really it's his heart that's calling the shots. Always.

TWO: 1922-26

If Arthur Waugh was the main influence on Evelyn Waugh in his childhood and adolescence (overlaying rationalism on his son's instinctive subjectivism) then Harold Acton took over that role once Waugh arrived at Oxford. When reading the charismatic words of Anthony Blanche concerning art and culture in
Brideshead, one should at all times be thinking: "That's our Harold!"

Acton was brought up in luxury in a grand home near Florence. A published poet while a schoolboy at Eton, he had already enjoyed the company of well-known modernists in his youth, including Gertrude Stein. Stein's close friendship with Picasso led to this remarkable portrait that seems to shout: 'Here sits a person of substance'.

Screen shot 2018-06-26 at 11.01.24
Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, 1906

Waugh's diaries from his Oxford years were destroyed and there are few extant letters from 1922 to 1924. However, in
A Little Learning he recalls:

'Harold brought with him the air of the connoisseurs of Florence and the innovators of Paris, of Berenson and of Gertrude Stein, Magnasco and T.S. Eliot; above all of the three Sitwells who were the objects of his admiration and personal affection.'

In his own
Memoirs of an Aesthete, Acton recalls how in June 1923, he took a few friends, including Evelyn Waugh, from Oxford to the Aeolian Hall in London, to attend Edith Sitwell's first recital of Facade. There was an elaborate stage set involving painted drapes and 'sengerphones'. Osbert Sitwell announced each poem through 'the blackamoor's mouth', while Edith recited through the lips of a pink and white mask. The reading was to the accompaniment of a sextet, so that music, visual art and literature were all part of the experience. In the evening there was a party at Osbert's house in Carlyle Square, which Waugh attended.

What did Evelyn make of all this? Well, as I say, he did make the Acton-like Anthony Blanche something of a hero in
Brideshead Revisited, reciting T.S. Eliot through a megaphone from the window of his lemon-coloured rooms (as Acton's were) at Christ Church. However, that wasn't until retrospectively, in 1944. In 1923, Waugh drew this caricature for an Oxford magazine:

Evelyn Waugh, Mr Harold Acton, 1923

In June 1926, when Acton was still at Oxford but Waugh had gone down, Acton learned that Gertrude Stein was coming to England to give a lecture at Cambridge. Acton says about Stein in his
Memoirs of an Aesthete:

Joyce may have owed parts of Ulysses to her, but his verbal concatenations at their obscurest represented streams of thought. Gertrude Stein had been plodding on her solitary track since 1909 or before. If Picasso was part of our Zeitgeist, so was she. The painter and the writer were in closest sympathy.'

Accordingly, Harold Acton invited Gertrude Stein to give a second lecture - this one in Oxford - securing a large room for the occasion. Did Evelyn Waugh attend? That is a good question!

On leaving Oxford in the summer of 1924, Evelyn dithered around, spending time with Alastair Graham, lamenting his lack of money, until he bit the bullet and got a teaching job.

In February 1925, Evelyn wrote twice to Acton, the first letter containing the line
'I have been too sad and weary to write anything'. The second, describes how in 'a week on duty' from 8am to 8 pm he had had no minute to spare to read a postcard or visit a wc. And from 8pm til 10pm he had been correcting history essays. Poor Evelyn. Sent down from Oxford for indecent exposure. As it were.

Nevertheless, during holidays from teaching in North Wales (which soul-squashing experience eventually led to the uplifting
Decline and Fall) he managed to write The Temple at Thatch. In May 1925 he sent the first few chapters to Harold Acton. Acton suggested there was 'too much nid-nodding over port' for his taste, and suggested it should be printed in a small edition for Evelyn's more cultured friends, which he listed. Noting the insipid names, Evelyn took this to be a devastating critique and burnt the returned manuscript in the school boiler.

By autumn 1925, Waugh was lining up a second school job, this time at Aston Clinton, which was much closer to his old stomping ground at Oxford. In September he lunched twice with Harold Acton before they went their separate ways. Acton back to culture vulture-ing at Oxford, Waugh to his joke profession as teacher of adolescent boys.

