It took Joan to make him a gentleman

Joan Eyres MonsellSome of you may remember that Simon Fenwick was the archivist who was first tasked by Paddy’s estate to make an initial pass at cataloguing his personal effects and papers. I have bumped into Simon on a few occasions since Paddy’s death. In conversation he has told me that he is working on a book about Joan Leigh Fermor from her own papers and diaries, and one that will give us a very different perspective on Paddy and their life together. It promises to be somewhat revelatory.

Simon is a speaker at the second Transylvanian Book Festival where he will be in conversation talking about Joan and her life with Paddy. When asked for a little snippet of the sort of thing we might expect he gave me this:

You asked for an insight into their private life. Well, when they met Paddy may have been an officer but it took Joan to make him a gentleman. Paddy was totally undomesticated and remained so. He flooded baths and spilt drinks over sheets. He also smoked 100 a day, habitually set the bed on fire and woke up in clouds of smoke. In one of his letters Evelyn Waugh refers to Paddy and Joan as ‘the Nicotine Maniac and his girl’. Not unnaturally Joan and he had separate bedrooms although hers was invariably covered in cats which he wasn’t keen on. I suppose Paddy was quite a good advert for the fact that smoking doesn’t always kill you.

Further details of Simon’s book will be available here on the blog in the coming months. Information about the Transylvanian Book Festival can be found here.


7 thoughts on “It took Joan to make him a gentleman

  1. Pingback: Waugh and Patrick Leigh Fermor | Patrick Leigh Fermor

  2. Heinz Smith

    I loved the book and although I can appreciate there are some whose sensibilities are concerned at what Joan might or might not have thought, the sentiments are positive and give insights in to times when acceptance of minority’s was although undercover, accepted by many. ( e.g. Graham and JB)
    The book brought the story of a love and devotion of the type that has drawn and shaped many of us. Thank you for telling this improbable story. What a MM outstanding film it could make or better still a multi-series even.

  3. Margaret

    To be honest, this makes me rather unconfortable. My understanding is that Joan was a very private person, and I can only imagine that she would be unhappy with an author and/or readers, however sympathetic or admiring, discussing her life and the choices she and Paddy made. Even Paddy did not accept his knighthood until after Joan’s death, out of respect for her wishes. I love Paddy’s writing and I’m fascinated by his adventures, but I believe that certain aspects of his life (and especially his wife’s) are just not our business.

  4. Paul Kelly

    This promises to be a great and insightful book for those of us linked to this site. Joan must have been a formidable and stoic woman to put up with the break-neck antics of Paddy and his peers, especially in those early days. I look forward to this read.

  5. etrading

    Intruiging. I suppose I’m looking for answers to questions like why no children? Or how did Joan deal with Paddy’s dalliances elsewhere?

  6. Tim

    My recollection from reading the diary of Billy Moss was that he, Billy, met Paddy at Tara when Paddy called for assistance putting out a fire that resulted from his all too frequent usual practice of falling asleep, in someone else’s fine dressing gown, on a sofa whilst smoking and after a few bevies.


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