ROBERT BYRON




"Is it really you, Robert?"

"Resurrected like all the others, Nancy."

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"Your case is different. You died so young. I missed you so very much and for the rest of my life."

"I know you did, darling. I've been reading your biographies and your letters. I've been reading everyone's biographies and everyone's letters to everyone else. I tell you who didn't miss me though."

"Who?"

"Evelyn Waugh."

"Why do you say that?"

"In a letter to Harold Acton, he suggested that he greatly disliked me in later years and that I had become
'a dangerous lunatic better dead'."

"When did he write that?"

"In 1948. Seven years after my drowning in icy seas off the coast of Scotland.
Memoirs of an Aesthete had just come out, and Harold had written warmly of me at Eton, Oxford and beyond."

"I wonder why Evelyn expressed himself in those terms?"

"I am going to find out. And I am going to bear in mind his most obnoxious remark. It comes in my good friend Christopher Sykes's biography of Waugh, published in 1975. Christopher sets the scene in some detail. He and Evelyn have been travelling round the Middle East. They have got to Turkey and are staying in Istanbul. This is 1951, exactly ten years since I'd been torpedoed. Let me quote dear Christopher, who had walked with me on the long and difficult road to Oxiana:

"'It was during these Istanbul days that I was first aware of the extent of Evelyn's deep and embittered dislike of Robert Byron. He took it out on the splendours of ancient Constantinople. He kept up a continual commentary of denigration. "It was just a fad of Robert," he used to say. "He hadn't done his work and so he was sent down without a degree so he turned against the classics, and proclaimed post-classical Greek art as the ideal. He was so embarrassingly ignorant that he thought he'd discovered it." This was typical of his performance inside the building [Santa Sophia]. Outside he was no less scoffing: "It sits there like a great toad." Once as we were walking towards Santa Sophia, I asked him if he had ever given Robert his views about the supreme Byzantine masterpiece. "I hated him!" he cried passionately. "I hated him! I hated him.""

"Oh dear."

"Don't look so sad, Nancy. I got my share of love. But while I am here at Castle Howard I am going to get to the root of Evelyn's hatred as my contribution to this so-called Festival. Will you hear where my investigation has got to so far?"

"Nothing would give me more pleasure than to sit here with you after so long an absence and to help you with your plan. But tell me, have you seen this book?"

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Page from A Biography of Robert Byron, by James Knox. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

"No. When did that appear?"

"2003. It's especially relevant. Not only is it the single, full-length biography of you, it was written with no special regard to the Evelyn Waugh connection, even though he and I are both mentioned on the dust-cover. John Knox has read Evelyn's autobiography,
A little Learning, and that says more balanced things about you than what you've just quoted. However, I don't think he's been into Evelyn's letters or diaries in any detail, and he doesn't seem to have read the Christopher Sykes' biography of Evelyn that you've just quoted from so vividly."

"Not much use to me, then."

"Oh, yes, it is. Because John Knox has had access to all your papers and photographs and has built up a detailed and sympathetic portrait of you, from cradle to grave. And because of that, it really adds to the story of Evelyn's life. As I'm sure will come out as we talk."

"You sound every bit the biographer yourself!"

"I am every bit the biographer! I seem to recall writing to you in 1939 concerning my work on the Stanleys of Alderley. And I went on to write much in a biographical vein."

"You are a wonderful, funny, loving woman, Nancy. I never doubted your talents."

"I know, my precious."

"Good. Let me start off my story and you can come in when you like. A group of us met at Eton and formed the Eton Society of Arts. In retrospect it was a special group of writers and intellectuals. Harold Acton and myself were running things. Brian Howard was much more visible than Anthony Powell. Cyril Connolly and Henry Yorke were also in the frame. We all moved on to Oxford colleges, where a few people managed not to be intimidated and join our merry band. Evelyn Waugh was such a one. He spoke at Union debates, and helped Harold with the
Oxford Broom."

"Let me stop you there. Look at this from the Knox book. It's a cartoon that Mark Ogilvie-Grant made in 1929, referring to your Oxford generation. It features none other than Harold, you and Evelyn!"

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"Note the reference to an 1840 exhibition that you and Harold were planning. And your collection of objects under glass. In the book, John Knox claims that you and Harold were facetious about your interest in Victoriana, while Evelyn had a genuine admiration for it."

"A spurious distinction."