Acton doesn't crop up in Evelyn's diary again until February 1927, months after the Gertrude Stein event which was held on Monday 7 June 1926. On that day, Evelyn's diary entry tells us that he spent the weekend with Alastair Graham at Barford, having got there via a lunch stop at Bicester. (Waugh would have been travelling from Aston Clinton on his motorbike.) On Saturday afternoon he lay in the sun and drew a green china cat. In the evening Alastair and he went to the cinema in Warwick and saw a Harold Lloyd film. On the Sunday. Mrs Graham had a lot of people to lunch, Alastair and Evelyn went to a tennis party. Dinner was alone with Mrs Graham, who produced champagne.

Contradicting that account, the next diary entry, for Thursday, 10 June, suggests that on Sunday (which would have been the 6th) Evelyn went to Oxford and found everyone deeply depressed except Claud Cockburn, who gave him dinner at the Oxford University Debating Society. (But how could he have been in Oxford if he was eating lunch and dinner with Mrs Graham and taking part in a tennis party in between? This needs clarification.)

The only actual mention of Monday, 7 June, in either diary entry, is as follows: '
On Monday afternoon I found Edmund out of bounds and beat him with mixed feelings and an ash plant. He was very sweet and brave about it all. I have given him a Sulka tie as a recompense.'

No mention of driving his motorbike to Oxford for the lecture. I don't understand why not. Even if Waugh had doubts about Gertrude Stein, surely he would have enjoyed Harold Acton's company and would not have wanted to miss such an occasion. Perhaps he felt he couldn't afford to get drunk because of his responsibilities at the school.

So what happened in Oxford that Monday night, regardless of whether Waugh was there or not? That needs to be made clear. So it's back to Harold Acton's
Memoirs of An Aesthete.

'Edith, Osbert and Sachervell Sitwell accompanied Gertrude as well as Miss Alice Toklas, her inseparable companion... It was a fine summer day and she was ready to enjoy herself... A squat Aztec figure in obsidian, growing more monumental as soon as she sat down...'

That suggests that the lecture may have been in the daytime, when Evelyn would have been teaching. But the lecture at Cambridge had taken place at 8.30pm. So I'm assuming the Oxford lecture, three days later, was an evening affair also. Evelyn so should have been there! After all, just a few months before he'd written in his diary: 11 Jan, 1926: '
Barford. Stopped on the way at Oxford and bought books – including T.S. Eliot’s poems which seem to me marvellously good but very hard to understand. There is a most impressive flavour of the major prophets about them.'

That night Alastair and Evelyn were made to go to a ball by Alastair's mother. On January 13, Waugh commented that the ball was even worse than he'd expected and had lasted until 4.30am. On the way back home to Barford, an intoxicated Alastair had driven the car up the bank. The entry goes on to end: 'T.S. Eliot's poems are incredibly good.'

So Evelyn was on very good terms with one of the modernists most highly recommended by Harold Acton. And Harold was Evelyn's mentor. And this same Harold had organised for the notorious Gertrude Stein to give a lecture in Oxford. And Waugh could get from Aston Clinton to Oxford easily enough on his motorbike. And Harold would be expecting him to be there. And Harold would one day in 1928 be best man at Evelyn's wedding. And Decline and Fall is dedicated to Harold Action 'IN HOMAGE AND AFFECTION'. So what was Evelyn's excuse for not being in attendance? Well, as I say, he had duties to perform at the school. Boys to be beaten and given silk ties to. But let's leave Evelyn having a quiet evening pint by himself in the Bell, Aston Clinton, as he prepares for another day's teaching.

Harold Acton:
'Nobody was prepared for what followed, a placid reading of Composition as Explanation...The litany of an Aztec priestess, I thought, uttered in a friendly American voice that made everybody feel at home until they pondered the subject matter.'

Gertrude Stein's text is in the public domain now. Here is how it begins:

There is singularly nothing that makes a difference a difference in beginning and in the middle and in ending except that each generation has something different at which they are all looking. By this I mean so simply that anybody knows it that composition is the difference which makes each and all of them then different from other generations and this is what makes everything different otherwise they are all alike and everybody knows it because everybody says it.'

Harold Acton responded to this opening salvo as follows:

'What a contrast between manner and matter, between voice and written page! I could not suppress a nervous chuckle at the possible developments of the situation which flashed in front of my eyes. Though we had heard dozens of lectures, nobody had heard anything like this before.'

