Evelyn Waugh as a Tourist Destination

Evelyn Waugh is mentioned in two recent articles in connection with places tourists might be likely to visit. The first is in an article in the Daily Telegraph’s travel column by Harry Mount. This relates to the centenary celebration of the British Institute in Florence where Mount was once an art student. This is not to be confused with the British Council which the Institute predates by several years. The Institute has a strong connection with Harold Acton, Waugh’s close friend from his Oxford days. Acton’s best known Florence venue is Villa la Pietra which is mentioned in the Telegraph article:

The colossal Renaissance villa, perched on the hills above Florence, owned by Sir Harold Acton. Here he entertained Evelyn Waugh and Princess Margaret. He left it to New York University.

Less well known is Acton’s ownership of a building in the center of Florence, south of the Arno. As explained by Mount, this is now:

… the Harold Acton Library, housed in the Palazzo Lanfredini, a 15th-century palace left to the Institute by the aesthete Sir Harold Acton on his death in 1994. Talk about a room with a view! I have spent some of my happiest hours in the high-ceilinged rooms of that palazzo, staring across the Arno to the Palazzo Corsini on the other side of the river. The Harold Acton Library is the biggest English language lending library on the Continent. I passed lazy afternoons reading Anthony Powell and Evelyn Waugh, who partly based Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited on Acton, his old Oxford friend. The library is crammed with books on Italy and art history, as well as English papers and magazines. After a leisurely day of Italian lessons and Renaissance lectures, I’d drift into one of the Institute’s cocktail parties, or listen to a talk, in English or Italian, from one of its visiting speakers.

In an article appearing on an Australian travel website (Traveller.com), a literary-themed self-guided tour of Oxford is recommended. The article (written by Steve Meacham) uses the book Oxford: A Literary Guide by John Dougill to map the literary sites. After visiting pubs and other sites associated with JRR Tolkein, CS Lewis, Colin Dexter and Philip Pullman, Meacham comes to Evelyn Waugh:

Dougill’s judgment seems particularly harsh on Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. Waugh was at Hertford College, and so was his narrator, Charles Ryder (though Hertford isn’t named). In the 1981 TV adaption, starring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews, a corner of Hertford’s North Quad was used as the setting for Ryder’s ground floor rooms – into which the foppish Sebastian Flyte vomits through an open window on their first meeting.

The article concludes with a consideration of the poets and other novelists associated with Oxford, most particularly Lewis Carroll. 


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3 Responses to Evelyn Waugh as a Tourist Destination

  1. Sandra L. says:

    Hello–
    I’m wondering if anyone can offer me some advice re: visiting Hertford. I would love to simply take a photo near the Famous Window, but I read on Hertford’s web site that the college is closed to visitors during the time I’ll be visiting (spring half-term).

    Do you think the porter might let me in just to take a photo? Are there other places in Oxford I should visit, as a Waugh fan? Thank you so much.

    • Jeffrey Manley says:

      It might be helpful to write or phone the Porter’s Lodge and see whether they can accommodate your visit if you make a definite appointment and agree to pay their entry fee. You might want to include Campion Hall in your visit and Christ Church is just up the street from there. This is where Anthony Blanche read The Waste Land to the not so huddled masses. If you cannot get into the college at Christ Church go round the back and visit the cathedral. It should be open as it has a gift shop. I am not familiar with the John Dougill guide but it might be worth the investment.

  2. Sandra L. says:

    Thank you very much, Jeffrey. I appreciate your help!

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