"Thought so. Anyway, carry on"

"Evelyn liked to get drunk, as did many of us. There was a demonic side to him in drink, but then there was a demonic side to me also. I found him funny and I think the feeling was reciprocated. After Oxford we remained in touch and kept on good terms."

"Stay with Oxford for minute. The Hypocrites Club where you did a lot of your misbehaving. Here is a superb double-illustration from the Knox volume. As the co-host of this 1924 party, you are in both of the pictures. First, standing on the right. Second, standing on the left beside beautiful Alastair Graham who was Evelyn's partner at the time."

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Page from A Biography of Robert Byron, by James Knox. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

"Evelyn is not identified in either picture, but surely he would have been there if Alastair was. I tried to cross-check with Evelyn's diary, but he destroyed it for the relevant Oxford period and the entries only begin three months later, in June of 1924."

"I see."

"This picture from 1925 was also taken in Oxford."

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"I remember taking that. Harold and Evelyn arriving at my flat at 40 Beaumont Street. The Three Musketeers."

"Let's jump ahead to May 1926. When Evelyn was trying to be
a schoolteacher, working in Aston Clinton. Meanwhile, Alastair was living with Leonard Bower in Athens and you'd gone to stay with them in order to research a history of Greece from the Byzantine Empire to the 1920s. Don't Leonard and Alastair look quite the couple? They're almost patting themselves on the genitals in self-satisfaction."

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"Maybe so, but I had an affair with Leonard when I was over there. Relationships were fluid, you see."

"It's such a lovely picture of Alastair. Both the photos of him in Knox's book are. It reminds me why Evelyn and Alastair got on so well. A tender, gentle, loving and pretty young man."


"OK, my turn. Close your eyes, Nancy, while I paraphrase Evelyn's diary entry for Monday, 7 March, 1927. I just need to step out of the room for a moment to find the relevant volume."

"OK."

"He'd just had a story accepted for an anthology. To celebrate, he dined at the Ritz with his brother Alec, and with Harold. Then on to a party at which Cecil Roberts, apparently, became insensible with drink and - curled up in his overcoat - vomited and pissed intermittently. At which point, Evelyn notes, I made an ostentatious entry as Queen Victoria….OK you can open your eyes now."

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"Oh, Robert, your lugubrious face! Forgive my tears. They are of laughter."

"The powers that be at Castle Howard have given me
a dressing room as well as a library! I mean a room that serves as both. Forgive me, I could not resist!"

"So many times I've seen you walk into a party as the Widow of Windsor. And each time every face in the room would light up!"


"Thank-you, Nancy. It is good to feel appreciated. Now let us carry on with our investigation. In 1928, I invited Evelyn to contribute to a publication that Brian Howard and I were editing called Value. I remember asking Evelyn for a story and a drawing. I asked him to confirm that he believed in God and encouraged him to write something funny. I suggested that if his story was to be funny then the drawing might be less so. I had thought of a vision of God in terms of his existence in the minds of the whole of humanity."

"Asking rather
a lot weren't you, sweetie? Did you get anything back?"

"No, the whole project had to be abandoned. Brian and I had somewhat overplayed our hand. We were young, over-ambitious, foolish you might say…"

"If this was 1928, then Evelyn was probably just too busy. He had
Rossetti coming out in April and he was writing Decline and Fall in the Barley Mow."

"I was busy too. I'd paid two visits to the monasteries of Mount Athos and my book on the trip was published by Duckworths in June of 1928. Though the copy that has been put at my disposal was the one published in New York in the same year."

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"That is so amazing. I mean that Evelyn was writing about Rossetti, so like himself in his physique and outlook, and you were writing about Mount Athos, a sort of island Oxford. I'm afraid it rather speaks of entitlement. I say again that I didn't get to go to Oxford. Women of my generation simply weren't welcome."

"I so apologise on behalf of my gender, Nancy. But what can I do? In the meantime, here is a picture of Mark, alongside David Talbot Rice, humbling himself before the monk. Humbling himself before you, whose
Christmas Pudding he was only too delighted to illustrate."

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"Evelyn and I saw a lot of each other that summer of 1928. Harold was the best man at the Evelyns' wedding and I gave away the bride."

"Dressed as Queen Victoria?"

"I think by the time she turned up, the newly weds had departed. After the honeymoon, they had a busy summer finding a flat in London. Then
Decline and Fall came out in the autumn, and that October they visited me at Savernake. Close your eyes again as I paraphrase another diary entry."

"Oh good."

