‘Slightly low water’: 1959–1970
As well as his problems with illness, Montgomery’s finances became increasingly insecure: ‘I’m on the brink of a financial crisis myself,’ he noted in 1965. 1 His lucrative film work dried up just at the moment when he had committed himself to the building of his relatively expensive bungalow, and although performing rights from the films and royalties from his novels continued to come in on a regular basis, there was a limited amount of new work and his income was considerably less than what he had been used to. Montgomery did not help himself. His addiction to alcohol was a costly business; in 1970 his account at victoria Wine in Totnes regularly reached at least £50 each month (a year later it was occasionally as much as £87) in addition to large bills at the cott Inn, his local hostelry. Montgomery was a frequent visitor there, particularly at lunchtime. He would start with several pink gins or very dry sherries and then proceed to the dining room for his favourite meal of steak and kidney pie. This would usually be accompanied by a bottle of Lafitte 1952 or Latour 1953, the meal costing 7s.6d (38p) and the wine £3.17s.6d (£3.88). invariably he would drink only half the bottle, the remainder being sent to the kitchen for cook – who would much rather have had a pint of draught Bass. 2 After living extravagantly for many years Montgomery found it difficult to economise. Writing to Jacques Barzun in 1973 to explain why he was unlikely to visit the United States, one of many times he put off the trip, Montgomery said: ‘I realise that I ought to pay you a return visit, by coming to New York, but for the present finances forbid (I could afford an Economy Flight, but first, I detest flying, and secondly, I detest economy).’ 3 We have seen how difficult he found any constructive work during this period and cannot be surprised if prospective employers thought twice before they commissioned anything from him.