Two Openings and a Debut

A Waugh quote opens an article in the South China Morning Post about Djibouti:

Not that long ago, Djibouti was known for little more than French legionnaires, atrocious heat and being at the other end of a railway line to Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia. English novelist Evelyn Waugh was appalled by its “intolerable desolation”, declaring it a “country of dust and boulders, utterly devoid of any sign of life”. Nowadays, however, this tiny republic of about 900,000 people on the Horn of Africa has grand plans to establish itself on the global stage. And international powers are increasingly interested in what it has to offer: “an oasis in a bad neighbourhood”, as one foreign ambassador puts it.

The article wonders whether with all this foreign investment Djibouti may become Africa’s Dubai. But after poking around beyond the area of the port where development is concentrated, the SCMP finds other areas which sound not that different from what Waugh described, so perhaps expectations of Dubaization are a bit premature. The quote is from Remote People (Penguin, 2011, p.21)

A London investor newsletter (Risk.net) contains an article touting a City law firm that has handled several recent cases emanating from the banking debacles of the past decade. The opening quote again comes from Waugh (Brideshead Revsited, Book 2, ch. 1):

The string of financial scandals that has tarnished the banking industry in recent years calls to mind the Evelyn Waugh quote: “a blow, expected, repeated, falling on a bruise, with no smart or shock of surprise”. From the mis-selling of payment protection insurance to the rigging of Libor and foreign exchange benchmarks, this has been a boom era for market manipulation, and has brought trust in financial markets to an all-time low.  

Finally, another London newsletter (Running Past), this one providing information to runners whose courses take them through areas of South London, mentions Evelyn Waugh in connection with the career of Elsa Lanchester, whose Catford birthplace is identified  for the newsletter’s clientele:

After the war ended she worked for a charity teaching dancing called Happy Evenings, during her second summer of this she set up a school in Charlotte Street in central London.  She also used the premises to set up what was effectively an after-hours theatre club – the Cave of Harmony – which began to attract a famous clientele which included the likes of H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley and Evelyn Waugh who became a regular visitor. As she was with many friends and acquaintances, Lanchester was quite cutting about Waugh – describing him as ‘not at all attractive looking….pink in patches as though he had a bad cold.’   [Footnotes citing Lanchester’s autobiography (Elsa Lanchester, Herself) as the source are omitted. The quote about Waugh is cited from p. 57.]

Lanchester is probably best known for her lead role in the 1935 film The Bride of Frankenstein and for having been the wife of actor Charles Laughton whom she married in 1929. But she got her start in films by playing the female lead in the 1925 short silent film The Scarlet Woman: An Ecclesiastical Melodrama which was written by Waugh and in which he also played a prominent role. This was produced and directed in large part by Waugh’s friend Terence Greenidge and also featured several other of their friends from Oxford. Lanchester may not have mentioned this early film appearance in her memoirs or autobiography, but it does appear on her Wikipedia page as well as IMDB. She is mentioned by Waugh in his diaries and his autobiography, A Little Learning. Waugh is also credited by Greenidge with directing the scenes of Lanchester’s pursuit over Hampstead Heath which take up most of the last part of the film. Much of the production was filmed in the garden of the Waugh family’s house on North End Road. 

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