Lost Evelyn Waugh letters reveal thwarted love for 'bright young thing'

Grandson recovers lost correspondence between Evelyn Waugh and Teresa 'Baby' Jungman

She was known as Teresa "Baby" Jungman, a beauty among the bohemian "bright young things" of 1920s English society, whose high-class hedonism inspired Evelyn Waugh to write Vile Bodies. She was also the unrequited love of Waugh's life, and the recipient of a huge number of letters from the author which, seven years after her death at the age of 102, are finally to be published.

A 42-volume edition of the complete writings of Waugh is being put together by his grandson, Alexander, who is heading a team preparing one of the largest ever scholarly editions devoted to a British author. The volumes, to be published by Oxford University Press, will include unpublished passages from Waugh's novels and thousands of previously unseen letters.

A star attraction will be the previously unseen letters to Jungman, who has also been seen as an inspiration for the character of Lady Julia Flyte, the glamorous but tragic heroine of his best-known novel, Brideshead Revisited. For decades Jungman claimed that the letters had been destroyed, but shortly before she died she invited Alexander Waugh to her home in Dublin and, to his astonishment, offered him access.

"They're extraordinary," Waugh told the Observer. "They show a tender side of Evelyn Waugh that's never been seen before. He was wildly in love with her."

Jungman was the younger of two sisters for whom life was one prolonged party, with treasure hunts and pranks, that delighted the gossip diarists of the day. On one notorious occasion she posed as a Russian émigrée, telling a distinguished general and his wife that she would never forget the night she spent with him in Paris. When the general insisted that his only night in the French capital had been during the war, Jungman replied: "That was the night."

The Jungman girls posed regularly for celebrated society photographer Cecil Beaton, who was struck by Baby's "Devonshire cream pallor and limpid mauve eyes", along with "her hair, spun of the flimsiest canary-bird silkiness", which she would throw back "with a beguiling shrug of the head".

Her father was an Anglo-Dutch artist who married into a devout Catholic Birmingham family. After her parents' divorce, Jungman's mother married into the Guinness family.

Baby's wealth and beauty ensured a string of admirers, including the seventh Earl of Longford, who noted her devout Catholic faith, likening her to "a very friendly and fascinating nun". But her faith would have made any romantic interest in Waugh impossible, since as a divorcé he was ineligible for marriage in the church. In Brideshead Revisited, a similar obstacle prevents Lady Julia Flyte, of the aristocratic, Catholic Marchmain family, from marrying Charles Ryder. Jungman rejected Waugh's advances, but they remained friends.

Alexander Waugh, who describes himself as an obsessive researcher, acknowledged that his family name probably influenced Jungman's decision to offer him his grandfather's most private letters. He said: "She appears in the Evelyn Waugh biographies, but not nearly as importantly as she should do because she refused to be interviewed. I interviewed her. It was the first time she'd ever talked about Evelyn Waugh.

"I was about to ask her, 'You don't by any chance …' She interrupted: '…have any letters?' I said, 'Yes, I was going to ask that.' She said, 'My bedroom next door. There's a basket.' There was a huge hoard of letters that had never been seen before – very interesting, intimate letters."

He added: "The tragic thing is she never really loved him. He loved her and wanted it to go further. She always held him at a distance. I [asked] 'why didn't you marry [him]?' She just said: 'Not exactly my type.' It was between the breakdown of his first marriage and his second marriage, to my grandmother."

The letters date primarily from the early 1930s. In 1932 Waugh wrote to Jungman as he set sail for British Guiana: "My Darling Tess, Thank you so much for coming to see me off … Just feeling so low-spirited. I could have cried at any moment. I wanted very much to kiss you goodbye."

The following year he proposed to Jungman, only to be rejected. His grandson said Waugh was so depressed he fled to Morocco, where he wrote another classic, A Handful of Dust, a savage depiction of amorality.

The writings include around 10,000 other unpublished letters, a "very interesting" article on DH Lawrence, and passages excised from novels, such as a 600-word scene between Charles Ryder and his father from Brideshead Revisited.

Alexander Waugh's own writings include opera criticism and a family biography, Fathers and Sons, which was turned into a BBC documentary. He has also co-edited a book challenging Shakespeare's authorship, entitled Shakespeare Beyond Doubt?

The first of the Waugh volumes will be launched in 2016, to mark the 50th anniversary of Evelyn's death.


Dalya Alberge

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited by Philip Eade review – an anthology of gossip
Rather than shed fresh light on the writer’s life, this biography ignores the literature in favour of titillating whispers

Robert McCrum

03, Jul, 2016 @10:00 AM

Evelyn Waugh

'You have no idea how much nastier I would be if I was not a Catholic. Without supernatural aid I would hardly be a human being.'

22, Jul, 2008 @2:39 PM

Article image
Evelyn Waugh letters shed light on his abandoned first novel
In correspondence going to auction this week, the writer describes how he burned a manuscript titled The Temple at Thatch

Alison Flood

02, Dec, 2019 @4:13 PM

Article image
Letters reveal postnatal crisis of Barbara Hepworth
Previously unpublished correspondence sheds new light on artist’s struggle to pursue career while caring for triplets alone

Donna Ferguson

19, Apr, 2020 @6:21 AM

The Letters of Evelyn Waugh edited by Mark Amory
Nicholas Lezard on laughing despite ourselves

Nicholas Lezard

20, Mar, 2010 @12:06 AM

Article image
Letters reveal Alan Turing’s battle with his sexuality
Previously unpublished correspondence shows how wartime codebreaker longed for permanent relationship

Dalya Alberge

22, Aug, 2015 @11:05 PM

Article image
A master of self-promotion: letters reveal how Philip Roth ‘hustled’ for prizes
Correspondence found in archives shows how ‘pushy’ novelist used ‘collusion, networking and back-scratching’ to win literary awards

Dalya Alberge

29, Aug, 2021 @8:45 AM

The digested classic: 7 June

'It's not a bad camp, Sir,' said Hooper. 'A big, private house with two or three lakes. You never saw such a thing.'

John Crace

06, Jun, 2008 @11:15 PM

Article image
Poignant letters reveal Hemingway’s torment over young muse
Teenager Adriana Ivancich, who became close friends with the author, was forbidden from writing to him by the man she hoped to marry

Dalya Alberge

19, May, 2018 @11:05 PM

Article image
Isaiah Berlin's letters reveal his despair at the 'growth of barbarism'

Philosopher was horrified by the 'completely ignorant' youth of the age

Dalya Alberge

15, Jun, 2013 @11:04 PM