"The Evelyns came to dinner, He-Evelyn described the place as curiously barbaric after Oare House, where his sister-in-law lived and where they'd regularly visited while Evelyn had been writing
Decline and Fall. He described the house as containing long, unlit and uncarpeted passages. He described the furniture as being 'unrelieved 1840'. He described me - having finished writing my book on the history of Byzantine Art - as being rather at a loose end… OK, you can open your eyes again."

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"Wow! Love the hat"

"Thank-you, Nancy. Now where was I?"

"The Evelyn's had come to visit you at your family home."

"They were both as bright as buttons. Evelyn was cock-a-hoop at the success of
Decline and Fall which everyone found so hilariously funny. I certainly did, though I was angry that certain gay young men were ridiculed, the portrayal of Gavin Henderson as Kevin Saunderson, being one example. Evelyn gave me a copy of the manuscript, you know. It was a pleasure to host the sparkling Evelyns. But then a year later, you drove the Evelyns to see me at Savernake and things seemed very different. In a letter to Henry Yorke, Evelyn says that he formed the clear impression that you and I were secretly married. Perhaps that was a roundabout way of admitting that we seemed more intimate with each other than the Evelyns did. It was shortly after this that She-Evelyn wrote to Evelyn at the Beckley Arms, telling him that she'd fallen in love with their mutual friend, John Heygate."

"Oh yes, I remember the day of our visit very well. Heygate was the elephant in the car. Heygate was the elephant in your parents' house."

"Furniture, unrelieved 1840!"

"Inclusive of elephant's foot umbrella stand. What happened next? Well, no, what had happened to induce She-Evelyn to write that letter?"

"There was a party. Given by Bryan and Diana. Evelyn didn't come down for it, but stayed in Beckley writing
Vile Bodies."

"Oh yes, the 1860 party. I was there."

"So was I."

"Ha! There's a photo of us both in the Knox book."

"I'm supposed to be an angel but look like something spat out of Mount Athos."

"You look like a dwarf."

"That is not a foot at the bottom of the picture, though the folds of cloth look like one. I'm kneeling in order to pray. It's a monk thing."

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Page from A Biography of Robert Byron, by James Knox. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

"Whereas I'm supposed to look like my grandmother. That's her dress I'm wearing. And She-Evelyn was dressed as a Victorian child, complete with hoop, and her photo is reproduced in all the Waugh books, standing exactly where I was in my sister's beautiful Buckingham Street house."

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"But then the party dissolved or became 'Embarkation for Cythera' and moved on to the Friendship, the party boat moored at Charing Cross. And a photo appeared in The Tatler of John Heygate talking to She-Evelyn, and that was enough to panic Mrs Waugh, even though she and Heygate were only in the background of it."

"Yes, but they were lying together, drinking, and with his arm somewhat around her. See, she is wearing the same black slippers. That picture was always going to create a scandal."


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"So what happened?"

"Evelyn came to London and tried to save his marriage. Two weeks after the Cythera party, there was another party at the
Friendship, this time with a tropical theme. The Evelyns were there, but hardly love's young dream. They looked awkward and estranged."


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"Within weeks their marriage was over. She-Evelyn took up with John Heygate, living together in the Canonbury Square flat."

"And so began Evelyn's year of intense, though platonic, friendship with your sister, Diana. He was out of circulation finishing
Vile Bodies, and then wrote Labels while staying in various Guinness properties, but I saw him again after the publication of Vile Bodies at events in London. My own recollection of it all is vague, but Evelyn nails May 30th, 1930, with a diary entry that tells us that he went with Diana to see the mask of her face that had been cast by a German artist. Then he and Diana, along with Harold's brother, went along to hear my lecture on the 'Christians of Travancore'. He wrote: 'I can't think why Robert does these things. There was a scattered audience of about 40 elderly people who none of them saw his jokes.'"

"An odd thing for Evelyn to write. Wasn't he and my sister in the audience? Didn't they see the jokes?"

"It was a serious talk about how Christianity had settled in India relatively soon after the Crucifixion. But I did rather muddy the waters when I talked about the head of the Roman Empire in the first century A.D. while looking something like this."

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"You didn't!"

"Well, perhaps not. But I remember Evelyn and Diana being in hoots of laughter."

"I so missed out on these lectures! You should have advertised them more widely. What next?"

