Waugh in the Public Domain

The Public Domain Review (a website devoted to the promotion of the free expression of ideas) has published a list of artists whose works will enter the public domain in some jurisdictions next year. In some countries this happens 50 years after the creator's death. For those who died in 1966, as is the case with Evelyn Waugh, their work may enter the public domain in those countries in 2017. The major English language jurisdictions where this will happen are Canada, Hong Kong and New Zealand. In other countries such as the UK, Ireland (and most of the EU), Australia and  (subject to certain other complications) the US, the basic rule is 70 years after the creator's death.  Writers whose works will enter the public domain next year under the 70 year rule are Gertrude Stein and H G Wells. In Waugh's case that will happen in 2037. In the US, however, the window keeps moving as the Disney interests lobby for continued protection. It so happens that Walt Disney also died in 1966. Here's the description of Waugh's works in the Public Domain Review:

Primarily known as a writer of novels, biographies and travel books, Waugh was also a prolific journalist and reviewer of books. His most famous works include the early satires Decline and Fall (1928) and A Handful of Dust (1934), the novel Brideshead Revisited (1945) and the Second World War trilogy Sword of Honour (1952–61). Waugh is recognised as one of the great prose stylists of the English language in the twentieth century, the critic Clive James commenting that “Nobody ever wrote a more unaffectedly elegant English… its hundreds of years of steady development culminate in him”.

What this means as a practical matter for our readers in Canada, Hong Kong and New Zealand is not exactly clear. But most of the rest of us will have to wait.

Posted in Anniversaries, Discussions | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Waugh Books Feature in Best of Year Listings

UK newspapers have begun listing their best of the year selections, and books about Waugh feature in several of them. Philip Eade's biography was named in numerous papers. The Financial Times included the book in its selections of best literary non-fiction:

Eade’s new biography draws on unpublished letters, diaries and memoirs to explore the eccentric, larger-than-life story of one of the most acclaimed novelists of the 20th century. Will send readers back to the novels in droves.

In the Guardian's best of the year listings, novelist John Banville included it among his choices:

Philip Eade’s Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) demonstrates that Waugh’s life, already done by diverse hands, really is worth another visit.

Yesterday's Sunday Times named both Eade's book and that of Ann Pasternak Slater as among the best books in the literature category:

Two essential, complementary books about Waugh: Eade’s pacey new biography delivers the raw material of Waugh’s life, the “hamper...of perishable goods”, and Pasternak Slater’s keen, insightful study explores how that raw material became “imperishable art”. While Eade serves up a compelling four-page account of Waugh’s drug-fuelled hallucinations in 1954, for example, Pasternak Slater devotes an entire chapter of lucid analysis to that episode’s transformation into Waugh’s late novel The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. Buy both books and treat the Waugh aficionado in your life to a proper spread.

Two Roman Catholic bloggers in the US have also recently made recommendations. Dr. Adam Deville read the Eade biography but preferred that of Douglas Patey:

Patey's book is not only a scholarly analysis of Waugh's life and work, but it is the most theologically informed and intelligent biography every written of Waugh. Indeed, I would say that it's very high and elegant theological literacy sets the standard for other biographies of Christian writers. Eade's book, by contrast, pays scant attention to theology, and overall breaks very little new ground. His groundbreaking is extremely workmanlike, without great flourish or insight. So there is nothing wrong, per se, with the book--only that it is superfluous... 

Writer and convert Eve Tushnet blogging on patheos.com recommends one of Waugh's own books among her top ten reads of 2016:

The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. Self-lacerating and unusually phantasmagoric Waugh. I’m super always down for self-lacerating phantasmagoria, #myaesthetic and all that, also always into novels where people have the symptoms of long-term alcoholism. There’s a sweetness to this book which suggests something about, at least, Waugh’s aspirations.

Finally, another US reader (Jesse Friedman) blogging on Books.inq recommends Decline & Fall:

...Decline and Fall is a book to be enjoyed: true, there's social commentary here; and true, there's an autobiographical quality as well. But to focus too heavily on these aspects of the novel is, I think, to miss its magic. Waugh's contribution is the perfectly time joke, the innuendo left unsaid, the character with a name too good to be true. Decline and Fall was the start of it all, and while it doesn't entirely hold together, it signaled the emergence of a significant new talent, one with a sense of humor -- and sense for how humor could be used to enhance a writer's literary pursuits.