The lecture went on to its second paragraph:

'It is very likely that nearly every one has been very nearly certain that something that is interesting is interesting them. Can they and do they. It is very interesting that nothing inside in them, that is when you consider the very long history of how every one ever acted or has felt, it is very interesting that nothing inside in them in all of them makes it connectedly different. By this I mean this. The only thing that is different from one time to another is what is seen and what is seen depends upon how everybody is doing everything. This makes the thing we are looking at very different and this makes what those describe it make of it, it makes a composition, it confuses, it shows, it is, it looks, it likes it as it is, and this makes what is seen as it is seen. Nothing changes from generation to generation except the thing seen and that makes a composition. Lord Grey remarked that when the generals before the war talked about the war they talked about it as a nineteenth-century war although to be fought with twentieth-century weapons. That is because war is a thing that decides how it is to be done when it is to be done. It is prepared and to that degree it is like all academies it is not a thing made by being made it is a thing prepared. Writing and painting and all that, is like that, for those who occupy themselves with it and don't make it as it is made. Now the few who make it as it is made, and it is to be remarked that the most decided of them usually are prepared just as the world around them is preparing, do it in this way and so I if you do not mind I will tell you how it happens. Naturally one does not know how it happened until it is well over beginning happening.'

Back to Harold:

'There was no nonsense about her manner, which was in deep American earnest, as natural as could be. Hers was the only possible way of reading those flat sentences, entirely matter of fact. But it was so difficult not to fall into a trance. I could not concentrate on so many repetitions.'

Here is the third paragraph of Stein's lecture:

To come back to the part that the only thing that is different is what is seen when it seems to be being seen, in other words, composition and time sense.'

An attempt at consolidating what's been said already? In any case, the fourth paragraph is long and impenetrably dense.

Harold Acton:

'How far did any words carry us towards our meaning? Were we not carried more often away from it? Did words not engender new meanings on the spur of the moment?...She forged ahead without any attempt to compromise... Gertrude Stein was casting a spell with her litany which might go on for ever and ever amen. The illusion that we were living in a continuous present (a phrase introduced by Stein about half-way through her lecture) was certainly there, a little too continuous for my taste. When the reading came to an end life moved considerably faster. If anyone wishes to vary one's sense of time I can recommend a few pages of Composition as Explanation.'

The whole lecture, can be read here. I've read it a couple of times and it is indeed heavy going. It seems to be about artists and writers. Which of them make up the avant garde. What they contribute to society. But it's all tantalisingly abstract.

I've checked, and there was a copy of Composition as Explanation in Waugh's library when he died. (Though nothing else by Gertrude Stein.) The slim volume was published by the Bodley Head in 1926, shortly after the lecture was given to the live audience. Did Evelyn buy the book as a reminder of an extraordinary lecture he had, in fact, attended? Or did he obtain it to familiarise himself with the contents on Harold Acton's recommendation? The latter, I presume.

But there is another intriguing possibility. Evelyn may have invested in a copy of the lecture because, later in that same year of 1926, his first published story, 'The Balance', appeared in the same book,
Georgian Stories, as a unique text by Gertrude Stein.

Evelyn's story is unique too. Adam Doure, representing Evelyn's post-Oxford self, is in love with Imogen Quest, just as Evelyn had a thing for Olivia Plunket-Greene once he was no longer romantically attached to Alastair. Adam spends much of the story back in Oxford, having a 'blind' with Ernest Vaughan, representing Evelyn's hard drinking and distinctly unbalanced Oxford self. The style is not straightforward. Several conventions are messed about with. Indeed, the word 'modernist' comes to mind. Near the end of the bleak yet exhilarating story, Adam tries to commit suicide, echoing an incident that happened towards the end of Evelyn's own time in North Wales in 1925.

This is the picture of Evelyn Waugh that graces
Georgian Stories:

motorbike_0004 - Version 2

Gertrude Stein's story is called 'November the Fifteenth'. She reveals in her teasingly titled book
The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas, published in 1933, that TS Eliot, along with Lady Rothermere, came to see her (and Alice), because they were seeking support for a new periodical they were launching called the Criterion. Stein tells us that she and TS talked about split infinitives and grammatical solecisms. On leaving, Eliot said that if he was to print anything of Gertrude's in the new magazine it would have to be her latest thing. Now the meeting was on November the fifteenth, 1925, so Stein wrote an abstract portrait of TS Eliot - an allusive record of their meeting - and dryly called it 'November the 15th'. That date crops up ten times in the five-page 'story'. Whose penultimate paragraph goes like this:

He said enough.
Enough said.
He said enough.
Enough said.
Enough said.
He said enough.
He said enough.
Enough said.
He said enough.

