|—||Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead|
Christopher Hollis’ Oxford in the Twenties (1976) is the book in which Richard Pares and Alastair Graham were first named as Waugh’s Oxford lovers.
According to his biographer Douglas Patey, Waugh’s main orientation from 1922 until late 1925 or early 1926 was homosexual. His first male love was Richard Pares, followed by Alastair Graham, who was the model for Sebastian Flyte in Waugh’s putative masterpiece, Brideshead Revisited (1945). Waugh claimed that the ‘aesthetic bugger’, Anthony Blanche, in that novel was two-thirds Brian Howard and one-third Harold Acton. In A Little Learning (1964) Graham returns as the character Hamish Lennox. Waugh claimed that he never regretted the liaisons of his homosexual period; he was convinced that most people grow up gradually and ought to explore a variety of possibilities while young.
Apparently, Richard Pares was a don at All Souls.
|—||The book is called The Loom of Youth.|
Rex had been told about the problem of Sebastian […]. “Send him to Borethus at Zurich. Borethus is the man. He works miracles every day at that sanatorium of his. […] He takes sex cases, too, you know.”
So, does Rex believe Sebastian is a fairy, too?
By John Waters; John Waters has directed 11 films, the latest of which is “Cry-Baby.”
Published: February 03, 1991
SERIOUS PLEASURES The Life of Stephen Tennant. By Philip Hoare. Illustrated. 463 pp. New York: Hamish Hamilton/Viking. $29.95.
John Waters’s review of “Serious Pleasures: The Life of Stephen Tennant” by Philip Hoare (Feb. 3) posits that Sebastian Flyte, of Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited,” was drawn from Tennant, the British dandy who elevated sleeping to an art form.
By Waugh’s own testimony, offered by Christopher Sykes, his biographer, inspiration for Lord Sebastian Flyte stemmed at least partly from memories of the author’s lifelong friend Alastair Graham. In “The Originals: An A-Z of Fiction’s Real-Life Characters,” William Amos notes that at times Waugh lapsed, referring to Alastair, not Sebastian, in the “Brideshead” manuscript.
However, conflicting theories about the model for Sebastian in no way diminish the dazzlement over Stephen Tennant, the most flamboyant sleeper since Endymion.
In 1910, when Stephen Tennant was 4 years old, he ran through the gardens of his family’s Wiltshire estate, Wilsford Manor, and was literally stopped in his tracks when he came face to face with the beauty of the “blossom of a pansy.” Thirty years later, so precious and high-strung that he sometimes took to his bed for months at a time, he was coaxed outside by a friend for a ride in the car on the condition that his eyes be bandaged, since passing scenery might make him too “giddy.” Aubrey Beardsley, Ronald Firbank, Denton Welch — believe me, Stephen Tennant made them all seem butch.
According to Philip Hoare, the author of “Serious Pleasures,” the witty and amazing life story of this great sissy, Cecil Beaton was one of the first to encourage Tennant’s eccentric vocation of doing nothing in life — but doing it with great originality and flamboyance. Completely protected by class, Stephen Tennant couldn’t care less what people thought of his finger waves, his Charles James leopard pajamas, his makeup (“I want to have bee-stung lips like Mae Murray”) or his dyed hair dusted with gold. Who would dare criticize this “aristocratic privilege,” this self-described “fatal gift of beauty”? As The London Daily Express, in 1928, so succinctly summed up Tennant’s attitude toward life, “you … feel that condescension, indeed, can go no further.”
Although many who knew Tennant later in life maintained that they “could hardly believe the physical act possible for him,” the one real love affair of his adult life was with Siegfried Sassoon, the masculine, renowned pacifist poet old enough to be his father. Sassoon brought to their relationship “his fame, his talent, his position,” while Tennant’s only daily activities were “dressing-up” and reading about himself in the gossip columns. Looking at the photos of the two lovers in Mr. Hoare’s book, Tennant posing languidly (vogueing, really), way-too-thin and way-too-rich, as Sassoon looks on proudly, even the most radical Act-Up militant might mutter a private “Oh, brother!” But the author makes us see that Tennant’s extreme elegance was close to sexual terrorism, as it flabbergasted society on both sides of the Atlantic for half a century.
“Cherish me and introduce me to the glories of New York,” Tennant telephoned a startled friend, David Herbert, as he crossed the Atlantic on the Berengaria. Herbert met Tennant at the boat and was embarrassed to see him walking down the gangway ” ‘Marcelled’ and painted … delicately holding a spray of cattleya orchids.”
