Waugh and Patrick Leigh Fermor

Evelyn Waugh, c 1940

A little bit more on a post I made in 2016 – It took Joan to make him a gentleman.

Evelyn Waugh is quoted as describing Paddy and Joan Rayner (later his wife) as “the Nicotine Maniac and his girl.” The source for my post was Simon Fenwick. Recently I found something on the Evelyn Waugh Society website that offers us a little more information.

The quote appears in a November 1952 post card from Waugh to Diana Cooper, who as we know was a friend and greatly admired Paddy. The cryptic message seems to relate somehow to Leigh Fermor’s involvement in a 1949 visit to Mentmore Towers where Peter Beatty, possibly a mutual friend from Army days, apparently lived or was staying before his suicide. Waugh’s contemporaneous comment on that event in a letter to Nancy Mitford does not mention Leigh Fermor. Letters, p. 312.

Simon Fenwick’s note to me said:

…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.

In her response to Waugh’s post card, Diana Cooper (also sensitive to Paddy’s smoking habits) referred to the pair as “the chimney and his girl.” see Mr Wu and Mrs Stitch, pp. 148-49.

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