Gentle reader, are you not beginning to warm to Gertrude Stein? A woman, an intellectual, a lesbian, just trying to get by in a man's world. Without taking condescension from anyone.

Here is her understandably severe portrait as found in the pages of
Georgian Stories.


Is it fitting or not that the portraits and stories of Evelyn Waugh and Gertrude Stein embellish the same book? Don't make your mind up just yet.

THREE: 1935-37

In 1935, having known him since the success of
Vile Bodies, Waugh was invited to stay with Lord Berners. He was another extremely rich, gay man. Harold Acton the Second, one might say. Gerald Berners lived with his partner, Robert Heber-Percy, in Faringdon House. One speciality of Gerald's was to paint a white horse inside his grand home.


Don't worry about Lord Berner's shoes. There would have been plenty staff on hand to clear up the horse shit, though the woman in the picture is Penelope Betjeman whose horse it was.

Berners was painting the horse again during Evelyn's visit, as this photo shows:


EW: "Do you have a decent view of the horse's masculinity from there, Gerald?"

GB: "No, I don't, Evelyn. Perhaps you would oblige me, Robert."


GB: "That's much better."

That same year of Waugh's visit, Berners wrote and had privately printed
The Girls of Radcliff Hall, which featured several of his closest gay male friends, though they were portrayed as schoolgirls with Berners as the headmistress. I tell this particular story in full here.

In 1937, Lord Berners collaborated with Gertude Stein. He negotiated to use a play of hers in a ballet he was writing the music for,
A Wedding Bouquet. Berners invited Gertrude and Alice over to England, echoing the initiative of Edith Sitwell and Harold Acton in 1926. In the photo below, taken at Faringdon House, Berners is on the far left, Stein on the far right, with Alice B Toklas at her side, sitting beside Robert Heber-Percy.

Screen shot 2018-06-27 at 12.19.09

Choreographed by Frederick Ashton, to the accompaniment of an orchestra, the ballet was performed at Sadlers Wells in April 1937.

Screen shot 2018-06-27 at 12.15.34
Hulton Deutsch,Berners and Stein, 1937

In his book,
Lord Berners: Composer, Writer, Painter, Peter Dickinson interviews several colleagues of Berners decades after A Wedding Bouquet. In each case, he asks his interviewee if Gerald Berners took Gertrude Stein seriously. In other words, Dickinson asked a leading question and I don't think this was fair to Gertrude Stein.

Moreover, in
The Letters of John Betjeman there is an anecdote that goes like this. A party from Faringdon Hall that included Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas was due to call in on the Betjemans. In advance of the visit, John Betjeman found a quotation of Gertrude Stein's and tried it on her when she arrived. Betjeman went up to her and said: "You know, Miss Stein, there's been ringing in my head a line of yours," and then he quoted something. Stein replied: "I can't recollect it - can you, Alice?" Alice couldn't. Stein then said: "You may rest assured Mr Betjeman, it is not from one of my major works." Apparently, for years afterwards, Betjeman and a local chum would explode with laughter when either of them said: "it's not from one of my major works."

I admit that I found that funny at first. But on remembering how much derision and neglect Gertrude Stein had to suffer - as a lesbian and an intellectual - I don't want to be part of the privileged male laughter any more. Quite right too - it's two generations later: feminism is completely changing the western world.

She said enough.
Enough said.
She said enough.
Enough said.
Enough said.
She said enough.
She said enough.
Enough said.
She said enough.

Did Evelyn attend the ballet at Sadler's Wells? Well, modern ballet wasn't his thing really. In any case, Evelyn was on honeymoon, spending it in a lovely house, owned by his new wife's family, in Portofino, on the Italian Riviera.

Evelyn had already introduced Laura to Lord Berners and they seemed to get on all right. And there was talk of the newlyweds buying a house in Oxfordshire. But in the end, the Waughs bought Piers Court, Gloucestershire, which cut down the visiting possibilities.

