Saturday, August 28, 2010


On Monday I mentioned two correspondents who had worked in Roderick Cameron's house at Menerbes. Today, I would like to let my second correspondent be a guest blogger as it were - the quotation from her email is almost the whole of it. I also mentioned double standards – not, I stressed, on the part of my correspondents – and said I would write about that later. Later is now.

"You are welcome to use anything I tell you, but I would prefer without attribution, as Mr Cameron was a very private person.  I think his mother must have been quite a character: she was certainly very beautiful - there was a photograph of her wearing coronation robes that stood in the library corridor.

"Shortly before I went out to France, Mr Cameron had been interviewd by "The Tatler", so if you haven't seen that article - I can't find it on the web - you might care to look it up.  I can tell you that Mr Cameron was not very happy about it because he felt misrepresented, not least because it made him seem rather camp, which he most certainly was not.

"To say he was waspish, which the other article does, is less than fair: he could be irascible, but he was never anything less than a charming host, and was very kind to us while we were in his house.  We had an apartment at the end of a corridor, which we christened "Chez les esclaves" which he thought was rather droll, and it comprised two bedrooms, a sitting room, kitchen and bathroom.  Mr Cameron was very worried that we might not manage with just a single bathroom, and said that so long as the guest room along the corridor was not being used, we were welcome to use its accompanying bathroom which was across the corridor!  Each of the bedrooms had its accompanying bathroom - at the time, this was unimaginable luxury.  And even in our humble abode, we had Somerset Maugham's table, and various horticultural prints

" ... It really was the most beautiful house - I gather the local planning authorities threw out the first design because its large glass windows were deemed not in keeping with local architecture, so new plans were submitted and passed, and it was then built with small windows on the road side, and vast expanses of plate glass on the other side, away from prying eyes!  This meant that the house was both very light inside, and also that the village of Menerbes could be seen across the valley from the dining room window, like a sort of real-life panorama.  And of course, I must tell you about the garden, because that was Mr Cameron's hobby, and he managed to create an English garden in southern France.  He used to go to the Chelsea Flower Show every year, and his garden really was beautiful in that very English style of improving on nature, by which I mean that it gave the impression of being almost natural, and this took a great deal of time and effort! 

"I loved living in the house: I loved being surrounded by beautiful things, and as an English graduate, I particularly appreciated the books, which we were free to borrow as we would." 

So, double standards? I think if you are a woman you know that in any position of power you are subjected to a higher and meaner standard than would be a man in the same position. My boss? He's a hard-ass go-getter! My boss? She's a b.... I don't like the word unless it is applied where it belongs - a female canine. The same management style common to both sexes, but the woman is judged differently - a classic double standard.

And so it is if you are homosexual you will understand what I mean when I say that you are not quite on the same level of humanity as your heterosexual acquaintance - a plane shared by many a so-called minority. Minority - how subtle the language of the marginalization of those we find unacceptable! The name minority isn't just a just a census-derived category, it is also a respectful-sounding title for that very old group the other.  NQOC as the Brits would say.

Why then has this subject arisen? Well, as in many situations in life, seemingly random threads come together and form a pattern or create something that is against the grain. When my correspondent, who clearly had much liking of and respect for Mr Cameron, pointed out that someone had referred to Roderick Cameron in print as 'waspish' it reminded me where I had read the same thing and that article sent me here where I found a phrase that is also a classic example of double standards being applied, and this time to a long-dead gay man.

"Lees-Milne is best known for his diaries, which I admit I never read. In his biography, however, I came across his mean-spirited and back-biting, waspish comments about some friends of mine - all heterosexual, I may add - which I obviously didn't like. In contrast, he refers to Rory Cameron and to his mother's house on Cap Ferrat, La Fiorentina, as something exceptional. Actually I went there about five times and thought it was the pits. Cameron was a grab-arse pansy, now long dead of Aids, [my italics] who used the house to lure young tourists on board, his mother a terrible snob who pretended to come from something she didn't come from. I smelled things early one and stayed away."

