Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Nobility of Gore Vidal - Where did he get it?

By Robert Hudson Westover

Love him or hate him (you have no other choice) Gore Vidal had a persistent and apparent nobility about him that could never be denied--not even by those who most loathed him.

So where did he get it?

Many will attribute this nobility to the fact that he was born into a grand political family. But so was his mother and she, by Vidal's own accounts, rarely exhibited the noble traits of her famous son. 

So how did it develop in Vidal?

I think I might have the answer and it might surprise you.

My dear honorary godmother, Countess Olga Chrapovitsky Morgan, was related to Gore Vidal through marriage. Her nephew, Hugh D. "Yusha" Auchincloss III was both Vidal’s step brother and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' (as well as a slew of other well born Auchincloss children). 

Gore Vidal
It's interesting to me that the "Merrywood on the Potomac" kids (the children of family patriarch Hugh D. Auchincloss and former residents of the famed Merrywood mansion near Washington, D.C.) who most all knew and admired Olga, had such nobility about them. And I strongly feel they all got part of their awareness of their inner nobility in large part from Olga. Not that she taught them in any sort of Maria-von-Trapp-Sound-of-Music sort of way. 

No. I think it was just her day-to-day noble actions and reactions to the world around her. I say (and believe) this because I too had the unique opportunity to be exposed to the Nobility of Olga. 

And it changed my life.

Countess Olga C. Morgan with me at her home in Laguna Beach

I wish the whole world could have had this woman as their honorary godmother. To show them, as she demonstrated to so many others, that we all have a Noble spirit within us that just needs to be brought out in our daily walk and conversation—that this world can be a much more civilized world by truly (and honestly) respecting others because they're just as noble as you and me.

Admittedly Vidal fell far short of this aspect of inner nobility! (Nobody's perfect.) But he often recovered.

Case in point. From The Guardian newspaper: 

A few years ago, when I mentioned a passage in his memoirs that admits to being unable to express any open distress after the death of Howard Austen, his supportive partner for almost 50 years, he drawled: "Have you seen that film with Helen Mirren? The Queen? Our class are brought up not to show emotion."

This effortless identification with one of the highest-born figures in history was very Vidal: both in its social self-confidence and the fact that a question about emotional evasion was itself emotionally evaded through a provocative aphorism.


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