Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time by Hillary Spurling

Here are some excerpts:

* But although the couple’s disparity in age proved immaterial [Anthony’s mom was 38 when she married his 21 yo dad), in practice its psychological consequences were devastating. Their union broke another ingrained taboo against a practice universally condemned in that self-righteous age as abhorrent and unnatural. Maud was acutely aware that in other people’s eyes, probably to some extent in her own, she stood convicted of cradle-snatching. She saw or suspected public hostility, mockery, sniggers and pointing fingers on all sides. Her public confidence evaporated. Contact with the outside world became painful and, as she got older, excruciating. She no longer went to parties. She stopped seeing her own friends, and made no attempt to get to know her husband’s. From now on she was tortured by shyness. Its shadow darkened and distorted her life, and in due course her son’s…

His [dad] desires were momentous and so urgent he had not the smallest ability to defer gratification.

* parties. The problem was that Tony was basically ineligible. He had no prospects, no connections, nothing to inherit and he wasn’t related to anyone people had ever heard of in the world of debutante dances and court presentation. A job in the City or the Foreign Office, even at a pinch the BBC, might have been acceptable but girls like Dig Biddulph did not marry boys with dead-end day jobs in small unstable concerns like Duckworths.

* The friend he made that autumn at the Poly was Evelyn Waugh, who was studying carpentry…. Evelyn was drinking again, still hard up and living at home on a modest allowance from his father, supplemented by a part-time job that he was “too ashamed to mention” teaching at a school in Golders Green. His plan was to be a craftsman or a carpenter.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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