PATRICK BALFOUR



How strange to be here at Castle Howard in these circumstances. What circumstances? Evelyn Waugh being dead all these years. Me being even deader. But let me get inside this cottage that has been put at my disposal. I have a job to do, one of my favourites. I have to write an essay.

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I couldn't believe that no-one had written about it before. The striking similarities between Evelyn Waugh's life and my own. We met at Oxford, worked side by side at Chagford, partied with the Lygon girls at Madresfield, paired up in Abyssinia as reporters, married in the same year. We each had a good war, in our own way, and then spent our post-war years writing the books we wanted to write. How about that? And there's more.

I, Patrick Balfour, 'Mr Gossip' at the
Daily Sketch, am portrayed in Vile Bodies as 'Mr Chatterbox' - Simon Balcairn. And, having become Lord Kinross, I crop up in Men at Arms, Officers and Gentleman and Unconditional Surrender, as Lord Kilbannock. Who else has Evelyn immortalised to such an extent? The main difference between us has always been the same: I am eight inches taller than Evelyn the dwarf. True also, that Evelyn always seemed to everyone else so much more alive than me. Evelyn, the burning dwarf.

I knew Evelyn Waugh at Oxford. We weren't close friends then, we just got drunk with the same lively people at the same colleges and pubs. In Waugh's diary, he describes being let out of a Balliol College window by a rope held by myself at one o'clock in the morning in the summer of 1924. Do I wish I had let go of said rope? Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Below is a photograph of the me that gently lowered smouldering Evelyn to the ground in another life. Note my establishment clothes; my detachment, that may be due to my sense of entitlement; and my reserve, that may be to do with my homosexuality. My close friend at Oxford, John Betjeman, called me a 100 percenter. Meaning totally homosexual. Well, he was wrong there, as you'll learn if you stick with this.

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John Patrick Douglas Balfour by Bassano Ltd 1925

I have rented a cottage on the Castle Howard estate and my personal archive has been moved here from where it normally resides at Huntington Library in California. The archive is now supplemented by books that have appeared since my death in 1976. That is, The Diaries of Evelyn Waugh (1976), The Letters of Evelyn Waugh (1980) and several biographies of the author. Only now do I have all I need to put together The Concordance of Patrick Balfour and Evelyn Waugh. I love doing this kind of research. It's how I put together my histories of Egypt and Turkey. It's when I burn in my own steady way.

After Oxford, we went our own ways for a couple of years, but he wrote to me in February 1928, suggesting he would soon be eloping with Evelyn Gardner and thanking me for 'the advertisement'. He may be referring to a plug I gave his book,
Rossetti, in my gossip column in the Sketch. (Did I give such a plug?) But it was Evelyn's relationship with Tom Driberg - who wrote 'The Talk of the Town' column in theThe Daily Express, top-selling newspaper of the day - that seriously promoted him. I continually plugged the life and works of Robert Byron, while Driberg supported the career of Evelyn Waugh. Which may explain why in Vile Bodies, Waugh made me the basis for his Mr Chatterbox. He could afford to offend me. So it was Simon Balcairn who had to live in a flat in Bourdon Street. Balcairn who had to sell his soul in order to get invites to parties. Balcairn who stuck his head in the gas oven when he was ejected from the party thrown by Margot Metroland. She having been Margot Beste Chetwynde, a character in Decline and Fall based on She-Evelyn's sister, Alathea. Ha! - The entire, tight little world of high society circa 1930 is still at my touch-typing fingertips.

Vile Bodies, out at the beginning of 1930, was a huge success, and Evelyn and I often found ourselves at the same parties in London until he went to Africa in the autumn of that year. He came back from there, wrote up the resulting travel book, and was taking a break in the summer of 1931. He wrote me a letter on 12 July, 1931, so full of gossip about our mutual friends, that it took Mark Amory, editor of The Letters of Evelyn Waugh, 31 footnotes to clarify for the modern reader. We found ourselves in Villefranche together, Evelyn having dragged me away from a more sociable gathering nearby. A photographer at The Tatler caught up with the pair of us. It was about this time that the story of Lord Lygon's disgrace and exile broke. I knew all about it, but the public didn't find out from Mr Gossip. If nothing else, I knew which side my bread is buttered. Actually, in the picture I don't look so very much taller than Evelyn, clearly some foreshortening has gone on.