"Three months later, Evelyn and I travelled together to Renishaw. According to his diary, I made him travel third class as I only travel first when abroad as I feel that's expected of an Englishman. In his diary, he describes Renishaw as very large and rather forbidding. We were there for ten days though most of the party left after the weekend. Evelyn found the household to be full of plots and gossip. Sachie liked talking about sex. Osbert was very shy. And Edith wholly ignorant. I'm afraid I disappointed Evelyn by shutting himself in my bedroom for most of the day. So he got in touch with Alastair who was in the country, persuaded him to join us, and those two spent their time in each other's company as they had done before the Evelyns got together."

"And did you? Shut yourself away in your room?"

"I think I must have been trying to get my head around the things Evelyn had been telling me. He was in the process of being received into the Roman Catholic Church. The Plunket Greenes were involved in this process, and a priest called Father D'Arcy. Of course, to any rational person, it was all nonsense, and your sister had made a point of telling him so. As a result, Evelyn engineered an argument with Diana and she was no longer part of his life. I didn't want that to happen to me and Evelyn so I kept my views to myself."

"Did you really spend ten days in Evelyn's company not telling him what you thought of his religious conversion?"

"Doesn't sound likely, does it? I must only have been there for a few days. Anyway, it was a parting of the ways. Evelyn spent the next ten years travelling the world and writing books responding to these travels, while I did the same. I travelled to Russia, then India and Tibet."

"I suppose that was when Evelyn was in Africa. The trip that resulted in
Remote People and Black Mischief."

"When he returned, he made friends with the Lygon sisters and stayed at Madresfield. I'd known Madresfield since Eton, thanks to their brother, Hughy. But, as you say, Evelyn's path rarely crossed mine because of travelling."

"At the beginning of 1933, Evelyn was on his own in South America. Whereas later that year you were travelling with Christopher Sykes in Persia and Afghanistan."

"Completely different sorts of travel, you have to bear in mind. Evelyn was so obviously in retreat from his own personal pain, that fighting his way through the jungle seemed like a distraction. While I, in contrast, was fascinated by the architecture I was coming across on a daily basis."

"Ah yes.
The Road to Oxania."

"Not quite,"

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"
Toad Road, as Evelyn no doubt called it."

"
A Handful of Dust or Toad of Toad Road? Which is it to be?"

"Evelyn went back to Africa. He wrote Waugh in Abyssinia and Scoop. Then he and his second wife went to Mexico. What about you?"

"I was travelling for a whole year around 1936. That's when I put the finishing touches to the diary that became
The Road to Oxiana."

"Cue lovely double-illustration page from the Knox book."

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Page from A Biography of Robert Byron, by James Knox. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

"Then I was working for an oil company in America."

"Why?"

"For the money. My books did not sell as Evelyn's did. And my parents were not well off. So the pressure to earn money never went away. Evelyn succumbed to such pressures after Oxford. And I did at the end of my twenties when my writing career had stalled."

"But
The Road to Oxiana is a travel classic."

"A slow burner in terms of sales."

"In Evelyn's review, published in
The Spectator in 1937, he says… Let me just find the page… 'Mr Byron suffers from insularity run amok; he sees his home as a narrowly circumscribed, blessed plot, beyond which lie vast tracts of alien territory, full of things for which he has no responsibility, to which he acknowledges no traditional tie; things to be visited, described and confidently judged. So he admits no limits to his curiosity and no standards of judgement but his personal reactions. It is a grave handicap, but Mr Byron's gusto is so powerful that the reader can only applaud.'"

"Evelyn might be describing himself before he got religion. The Evelyn Waugh that wrote
Decline and Fall or Labels for example. Still, it's a positive - if significantly qualified - assessment of my book."

"Time to remind you of some of the things that Christopher Sykes wrote about you in
Four Studies in Loyalty. I've selected these with a view to shedding light on the mystery as to why Evelyn loathed you. Or said he did."

"'Although he was gifted with unusual vision, Robert, in spite of the breadth of view he attained, worked on the dark lantern system. When he studied, and his life was spent in study, he collected the whole light of his mind in a single direction. I think he lived a life of extraordinary mental strain, not so much during the periods when he was searching for information as when he was assembling it, placing it in juxtaposition with other prizes, and attempting the formation of that complex view of life and the world which was his great and consistent aim.'

"'I narrowly missed a physical assault when I told him during our ride that I had an enormous admiration for Rembrandt.'

"'One of the blindspots of his bright vision covered the subject of himself. He had extraordinarily misleading ideas as to what manner of man he was. He was a violent, tempestuous man, of such burning convictions about so many things that he often greatly scared people who did not know him, and did not know how much good nature went along with his fighting spirit, and that there was another gentle sweet side to his nature.'