“Pin ‘em on!” shouted a tough customs officer in homophobic disgust.
“Oh, have you got a pin?” exclaimed Tennant in complete disregard for the reaction of others. “You kind, kind creature.”
To confuse things further, Tennant’s idol and great friend was Willa Cather(!). It is hard to imagine the notoriously no-fun author of “O Pioneers!” hanging out with a man whose beauty tips included “an absolute ban on facial grimacing or harsh, wrinkle-forming laughter,” but Cather, Tennant’s “surrogate mother/nanny figure,” always encouraged him to write, even though “Lascar,” the novel that obsessed him for the last 50 years of his life, remained unfinished at his death.
After World War II, Tennant became, in the words of Osbert Sitwell, “the last professional beauty.” From then on, it was time to hit the sack big time. Sleeping Beauty forever. He had inspired enough fiction (Sebastian Flyte in Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited,” Cedric Hampton in Nancy Mitford’s “Love in a Cold Climate”), met enough celebrities (everyone from Tallulah and Garbo to Cocteau and Jean Genet) and traveled the globe with Barbara Hutton and other rich dames for long enough; it was society’s turn to come visit him.
“Reeking of perfume,” “covered with foundation,” with ribbons hanging from his dyed comb-over hairdo, he rested “non-stop” for the next 17 years in “decorative reclusion.” Unconcerned about his grossly overweight figure (” ‘But I’m beautiful,’ he would reason, ‘and the more of me there is the better I like it!’ “), he lay in bed surrounded by his jewelry, drawings and Elvis Presley postcards while, as Mr. Hoare puts it, his “decorative fantasies were running amok” (the pink and gold statues in the overgrown garden, the fishnets and seashells everywhere, the tiny uncaged pet lizards, the bursting pipes and rotting carpets, the mice still in the traps). Happily re-creating the “perfervid environment” of his youth, Tennant calmly painted the tops of his legs with pancake makeup and proudly showed his “suntan” to astonished visitors like Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia. David Bailey, Christopher Isherwood, David Hockney, even Kenneth Anger all made pilgrimages and, though they may have laughed good-naturedly afterward, none laughed as hard as Tennant himself, who, after all, was in on the joke from the beginning. “To call Stephen affected,” the artist Michael Wishart recalled, “would be like calling an acrobat a show-off, or a golden pheasant vulgar.”
In his later years, as the antiques dealers circled outside his estate like vultures, waiting for the end, Tennant would sometimes stop traffic in nearby country towns by going shopping wearing tight pink shorts or a tablecloth as a skirt. His family had given up on him long before, exhibiting only “bemused resignation,” a wonderful English trait sorely missing in America today. V. S. Naipaul may have described Tennant best when he noticed “the shyness that wasn’t so much a wish not to be seen as a wish to be applauded on sight.”
Philip Hoare has given his subject the ultimate final bravo in this meticulously researched and respectful biography, which manages to be both scholarly and hilarious at the same time. If only Stephen Tennant, always his own best audience, could have read “Serious Pleasures” before peacefully passing away (in bed, of course) in his 81st year. He probably would have fainted. ‘WHO IS THIS CREATURE?’
If the key to successful biography lies in the depth of a writer’s empathy, Philip Hoare is a natural. During the four years it took to research and write “Serious Pleasures,” the life story of the reclusive Stephen Tennant, Mr. Hoare not only “had a love affair with Stephen at one remove,” he also, like Tennant before him, took to his bed.
“I was working the way he worked,” said Mr. Hoare in a telephone interview from his home in London. “He lay in bed a lot, writing countless letters.” Tennant’s supine position, Mr. Hoare believes, imbued his letters with a certain “languid poetic flow.” The glamour of that pose goes a long way toward explaining why Mr. Hoare, a 32-year-old former punk-band manager brought up in Southampton and a regular contributor to Harpers & Queen magazine, devoted so much time to a man who never finished anything, a man he deems “a rather noble failure.”
