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Models for Characters
in Anthony Powell's
A Dance to the Music of Time

by Julian Allason and Keith Marshall

There is always much interest, much debate and much speculation, over who Anthony Powell used as the models for the characters in A Dance to the Music of Time. The author has explicitly stated that this 'novel-in-twelve-volumes' is not a roman-á-clef. Nonetheless at least a couple of dozen of the 400 characters are clearly based upon real persons known to the author, and have been identified with varying degrees of authority. In a number of instances these identifications have been confirmed by AP, or admitted as sources in his Journals.

Powell has explained that fictional characters are always mixtures; no-one 'is' anybody. Friends of his such as Evelyn Waugh and Malcolm Muggeridge were too complete to be turned into fiction; he has said, "It is much more likely to be one's bank manager or dentist". Indeed questions about models for characters have become the bane of Powell's life: "People won't believe that you are capable of inventing characters," he protests. "All right a couple of people might occur to you but to make it work you have to invent a 'third person' to pull it all together". [Sunday Telegraph Magazine, 25 Sept 1997] And consequently he had little time for people who do what we have done here: analyse the character models.

The table, which is believed to be the most complete ever attempted, provides possible identifications of the models, where there is some evidence for that model, beyond a casual likeness perceived by a few people. Obviously the identifications admitted by AP himself are the more likely to be correct, although it is perfectly possible that other models were used, whether consciously or not, and whether AP has admitted to them.

If anyone has good evidence for other possible character models (especially if these can be substantiated) then please email us. We would particularly like to find the models for Canon Fenneau, Mrs Erdleigh, Scorpio Murtlock, Professor Gwinnett, Sunny Farebrother and Bijou Ardglass, all of whom we feel should be particularly identifiable.


Nicholas Jenkins

Jenkins Always identified as Anthony Powell himself. Although AP has always denied that Dance is autobiographical he has commented: "... the Narrator ... should be a man who shared some ... of my own experiences"
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: Messengers of Day, p 114]
and "Most novelists draw their characters and scenes in some degree from 'real life'".
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: Infants of the Spring, p 51]


Kenneth Widmerpool

Widmerpool Widely believed to have been based upon Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller, known at the bar as 'Bullying Manner, who became Lord Chancellor in Macmillan's government, having been elevated as Viscount Dilhorne.
[Anthony Powell, Journals 1990-1992, p 162]

One episode which AP has admitted drawing from Manningham-Buller was his getting a schoolfellow sacked from Eton for making improper advances to another boy.
[Anthony Powell, Personal Communication to Kenneth Rose]
(See Bob Duport.)

Widmerpool The novelist planted clues to Widmerpool's true identity in the third volume of his autobiography. He refers to the nickname of an unnamed officer under whom he worked briefly in the Cabinet Office during the war. It is The Papal Bun - "a play upon his double barreled surname, creed, demeanour, personal appearance ... a never failing source of laughter."
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: Faces in My Time, pp 155-6]
Kenneth Rose discovered that the historian Desmond Seward had managed to deduce Widmerpool's identity. This Rose put to AP, who, in his elliptical way, replied: "My impression is that Seward, a most amusing fellow, is on to something there ...".
[Sunday Telegraph, 29 Dec 1991]
The identification of Widmerpool as based upon Denis Cuthbert Capel-Dunn was then confirmed in AP's Journals.
[Anthony Powell, Journals 1990-1992, pp 151, 161-2]

Widmerpool The son of a consular clerk in Leipzig, Capel-Dunn became a barrister, and then a colonel in the Intelligence Corps, under whom AP served on attachment to the Cabinet Office for nine weeks in 1943. When AP, an acting major, asked to be retained in his post for a further fortnight in order that his rank might become substantive, Capel-Dunn refused on the grounds "My nerves wouldn't stand it".
[Desmond Seward, personal communication to JA]

"Like Widmerpool, Capel-Dunn was a very fat, extremely boring, overwhelmingly ambitious arriviste. His conversations were hideously detailed and humourless", according to Mr John Colvin, former ambassador to Mongolia, who was a member of the same club, the St James where Capel-Dunn was known there as 'Young Bloody'.
[Daily Telegraph, 30 Dec 1991]

The Earl of Longford has claimed to be a source for later parts of Widmerpool's life, upon which AP has commented "Lord Longford would like to think so."
(See also Erridge.)

