Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Connolly Coda

{Cyril Connolly, photographed by Janet Stone, from the collection of the National Portrait Gallery}

I thought I was done with Cyril Connolly for a while, but I couldn't very well not share this anecdote from a letter that Nancy Mitford sent Evelyn Waugh on April 13, 1946:
Dined at the Embassy on Thurs: Stephen Spender -- I suppose you hate him. He told me an awfully funny story about when Cyril was living with Jean and Diana Witherby & caught them both out having affairs with other people & said to Steve, almost in tears, "It is hard, here have I been absolutely faithful to 2 women for a year, they've both been unfaithful to me."
What Mitford politely doesn't point out is that it would have been an even more impressive story had the two ladies been stepping out on Cyril with each other.

Just in case the addition of that betrayal to the rest of Connolly's history of dismal relationships makes you start to feel too sorry for him, it's worth noting Mitford's reaction years later when Connolly's second wife leaves him:
Poor widowed Smartyboots -- rather sad, isn't it, when he so loves to be the one that chucks.
Mitford's opinion, assuming it is well-founded, does rather deflate Connolly's hysterical rant in The Unquiet Grave about the primal joy women take in discarding their men. As so often in life, and especially in marriages to which one is not a party, the situation is more complicated than it might at first seem--which is, after all, one of the lessons novels are always trying to teach us.

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