Hugh Lygon - Muses & The Beau Monde
Updated: Sep 13, 2020
Hugh Patrick Lygon was born 2 November 1904 in Rothenburg, Bavaria. He is often believed to be the one of the main inspirations for Lord Sebastian Flyte in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. He was educated at Eton and then went on to Pembroke College, Oxford.
His sisters always said he suffered from second-son syndrome, and perhaps they were right. He was the favourite of his father, and had been popular at Eton.
Owing to his beauty he was always given female parts in plays – even appearing as Helen of Troy in a production of Dr Faustus. It was this fragility that drew Waugh to Hugh – he wanted to protect him.
He became a friend of Waugh's at Oxford (A. L. Rowse believed the two to be lovers), where both were members of the Hypocrites' Club. Lygon was the president of the Hypocrites Club, along with their contemporary Murray Andrew McLean and the Plunket Greene brothers, Richard and David. David Plunket Greene was a good friend of Lygon.
Lygon was also part of the Railway Club (conceived by John Sutro, dominated by Harold Acton.)
The Hypocrites’ lives were full of day-long lunches, outrageous clothes, plovers’ eggs and strenuous homosexual activity – there wasn’t much else to do, after all. Waugh had affairs with at least two men, delicately beautiful, hard-drinking, self-destructive boys.
Lygon, considered the third love-interest of Waugh at Oxford, was as hard-drinking and self-destructive as Waugh and Graham. Lygon moved round Oxford like a lost boy. Terence Lucy Greenidge remembered him carrying a teddy bear. Greenidge, while admiring Hugh's classical good looks, charm and elegance, said he was "rather empty."
After Waugh published A Little Learning, Harold Acton wrote to him complaining he had revealed his homosexuality, while omitting Byron's, Balfour's, Howard's and Lygon's promiscuities. Tamara Talbot Rice, one of the few women undergraduates at Oxford, remembered how John Fothergill let Waugh have rooms in the Spread Eagle at Thame at a special midweek rate so that he and Lygon could meet in private.
After leaving Oxford he worked in a bank in Paris before working in the City.
Lygon died in Germany, where he was on a motoring tour with his friend, the artist Henry Wynn (a son of Lady Newborough). Lygon was standing in the road to ask the way and fell backwards, hitting his head on a stone. He died later due to a fractured skull, having spent four days in a hospital in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. His body was returned to England.
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