EVELYN'S PANTS





One of the best things about spending time on Twitter in 2019 has been keeping abreast of the stream of brilliant tweets coming from @pants.

He is a cartoonist, based in New York (I think), and certain aspects of his creation, Mr Joshua, strongly remind me of Mr Evelyn Waugh in his Piers Court years. Let me show you what I mean. Though when I post this page, I will also have to ask for permission to use the cartoons, so you may never see it. I must think of this as some kind of dream sequence, and we all know what happens to dreams. They dissolve. We wake up from them. They turn into nightmares.

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Nearly 80,000 followers. How is that even possible? I mean to ask that of each and every one of my 200 followers. Those precious few.

Anyway, the above masthead reminds us that Evelyn liked to wear a collar and tie (usually) and to comb his receding hair (usually) and go to the cinema in Dursley four times a week to take his mind off the ticking of his life's clock.

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By the late 40s, Evelyn had several children. And so did Mr Joshua. I've introduced you to Evelyn's brood in the Piers Court section of this site. Here is a first glimpse of Mr Joshua's.

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© 2019, The Art of Pants

Did Evelyn like cake? Sure, Evelyn would get the munchies after an evening's drinking which started with champagne and ended with brandy. And a big, sweet cake took away the bitter taste of the laudanum he dozed himself up with in order to get a half-decent night's sleep. The laudanum was a habit shared with the subject of his first book, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

As you can see from the image below, Evelyn's bedroom didn't exactly look like Mr Joshua's. Or maybe that's just @pants skimping on detail. Laura had her own bedroom, of course. Why would Evelyn have shared his four-poster with anyone else, least of all the woman who'd already borne him seven children? That would just have been asking for trouble. Note the crucifix on the wall to the right of the bed. Evelyn would kneel down in front of that to say his prayers last thing at night. Which is to say after alcohol and laudanum. And before cake.


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And in the morning? Evelyn was in no mood for praying to a crucified Christ at the start of a new day. Nor was it yet time for him to write a letter to the Pope or Nancy Mitford or Diana Cooper. Instead he would wake up slowly, remembering his time of sweetness and light with Alastair at Oxford, where they would regularly commune with the fairies instead of doing any work. There are many ways to commune with fairies, some more wholesome than others.

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© 2019, The Art of Pants

A quote from Brideshead Revisited seems appropriate at this point: “The langour of Youth - how unique and quintessential it is! How quickly, how irrecoverably, lost! The zest, the generous affections, the illusions, the despair, all the traditional attributes of Youth - all save this come and go with us through life...These things are a part of life itself; but languor - the relaxation of yet unwearied sinews, the mind sequestered and self-regarding, the sun standing still in the heavens and the earth throbbing to our own pulse - that belongs to Youth alone and dies with it.”

Evelyn wrote that in 1944, when he was 40, and full of nostalgia for his twenties. But by the mid-fifties, by his fiftieth year, he was such an old, old man. The languor of youth replaced with what? With the essence of Mr Joshua, perhaps.

Of course, Evelyn would still go downstairs and work in his elegant library at Piers Court. As seen here fairly early in the Piers Court years.

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Sitting at his desk, every time he looked up he would be confronted by the huge portrait of George III that he had installed there in 1938.

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'Scribble, scribble,' Waugh had written on the frame. An order (as it were) from his monarch, that Evelyn should get on with his work rather than rest on his laurels.

And so Evelyn got on with his 'work'.
Scott-King's Modern Europe and Love Among the Ruins, for goodness sake. The children were not allowed in the library, but his manservant was. He who brought the paper and the day's post to Evelyn's pillow of a morning, was kept busiest between the hours of 11am and 12.30pm.

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© 2019, The Art of Pants

Evelyn saw his children, but strictly on his own terms. Famously, he said of them in a letter to Nancy Mitford: 'My children weary me. I can only see them as defective adults: feckless, destructive, frivolous, sensual, humourless.'

On Jan 3, 1946, Evelyn wrote to Diana Cooper telling her that he had his two eldest children at home. According to Evelyn, Teresa had a precocious taste for theology which promised well for a career as an Abbess. The boy was mindless and obsessed with social success. Evelyn's plan was to put him into a regiment later, but in the meantime the boy was off to boarding school at the end of the month.

