Academic journal article Evelyn Waugh Newsletter and Studies

Evelyn Waugh and Rex Whistler

Academic journal article Evelyn Waugh Newsletter and Studies

Evelyn Waugh and Rex Whistler

Article excerpt

In his review of Hugh and Mirabel Cecil's In Search of Rex Whistler in the Autumn [2013 Anthony Powell Society] Newsletter, Jeffrey Manley discusses the coincidental parallels between Whistler's life and the character Charles Ryder in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.

What neither authors nor reviewer mention is that Waugh did base a character in one of his novels on Whistler: the (silent) artist Arthur in the first chapter of Scoop (1938). Arthur is "painting ruined castles on the ceiling" of Mrs Stitch's bedroom (as Whistler had painted grisaille mural decorations in the Gower Street drawing room of Lady Diana Cooper, the model for Mrs Stitch, a few years earlier). Mrs Stitch, who is simultaneously conducting her morning levee from her bed, helpfully provides Arthur with constructive criticism as he paints ("You're putting too much ivy on the turret, Arthur; the owl won't show up unless you have him on the bare stone, and I'm particularly attached to the owl".)

This comment, as Lady Diana astutely pointed out to Jacqueline McDonnell [Waugh on Women (1985), 184], indicates that the literary source for Arthur's painting is Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1751). (The identification of Arthur with Rex Whistler is also Lady Diana's. …

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