Anthony Powell, author of the 12-volume novel cycle A Dance to the Music of Time, died yesterday. (To read his obituary in The Independent, click here.) Chatterbox learned the news from John Monagan, a former U.S. congressman from Connecticut and Oliver Wendell Holmes biographer who had a 25-year correspondence with Powell; he said he’d just mailed Powell another letter two days ago. Powell was the last surviving member of the English literary generation that included Evelyn Waugh, whose satiric/elegiac sensibility resembled Powell’s own. Since Waugh’s Vile Bodies gave this column its name–its hapless protagonist writes a hackneyed newspaper gossip column called “Mr. Chatterbox”–it seems fitting that it now pay tribute to Powell. Chatterbox asked Monagan to do the honors:
My friendship with Anthony Powell was among the most pleasurable and rewarding of my life. My first contact with Tony occurred in 1967, when I wrote him a fan letter after reading the first volume of Dance and I received a response from him by return mail. From that point, we developed a genial and permanent relation which encompassed exchanges on his subsequent books and memoirs and on my political and literary activities, and included his amazement at American elections. High points of our relationship were my visits, sometimes with Rosemary, my wife, to The Chantry, the Powells’ idiosyncratically decorated Regency house in Somerset, where with Tony’s wife, the charming Lady Violet, dispensing hospitality, we would sit for hours while he would talk of his own writing, of American novels, or of the personal oddities and literary product of Graham Greene or Evelyn Waugh or Cyril Connolly. Since Tony had been in failing health for some years, his passing was not unexpected, but for me a serious emptiness will now exist with the knowledge that he will no longer be playing the Somerset Mandarin at The Chantry.
The TV dramatization of A Dance to the Music of Time, which is necessarily a bit rushed but otherwise quite good (Miranda Richardson’s portrayal of the pathological beauty Pamela Flitton is especially fine), still hasn’t aired in the United States. Nor is it available on video, except in the British PAL format, which is incompatible with U.S. video players. Chatterbox renews his request that PBS, Bravo, or somebody air the thing.