They wrote it this week: I’m telling you, Tootsie, it was otter madness
Extracts from diaries and letters written between August 3 and August 9
1951, Var, France
[To Evelyn Waugh. Lady Diana, who as the daughter of a duke had grown up in Edwardian splendour, had just driven to the Riviera at the height of the French holiday season.] The roads showed democracy at its worst. When I was young I loved democracy – but I never saw it, except on bank holidays in Belvoir Castle gardens, and the children (us) were kept indoors so as not to catch diseases and lice – but the French roads showed them up in their monstrous white nudity – general immodesty – car bonnets agape – cars’ behinds yawning and dribbling out horrible tuck baskets, nappies, rubber tubing and the like. Picnics on the dusty verge – cars by the million left to cool while owners flame up in the bushes. Some being sick – some so unlearnt as to stop traffic. Never again a Sat-Sun in August on that popular road.
- Lady Diana Cooper, daughter of the 8th Duke of Rutland, socialite and author, 1982-1986.
Mr Wu & Mrs Stitch: The Letters of Evelyn Waugh & Diana Cooper edited by Artemis Cooper, Hodder & Stoughton, 1991
1926, Cockermouth, Cumberland
[Waugh and his boyfriend Alastair Graham were staying with Graham’s very grand relations, the Fishers.] Next day we had breakfast – a prodigious meal – at 7 o’clock and went out to hunt for an otter. Mr Fisher wore a suit of flannel plus-fours with brass buttons and a pink collar. He and I and all the men were armed with long spiked sticks, the women with cameras. We met some hairy dogs on a bridge and the hunt started. It was a most ill-disciplined affair. Two men seemed of importance – a very fat old man who, besides Mr Fisher’s clothes, wore a pink waistcoat, and a young man called Jack who had a trumpet and a whip. Jack would not do what the fat man said, and the dogs would not do what Jack said. We walked along the river (called Derwent) for some time, when suddenly the dogs started making noises like sea-lions and all the men ran into the river except the master who danced on the bank saying “put terriers in”. Jack tried to dig a hole and while he dug it the dogs stood round and kicked the earth in again as fast as he threw it out. Then there was a long pause and we started walking again. Then there was another sudden noise and Jack danced about in water so deep that only the tip of his trumpet appeared. We caught an otter to the great delight of the ladies with the cameras who took “snapshots” of all the more barbarous details and were rewarded with bits of bloody otter’s meat like the dogs.
- Evelyn Waugh, British writer, 1903-1966 (Otter hunting was eventually banned in England in 1978.)
The Diaries of Evelyn Waugh edited by Michael Davie, Penguin, 1979
This Roman tunic I’m wearing in the film [Carry on Cleo] is really quite attractive. In white and gold. I continually lift it up and expose my cock & everything at the Unit. They’re all rather disgusted and laugh it off, but quite a number of them have remarked “O! Kenny! Not again! – put it away …” etc etc.
- Kenneth Williams, British comedian, 1926-1988.
The Kenneth Williams Diaries edited by Russell Davies, HarperCollins, 1994
[At the Covent Garden gala for the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday.] The audience hushed the moment that the trumpeters lifted their instruments to their lips for the fanfare. Everyone stood and turned towards the Royal Box to discover that the Queen Mother had brought the entire family with her. She looked so happy, all smiles and waves, glittering in a diamond tiara and silver bespangled white dress. The audience applauded and applauded in a deafening salute of affection. Princess Margaret looked radiant, at home in the theatre that she loves most. Flashes of pleasure also came from the Queen, whose face set into one of grimness from time to time. Tough to have the competition of her mother but she was a genius at stepping back on this occasion. Tough also for her and some of the others to be saddled with three hours of ballet without a horse in sight.
- Roy Strong, British museum curator, b. 1935.
Splendours and Miseries: The Roy Strong Diaries 1967-1987, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2017
1948, New York
Isn’t it true, also, that a man may eat and sleep and work all week, and be like a lamb in his understanding, and that on the Saturday-end he must … well, what about his wild need – for a woman, for thighs, for torn-up passion, for drunkenness, and fatiguing sate, and calamitous fury! This is what makes the world go round, apres tous, only sometimes it makes the world go round till it’s dizzy, we complain about that, there are crimes and inconvenient atrocities. But come and ask the man, the lamb, the sleeper – who will be a lion all balls in a moment when he explodes. There’s nothing we can do about inconvenience. It’s complex, that’s all. It’s the soul, that’s all. That’s what it is.
- Jack Kerouac, US writer, 1922-1969.
Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954 edited by Douglas Brinkley, Viking, 2004
1966, Folkestone, Kent
This is hell and I am HATING it. I am in Kent at something called the St Mary’s Bay Camp organised by Lady Astor and the Children’s Country Holiday Fund. It is a worthy cause – giving deprived children a seaside holiday – but the children are ghastly (really ghastly!) and the place is grim, grim, grim. The huts are horrible – torn lino on the floors, no curtains, cold water, disgusting lavatories. The food is uneatable – quite revolting. The “organisation” utterly hopeless. I am a “volunteer helper” and I DEEPLY REGRET letting Ma push me into this. I blame her wretched Black Bombers! She is on manic overdrive.
- Gyles Brandreth, British politician, writer, entertainer and TV personality, b. 1948 (Black Bombers were the nickname the then-18-year-old Brandreth gave the tranquillisers that his mother, rather stereotypically for a middle-aged woman in the 1960s, took in large quantities.)
Something Sensational to Read in the Train: The Diary of a Lifetime by Gyles Brandreth, John Murray, 2009
1982, New York
They wanted me over on 18th Street near Fifth to be in a publicity photo with Dustin Hoffman who was in drag filming Tootsie, and I thought that sounded like fun.
But when I got there, they said, “All right, we’ll be shooting your scene soon.” They actually were putting me in the movie. So Greg Gorman [photographer] was really devious, he must have known that for that I’d want to get paid. They thought they could just get me in one second, which they did. Dustin looked great. When I think of all the ugly teachers I had that must have really been drag queens!
- Andy Warhol, US artist, 1928-1987.
The Andy Warhol Diaries edited by Pat Hackett, Pan Books, 1989
[Woolf, who hated even to be photographed, had somehow been persuaded by her sister Vanessa to sit for the sculptor Stephen Tomlin.] Then I sat to Tommie. Oh dear, what a terrific hemp strong heather root obstinate fountain of furious individuality shoots in me – they tampered with it, Nessa & Tommy – pinning me there, from 2 to 4 on 6 afternoons, to be looked at; & I felt like a piece of whalebone bent. This amused & interested me, at the same time I foamed with rage.
- Virginia Woolf, British writer, 1882-1941.
The Diary of Virginia Woolf Volume 4: 1931-35 edited by Anne Olivier Bell, Penguin Books, 1983
1942, the Warsaw Ghetto
Dr Janusz Korczak’s children’s home is empty now. A few days ago we all stood at the window and watched the Germans surround the houses. Rows of children, holding each other by their little hands, began to walk out of the doorway. There were tiny tots of two or three years among them, while the oldest ones were perhaps thirteen. Each child carried a little bundle in his hand. They walked in ranks of two, calm, and even smiling. They had not the slightest foreboding of their fate. At the end of the procession marched Dr Korczak, who saw to it that the children did not walk on the sidewalk. Now and then, with fatherly solicitude, he stroked a child on the head or arm, and straightened out the ranks. This sad procession vanished at the corner of Dzielna and Smocza streets. They went in the direction of Gesia Street, to the cemetery. At the cemetery all the children were shot. We were also told by our informants that Dr Korczak was forced to witness the executions, and that he himself was shot afterwards.
- Mary Berg, Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivor, 1924-2013 (Contrary to what Mary Berg’s informants told her, Korczak and the children were take to Treblinka extermination camp. There, Korczak rejected the last of many offers to escape, preferring to stay with his children to the end.)
Growing up in the Warsaw Ghetto: The Diary of Mary Berg edited by SL Shneiderman, Oneworld, 2018
Eileen [Lady Eileen Wellesley, daughter of the 4th Duke of Wellington] came by appointment at 11.30. She has engaged herself to a penniless artist [Cuthbert Orde] in the Flying Corps. She only met him a fortnight ago, staying with Nesta whom she had instructed to provide her with an “incense-burner” [that is, someone goodlooking to flirt with], so that she might enjoy her holiday. Most romantic engagement. He used to fly over the sea every morning and drop a bomb enclosing a love-letter at her feet. She admits he says “tophole” and “ripping”. I do hope it isn’t the glamour of the Flying Corps uniform, but she seems very happy. After the war they are going to live a Trilby life in Paris and both illustrate books and design posters.
- Lady Cynthia Asquith, daughter of the 11th Earl of Wemyss and March and daughter-in-law of British prime minister Herbert Asquith, 1887-1960 (Cuthbert and Lady Eileen Orde went on to have a long and apparently happy marriage. Orde, having miraculously survived World War 1 unlike his two brothers, fulfilled his ambition to become a relatively well-known artist.)
Diaries 1915-18 by Lady Cynthia Asquith, Hutchinson, 1968