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For part of 1931 and 1932 we lived in the same hotel in Chagford, near Exeter. Evelyn was writing Black Mischief and I was writing my overview of British society. My father had offered to pay my considerable debts if I resigned from my job at the Sketch, so this was me forging a new career for myself. In November of 1931, Waugh wrote to Lady Mary Lygon at Madresfield from our lodging in Chagford. He was in a depressed mood, saying that the fire smoked, the beams were filthy, it rained all day and he didn't have any money. He added that I was drunk most of the time and that I had left open the tap of a beer barrel and flooded the cellar.

Black Mischief was published in October 1932. Society Racket was also published in 1932 for the Xmas market, which means that in quoting from the book, as I did, I was making use of privileged access to the typescript: 'Sonia as she undressed said to Alastair, "D'you know, deep down in my heart I've got a tiny fear that Basil is going to turn serious on us too."' No need to use Black Mischief in this context, except my friend's books were so very fashionable it would have been a missed opportunity.

In another chapter of
Society Racket, I comment that the only authors from the 1920s that are likely to survive for any length of time are Evelyn Waugh and Edie Sackville West. When in our cups, Evelyn had urged me to choose a second writer that would make him look even more supreme. In other words a writer whose reputation was unlikely to survive for long. Edie wrote a few dim books, became Baron Sackville-West and took up his seat in the House of Lords without making a maiden speech. He was part of an all-male salon that included Somerset Maugham, and Evelyn and I had been rather bored by them in the summer of 1931.

All who I recommended in
Society Racket were gay. I championed Beverley Nichols, Cecil Beaton and Oliver Messel, putting it like this: 'Now I have selected these three young men as typical products of their age. All three are talented, hard-working and successful. All three are bachelors. All three are amusing and socially popular. All three are modest; and the last claim which any of them would make is to greatness. Yet it is greatness which Society likes thrust upon them.' Oh dear, there seems to be a 'to' missing in that last sentence. Perhaps I was proofreading the day that I left open the tap on the beer barrel. But then again, Evelyn and I drank beer together every night. We both wanted to be somewhere else. He wanted to be at Madresfield, joking with the Lygons. And I wanted… I'm not sure where I wanted to be. Perhaps it wasn't a place but a state of mind. I wanted to be happy. But how could I be happily paired up when to be actively gay was illegal?

It was October 1932 that Evelyn's brother, Alec, married for the second time. I was the only person who was friendly with both Waugh brothers. Alec's first marriage was dissolved on the grounds that it was never consummated. Evelyn must have sent me the following photo taken at Alec's wedding, because he's written on the back of it:
'Rich and poor mingle at Church Door. Vicar says 'Equal in the sight of God.'

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Evelyn was having a dig at the fact that I was the son of a lord but didn't have any money. Our family was house rich and cash poor. Whereas Evelyn was simply broke all the time. Actually, I seem to be saying: 'I say, lend me tuppence for a bag of chips, old bean.' But Evelyn is curtly refusing. He is saving up for his next drink. Evelyn facetiously called me 'Pauper' for much of our lives. It's a word I have come to associate with his hot, razor-sharp friendship.

So by the end of 1932, my book came out. Evelyn may have had five books out by then, But mine was an overview, looking down on everyone. I have always liked it as a physical object, especially the spine:

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The book begins with me being recognised as the son of Lord Balfour while crossing the English Channel. A Frenchman, not having a visa to enter Britain for the weekend, bribes me with alcohol to put in a good word for him with the passport officer. Purely on my say-so, this Frenchman is allowed into the country. My objective in writing
Society Racket was to show that society was still a racket, only the rules had changed. I tried to show what the new rules were and who was using them to their advantage. The new ruling class consisted of Evelyn, me and our Oxford chums. And if that sounds far fetched, then you must read my book and come to your own conclusion.

Society Racket contains two images of myself. This one, where I am hosting a cocktail party. That's me in the centre with a cocktail shaker and a sad expression on my bug-eyed face.

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That could almost be Evelyn in the foreground. But, if so, he 's talking to the wrong girl. It was Teresa Jungman, the wide-eyed girl on the right, that Evelyn loved from 1930 to 1934. She did not return his sexual aspirations, much to his anguish.