Widmerpool's espionage career appears to have been based upon the cases of the Labour MP Denis Pritt, a GRU (Soviet Army Intelligence) agent involved in pre-war espionage, who, in the early fifties was expelled from the his party for Stalinism.
[Nigel West, The Illegals, Hodder & Stoughton, 1994]
The other possible source is Jeremy, later Lord, Hutchinson QC, who was suspected by MI5 of running a Communist front organisation for lawyers. He defended George Blake, the Russian spy in SIS. [Nigel West, A Matter of Trust, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1982]

Capel-Dunn died in an air crash in 1945 returning with other officials from the San Francisco Conference that established the United Nations. As Kenneth Rose has pointed out, had he not sacked AP the novelist would probably have shared his fate. As it was, the subordinate survived to make his boss immortal.
[Kenneth Rose, Sunday Telegraph, 29 Dec 1991]


Peter Templer

Templer In part John Spencer a close friend of AP's and a major in the Welsh Guards who was killed in action in WWII.
[Anthony Powell, Journals 1987-1989, p 98; To Keep the Ball Rolling: Infants of the Spring, p 98]


Charles Stringham

Stringham Partly based on Hubert Duggan, younger brother of Alfred Duggan, whose glamorous mother married Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India.
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: Infants of the Spring, p 98]

AP is very clear that Stringham is not based on Henry Yorke (aka. novelist Henry Green).
[Anthony Powell, Journals 1987-1989, p 163]


Pamela Flitton

Pam,Nick,Widmerpool Barbara Skelton, the tempestuous femme fatale of the London literary world, who managed the equally surprising achievements of marriage to the brilliant, but undersexed, writer and critic Cyril Connolly (author of The Unquiet Grave) and the hirsute but prolifically successful society publisher George, later Lord, Weidenfeld. Skelton was also the mistress of King Farouk; her other conquests included writer Peter Quennell, the model for Mark Members (qv), and the artist Feliks Topolski. Skelton wrote to AP: "Dear Tony, I am suing naturally, in the meantime can you advise me a good publisher for my new novel?".
[Anthony Powell, Journals 1987-1989, pp 44, 50, 55]

Pam and Widmerpool Some career elements parallel those of Pamela Digby/Churchill/Harrimann although AP has said "...so far as I know, I had never set eyes on Pamela Digby...".
[Anthony Powell, Journals 1987-1989, p 181]
However they shared a number of mutual friends and AP would have been well aware of her exploits. Skelton described her adventures in two volumes of autobiography.


The Tolland Family

4 Tollands There are general resemblances to the literary Pakenham family (AP married Lady Violet Pakenham), although there are no direct portraits.
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: Faces in My Time, pp 13-15]
However it might be awkward for AP to admit were it so. (See also Erridge.)


General Conyers

Based partly on Brigadier-General RLA Pennington (a cousin of AP's) and maybe partly on Major-General Sir Alfred Turner.
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: Infants of the Spring, p 53]
Both were unconventional soldiers possessed of unexpected breadth of knowledge.


Bob Duport

Duport Partly based on Dick Dauncey who, at Manningham-Buller's instigation, was sacked from Eton for allegedly making "indecent advances" to another boy.
[Anthony Powell, Journals 1990-1992, p 162]


Professor Sillery

Sillery Although partly drawn from Oxford don FF 'Sligger' Urquhart, the principal source was Prof. Sir Ernest Barker, the political scientist and Fellow of Peterhouse College, Cambridge.
[Anthony Powell, Journals 1982-1986, p 273-4]

AP is very clear that, contrary to widespread Oxonian belief, the model was not the noted wit and string-puller, Sir Maurice Bowra, one time Warden of Wadham College.
[Anthony Powell, Journals 1987-1989, p 163; Journals 1990-1992, p 274]


Dr Trelawney

A combination based primarily upon the predatory 'magician', occult revivalist and self-publicist Aleister Crowley. The self-styled 'Great Beast 666' died in penury after a career not dissimilar to Dr Trelawney's, including many unspeakable ceremonies, one at least of which resulted in the mysterious death of a disciple. The other source is identified as a Dr Oyler "who used to lead his mob of children in Grecian costume in runs across Grayshott Common, when we lived at Stonedene just before the First War".
[Anthony Powell, Journals 1987-1989, p 102]


Hugh Moreland

Morland Generally accepted to be composer Constant Lambert, a close friend of AP's.
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: Messengers of Day, p 60]

Lambert's characteristic attitudes and musical tastes were almost indistinguishable from Moreland's. Powell recalls him saying that reading Auden's poems was like reading a lot of back numbers of the New Statesman.
[The Observer, 15 Dec 1985, p R1]


