Anglican Samizdat

September 14, 2009

Leave my favourite authors alone

Filed under: Books — David Jenkins @ 11:46 pm

I was content in my ignorance; alas, no longer:

Somerset Maugham may be the most debauched man of the 20th century:

Somerset Maugham was well-placed to come up with his wonderful description of the French Riviera  –  ‘a sunny place for shady people’.

The most louche of all the expatriates who congregated on the beautiful stretch of coast between Nice and Monaco before World War II, the prolific writer held court at his fabulous mansion, the Villa Mauresque, in glamorous Cap Ferrat.

Nude bathing parties, drugs, lashings of champagne and nightly seductions of the local lads . . . Almost everyone who visited was shocked by his decadence.

Evelyn Waugh had three homosexual lovers at Oxford:

The novelist Evelyn Waugh had three gay lovers during an ‘acute homosexual phase’ while studying at Oxford, according to a biography.

Author Paula Byrne hails him as a ‘great bisexual’ writer and reveals that he cherished the ‘fully fledged’ affairs.

And William Golding was the Lord of Self Loathing:

When William Golding, the author of Lord Of The Flies, was congratulated by Lord Snowdon for having written The Lord Of The Rings, he failed to find the mistake funny, and that’s very revealing.

For here we have a man who categorically stated “of friends, I have practically none”, who lived in Cornwall “partly to avoid people”, and who, despite a CBE, a knighthood, the Nobel Prize, membership of the Athenaeum, honorary doctorates and a South Bank Show profile, still believed he was excluded from the Establishment. In  other words, he was insecure.

“I suppose that basically I despise myself,” Golding confessed, “and am anxious not to be discovered, uncovered, detected, rumbled.”

Of course, it is well known that Tolstoy lived a debauched life until he was 40; then he married, fathered 13 children and subsequently refused to have sexual relations with his wife because he talked himself into believing he was called to asceticism. Perhaps inconsistency and debauchery are necessary attributes of an interesting writer – although they didn’t do much for Norman Mailer.


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