And this picture, taken in the aftermath of the Mozart party in 1930. Cecil Beaton has got hold of a road-drill and we are helping the workers dig up Piccadilly. What japes!

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Again, that could almost be Evelyn, the small, proud man that I am condescending to touch on the shoulder. What am I announcing? Perhaps this: "At the request of Evelyn Waugh, Cecil Beaton will now prove his brute chic… At the request of Evelyn Waugh, Cecil Beaton will now open the beer barrel… At the request of Evelyn Waugh, Cecil Beaton will now demonstrate toxic masculinity…" How Evelyn bullied poor Cecil. Indeed, that's why Evelyn isn't in the photo. Because if he was in it, then he would be brandishing the drill and Cecil would have legged it.

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I was back in England in 1934 to write
Grand Tour, the story of a trip by land and sea to Malaysia, coming back to Britain mostly overland. I was in good company, if only metaphorically. For in 1933, Robert Byron was travelling to Russia and Tibet, out of which came a travel book. Harold Acton was living and writing in China, and Alastair Graham was working at the British Embassy in Athens. Or had he moved to Cairo by then? That's another three bachelors for you, in the full inter-war sense of the term. Same-sex relationships may have been illegal in these far-flung places too, but they were tolerated, which was not the case in Britain. We were all well aware of Lord Lygon's story, even if we didn't break it.

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What's this? A postcard has fallen out of the book. That's funny, it's a card that would have gone with the publicity copy of the book that was sent to Tom Driberg. November, 1934. Me at my absolute prime. I had such wonderful hand-writing. How the ink flowed from the nib of my pen. How it flowed so freely.

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I remember writing the note and looking forward to catching up with Tom.

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So that was November 14, 1934. 'Will come in and see you Monday.' I would tell Tom the stories that I hadn't been able to put in the book. And he would tell me about blow jobs he'd given in Central London. We had so much in common. To name but three: Oxford, Evelyn Waugh and our gayness. Evelyn's A Handful of Dust came out in October of 1934 and this meeting with Tom would be our first chance to catch up about it. To be lost up the Amazon having to read Dickens to one's keeper for the rest of one's days. A fate worse than death. Tom told me his life in London working for Beaverbrook was a bit like that.

Tom also said that the best thing about my book was the frontispiece, which he'd spotted was really a self-portrait. And he used the card I'd sent him to demonstrate his point. And I must have held onto both for some reason.

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Evelyn was back at Chagford in October 1934, to work on his biography of Edmund Campion. He mentioned in a letter to Madresfield that 'the very poor Mr Balfour is coming next week.' However, I think the next time we holed up together was in Abyssinia. We were there to cover the war that was about to kick off between Italy and Abyssinia. In Addis Abbaba we lived with two other journalists in a pension run by a German woman while all the other journos were in the big hotel. Evelyn soon got bored with nothing happening in the capital and persuaded me to go with him in search of a story.

Basically, Evelyn wanted to revisit Harar, a Moslem town, which he had admired in 1930. So back down the line by train as far as Diredawa, then in a lorry to Harar, We both engaged spys and had to sleep on the floor of a building. My spy proved useful though, and we learned that the French consul had been imprisoned along with his wife. Once we confirmed this story from local officials we sent it to our papers expecting praise.

However, in the UK on Saturday, August 31,1935, the headline in the
Daily Telegraph concerned Abyssinia's ten million pound deal with British and American interests. Instead of being congratulated about our story, the Mail wrote to Evelyn: ‘Badly left oil concession suggest you return Addis immediately.’ The sense of rancour never left Evelyn, and was responsible for much of Scoop. Yes, I was around for the inspiration for that funniest of novels. But what surprised me about Abyssinia was Evelyn's courage. He showed himself to be recklessly brave. Thankfully, I had returned to civilisation before Evelyn embarked on a mission to discover whether the war had started yet in the north of the country.

Unfortunately, there is no photograph of Evelyn and me together in Abyssinia, so I'm going to have to make use of one that you've already seen:

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Back in England, Evelyn wrote Waugh in Abyssinia. My own publishing deal was more modest, amounting to a forty-page chapter in Abyssinian Stop Press. My essay, 'Fiasco in Abyssinia', omits mention of Evelyn Waugh altogether. Indeed, for whatever reason, I never set down my recollections of Evelyn at any length until now.

