Decline and Fall and Some Others

Harry Mount writing in the Catholic Herald offers these additional thoughts about the BBC’s production:

The new BBC One version of Decline and Fall was pretty good – but it could only fall short of the book. The genius of Evelyn Waugh is only properly appreciated in reading him. His wit – rude, cynical, bitter, sudden, surprising, howlingly funny – is sparked off in the mind, not by the eye. The same applies to PG Wodehouse – always diminished on the telly. Transfer Waugh’s thoughts to the screen and they fall flat…

Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian confesses that he first learned from the recent BBC adaptation how to pronounce Margot Beste-Chetwynde’s name:

… to my shame, I realise I’ve been getting something wrong all these years. The surname of the pupil Peter Beste-Chetwynde and his mother Margot Beste-Chetwynde – like the non-U oik that I am, I’ve been pronouncing that to rhyme with “test get chinned”. But now I realise that it should be pronounced “beast cheating”: a sly, almost subliminal joke there, for those classy enough to know the rule. But that’s English for you: knowing how to, for example, say Magdalen College and when and where to spell it with an “e” on the end. I thought I knew about this, including of course the vital importance of airily shrugging at the absurdity of class-based rules that you have mastered. But you can always get tripped up.

And a blogger posting on Counter-Currents.com as “Margot Metroland”, one of her other names, has this to say about another Waugh novel:

In the [Alger] Hiss case, [Whittaker] Chambers’ great cheerleader and ally was Congressman Richard M. Nixon. In its aftermath, his main champion was William F. Buckley, Jr., who brought Chambers aboard the nascent NationalReview. At NR, Chambers impressed the editorial staff with his knowledge of Evelyn Waugh…The story goes that after delivering a long and convoluted monologue at an NR editorial meeting, editor Buckley looked around for support, finally asking Whittaker Chambers if he agreed. “Up to a point, Lord Copper,” replied Chambers, echoing the Daily Beast subeditor in Waugh’s Scoop.

How many other names did Margot have, I wonder? She was later for a brief period Lady Margot Maltravers (or would it have been Margot, Lady Maltravers ?) when she married Sir Humphrey Maltravers. Then she became Viscountess, or simply, Lady Metroland when Sir Humphrey acquired that title. She is usually referred to thereafter even more simply as Margot Metroland. Do we know her maiden name? She probably appears in more of Waugh’s novels than any other single character and is referred to by more names than any other character, with the possible exception of Trimmer.

Finally, for those who are becoming bored with Decline and Fall trivia, there’s a more serious approach to another Waugh novel posted on YouTube.  This is a lecture by Professor Michael Moir about the first half of Vile Bodies. He teaches, inter alia, a course in Modern British Literature at the Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, Georgia, which is apparently where the lecture was recorded.  

 

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3 Responses to Decline and Fall and Some Others

  1. Adrian PT says:

    Guardian isn’t quite right – there’s no agreed pronunciation of Beste-Chetwynde as there is no such surname; it was simply a rather amusing joke done as part of the (very good, I thought) adaptation. Original MS had the surname down as simply Chetwynd. Best and Chetywnd were both fellow undergraduates, I seem to remember reading. Re Margot’s names – formally speaking, they would have been Lady Maltravers, then Lady Metroland. Never “Lady Margot”. Incidentally, both Chetwynd and Maltravers are secondary surnames of aristocratic families in the UK – which certainly jars with the depiction of Sir Humphrey’s early life. Difficult to say whether that was EW being socially naive or having a sly dig.

  2. Jeffrey Manley says:

    Thanks for this comment. Dr Fagan refers to Margot as “the Honourable Mrs Beste-Chetwynde, sister-in-law of Lord Pastmaster”. I’m confident Dr Fagan and Waugh would get this right, but I wonder how is it she can be “the Hon.” but not “Lady”? Her late husband presumably did not have a title but how would he be entitled to be called “The Hon.” ?

  3. Adrian PT says:

    The Hon = child of a peer. If said peer was an earl or above would have entitled her to be called Lady Margot in her own right, so it’s a junior peer (Lord or Viscount) in this case. And, to complicate things, when she married Sir H she would technically have been “the Hon Lady Maltravers”.

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