Posted in Biographies, Books about Evelyn Waugh, Decline and Fall, The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Waugh Makes Appearance in SAS Book

Evelyn Waugh makes an appearance in a new book Rogue Heroes by Ben Macintyre that is excerpted in The Daily Beast. This is a history of the Special Air Service brigade (SAS) and its founder David Stirling. Waugh knew Stirling from the Commandos in which they both served in North Africa. The excerpt describes Waugh's 1941 visit to Stirling in a Cairo hospital where Stirling was recovering from a leg injury suffered in a parachute jump. This was in the period before he organized the SAS:

The writer Evelyn Waugh, a fellow officer in the commando force, came to visit Stirling about three weeks after his admission to the hospital. Waugh had been misinformed by the matron that one of Stirling’s legs had already been amputated, and he would likely lose the other. “I can’t feel a thing,” Stirling told his friend. Embarrassed, as Englishmen tend to be when faced with disability, Waugh kept up a steady stream of meaningless small talk, perched on the edge of the bed, and studiously avoided the subject of his friend’s paralysis. Every so often, however, he would sneak a surreptitious glance to where Stirling’s remaining leg ought to be, and whenever he did so Stirling, with extreme effort, would wiggle the big toe of his right foot. Finally, Waugh realized he was being teased, and hit Stirling with a pillow.

“You bastard, Stirling, when did it happen?”

“Minutes before you came. It takes a bit of effort, but it’s a start.”

Stirling was regaining the use of his legs. Others might have cried for joy; for Stirling, however, the first sign of his recovery was an excellent opportunity to play a practical joke on one of Britain’s greatest novelists.

Stirling left the Commandos shortly after Waugh's visit to organize the SAS, whose first mission was to send small, specially trained units to attack the Germans behind their lines. The success of the North African operation led to the spread of the SAS to other theatres of war and its ultimate survival after the war. It is not mentioned in the excerpt that Stirling was a cousin of Shimi Lovat, the officer who was instrumental in Waugh's dismissal from the Army after his return from North Africa. Waugh returned to active duty, during which he suffered a leg injury in parachute training prior to joining a mission in Yugoslavia. That operation was headed by Randplph Churchill; it was not conducted by the SAS. 

Posted in Newspapers, World War II | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Scoop Rebroadcast on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4 Extra earlier this week rebroadcast a two-hour adaptation of Waugh's 1938 novel Scoop. This was written by Jeremy Front who has also adapted for radio Decline and Fall (2016), Sword of Honour (2013) and Brideshead Revisited (2003). The Scoop dramatization was first broadcast in 2009. It features actors Rory Kinnear as William Boot, David Warner as Lord Copper and Fenella Woolgar as Julia Stitch. Tim McInnerney reads the part of Evelyn Waugh who acts as narrator. The program is broadcast in two episodes in the "Classic Serial" series. Both episodes are currently available and may be accessed worldwide on your computer or smart phone for the next 26 days over BBC iPlayer.

Posted in Adaptations, Brideshead Revisited, Decline and Fall, Radio, Radio Programs, Scoop, Sword of Honour | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Feast Day of Edmund Campion Marked

Yesterday was the feast day in the Roman Catholic Church for St Edmund Campion. It was marked on two Roman Catholic websites with quotations from Waugh's biography of Campion first published in 1935. On the website of the Association of Catholic Women Bloggers, Ellen Kolb quotes from the preface Waugh wrote for the book:

All I have sought to do is to select incidents which strike a novelist as important and to put them into a narrative which I hope may prove readable. The facts are not in dispute so I have left the text unencumbered by notes or bibliography. It should be read as a simple, perfectly true story of heroism and holiness...We have seen the Church driven underground in one country after another. The martyrdom of Father [now Blessed] Pro in Mexico re-enacted Campion’s. In fragments and whispers we get news of other saints in the prison camps of eastern and southeastern Europe, of cruelty and degradation more frightful than anything in Tudor England and of the same pure light shining in the darkness, uncomprehended. The hunted, trapped, murdered priest is amongst us again, and the voice of Campion comes to us across the centuries as though he were walking at our side.

Although the blog article refers to the 1930s edition, this version of the preface did not appear until later. Waugh rewrote the preface in 1946, and it appeared for the first time as quoted above in the Little, Brown edition of that year. That is also the version of the preface that has appeared in subsequent US and UK editions such as that of the OUP in 1980. 

The other post is by a Roman Catholic priest on the website of the Pagadian Diocese, which is a Latin Rite jurisdiction with headquarters in the Philippines. This rather gory passage is taken from the final chapter of Waugh's book as it appears in both the 1935 and 1946 editions and deals with the aftermath of Campion's execution at Tyburn:

[Henry Walpole] secured a place at Tyburn; so close that when Campion’s [intestines] were torn out [of his body] by the butcher and thrown into the cauldron of boiling water, a spot of blood splashed upon his coat. In that moment he was caught into a new life; he crossed the sea, became a priest, and, thirteen years later, after very terrible sufferings, died the same death as Campion’s on the gallows at York. 

The quotation has unfortunately been edited to remove Waugh's background description of Henry Walpole, which makes the passage somewhat less gruesome and even adds a bit of Wavian irony. Walpole is described by Waugh as a:

...Cambridge wit, minor poet, satirist, flaneur, a young man of birth, popular, intelligent, slightly romantic. He came of a Catholic family and occasionally expressed Catholic sentiments, but until that day had kept his distance from [Catholic sympathizers], and was on good terms with authority. He was a typical member of that easy-going majority, on whom the Elizabethan settlement depended, who would have preferred to live under a Catholic regime but accepted the change without any serious regret. He had an interest in theology and had attended Campion's conferences with the Anglican clergy. [1946 edition, p. 230].