In 1938, Evelyn Waugh got married. Stranger still, in 1938, I got married. In both cases I would say it was a marriage of convenience. Evelyn had given up on marrying Teresa Jungman, who he loved, and was marrying Laura Herbert for her money and child-bearing potential. That sounds a bit 'using', but Evelyn was capable of making strategic decisions, and this was one. Laura was eighteen-years-old, intelligent, docile and perfect for his purpose. He wrote to Mary Lygon telling her not to tell either Tom Driberg or myself about the engagement. He was intent on being discreet in his mature years.

And I married Angela Culme-Seymour, the 25-year-old former wife of the artist John Spencer-Churchill. So what was that all about? Was I testing my bisexuality? Did I hope to father an heir? She was the most beautiful person I'd ever known, and I loved her. There was no particular sexual attraction, but I could make her laugh and we adored being in each other's company. I knew deep down that she wouldn't be faithful. Being faithful was just not Angela's thing.

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National Portrait Gallery. Angela Mary Churchill (née Culme Seymour); John George Spencer Churchill by Bassano Ltd 1934.

Having inherited my title, I bought a property at the back of Paddington, 4 Warwick Avenue, a house I owned for the rest of my life. We gave regular Wednesday evening parties in 1938 and '39, which Evelyn would attend. He claimed that our parties were full of spies, by which, I suspect, he was expressing personal discomfort. I don't think Angela and Evelyn got on very well. Ruthless innocents don't always spark off each other.

Anyway, the war came along and when I was stationed in Cairo, Angela began an affair with someone else. Evelyn and Laura were separated by the war as well. But each time he returned home on leave he seemed to succeed in getting his wife pregnant. Couldn't have been much fun for her, pregnant or breast-feeding the whole war. Wasn't much fun for me either. Knowing that my wife was making love with another man in my absence.

Evelyn's diaries reveal that we met a couple of times from 1940 to 1944. Actually, we met in November, 1939, when Evelyn was trying to get a position in the forces. He notes in his diary: '
Took a magnum of champagne to dinner at Patrick Balfour's. He told me that my idea for a magazine had already been anticipated by the rump of the left wing under Connolly. I went on to the Slip-In and drank three bottles of champagne and a bottle of rum with Kathleen Meyrick. I was sick at about 5.' Evelyn the burning dwarf. Or, rather, putting out more bottles.

I enjoyed an evening at the regimental HQ of the Royal Marines at an early stage in the war, when Evelyn was training to be an officer and in love with the idea of fighting for a noble and Christian cause. I had joined the RAF and was in Cairo when Evelyn came up the Suez Canal with a battleship of commandos in 1942. Then in 1946, I stayed with Evelyn and Laura at Piers Court. Evelyn commented in his diary that I was large and plump and went on to say.
'He showed some slight guilt at his ease in accommodating himself to the bureaucratic regime, but spoke without any irony of so-and-so having had 'a good war' by which he means a series of safe and comfortable para-military appointments.' This observation would take on significance when he sat down to write his war memoirs.

But first things first. My wife left me. And in due course I travelled to Chagford to write my first novel. Evelyn recorded the salient facts in an unsentimental way:
'Balfour is back, homeless, penniless, without employment, living at Chagford and trying to write a book, precisely as he was 15 years ago.'

And in January 1950, he was able to put the boot in further:
'Poor Patrick has written a novel in praise of Angela. Quite good about her but the rest Forsyte Saga.' Happily, I did not get to read this scathing verdict at the time. The book is called The Ruthless Innocent, and is full of men's desire for women, and women's desire for freedom. Really! - what did I know about such subjects? The book ends with its protagonist about to marry the woman he has come to love, after having been rejected by the woman he thought he had loved earlier Or, as Evelyn might have put it, pure bollocks. By 1950, Evelyn had written The Loved One, a book so Forsyte-less that it is still laughed aloud at. He got there, I didn't. In the meantime, let me console myself, as all writers do, with the physicality of my output.

