BEAT ON BEATON






When they both attended the same primary school, as nine-year-olds, Evelyn Waugh bullied Cecil Beaton. Waugh admitted in adulthood that the sight of tears in the long eyelashes of the pretty boy drove him to acts of sadism. Pins were involved.

The following photo of Evelyn Waugh was taken by Cecil Beaton in 1955 when they were both fifty-one.

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Evelyn Waugh by Cecil Beaton, bromide print on white card mount, April 1955. Detail.

To better understand the relationship between subject and photographer, one has to realise the position Cecil Beaton was in when he took a photograph. Which you can see from his session with Marilyn Monroe a few months later.

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Cecil Beaton looked down on the top of his camera. When photographing a standing Evelyn Waugh, this would have exposed the back of his balding head to Waugh's scrutiny. Would the adult Evelyn have resisted the urge to stub his cigar out on the once pretty boy's thinly fleshed skull or the unprotected nape of his neck? In answering this question, you might want to take account of the following:

Evelyn Waugh hated what he called 'pansies', even though he had two romantic/sexual relationships with men when he was at Oxford.

Later, when Olivia Plunket-Greene wouldn't show Evelyn the physical affection he craved, he took her by the wrist and held it fast as he stubbed out his cigar on her flesh.

Beaton recalled their first meeting. Waugh ran full tilt across the playground and stopped directly in front of him with a diabolical stare. He stood on Beaton's toes and moved his face slowly towards the quaking child's, "ever-closer until the eyes converged into one Cyclops nightmare."

You might also want to take account of the final picture that Cecil took of Evelyn's crotch that day:

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Despite temperamental diferences, they were both supreme aesthetes. And the great thing is that their creative achievement - in photographs and books - lives on.