Not just for this writer was Mr Cameron acting differently from heterosexual males (after all he was a pansy) but he died of Aids. A heterosexual man acting the same would not have been remarkable - nudge, nudge, wink, wink - and the fact he died of Aids would not have been noted. Consider: now long dead of lung cancer

In the words of Joe Cable

You've got to be taught to hate and fear
You've got to be taught from year to year
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught

You've got to be taught to be afraid 
Of people whose eyes are oddly made
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade

You've got to be taught before it's too late
Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate

You've got to be carefully taught.

"You've got to be carefully taught" from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, South Pacific

Photographs by John Vere Brown for an essay written by Roderick Cameron published in The World of Interiors, April 1984. 


  1. 1st, enchanting post---love the first hand accounts...and the gray gardens make me green with envy.

    2nd, I find the blogger editor the MOST infuriating, archaic and non-intuitive program invented since Microsoft invented Word. In addition to the constant troubles of moving text, the fact is that the little editing box is so small that I can't really follow what I'm writing as I do it, so re-editing and polishing go on for days. As for the moving text, I find that if you try to move it from other places than the obvious, like the line above or below, suddenly all will cooperate.

  2. "He's a hard-ass go-getter!" the more correct term, ironically, is SOB. There are plenty of perfectly nice go-getters.

  3. Blue --

    As for Taki, I tend to disbelieve eighty percent of what he presents as fact. I doubt very many people feel otherwise. The compulsive racism and antisemitism that characterizes his work, to say nothing of the open nostalgia for the glory days of the Wermacht, provide all the context one needs. (His Spectator columns are notable only when he succeeds in being unusually offensive.)

    P.S. I disagree on one small point: I have never felt that "waspish" had a sexual aspect -- or, for that matter, was necessarily a pejorative term.

  4. I think your readers following up with this story is wonderful. I see two threads- related here and that takes care of the first. the 2nd aspect, equally compelling and so much more complex. As a single woman (never married), I might add-I have been accused of being a "fag hag" (I am wildly comfortable in the company of Men that share the same interests I do), a wife stealer (absolutely Not, though I can not help it if some Men enjoy the company of a secure, unclinging woman that is not out to get anything), or three a "a Lesbo" (I do not prefer that route so to speak-though equally comfortable with Lesbian women-we are after all women) but Really, isn't about being comfortable with oneself- Men that cry out about homosexualists have there own problems, and that is obvious-what saddens, appalls and downright pisses me off is that LAbels are so easy, handy and convincing to stick on anyone that does not share our love of a particular shoe, coffee or sex. pgt

  5. Slightly off topic, I am still under the influence of having watched Camille Claudel last evening. Watching Claudel's talent fully blown in the world of class, sexism, jealousy, fear of genius in our midsts syndrome and seeing all of these pressures (and her own internal makeup) send this woman into perceived madness and a life in a mental ward, makes me again marvel that any —by definition NQOC or as is often used in the US NOKD (not our kind dear) is allowed to surface. Until, of course, after the genius dies and the art is worshipped.

  6. Your contact’s first hand account speaks of Cameron as someone generous and dignified. TT's article reeks of jealousy in the most puerile kind of way. He may wave the banner of his credentials next to his column; the fact remains: his article is trashy. Maybe we readers need to show restraint and leave behind dish-the-dirt sort of articles. I think it unhealthy to delve too deeply into people’s private lives.

  7. Dilettante, thank you. In some ways I found the previous version of blogger - the "unimproved" - easier to deal with.

    Terry, you are perfectly right and I live with one of them.

    Ancient, thank you. Taki is someone I'd heard about but I'm more concerned with our own "opinion-makers" here and I probably shall never read another thing he has written.

    I cannot disagree with you, generally speaking, about the word waspish but I felt in the context and the fact that it was used to describe a man whom the author of the Times article as far as I can judge had not met, its use was gratuitous.

    Little Augury, thank you. I too am comfortable in the company of either sex and I think it's because I'm sure of who I am and the fact that experience has not made me prejudiced about difference - as far as I can ascertain.

    Groups and organizations are a different matter - I am totally cynical about tax-exempt churches playing the politics of division and disenfranchisement. I have no power in this situation except that I make sure that my money is not given even indirectly to these organizations - I boycott. There are hotels I will not stay in, stores I refuse to shop in and I am fully aware they do not notice but my satisfaction is that they are not using my hard-earned money against me and my tribe.