Anyway, the point is, by the mid-thirties Evelyn had not entirely turned his back on his gay, modernist friends. Otherwise he would have steered well clear of Faringdon Hall. So what next?

FOUR: 1945

From 1939 to 1944, Waugh was involved in the war effort. Not a gay time for anybody, I would have thought. Not a gay or a modernist time for anybody in the army, in particular.

In December 1945, having moved back into Piers Court with his wife and four children at the end of the war, and with
Brideshead Revisited written and published, Waugh saw an exhibition of paintings by Matisse and Picasso at the Victoria and Albert Museum. He was so appalled by the Picassos that he wrote to The Times about the abomination. This elicited a response in defence of Picasso by a friend, Robin Campbell. In replying to him, Waugh mentions Gertrude Stein in the following terms:

'Chaucer, Henry James and, very humbly, myself, are practising the same art. MIss Stein is not. She is outside the world-order in which words have a precise and ascertainable meaning and sentences a logical structure. She is aesthetically in the same position as, theologically, a mortal-sinner who has put himself outside the world order of God's mercy.'

Ah yes, religion. That is another factor. If, in 1926 or so, Waugh stepped back from homosexuality and modernism (notwithstanding his trips to Faringdon House and the Sitwells' house, Renishaw), in 1928, after the loss of his first marriage, he took a big step in the direction of conservatism when he converted to Roman Catholicism.

Anyway, his letter to Robin Campbell also contains this significant statement:

'It is entirely historical to believe that cultures decline and expire. I believe Western culture to be in rapid decay and that Picasso and Stein are glaring symptoms.'

'Death to Picasso,' Waugh kept writing to friends. As a joke. Sort of.

On which note, it has to be remembered that in
Brideshead, there is this exchange between Cordelia Flyte and Charles Ryder:

"Charles," said Cordelia, "Modern Art is all bosh, isn’t it?"

“Great bosh."

“Oh, I’m so glad. I had an argument with one of our nuns and she said we shouldn’t try and criticise what we didn’t understand. Now I shall tell her I have had it straight from a real artist, and snubs to her."

FIVE: 1953

In September 1953, when he was interviewed on BBC Radio for 'Frankly Speaking', Waugh says at one point:

"The attack was made on the arts when I was quite young. And it succeeded in the visual arts and failed in literature. The attack was made by just the same people. A little cosmopolitan group in Paris, collected around Gertrude Stein, who was the first collector of Picasso and the first writer of absolute gibberish. And they tried to introduce gibberish into literature. But literature was too strong and drove it out. But the arts absolutely capsized under this attack."

This was a considered opinion and none of Evelyn's three interviewers were able to respond meaningfully to it. Listening to the recording again, Waugh's pronunciation is decidedly odd. The word Picasso is spoken as '
Peecasso'. And the 'g' on gibberish is a hard g. Not 'jibberish' but 'gibberish'. As in 'gay' not 'jay'.

In other words, Waugh was now set in his ways. Death to Picasso. And death to Gertrude Stein.

SIX: 2018

Here is evidence that, in some ways, Evelyn was wrong about Gertrude Stein, just as society has concluded he was wrong about Picasso. A summer 2018 exhibition of Eve Fowler at DCA (Dundee Contemporary Arts) is respectfully devoted entirely to the texts of Gertrude Stein.

Eve Fowler, Installation shot of the exhibition: 'What a slight, what a sound, what a universal shudder', 2018

I went along realising that this would be the first time I'd ever seen a contemporary art exhibition devoted entirely to the words of a single writer. Instead of a book of words, an exhibition of them.

Eve Fowler, Installation shot of the exhibition: 'What a slight, what a sound, what a universal shudder', 2018

If someone had shown me the following text out of context, I'd have said it was by Samuel Beckett.

Eve Fowler, 'By That Time. Drenched. By That Time.', screenprinted acrylic on canvas, 2015

I started to wonder how such a show could work for Evelyn Waugh's
oeuvre. The whole space dedicated to Decline and Fall, for example. With key scenes writ large. Wall texts and floor texts and prints and paintings and oral recordings and videos (perhaps a clip from the recent BBC version of D&F, starring Jack Whitehall as Paul Pennyfeather).

But as I looked and read, I thought - respect due. Gertrude Stein was also an accomplished writer. However hard she found it to get her material published, or appreciated for what it was, or even read. And she did find all that hard.