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In 1952, Men At Arms appeared. Near the beginning, Evelyn introduces a character called Lord Kilbannock. This was of interest to me as I had inherited my father's title back in 1939 and was now known as Lord Kinross. Skilful how Evelyn managed to retain the 'ba' syllable from Balfour. This Ian Kilbannock had met Guy Crouchback, Waugh's protagonist, in Africa, had been a journalist, and was now in an Air Force uniform. All as I had been. Kilbannock twice uses the word 'shaming' about his behaviour. There's an Air Marshall who wants to get into the London club that Guy and KIlbannock belong to, but he's not the right sort of person. Kilbannock discusses the war with Guy, hoping he'll get a job in India or Egypt where there is no black-out. And then there comes this sentence, which originates from the meeting between myself and Evelyn in 1946: ''All a bit too dangerous for me. I don't want a medal. I want to be known as one of the soft-faced men who did well out of the war.'"

Later in the book, Air Marshall Beech is still trying to get into the club. KIlbannock skilfully manipulates Guy so that he has no choice but to sign his name in the Candidates Book at Bellamy's, fictional equivalent of White's. This is despite them both knowing that the air Marshall has been black-balled and will not be given membership. However, KIlbannock will gain points from his air marshall for securing the signature. While Guy will lose face in the eyes of anyone who see his name against the candidacy of such a man. It's a subtle scene.

I puzzled over Evelyn's inscription in the hardback copy of the novel he sent me. '
For Patrick with love from Evelyn, Sept 6th 1952. I say why not send the copy you bought to 'a friend in the forces' instead of exchanging it. There are too many houses which lack one.' A friend in the forces? Was this this a coded remark? Who did he mean?

I was still writing myself. In 1951,
The Orphaned Realm: Journeys in Cyprus. And in 1954, Within the Taurus: A Journey in Asiatic Turkey. From my house on Warwick Avenue, it wasn't far to the British Library. And I had my own excellent collection of books about the Middle East at home. Which isn't to say I didn't travel extensively in these places. I did my share of shuffling around God-forsaaken parts of this planet.

In 1955, the second volume of Evelyn's war memoirs appeared. I read it with trepidation. Straight away there is a scene set at Bellamy's bringing the air marshal theme to a conclusion. The scene opens with Lord KIlbannock and Guy standing on the steps of the club admiring the crazy colours of a sunset during the blitz. Evelyn's fictional altar ego thought the sky was reminiscent of Turner, mine of John Martin. It's true that we both knew about painting and liked to compare notes in a competitive way.

Air Marshal Beech has become a member of Bellamy's, despite the blackballing system, thanks to the popularity of the R.A.F. at that stage in the war. With the siren sounding, he insists on taking cover under the billiards table as per the rule book, much to the disdain of other members. 'My dear fellow, it's a
nightmare for everyone," KIlbannock tells Guy, and talks of his desire for an African holiday.

Later in the book, Kilbannock appears in a yacht off the west coast of Scotland, where Guy has been training with the commandos. His new role, organised for him by a demoralised Air Marshal Beech, it to liase with the Press. This means that Kilbannock has to drink with American journalists at the Savoy and refuse to give out any information on the grounds of security. They're looking for a war hero to promote, but Guy and his commandos are too upper-class to fit the bill.

Lord Kilbannock ends up promoting the only trainee officer that Guy didn't like in
Men At Arms. Trimmer has changed his identity to McTavish, adopting a fake Scottish accent. Kilbannock goes with him on a submarine mission to occupied France. It's an absolute shambles, but Kilbannock writes it up otherwise, and McTavish is decorated. Kilbannock organises a press conference at the Savoy and tries to persuade McTavish to play his part. Unfortunately, sick with love for Guy's ex-wife, McTavish refuses to co-operate, leaving Kilbannock with the impossible task of keeping the Americans sweet.

At the end of
Officers and Gentlemen, Guy is recuperating in Cairo. That's where I was stationed at the relevant part of the war. But having used me in a Ministry of War role based in London, Evelyn needed someone else to do his dirty work in Cairo. Step forward, Diana Cooper in the form of Mrs Stitch, who Evelyn had first introduced to the reading public in Scoop.

Two books into the trilogy and I had to accept I was being portrayed by my long-term friend as a self-interested, manipulative shit. On the other hand, the author seemed to like this character, despite his limitations. I tried to forget about Lord Kilbannock, as Lord Kinross had concerns of his own.

I wonder what it was that aged me. I wonder what it is that ages any of us. Spending all our waking hours trying to manipulate the system in our own interests? Trying to persuade the world that you are straight when you're gay? That you're a hero when you're risk-averse? That you're Scottish when you're born and bred a member of the English upper class? The next image is what I looked like by the time I was sitting for the camera in March, 1957. I look like one of the smooth-faced men who had made sure that he had enjoyed a good war, God help me.