Maclintick

It has been suggested, and it seems likely, that Maclintick is modelled (at least in part) on the composer and musicologist Phillip Heseltine (aka. composer Peter Warlock).
[Stephen Howard, Personal Communication to KM]

Powell was introduced to Heseltine (1894-1930) by Constant Lambert what time Heseltine was living in Pimlico with a mistress. Powell describes Heseltine as: "a consciously mephistophelian figure [with] a pointed fair beard [and a] malignant temper". He was a specialist in Elizabethan pastiche compositions and is probably best known today for his Capriol Suite. Heseltine seems to have been a popular character model; Powell himself relates that he was the model for Halliday in DH Lawrence's Women in Love and (a closer copy is) Coleman in Huxley's Antic Hay. Often so topped up with alcohol that a small amount would make him hopelessly drunk, Heseltine gassed himself in December 1930 after a possible minor quarrel with his mistress and after having put the cat out to save it from sharing his fate.
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: Messengers of Day, pp 147-9]


Edgar Deacon

Combination of Mr Bailey, an alcoholic antiques dealer who had a shop in Wardour Street, and Christopher Millard.
[Anthony Powell, Journals 1990-1992, pp 48, 140]

Millard (b. 1872) was a homosexual bookseller and at one time Assistant Editor of the Burlington Magazine. He was also, as Stuart Mason, the historian and bibliographer of Oscar Wilde. AP was, quite innocently, friendly with Millard for a short time around 1920-22 when Millard lived in a wooden bungalow in St John's Wood.
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: Infants of the Spring, pp 90-97]

There are also recognisable characteristics of (the distinctly heterosexual) Augustus John.


Ralph Barnby

Possibly based in part on artist and "frenetic womaniser" Adrian Daintrey.
[Anthony Powell, Journals 1982-1986, pp 206-8]


JG Quiggin

Quiggin "A conflation of Powell's two enemies, CP Snow, author of Corridors of Power, and FR Leavis, the implacably influential literary critic and don".
[AN Wilson, London Evening Standard, 24 Sept 1997]

There are some remarkable similarities also to AP's nephew-in-law, Harold Pinter, the gloomy left-wing dramatist, although AP has denied that he is the main source.


Sir Magnus Donners

Donners Probably the first Lord Beaverbrook, indefatigably tasteless Canadian millionaire proprietor of the Daily Express. Universally known to employees as 'The Chief'. Crony and supporter of Churchill, later a member of the War Cabinet. Also believed to have been a source for Lord Copper in Evelyn Waugh's novels.


Erridge, Lord Warminster

Erridge Partly based on George Orwell, who also spent time as a tramp on the road in a gesture of class solidarity.
[Peter Lewis, Daily Mail, 09 Oct 1997]

There are also elements of AP's brother-in-law Frank, Earl of Longford, whose earnest leftist posturing as a young man excited much amusement. Now almost a national treasure on account of eccentricities - including friendships with serial killers - and personal charm.


St John Clarke

St.J.Clarke St John Clarke has been identified with the novelist John Galsworthy, playwright and author of the Forsyte Saga sequence, published collectively in 1922, an exact and not unsympathetic observation of Victorian upper-class commercial society. He was cordially disliked by AP.
[Desmond Seward, Personal Communication to JA]

Duckworth's, at the time AP worked there, published some of Galsworthy's works (under his pseudonym John Sinjohn); consequently AP occasionally met Galsworthy on his visits there. On one such occasion AP describes Galsworthy as

a tall man, dressed in deepest black ... clothes and bearing suggesting a clergyman ... he gave off the redolence of boundless vanity, a condition not at all uncommon among authors, in this case more noticeable than usual.
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: Messengers of Day, pp 76]

AP was not impressed by Galsworthy as a novelist, more as a dramatist:

Galsworthy's novels ... through lack of any real understanding of human behaviour, fail ... to deal ... with English upper-middle-class life. His stylisation of character, near-Marxist moralizings ... both work better on the stage.
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: Messengers of Day, pp 77]

Dicky Umfraville

Probably based upon the adventurer, Patrick Tritton. "Smart, seedy, dubious money, knocked about Happy Valley".
[Desmond Seward, Personal Communication to JA]