And in the end I listened to a record newly made of a Gertrude Stein text from 1922, written just four years before her lecture at Oxford. It's called
Miss Furre and Miss Skeene and features the first use of the word 'gay' in a sexualised way. Actually, the first 100-odd uses of the word gay in a sexualised way.

Eve Fowler, Installation shot of the exhibition: 'What a slight, what a sound, what a universal shudder', 2018

The record was for sale, so in the interests of this project, and my readers, I invested £27 in the limited edition. Once I'd got it home and had played it a couple of times, this is what I was hearing:

'Alastair Graham had quite a pleasant home. Mrs. Graham was quite a pleasant woman. Alastair Graham had quite a pleasant voice a voice quite worth cultivating. He did not mind working. He worked to cultivate his voice. He did not find it gay living in the same place where he had always been living. He went to a place where some were cultivating something, voices and other things needing cultivating. He met Evelyn Waugh there who was cultivating his voice which some thought was quite a pleasant one. Alastair Graham and Evelyn Waugh lived together then. Evelyn Waugh liked travelling. Alastair Graham did not care about travelling, he liked to stay in one place and be gay there. They were together then and travelled to another place and stayed there and were gay there.'

Basically, Alastair and Evelyn were in Oxford together in 1922.

'They stayed there and were gay there, not very gay there, just gay there. They were both gay there, they were regularly working there both of them cultivating their voices there, they were both gay there. Evelyn Waugh was gay there and he was regular, regular in being gay, regular in not being gay, regular in being a gay one who was one not being gay longer than was needed to be one being quite a gay one. They were both gay then there and both working there then.'

Actually, Alastair wasn't working and got sent down. Though Barford is not far from Oxford so he could keep coming back to see Evelyn.

'They were in a way both gay there where there were many cultivating something. They were both regular in being gay there. Alastair Graham was gay there, he was gayer and gayer there and really he was just gay there, he was gayer and gayer there, that is to say he found ways of being gay there that he was using in being gay there. He was gay there, not gayer and gayer, just gay there, that is to say he was not gayer by using the things he found there that were gay things, he was gay there, always he was gay there.'

That seems clear enough. Or could it be made even clearer?

'They were quite regularly gay there, Alastair Graham and Evelyn Waugh, they were regularly gay there where they were gay. They were very regularly gay.'

Get it? Evelyn destroyed his diary of the time and told Dudley Carew that he'd been really quite mad for a while. Mad being an alternative three-letter word.

'To be regularly gay was to do every day the gay thing that they did every day. To be regularly gay was to end every day at the same time after they had been regularly gay. They were regularly gay. They were gay every day. They ended every day in the same way, at the same time, and they had been every day regularly gay.'

'The voice Alastair Graham was cultivating was quite a pleasant one. The voice Evelyn Waugh was cultivating was, some said, a better one. The voice Alastair Graham was cultivating he cultivated and it was quite completely a pleasant enough one then, a cultivated enough one then. The voice Evelyn Waugh was cultivating he did not cultivate too much. He cultivated it quite some. He cultivated and he would sometime go on cultivating it and it was not then an unpleasant one, it would not be then an unpleasant one, it would be a quite richly enough cultivated one, it would be quite richly enough to be a pleasant enough one.

'They were gay where there were many cultivating something. The two were gay there, were regularly gay there. Evelyn Waugh would have liked to do more travelling. They did some travelling, not very much travelling, Evelyn Waugh would have liked to do more travelling, Alastair Graham did not care about doing travelling, he liked to stay in a place and be gay there.

'They stayed in a place and were gay there, both of them stayed there, they stayed together there, they were gay there, they were regularly gay there.

'They went quite often, not very often, but they did go back to where Alastair Graham had a pleasant enough home and then Evelyn Waugh went to a place where his brother had quite some distinction. They both went, every few weeks, went visiting to where Alastair Graham had quite a pleasant home. Certainly Alastair Graham would not find it gay to stay, he did not find it gay, he said he would not stay, he said he did not find it gay, he said he would not stay where he did not find it gay, he said he found it gay where he did stay and he did stay there where very many were cultivating something. He did stay there. He always did find it gay there.