"'For sheer fun and humour Robert was an unrivalled companion - often he kept me in fits of laughter for hours on end. I still remember his description of an Oxford group meeting as the highest peak of imitative farce I have ever witnessed.'

"'The humour of his talk was almost exactly the same as is found in his books. I used to enjoy it best, I think, when indignation excited angry derision, and the adjectives would come bursting out, one slowly after the other, ponderously; and then the style would change in a flash, and the victim was ridiculed in high mock-mincing tones.'

"Poor Christopher would sometimes overreach himself in his sentences. That last quote is full of contradiction. It does not paint a clear picture."

"I wish you hadn't interrupted, darling. You've broken the rhythm. Anyway, let's move on. Evelyn reviewed the Christopher Sykes volume, this time in
The Tablet. Let me just find my notes, which I've written into the blank end pages of Four Studies in Loyalty:

"'These extracts are pungent, bursting with life, exuberant, vehement in argument, rollicking in humour, like Byron himself.'

"'He was certainly a man of action, and it seems as though in his last years he strove to express himself more in action than in art.'

"'For one
['friend', he means. I think Evelyn is referring to himself], at least, the chief debt to Mr Sykes is his completely satisfactory explanation of the mood which possessed Byron in the last years of peace; a mood which arose from the sense of personal, frustrated mission to arouse his countrymen to the imminence of war.'

"'I'm going back into this book now, for an example of how you would treat people on occasion. But first here is a quote I've noted down from A Little Learning. Evelyn's last words on you, as it were.

"'Robert in his cups was pugnacious, destructive and sottish, lapsing before the evening was out into an unlovely sleep…"

"Pot calling the kettle black!"

"…
For all that, he was much loved and, eventually, admired. I liked him…"

"No, he didn't. '
A dangerous lunatic better dead', he said!"

"…
and, until the fractious late 30s when his violent opinions became to me, intolerably repugnant…"

"'He hated me! Hated me! Hated me!…"

"
…I greatly relished his company."

"…Hated me! Hated me! Hated me!"


"Calm down, Robert."

"I am calm."

"I say that because what follows is going to be hard for you to hear. But I want you to hear it. And I want you to think back, and see if you can recall a similar scene involving Evelyn. Ready?"

"Go on."

"'
I witnessed a devastating attack on another man bearing a well-known name… It occurred after a dinner party….Conversation had turned to the ever-present topic of the day….It was obvious that as soon as the eminent man declared his faith in the ability of the government to handle the approaching crisis that there would be a scuffle…There was some open sparring to begin with, until Robert, having dealt massive blows, fastened with grim anger on his opponent. I can hear his deadly voice now:

"What you mean," he said, "is that in spite of Munich, in spite of everything that's happened since that surrender, in spite of all the passes being sold, you still believe in a British guarantee."

"Yes, I do," replied the other, hotly.

Robert filled his glass with port. "I'd like very much," he went on "to have you under a glass case with a pin stuck through you. I'd have a label tied round your neck. I'd show you to people with strong stomachs. A perfect specimen of the ruling class today.
"

"Oh God, I remember that. I also remember realising that on this occasion I had misdirected my fire. The next day I sent my victim a humble apology."

"Christopher Sykes mentions that. And quotes your victim as saying:
'What an extraordinary man Byron is. The first time I met him he treated me like a tramp and then sent me a very nice letter.'"

"
Actually, you treated him like an insect. And Evelyn?"

"Mmmm."

"Meaning?"

"I had a go at him about the Crucifixion more than once. Questioning the wisdom of a God that took his only son, nailed him to a cross and allowed him to die slowly and in excruciating pain. I seem to recall I managed to personalise my invective. I wonder how I did that?… Oh yes, Evelyn taking himself up the Amazon in search of his own death. Looking for a Jesuit to do the business, but instead finding an insane father-figure to read Dickens to for the rest of time. Rather a coward's way out, I thought."

"Oh, Robert."

"Oh, Nancy. I feel you've stripped me naked and flayed my back."

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"Hang on, I've had an idea. I wonder if you could leave me on my own until this evening. Come back then, by which time I'll have mopped up the blood, and we can resume our tête-à-tête.

*

"Ah, darling, come in. Sit down and open 'The Victorian Book of Blood'."

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"Looks yummy. Here goes…"

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"First reveal. Evelyn's bookplate. Put there when Evelyn acquired the volume. The Victorian Book of Blood was part of Evelyn Waugh's library when he died, as were three of my own books including the 1950 reprint of The Road to Oxiana. But did he purloin the Blood Book from Renishaw or Savernake or where?"