Tritton enjoyed a well-deserved reputation for fun, unreliability and attractiveness to women. He was also capable of unexpected kindness and patience. When a student at Cambridge he was apparently known to take his horse to lectures! In the sixties he married the fabulously rich and difficult Nancy Oakes, heiress daughter of Sir Harry Oakes, the Bahamian financier victim of the famous wartime murder in Nassau. She and Tritton lived in Mexico City in a palatial house with a swimming pool in the hall. Tritton kept a full pack of Irish hounds and hunted jackrabbit in the desert amidst Aztec ruins. [JA, Personal Recollection]

Tritton later married Georgina Ward and reportedly sold groceries from a van around Mexican villages. He died in the early 'nineties.
[Anthony Powell, Journals 1987-1989, p 181]


Lindsay "Books-do-furnish-a-room" Bagshaw

Combination of Cecil "Bobby" Roberts and Cholderton (a journalist friend of Malcolm Muggeridge), both regarded as quite impossible to work with.
[Anthony Powell, Journals 1987-1989, p 163]
Apparently Roberts had a ritual of ending every day in a pub at closing time.

Emphatically not modelled on journalist Malcolm Muggeridge although AP does admit there are resemblances.
[Anthony Powell, Journals 1990-1992, p 81]


Gibson Delavacquerie

Combination of Laurence Cotteril, poet/businessman Roy Fuller and the rootlessness of Trinidadian novelist VS Naipaul.
[Anthony Powell, Journals 1987-1989, p 162-3]
Amiability and modesty generally judged to have been modelled upon the first two of these.


Léon-Joseph Ferrand-Sénéschal

Possibly based on the tiresome and sinister French academic philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty who had an affair with Sonia Brownell/Orwell during George Orwell's last days.
[Anthony Powell, Journals 1990-1992, p 137]
(See also Mona Templer.)


Louis Glober

Partly based on devil-may-care adventurer and Hollywood figure Donald Friede together with Edward Heron Allen, writer of a work on chiromancy, who apparently collected the pubic hair of his conquests.
[Anthony Powell, Journals 1990-1992, p 102]

It has also been suggested that AP may have gotten some of his more macabre ideas (eg. Glober's pubic hair collection and Gwinnett's necrophilia) from reading about John Christie [Presumably the notorious British murderer, hanged in 1953 and later pardoned of at least some of his crimes - KM] who was apparently heavily into these activities in the early 1950s.
[Ian Chippett, personal communication to KM, 12 March 1999]


Mrs Foxe

Lady Curzon, socially conscious wife of the Viceroy of India and un-maternal mother of Hubert Duggan (model for Stringham, qv), with some elements of Lady Diana Cooper.


Buster Foxe

Possibly based in part upon the younger Lord Louis, later Admiral Earl Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia and last Viceroy of India.
[Edgar Miller, Personal Communication to JA]

A handsome polo-playing sailor capable of generating both waves of chilliness and considerable charm. For all his achievements Mountbatten was capable of taking a personal interest in the disposal of enemies.
[Lt-Col. James Allason, Annals of the Allason Family]


General Liddament

General Sir Michael West, with borrowings from Field Marshall Montgomery. West was a witty and unconventional soldier, with a taste for partying and jazz, who drove an old London taxi. Provocative as a matter of course, as a relatively junior officer attending briefings he regularly challenged Eisehower's planning, and was invariably found to be right. Later the architect of British strategy in the Korean War, but was considered too unpredictable for promotion to the highest level.
[P Bellville, Personal Communication to JA]

His beautiful daughter was pursued for a decade by rock musician Mick Jagger, with whom West became friendly. Also a friend of Bob Dylan. One of the few to be amused by his depiction in Dance although he never troubled to read it.
[Kenneth Rose, Personal Communication to JA]


Mark Members

Principally Peter Quennell, all purpose literary personage, much married author of the minor masterpiece Four Portraits and biographer of Byron and Pope.
[Desmond Seward, private communication to JA]

Quennell knew, and was known by, everyone in British society and beyond. His colourful private life is thought to have prevented high honour. He also had an affair with Barbara Skelton, the original for Pamela Flitton.

The character of Members is also a composite of the poets Cecil Day-Lewis, Stephen Spender and Roy Fuller.
[AN Wilson, London Evening Standard, 24 Sept 1997]


Mona Templer

Mona Sonia Brownell, an artist's model known as 'The Euston Venus', who became Cyril Connolly's helpmeet on Horizon, Powell's inspiration for Fission. Desired by many in the literary world, and the subject of much speculation, she subsequently married AP's friend George Orwell on his deathbed.
[Peter Lewis, Daily Mail, 09 Oct 1997]


X Trapnel

Trapnel Based on the impecunious and thirsty bohemian writer Julian Maclaren-Ross, even down to the dark-glasses and walking stick.
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: The Strangers All Are Gone, p 6]

Maclaren-Ross was an egotistical and garrulous writer with an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of twentieth-century literature. Having been invalided out of the Army, he spend much of WWII serving in the Documentary Film Unit. Like Trapnel's, Maclaren-Ross's greatest works were said to have been declaimed in Soho pubs but never written down for lack of a sober Boswell; his long suffering publisher received a number of improbable explanations of the fate of the manuscript of his masterpiece.