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On Jan 5, 1946, Evelyn wrote to Nancy Mitford repeating that his two eldest children were at home and a great bore. Teresa alternating between strict theology and utter silence. The boy living for pleasure though thought to be a great wit by his contemporaries. Evelyn remarked sadly that he had tried him drunk and that he had tried him sober. Presumably, Evelyn was referring to his own states of inebriation. Given his own prodigious intake, I can't think there would have been much alcohol going spare for the rest of the family.

Nevertheless, Evelyn organised family photos from time to time. But he didn't want to see them at the dinner table 'until they have reached the age of reason'.

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© 2019, The Art of Pants

There is that famous time, discussed in full
here, when Evelyn ate bananas that a post-war government had seen fit to provide for all children to celebrate such tropical exotica being available in Britain once again. When he grew up, Evelyn's oldest son wrote that their mother came home one day with three bananas. I can picture Teresa, Bron and Meg - the three oldest Waugh children - sitting around the table. And I can imagine their horror when Evelyn asked for all three bananas to be put on his own plate. As Bron wrote in adulthood: '...and before the anguished eyes of his children, he poured on cream, which was almost unprocurable, and sugar, which was heavily rationed, and ate all three.'

Evelyn would continue to enjoy fruity treats with or without the tacit approval of his children.

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© 2019, The Art of Pants

However, it's possible that Evelyn tried to make up for his selfish behaviour over the bananas.


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© 2019, The Art of Pants

Evelyn had a special relationship with the downstairs loo at Piers Court. It was decorated with art that he had brought back from Abyssinia, the same trips that resulted in such genuinely funny comic novels as Black Mischief and Scoop. The actual toilet was even decorated with leopard skin.

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That Country Life picture is good, but I've gone to the trouble of drawing/tracing it to bring out some of its latent qualities:

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The children were not allowed to use this washroom for fear it would disturb Evelyn twenty yards away in the library. And one can imagine how all things to do with washing might have come to obsess his offspring.

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© 2019, The Art of Pants

Evelyn was one for leaving notes about the house. Anyone staying in the guest room would find the following note written on a card in the sink: 'Mrs Grant. Her mark.' Mrs Grant being Laura's sister who somehow must have contrived to crack the enamel in the sink.

And this note attached to the guest-room toilet:
'Should the handle fail to return to the horizontal when the flow of water ceases, please agitate it slightly until it succeeds.'

Of course, a habit of writing notes is likely to be inherited by the next generation.

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© 2019, The Art of Pants

All his life, Evelyn remained fixated by his own birthday. In his diary he would summarise his year:

28 October 1947:
'My 44th birthday. I am a very much older man than this time last year, physically infirm and lethargic. Mentally I have reached a state of non-attachment which if combined with a high state of prayer - as it is not - would be edifying.'

28 October, 1948:
'My 45th birthday. An unproductive and unhealthy year. The start, pray God, of a better.'

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He was just as keen as any child on receiving birthday presents. Especially from his own children.

28 October, 1955
'My 52nd birthday. Condition unchanged since last year. Nothing from Teresa or Bron. Margaret, James and Harriet left presents behind them at the end of the holidays - a collection of coloured inks from Meg which must have taken all of her pocket money, a cake from Hatty, a crucifix from James.'

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28 October 1956 (last birthday at Piers Court)
'My 53rd birthday. A charming present of marble eggs from Bron, otherwise no recognition.'

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Evelyn: "Nothing from you, Septimus?"

Of course Septimus has a present for his dear father! I can see Evelyn being led inside the house in order to receive the gift.


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© 2019, The Art of Pants

And so nights followed days…

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© 2019, The Art of Pants

And days followed nights…

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© 2019, The Art of Pants


And maybe Evelyn could have lived a more conventionally productive life from 1944 to 1956. Maybe he could even have been happier. But two images taken in conjunction with each other deeply move me:

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© 2019, The Art of Pants


Kept awake by little hooves sometimes mistaken for the anguishing of Jesus.

Oh God, I think the only way to finish this off is to evoke the words of Samuel Beckett. From
Lessness no less:

Never was but grey air timeless no sound figment the passing light.

Never but this changelessness dream the passing hour.

Never but in dream the happy dream only one time to serve.

Never but in vanished dream the passing hour long short.

Never but dream the days and nights made of dreams of other nights better days.

Never but silence such that in imagination this wild laughter these cries.

Old love new love as in the blessed days unhappiness will reign again.

Figment dawn dispeller of figments and the other called dusk.







Acknowledgement
I've concentrated on just one side of Mr Joshua's character. More of him can be seen here: theartofpants
Or follow the master cartoonist on Twitter: @pants Though it's little old me that needs the followers: @duncan_mclaren