"How did you get your hands on it?"

"That is not the question, Nancy. Now you must concentrate if you want to follow me. Let me turn the page:

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"A Victorian gentleman, John Bingley Garland, made this book as a wedding gift for his daughter in 1854. In the middle of the Twentieth Century it became Evelyn's book, each of its 41 découpage pages. And now under my control it has become Evelyn's book for the rest of time."

"Golly."

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"Every one of the images in the book is focussed on the cross. What we have throughout the Book of Blood is the cross as centrepiece of Christian iconography. Nothing could be less Islamic. On 'the Road to Oxiana' this ain't.

"John Bingley Garland has filled the space around the cross with incoherent religious exclamations and with images carefully cut from Nineteenth Century books, in particular from the works of William Blake and from encyclopaedias of animals and plants. The blood, like the written words, is actually red ink, and always flows from the top towards the bottom of the page.

"I have added to the découpage. On the left you can see me and Harold Acton as we were at Oxford in 1924. And on the right there is Alastair rather in the wake of Evelyn."

'And thus! When Judgements trumpet clear!
Awakes! me from the Grave!
Still in its echo - may I hear!
"Tis Christ! - He Comes! to save!'


"I am about to turn the page, Nancy. Behold
, a cross to die for!"

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"Let me remind you of
a few dates from the summer of 1929. Dates that we mentioned in passing earlier today."

  • Sunday, June 16. You drive the Evelyns to see me at Savernake. Evelyn thinks that you and I must have been secretly married.
  • Tuesday, June 25. You and She-Evelyn attend the 1860 party at Diana and Bryan's house in Victoria. She-Evelyn goes on to canoodle with John Heygate at the Embarkation for Cythera party on the Friendship at Charing Cross.
  • Wednesday, July 3. Publication of The Sketch and The Tablet, complete with party pics.
  • Tuesday, July 9. She-Evelyn writes to He-Evelyn advising him that she is in love with John Heygate and begs him for his advice.
  • Tuesday, July 16. The Evelyns attend the Tropical Party on the Friendship. Estrangement written all over their faces, their body language screams: "We're secretly unmarried."

"It looks as if you are sitting in judgement over it all."

"I am. And there is my summing up. The crucifying of Evelyn. Not to be taken as seriously as poor Evelyn took it. Would you like to see the cross in a bit more detail?"

"No thanks."

"An unusually bloody affair. Shall I turn over then?"

"Yes, please,"

"Here we are in less full-blooded mode. Evelyn has turned the corner, or thinks he has. Because by this time he has joined the Church of Rome. "

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"Meanwhile a Roman party is going on. That's not myself with Diana top left, though several books suggest it is."

"It's John, isn't it? John Sutro."

"Remarkable John. However, that is me and you, top right. Maybe that's the kind of orgiastic scene Evelyn observed at Savernake to think we had been secretly married."

"I did love you. And we were happy in the moment."

"Of course! But where could we go from there? I will tell you where Evelyn and I went. On the road to Oxiana. Toad Road, if you will. Kiss the toad and he will turn into a prince. Kiss Toad again and the road will take you both straight back to Oxford. Kiss Toad again and who knows what would happen. No-one has ever kissed the toad three times."

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"That is marvellous, Robert. And I know there is a quote from Christopher that does the image justice. It's one that I didn't just underline but made a box around, so I should be able to find it easily enough if you just hand me Four Studies in Loyalty… Here we are:

"In describing these contrasts, of vision and blind spots, of energy and dead reaction, I may give the impression that Robert was an impossible companion in travel. I want to give the opposite impression. He was an adorable companion. These absurd comedies were all part of the fun of his companionship."

"Lovely. But do you think Evelyn will see it that way?"

"Oh, who cares?
I love him! I love him! I love him! Now let's wipe the blood out of our laps and…"

"LET'S GET THIS PARTY STARTED!"

The next essay concerns the astonishing
Brian Howard,










Acknowledgements:
1) This essay makes heavy use of the John Knox biography of Robert Byron, which I recommend to anyone wanting to know more about him.
2) Thanks to the executors of Robert Byron Estate if they do exercise forbearance and allow me to use the images from the John Knox book in the way that I have done.
3) Thanks to the Harry Ransom Centre, University of Texas, for making the pages of The Victorian Book of Blood
available online.