Alastair Hugh Graham

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Alastair Hugh Graham

Alastair Hugh Graham (27 June 1904 - 1982) was an honorary attaché in Athens and Cairo, an Oxford friend of Evelyn Waugh and, according to Waugh's letters, one of his "romances".[1] He is, together with Hugh Lygon, considered the main inspiration for Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited.


Alastair Hugh Graham was born on 27 June 1904. His mother was a cotton heiress from Savannah, Georgia, Jessie Low,[2][3] while his father, Hugh Graham (1860-1921), was a British landed aristocrat of the Graham baronets, the younger son of Sir Frederick Ulric Graham, of Netherby, 3d Baronet (1820–1888) and Lady Jane Hermione Seymour (1832–1909), daughter of Edward Seymour, 12th Duke of Somerset.[1] Jessie Graham would later appear as Lady Circumference in Decline and Fall and as Mrs. Kent-Cumberland in Winner Takes All both by Evelyn Waugh.[2]

Come and drink with me somewhere

Alastair Hugh Graham attended Wellington College, Wellington, Berkshire, and then went to Brasenose College, Oxford University,[2][3] where he met Evelyn Waugh around Christmas 1923 or slightly before.[4] At Oxford Graham was part of the Hypocrites' Club with Waugh.[5] Graham sent Waugh the photo of a naked man near a waterfall, asking Waugh to "Come and drink with me somewhere".[1] Netherby Hall was the Grahams official residence, but Alastair Hugh Graham and his family lived in an early 19th century country house, Barford House, Barford, Warwickshire, between Warwick and Stratford-upon Avon,[2] and it's here that he had as a guest Evelyn Waugh. Graham was Waugh's closest friend from 1924 to 1929.[6] In Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh makes Charles Ryder remembering "I had been there before, first with Sebastian more than twenty years ago on a cloudless day in June...". According to Philip Eade and others,[2] here Waugh is remembering his own love affair with Alastair Graham, started at Graham's family home, Barford House, in 1923 when Graham was 19 years old.[1] The same Waugh stated in his memories that Graham was the inspiration of Lord Sebastian Flyte even more than Hugh Lygon. Moreover sometime the name Alistair occurs in place of Sebastian in the manuscript of Brideshead Revisited.[7][2] In Waugh's autobiography, A Little Learning... an autobiography (1964), Graham appears under the name of Hamish Lennox,[2] and Waugh said of him he was "the friend of my heart".[6][4]

Evelyn Waugh, centre, with Alastair Graham and Elizabeth Harman (the future Lady Elizabeth Longford), in 1924

When Waugh left Oxford one term short of the degree requirements in August 1924, he went to live with Graham in a caravan in a field near Beckley and from there they went to Ireland for a vacation.[7][2] It was after this travel that Graham converted to Roman Catholic Church.[2] When Graham went to visit his sister and her husband in Kenya in mid-September 1924, the friendship between Graham and Waugh took a step back,[2] but in August 1926, Graham, his mother and Waugh went to Scotland and upon their return, Graham and Waugh went to France together with Richard Plunket Greene. Around this time, Graham, who owned a small printing press and was then apprenticed at the Shakespeare Head Press, printed Waugh's essay P.R.B.: An Essay on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood 1847-54.[4][2]

Alastair Hugh Graham was an honorary attaché in Athens, Greece, between 1927 and 1929,[3] where Waugh visited him for the Christmas holidays.[4] In Greece Graham lived with another attaché, Mark Ogilvie-Grant.[7] In 1929 he was transferred in Cairo, Egypt, with Ogilvie-Grant and Vivian Cornelius, and remained until 1933.[8][6][3]

From 1933 he lived as a recluse on the Welsh Coast, at Plas-Y-Wern Lodge, Gilfachrheda.[6]

During World War II, Graham was attached to the US Navy.[6]

He died in 1982.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d Eade, Philip (2016). Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited. Hachette UK. p. 96. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Brennan, Michael G. (2013). Evelyn Waugh: Fictions, Faith and Family. A&C Black. p. 12. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d Mosley, Charles, editor. Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes. Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003
  4. ^ a b c d Heath, Jeffrey (1983). Picturesque Prison: Evelyn Waugh and His Writing. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. p. 23. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  5. ^ Gallagher, Donat; Slater, Ann Pasternak; Wilson, John Howard (2011). A Handful of Mischief: New Essays on Evelyn Waugh. Fairleigh Dickinson. p. 47. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e Rintoul, M.C. (2014). Dictionary of Real People and Places in Fiction. Routledge. p. 455. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  7. ^ a b c Wilson, John Howard (1996). Evelyn Waugh: 1924-1966. Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press. p. 45. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  8. ^ The Letters of Rudyard Kipling: 1931-36. University of Iowa Press. 1990. p. 23. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  9. ^ Christiansen, Rupert (2016). "What became of the real people who inspired Evelyn Waugh's 'Brideshead Revisited'?". The Telegraph. Retrieved 30 December 2017.