On Monday, September 10, 1945, a great thing happened. The nuns left Piers Court, where they'd been settled for the duration of the war, and the Waughs moved back into the house. Laura thought everything was perfect while Evelyn - bless his cynicism - detected losses and damage everywhere he looked.


In the cellar, Evelyn flushed out four dozen bottles of Dows 1922 and six dozen assorted claret, so things started to look up. Within a week his library was in order. That's to say he could be sitting at his desk - cigar in hand, glass within reach - and look up from his papers to see a one-time King of England, George the Third, looking down on him from the wall, approving of his subject's set-up. All was well with Waugh's world after all.


From time to time, Evelyn would have to go to the loo. You can see where he had to walk to thanks to the plan view of a small part of the ground floor of Piers Court that I've placed below. What he found when he got to the 'cloakroom' (top of plan) I'll reveal in a minute.


How had the world changed for Evelyn since he had last been in residence in 1939? Mainly in the following ways:

Britain and its allies had won the war, but at what cost? A post-war Labour government was in power which meant high taxes on his earnings which were used - much to Waugh's dismay - to provide Welfare for the masses.

He was the author of
Brideshead Revisited. This had been chosen as Book of the Month in the United States, which meant a £10,000 windfall and an additional £10,000 in royalties to be looked forward to. Moreover, it gave Evelyn an exalted sense of his own importance. 'If you have laurels, rest on them', might have been Waugh's philosophy at the time. Besides, if he wrote more books in the next few years the income from them would be taxed at 80%.

He was the father of four children by now and, for the first time, would have to get used to them being around. Not in the library, of course, that would remain a child-free zone. But he could hardly keep them out of the house as a whole. Not those (Meg and Hattie) that were under school age, and not even those (Bron and Teresa) who
were of school age, at least when their schools were closed for the holidays. More kids on the way? That's how the Roman Catholic Church would have it, so yes. The Haynes' four-poster had been erected in Evelyn's bedroom.

OK, time for the trip to the loo I mentioned. Here we go:


No view of George the Third while sitting here. Instead, leopard skin armrests and paintings brought back from visits to Abyssinia. Evelyn had first been to Addis Ababa in autumn of 1930 for Haile Selassie's coronation. Out of that trip he got two books,
Remote People and Black Mischief, a travel memoir and a novel, respectively. From a subsequent visit in 1935 came Waugh in Abyssinia and Scoop, another travel and novel double-hander. Oh yes, Africa had been good for Evelyn's muse. So why not let him be reminded of that every time he sat on the toilet? Once again, if you've got laurels, rest on 'em.

Actually, sitting on Evelyn's loo - as it were - I've just realised something. Evelyn may not have had a view of a king of England, but he was sitting in the presence of an African emperor. The portrait mounted on the top half of the door leading to the non-toilet half of the two-room 'cloakroom' is of Haile Selassie. Waugh must have brought it back from Ethiopia in March 1931, because he used it as frontispiece to his travel book,
Remote People. I say above that in the image the king is smoking. He's not. Like George III he has a stick to play with.

piers court1
Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

Waugh then worked on a drawing of his own to produce a frontispiece for
Black Mischief, preserving the phrase 'from the painting by a native artist', though in this case the native artist was Evelyn Waugh. H.I.M Seth of Azania, seated like H.I.M. Haile Selassie, beside a little table, is shown with a lion at his feet, a rifle in one hand and a crucifix in the other. Quite a complicated image, just as the presence of the George the Third painting in the library represents a complex web of loyalties and ironies.

By what means are we able to follow Evelyn's life in the post-war years he spent in Piers Court, that is between September 1945 and October 1956? Years during which he began the Sword of Honour trilogy, wrote
The Loved One quickly and Helena slowly, edited Brideshead Revisited, entertained Graham Greene, turned away Nancy Spain, edited his four travel books into a single volume, had three more children, and drank his way through hundreds of bottles of wine. Mainly by making use of the following resources.

First, the diaries. Evelyn kept a detailed diary from autumn 1945 until his 45th birthday on 28 October, 1948. That is a priceless three-year crop of words that I'll be harvesting. Then there is no diary for four years. The diary resumes in December 1952 and goes on until June of 1953. There are entries in January of 1954 but none covering the voyage to Ceylon that produced the hallucinations described in
The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. In fact, it's not until June 1955 - an eighteen months gap to add to the four-year gap - before the diary resumes. Thankfully, it then carries on until the Waughs leave Piers Court.

Roughly half the period is covered by diary, then. So how do we know what happened at other times? Evelyn wrote letters to a wide range of correspondents, telling us what he was up to at Piers Court. In particular, letters to his agent A.D. Peters, often saying what he was working on. Letters to writing chums - John Betjeman, Graham Greene, Cyril Connolly, and Christopher Sykes, again providing insight into Waugh's work. Gossipy letters to woman friends - Nancy Mitford (in particular), Lady Mary Lygon (who had given Evelyn the run of Madresfield in pre-Laura days), Diana Cooper, Ann Fleming and Penelope Betjeman. Loving or scolding letters to Laura when either of them were away from home. And letters, often sarcastic, to his children.

Waugh's biographers, principally, Christopher Sykes, Martin Stannard and Selina Hastings provide crucial pieces of information. Valuable too is the volume written by Frances Donaldson,
Evelyn Waugh, Portrait of a Country Neighbour. The socialist-leaning Donaldsons were friendly with the Waughs from the spring of 1948, and Frances observed Evelyn at his most charming and his most offensive. Equally valuable is what Evelyn's son Auberon writes about his time at Piers Court in his autobiography, Will This Do? Auberon was six when he came to live in Piers Court and seventeen when the family left the house, so his is essentially a child's view, but irresistible for all that.

Bron (as he was known) tells us that he and the rest of the children were banned from using the downstairs cloakroom. He had to go upstairs to the pink bathroom every time he had the urge to empty his bladder. And every time he peed he would be looking at a postcard stuck above the cistern. The words printed on it said:

'From Mr Evelyn Waugh, Piers Court, Stinchcombe, Nr Dursley, Gloucestershire. Dursley 2150.'

Underneath this was written in Evelyn's handwriting:

Should the handle fail to return to the horizontal when the flow of water ceases, please agitate it slightly until it succeeds.'

Can you begin to see Piers Court in your mind's eye? Can you visualise the kings of England and Africa coming in and out of focus as you move from one room to another; children, servants and guests scuttling to and fro as they try their best to avoid inciting the wrath of the master of Piers Court?...

piers court_0001
Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

...Good, then we can