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John Patrick Douglas Balfour by Walter Stoneman, 1957

Meanwhile, I was still writing books. Portraits of Greece with Photographs by Dimitri (1956), Europa Minor: Journeys in Coastal Turkey (1956) and The Innocents at Home (1959). This last is a record of my first trip to the United States. While there I became friendly with a New York taxi-driver and artist called Harry Martin. Harry produced drawings that decorate this book, which I know Evelyn was given a copy of, as it was in his library at his death. I mention this because when I read Unconditional Surrender on its appearance in 1961, I was saddened to read that Lord Kilbannock 'resolved to make himself agreeable to this photographer and get prints of all his films. They might serve to illustrate a book.' This comes near the end when Kilbannock's manipulations have reduced another senior officer to jelly, and he has succeeded in getting a posting as a war correspondent in the Adriatic.

On some level, Evelyn and I were on as good terms as ever, and he generously sent me inscribed copies of his books.
The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold in 1957, The Life of Ronald Knox in 1959. Then reprints of Decline and Fall, Brideshead Revisited, Black Mischief and Scoop. In 1963, a deluxe limited edition version of Basil Seal Rides Again, and lastly Sword of Honour, the war trilogy as a single volume in 1965. The inscription reads:

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The word 'incineration' may have been a reference to a fire that took place at my flat earlier in 1965. But it was also, knowing Evelyn, a reference to the fate of Lord Kilbannock. Kilbannock's plane crashes on the way from Italy to Yugoslavia and he only survives thanks to the quick thinking of an American general. Many of the party are burnt to ashes. Despite the near-death experience, Kilbannock is there to witness Brigadier Ritchie Hook's last one-man assault on enemy lines, a suicide mission that Kilbannock may or may not have gone on to write up as another heroic episode on a par with the earlier episode featuring McTavish.

Opening the book a little further, to page 30, I saw that Evelyn had taken the opportunity of changing Lord Kilbannock's newspaper job before joining the Air Force from having written a racing column to having written a gossip column. Now why had he bothered to make such a tiny change? Was it for my benefit? Had that inaccuracy niggled away over the years?

What do I feel looking back at the 1920s as I often do? There are images, and there are words that correspond with them.

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"At the request of Evelyn Waugh, Patrick Balfour will now turn into a long streak of his own piss… At the request of Evelyn Waugh, Patrick Balfour will now frig for England underneath a billiards table… At the request of Evelyn Waugh, Patrick Balfour will now demonstrate how to win friends and influence people …"

Where am I? I have rather lost track, as I've sat here ageing fifty years over the course of a few hours. Really, I don't know whether I'm coming or going.

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Patrick Balfour by Allan Warren,

Actually, I do know one thing. I am on the Castle Howard estate. What is my purpose here? I hope to have a glass-to-glass with the ruthless innocent from my youth. I want to ask him to define the difference between pure Forsyte and pure Brideshead.

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And, of course, I'm not happy being remembered as the model for Ian KIlbannock. Am I not the author of Society Racket, Grand Tour and the standard history of modern Turkey told via a biography of Ataturk, that great nation's founder? By reciting a poem that connects Evelyn and me to our time at Oxford, I hope to communicate this to him:

"I hoed and trenched and weeded,
And took the flowers to fair:
I brought them home unheeded;
The hue was not the wear.

"So up and down I sow them
For lads like me to find,
When I shall lie below them,
A dead man out of mind.

"Some seed the birds devour,
And some the season mars,
But here and there will flower
The solitary stars,

"And fields will yearly bear them
As light-leaved spring comes on,
And luck-blessed lads will wear them
When I am dead and gone."






Notes
1) Patrick Balfour is the third Evelyneer to arrive at Castle Howard. The others are
Richard Plunket Greene and Dick Young.

2) The copy of Grand Tour that had the card to Tom Driberg inside it was a book I bought recently. Presumably it was in Tom Driberg's library at one time.

3) The dialogue between Patrick Balfour and Tom Driberg about A Handful of Dust is just something I made up.

4) The poem at the end is the final one in A.E. Housman's
A Shropshire Lad. I did change one word.