Mr. Hoare, “a real fan” of “the whole idea of the Bright Young Things between the wars,” had spotted Tennant’s name in several biographies, along with “references to how witty he was, how he arrived places wearing a jacket with a chinchilla collar. I thought, how wonderful, who is this creature?” But it took a photograph — Cecil Beaton’s profile of Tennant, clad in pin stripe suit, leather jacket and lipstick — to transform idle fascination into veritable obsession. “He looked as though he had come out of the 1990’s rather than the 1920’s,” said Mr. Hoare. “Astonishing, that someone could walk around wearing makeup like that.”
Such sublime obliviousness to social taboos was perhaps, Mr. Hoare argued, one of Tennant’s greatest contributions. “Gay-bashers didn’t stand a chance with Stephen. He defused them by being so charming. It’s hard to understand the effect Stephen had when he came into a room. You would have colonels, for example, taken aback. But the next minute Stephen would get them to go off and fetch his nail file.” — JUDITH SHULEVITZ
Alistair Graham, Richard Pares and Hugh Lygon – the three alleged lovers Evelyn Waugh had at Oxford.
There is a teddy-bear and a doll on the bed.
The picture comes from a gallerey containing pictures of someone Richard Colley - who himself is only famous for having a lot of photographs of him taken. He was born in 1896; we do not know whether he went to Oxford.
It is also known that Stephen Tennant had a toy bear and monkey. Cliffe also mentions other teddy-bear owners:
The name teddy bear was invented in late 1902, though Steiff were producing jointed bears a year or two earlier in Germany. The toy was named after President Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt (1858-1919, 26th president of the United States 1901-1909), who enjoyed hunting the real article. The nation was enchanted to hear that the President had refused to shoot a tied-up and exhausted bear, and two Brooklyn shopkeepers Morris and Rose Michtom were spurred on to make the first American teddy bear in his honour. They went on to make their fortune with their Ideal Novelty and Toy Company. The bear used in the television series of BR was an Ideal bear.
It is generally considered that EW picked up the idea of having a student carry round a teddy bear from his younger friend John Betjeman, the poet (1906-1984), who carried a bear named Archie around with him when he was at Oxford, but it seems that many Oxford undergraduates did something similar. Beverly Nichols had a toy rabbit named Cuthbert and Keith Douglas (not the poet but a musician and colleague of EW’s on the undergraduate magazine Cherwell) displayed a bear in public a little earlier than did Betjeman.
Gay Sebastian and Cheerful Charles: Homoeroticism in Waugh’s “Brideslvead Revisited”
DAVID LEON HIGDON
Source: ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, 2 5:4, October 1994
There is a highly visible homosexual population in the novels of Evelyn Waugh,
what else to expect from a
man named Evelyn?
|—||David Bader’s One Hundred Great Books in Haiku (Viking, 2005)|
by Jonathan Pitcher
University College London
“I have left behind illusion,” I said to myself. “Henceforth I live in a world of three dimensions—with the aid of my five senses.”
I have since learned that there is no such world, but then, as the car turned out of sight of the house, I thought it took no finding, but lay all about me at the end of the avenue.
—Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited (154)
In the case of the past it is harder for us to get the shock … . Everything that is strange can be interpreted in a familiar way, or at least ignored.
—C. J. F. Martin in An Introduction to Medieval Philosophy (13)
Even the briefest of glimpses at any recent bibliography’s suggested list of secondary texts regarding Brideshead indicates just how belabored our postmodern née modern theoretical equipment has become. In the wake of Marx, Nietzsche, or Freud, and heeding the doctrine of their poststructuralist acolytes, we are either bound to quest after some hitherto obscured, prelapsarian origin, now stripped of epistemology and thus facilely manifested in the criticism of the present, morphing into a presumably natural, revolutionary cause, or at the very least to find some evidence of semiotic play that debunks language’s inherent mendacity. Given the continuing attractions of this novel, the fact that its televised version has proved popular with even the most marginalized sections of the public (sections postmodern theory ostensibly strives to represent), and the imminent production of a feature film, commentary is doubtless deemed necessary. In a tale of the dog days of an oppressed British aristocracy and the erosion of a nonhegemonic Catholicism, surely there lies the hope of some previously latent, radical point of departure. Whilst this point would claim heterogeneity as its stomping ground, however, Brideshead itself consistently outstrips the apparent sophistication of our demystifying modus operandi, rendering modernity as univocal, a critical myopia.
For the difficulties in imposing any modern approach on this novel, in discerning some non-epistemological “truth,” see, along with many others, David Leon Higdon’s “Gay Sebastian and Cheerful Charles: Homoeroticism in Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.”