'He went to see her where he had always been living and where he did not find it gay. He had a pleasant home there, Mrs. Graham was a pleasant enough woman, Alastair told her and she was not worrying, that he did not find it gay living where he had always been living.'

OK, let's go back to Oxford.

'Evelyn Waugh and Alastair Graham were living where they were both cultivating their voices and they were gay there. They visited where Alastair Graham had come from and then they went to where they were living where they were then regularly living.'

As I say, Alastair spent a lot of 1923 in Oxford. Just as Evelyn spent a lot of time in Barford. But Oxford is where the pubs were, and the Railway Club, and the Hypocrites Club.

'There were some dark and heavy men there then. There were some who were not so heavy and some who were not so dark. Alastair Graham and Evelyn Waugh sat regularly with them. They sat regularly with the ones who were dark and heavy. They sat regularly with the ones who were not so dark. They sat regularly with the ones that were not so heavy. They sat with them regularly, sat with some of them. They went with them regularly went with them. They were regular then, they were gay then, they were where they wanted to be then where it was gay to be then, they were regularly gay then. There were men there then who were dark and heavy and they sat with them with Alastair Graham and Evelyn Waugh and they went with them with Miss Graham and Miss Waugh, and they went with the heavy and dark men Miss Graham and Miss Waugh went with them, and they sat with them, Miss Graham and Miss Waugh sat with them, and there were other men, some were not heavy men and they sat with Miss Graham and Miss Waugh and Miss Graham and Miss Waugh sat with them, and there were other men who were not dark men and they sat with Miss Graham and Miss Waugh and Miss Graham and Miss Waugh sat with them. Miss Graham and Miss Waugh went with them and they went with Miss Graham and Miss Waugh, some who were not heavy men, some who were not dark men. Miss Graham and Miss Waugh sat regularly, they sat with some men. Miss Graham and Miss Waugh went and there were some men with them. There were men and Miss Graham and Miss Waugh went with them, went somewhere with them, went with some of them.'

Just for example, Graham Greene was dark, not heavy. Harold Acton was heavy, not dark. Brian Howard was dark and heavy. So was Robert Byron. As were Hugh Lygon, Terence Greenidge, Claud Cockburn and Anthony Powell. But I think that's enough dark and/or heavy Oxford men. Just as that's enough from me. Let's put our trust in Gertrude as she enters quite a long finishing straight:

'Alastair Graham and Evelyn Waugh were regularly living where very many were living and cultivating in themselves something. Alastair Graham and Evelyn Waugh were living very regularly then, being very regular then in being gay then. They did then learn many ways to be gay and they were then being gay being quite regular in being gay, being gay and they were learning little things, little things in ways of being gay, they were very regular then, they were learning very many little things in ways of being gay, they were being gay and using these little things they were learning to have to be gay with regularly gay with then and they were gay the same amount they had been gay. They were quite gay, they were quite regular, they were learning little things, gay little things, they were gay inside them the same amount they had been gay, they were gay the same length of time they had been gay every day.

'They were regular in being gay, they learned little things that are things in being gay, they learned many little things that are things in being gay, they were gay every day, they were regular, they were gay, they were gay the same length of time every day, they were gay, they were quite regularly gay.

'Alastair Graham went away to stay two months with his mother. Evelyn Waugh did not go then to stay with his mother. Evelyn Waugh stayed there where they had been regularly living the two of them and he would then certainly not be lonesome, he would go on being gay. He did go on being gay. He was not any more gay but he was gay longer every day than they had been being gay when they were together being gay. He was gay then quite exactly the same way. He learned a few more little ways of being in being gay. He was quite gay and in the same way, the same way he had been gay and he was gay a little longer in the day, more of each day he was gay. He was gay longer every day than when the two of them had been being gay. He was gay quite in the way they had been gay, quite in the same way.

'He was not lonesome then, he was not at all feeling any need of having Alastair Graham. He was not astonished at this thing. He would have been a little astonished by this thing but he knew he was not astonished at anything and so he was not astonished at this thing not astonished at not feeling any need of having Alastair Graham.

'Evelyn Waugh had quite a completely pleasant voice and it was quite well enough cultivated and he could use it and he did use it but then there was not any way of working at cultivating a completely pleasant voice when it has become a quite completely well enough cultivated one, and there was not much use in using it when one was not wanting it to be helping to make one a gay one. Evelyn Waugh was not needing using his voice to be a gay one. He was gay then and sometimes he used his voice and he was not using it very often. It was quite completely enough cultivated and it was quite completely a pleasant one and he did not use it very often. He was then, he was quite exactly as gay as he had been, he was gay a little longer in the day than he had been.