His face was very white, the hair black and sleek. Combined with a camel hair overcoat of the type favoured by the spivs of the 'fifties, the effect was of shabby elegance. One could see that he was a public school man, even if occasionally reduced to a park bench. He was accompanied by a bedraggled woman with a face like an alligator handbag, possibly one of the four wives. My impression was of someone very conceited but unsure of himself: all he would talk of was books.
[Desmond Seward, Personal Communication to JA]

Interestingly Trapnel appears to be an alter ego of Anthony Powell's. Powell has said that his view approximates that given to Trapnel when, in Hearing Secret Harmonies, he says:

"People think that because a novel's invented it isn't true. Exactly the reverse is the case. Because a novel's invented, it's true. Biography and memoirs can never be wholly true since they can't include every conceivable circumstance of what happened. The novel can do that ..."
[John S Monagan, A Visit with Anthony Powell in American Scholar, 65 (Summer 1996), pp 433-440]

Lieutenant-Colonel Lysander Finn

Finn is a "fairly authentic portrait" of Major AE Ker, VC, second-in-command of Allied Liaison during AP's posting there in WWII.
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: Faces in My Time, p 134]
Ker (born 1883, middle name Ebenezer) was an amiable solicitor who won a "Homeric" VC during the Great War. He was known on special occasions to wear the WWI dress of a field-officer of the Gordon Highlanders, including glengarry, tartan breeches and top boots.

AP is very clear that Finn is not modelled on the head of Allied Liaison, Lt-Col JCD Carlisle.
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: Faces in My Time, p 134]


David Pennistone

Based at least in part on another of AP's close colleagues, indeed immediate superior, at Allied Liaison, Alick Dru.
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: Faces in My Time, p 137]
Dru, a Roman Catholic, became an authority on, and translated the journals of, the protestant Danish philosopher and theologian Sören Kierkgaard. In 1943 he married Gabriel Herbert, sister of Laura Herbert the second wife of Evelyn Waugh. AP, who retained a long friendship with Dru, describes him as a supremely accomplished staff officer.


Dempster

Dempster, who appears briefly in The Military Philosophers, is another modelled on a colleague of AP's in Allied Liaison: Major EC Bradfield who worked with the Norwegians and communicated with them in fluent Danish.
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: Faces in My Time, p 150]
Small, wiry and bald, Bradfield had close connections with the Danish margarine magnates the Hornimans. He won the Military Cross on the Western Front during the Great War and a Bar during the later War of Intervention. An accomplished pianist he retired to Jutland to farm.


Major-General Bobrowski

Bobrowski, the Polish military attaché who appears in The Military Philosophers, is modelled on the real Polish military attaché, during AP's posting at MIL, Major-General Bronislaw Regulski.
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: Faces in My Time, p 143]


Colonel Hlava

"The Czech military attaché, Colonel Kalla, appears in The Military Philosophers more or less 'as himself' under the name of Colonel Hlava".
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: Faces in My Time, p 160]


Major Kucherman

"The Belgian military attaché, Major Kronacker, also [appears in The Military Philosophers] not much altered as Major Kucherman."
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: Faces in My Time, p 160]


Major Clanwaert

"The Belgian Colonial Officer, Major Offerman, is [in The Military Philosophers] a composite picture in Major Clanwaert."
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: Faces in My Time, p 160]


Lieutenant Kernével

Kernével is based on Captain Jean Kéraudren who worked in the office of the French military attaché during AP's time at MIL and who was instrumental in maintaining liaison with MIL in the absence of a military attaché. Kéraudren was a convivial Breton in his fifties who had long been a chief-clerk in the pre-war French military attaché's office. After WWII he became a French vice-consul in London. Kéraudren's philosophy was that by the age of 12 a child should be drinking half-and-half wine and water.
[Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: Faces in My Time, pp 168-9]


This page is dedicated to the critic Georgia Metcalfe
in acknowledgement of her invaluable research.


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