  8. home before dark, I've just read the awful, awful story of Camille Claudel on Wikipedia and it leaves me ... I don't know what to say. I am at a loss.

    le style et la matiere, I agree about private lives remaining private. The problem is is that there we live in a celebrity-obsessed society and it is the rare individual that has no interest in it. I listen occasionally to students discussing what to me seem such intimate details of celebrities' lives - almost as if these people are family members or friends. Prurience is not a pleasant trait but it is one that drives an industry making enormous profits.

    As to Taki, I totally agree.

  9. The problem is is that there we live in a celebrity-obsessed society and it is the rare individual that has no interest in it.

    Twice in the past few years I've been interviewed by writers about assorted dead relatives. The obsessive interest of contemporary journalists in the sex lives of their subjects -- in each case wholly unrelated to the larger story -- was disconcerting, to say the least, and I took some amount of grief from living relatives for being willing to talk with them. In each case, however, I felt obliged by something like pietas to try to set the record straight.

    I expect this sort of thing will only get worse -- because a) there is obviously a market for it, and b) no one of any prominence objects to it.

  10. The Ancient, thank you.

    I fear you are right that this phenomenon will only get worse -the bread and circuses of our times, I'm afraid. Even so, it's one thing to enquire about the sex-life of someone who is dead but quite another to be denigrating about it.

    Pietas, Gravitas and Dignitas- those long dead virtues!

  11. Hello Blue, A very well-written and thought-provoking post, covering a number of interesting topics. I enjoy reading Taki, even though he and I don't see eye to eye on many things, but I find his writing well done and often quite funny. The minority angle you write of is spot on, I think. Excellent work here. Reggie

  12. Hello Reggie, thank you. I'm going to read more of Taki - I have a link to his blog. We're both up late and its time for bed.

  13. Just checking in to see the other comments. I see that everyone has resisted making any cheap puns on Taki Theodoracopulos' first and last names. You'll let us know if there is any thing redeeming on his site. I won't be venturing out that way!

  14. le style et la matiere, thank you. I had to resist the pun on Taki's first name but it was very tempting but would have put me in the same league.

  15. When a writer/gossip monger like Taki tells us that Rory Cameron was'an arse grabbing pansy who died of aids" the obvious subtext is that Rory Cameron's proclivities brought on his painful demise. A cheap shot by Taki, but then what can we expect from that well-connected fascist?
    I found it amusing that Taki admits to being enthralled with Michael Bloch's biography of James Lees Milne even though Taki never read a word of JLMs famous diaries. That reduces JLM's life to nothing more than a source of juicy gossip.

  16. Mr Worthington, thank you. I have read more of this man's screeds recently and I'm left with with even less respect for him and his opinions.

  17. Thank you for this most interesting series of posts. I, too, must register in that "waspish" has never had a negative connotation for me.

  18. Not necessarily for me either, John T, but in the context - and it's always about context - I found it gratuitous. Under other circumstances ...

  19. Taki is an arse. An attention grabbing one and I don't share his politics. But he provokes because he knows it teases and any of us who enjoy waspishly sniping in private should take much of what he writes with a pinch of salt perhaps. Like Reggie, I find him entertaining in the same way that I enjoy the 'old queen' Brian Sewell who writes those shockingly reactionary things about artists I respect.

    I don't know how long it will take much of the world, if ever, to stop regarding homosexuals as 'other'. Until heterosexuality stops being 'normative'. I think heterosexuals are often genuinely confused as to whether gay people want to be seen as a counter culture or not. I don't know myself. I guess the answer is, increasingly fewer these days? Do correct me.

    But remember, as I have mentioned to you before, there are tricky separatists within the gay community. Whereas I once found this outrageous, I am coming to the conclusion that this is kind of acceptable since (lack of tolerance aside) nobody should expect all gays to conform to one stereotype of the 'other'!
    This is all a bloody minefield actually.

  20. I take the view of Style et matière, but of course au fond I take your own and applaud it. Without having seen this I happened to pursue the matter to the fastidious silence of every one of these readers, and I am glad you managed to extract their indulgence. Trades of a feather flock together, and it is plain that you reached them. That is enough.