Friday, October 03, 2008

"Makes no bones about causing trouble for its own sake."

Baseball playoffs, as usual during October, are hampering blogging a bit. So today all I have is a little treat for any Cyril Connolly fans out there . . . and surely you're out there, right?

While flipping through Anthony Powell's Journals, 1987-1989 the other night in search of opinions about Thomas Hardy, I happened across Powell's first impressions of Barbara Skelton's memoir Tears Before Bedtime (1987), in which Skelton (the model for Pamela Widmerpool) tells of her difficult marriage to Connolly. The highlights:
Early life rather vague, cliche-ridden. After becoming a model (having apparently at the age of seventeen been seduced by rich friend of her father's), set up on flat in Crawford Street, off Baker Street. She puts down what happens with a good ability, complete disregard for what anyone might think of her. Result extremely lively. Makes no bones about causing trouble for its own sake, indeed resemblance to Pamela Flitton could hardly be more emphasized. Cyril's similar taste for conflict met its match when they lived together, in due course married. Her account of Cyril lying in bed chewing the sheets vivid to a degree. . . . She is fairly rude about Peter Quennell (who passed her on to Cyril, apparently sharing her with several others at the same time during the war). . . . Cyril's encouragement of his wife's affair with King Farouk of Egypt puts him within hail of ponce area; material eminently suitable for Elizabethan, Caroline, comedy. There will probably be a chorus of shocked horror on the part of reviewers (always essence of sanctimoniousness), amongst whom Quennell might easily figure.
The passage (like, presumably, the memoir itself) is fun primarily for its sheer gossip value--but at the same time, it's rife with distinctly Powellian touches. "Result extremely lively"; "could hardly be more emphasized"; "vivid to a degree": could there be a more Powellian combination of diffident assertion and dry amusement?

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