'He was gay exactly the same way. He was never tired of being gay that way. He had learned very many little ways to use in being gay. Very many were telling about using other ways in being gay. He was gay enough, he was always gay exactly the same way, he was always learning little things to use in being gay, he was telling about using other ways in being gay, he was telling about learning other ways in being gay, he was learning other ways in being gay, he would be using other ways in being gay, he would always be gay in the same way, when Alastair Graham was there not so long each day as when Alastair Graham was away.

'He came to using many ways in being gay, he came to use every way in being gay. He went on living where many were cultivating something and he was gay, he had used every way to be gay.

'They did not live together then Alastair Graham and Evelyn Waugh. Evelyn Waugh lived there the longer where they had been living regularly together. Then neither of them were living there any longer. Evelyn Waugh was living somewhere else then and telling some about being gay and he was gay then and he was living quite regularly then. He was regularly gay then. He was quite regular in being gay then. He remembered all the little ways of being gay. He used all the little ways of being gay. He was quite regularly gay. He told many then the way of being gay, he taught very many then little ways they could use in being gay. He was living very well, he was gay then, he went on living then, he was regular in being gay, he always was living very well and was gay very well and was telling about little ways one could be learning to use in being gay, and later was telling them quite often, telling them again and again.'


I think maybe, just maybe, if Evelyn had stuck it out with Alastair, then he might have had more time for Gertrude Stein. But he didn't stick it out with Alastair. Instead Evelyn turned his back on relationships with men from about 1926, and, having been a big fan of Ronald Firbank in particular, did not give modernists much attention thereafter.

Were these two decisions connected?

It may have been a class thing. Not the usual class divide - the different destinies awaiting members of the working class from that awaiting members of the middle classes. But another one - the different lives awaiting children of middle class professionals compared with children born into preposterous wealth.

To be able to think outside the box is a real luxury. While at public school and university, Evelyn Waugh was able to do that. But he was the son of a professional father, not a wealthy man's offspring, and the time came when Evelyn Waugh had no choice but to earn a living himself. Waugh's often humiliating experience as a teacher, a poor-man-about-town, and a journalist, gave rise to
Decline and Fall, Vile Bodies and the novels that followed. All books about individuals struggling to keep the world at bay, struggling to keep their idea of themselves intact. One might conclude that coming into contact with hard reality gave Waugh's talent a focus and earned him a readership.

Harold Acton and Lord Berners (and the Sitwells), with their inherited wealth, were under no such pressure to conform to society's values. They spent their time writing, composing, painting, and otherwise coming up with esoteric, self-indulgent works that hardly anyone would ever engage with. 'Whose nid-nodding over port now, old boy?' one wishes to ask the ghost of Harold Acton. As some kind of compensation, both Harold and Gerald (and Osbert) were able to hold onto both their gayness and their love of modernism.

And what about Gertrude Stein? This website may be a celebration of the complex achievement of Evelyn Waugh, but this particular page is a big shout out to her.

In particular, I'd like to say to her ghost: "You know, Gertrude, there's been ringing in my head a line of yours."

And she'd say to me. "What line is that then?"

And I'd say: "
Evelyn Waugh had quite a completely pleasant voice and it was quite well enough cultivated and he could use it and he did use it but then there was not any way of working at cultivating a completely pleasant voice when it has become a quite completely well enough cultivated one, and there was not much use in using it when one was not wanting it to be helping to make one a gay one.'

And Gertrude would frown slightly, purse her lips, and say: "I can't recollect it - can you, Alice?"

And Alastair - I mean, Alice - would shake her head.

And Gertrude would turn back to me and say confidently: "You may rest assured Duncan, it is not from one of my major works."

Now I can smile. Now we can all smile. With Gertrude Stein and not at her.

Thanks to Jeff Manley for informing me that Evelyn Waugh's copy of
Composition as Explanation as it now is in the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin is unmarked. The bookplate is the 'FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE' one: 'EVELYN ARTHUR ST. JOHN WAUGH HIS BOOK'.