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Authors who are just like their books

Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews in Brideshead Revisited (1981)

It’s amazing how often famous authors turn out to be “just as you would expect from their writing”, says Craig Brown in the Daily Mail. An elderly Thomas Hardy once gave EM Forster a tour of the graves of his dead pets. “This is Snowbell – she was run over by a train… This is Pella, the same thing happened to her… This is Kitkin, she was cut clean in two, clean in two.” How was it that so many cats had been run over, Forster asked. Was there a railway nearby? “Not at all near, not at all near – I don’t know how it is. But of course we have only buried here those pets whose bodies were recovered. Many were never seen again.” Forster struggled to keep a straight face, he later recalled, because “it was so like a caricature” of one of Hardy’s novels or poems.

Evelyn Waugh – whose characters were notably “cruel and self-centred” – was no better. His son Auberon once wrote of the day in his childhood when bananas arrived for the very first time. “Neither I, my sister Teresa nor my sister Margaret had ever eaten a banana throughout the War,” he recounted, “but we had heard all about them as the most delicious taste in the world.” Then one day, their mother came home with three bananas. “All three were put on my father’s plate, and before the anguished eyes of his children, he poured on cream, which was almost unprocurable, and sugar, which was heavily rationed, and ate all three.”