Walpole was later canonized in 1970, at the same time as Campion, and along with the other "40 English Martyrs".  At the time Waugh wrote, they were not yet Saints but had been beatified.  

Posted in Articles, Catholicism, Edmund Campion | Tagged | 1 Comment

David Pryce-Jones Reviews Eade Biography

David Pryce-Jones, son of author Alan Pryce-Jones who was Waugh's near contemporary at Oxford but not close friend, has reviewed Philip Eade's biography of Waugh in the National Review. He begins with an apology for having written an unfavorable review of Sword of Honour in his 20s and continues with a memoir of his own youthful contacts with Waugh:

My first meeting with Waugh had been at a lunch party in the highly respectable Randolph Hotel in Oxford. Teresa Waugh, his eldest daughter, had invited a dozen of her university contemporaries. In the course of the meal, someone said that the person we were speaking about had children and therefore wasn’t homosexual. “Nonsense, buggers have babies,” said Waugh in a voice that stopped conversation throughout the dining room. “Lord Beauchamp had six, Oscar had two, and even little Loulou Harcourt managed one.” (I could place Lord Beauchamp and Oscar Wilde but little Loulou was an unknown quantity to me.) That same term, Teresa further invited me for the weekend at Combe Florey, the Waugh house in Somerset. As we drove up to the door after three hours on the road, Waugh leaned out of a first-floor window shouting, “Go away!” There seemed to be nothing for it. We duly turned around and left. A year or two later, I received a letter in his handwriting but oddly signed in the name of Laura, his wife, inviting me to a white-tie dance. A military band played “The Post Horn Gallop,” music for brass to which it is impossible to dance. The moment midnight struck, Waugh clapped his hands and dismissed everybody.

The remainder of the review, in which Pryce-Jones presumably gives his assessment of Eade's book, is available only with a subscription. If any of our readers has access to it, they may wish to comment below.

Posted in Biographies, Books about Evelyn Waugh, Oxford, Sword of Honour, Waugh Family | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Waugh Novel on Winter Reading List

The news webpage Business Insider has published a list of recommended books by British authors for reading on the long, cold winter nights now being experienced rather early this year in the UK. Among the 15 books selected, about half are 19th century classics. Waugh's 1938 novel Scoop is among the 20th century books on the list:

Evelyn Waugh's best known and most exhuberant comedy definitely won't disappoint. Lord Copper, editor of the Daily Beast, thinks he found the best journalist to cover a little war in the African Republic of Ishmaelia, and it all goes downhill from there. Evelyn Waugh's "Scoop" is a satire of Fleet Street's need for hot news.

Other recommended books from the early 20th century include Mrs Dalloway, Animal Farm and Lady Chatterley's Lover.

Posted in Scoop | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Waugh and the "Inner Toff"

Author and journalist James Delingpole, writing in this week's Spectator in an essay entitled "How I learned to embrace my inner toff," cites Waugh as a precedent in defense of his reaction to certain recent changes in life style.

Delingpole acquired a Land Rover to replace a more modest motor car called a Skoda Yeti when his lease ran out. He now receives more respect from fellow motorists but at first felt guilty because they don't understand the financial sacrifice he had to make in this transaction even though the new vehicle was actually bought from a second-hand dealer. In the end he harks back to the example of Evelyn Waugh to justify his acceptance of the new situation. He admits that:

... yes, I guess I did get it for snob reasons too. It’s all just a front though: my Potemkin Motor, if you will, designed to throw people off the scent like the carefully constructed persona of some dodgy character in a mid-period John le Carré novel. Quite often now I’m amused to see myself described — usually by pillocks on Twitter — as ‘an upper-class twit’. I want to reply: ‘Really. You have no bloody idea. I’m the son of a Midlands businessman and at the village school I spoke with a Brummie accent.’ But I don’t, because I find being thought an effete toff more useful for the purposes of annoying people.

His wife can't understand why he doesn't "just admit that you’re not posh and we’re totally skint?"

Why don’t I? Well initially — as recounted in my cult classic Thinly Disguised Autobiography — I think it may have stemmed from my Charles Ryder-ish yearnings at university. But I think I’m pretty much over all that, now that I’ve since been so epically disappointed by so many of the smarter friends I once aspired to emulate.

Now I think I pretend to be a country squire for the same reasons I suspect Evelyn Waugh did. Because it’s the perfect way of retreating from civilisation, becoming as feral and eccentric and anti-social as you like, seeing only the people you want to see and letting the rest of the world go hang.


Posted in Brideshead Revisited, Humo(u)r, Newspapers, Twitter | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Waugh Cited in Announcement of Erle Stanley Gardner Book

The New York Times in a recent books column has announced the publication of a long forgotten book by Erle Stanley Gardner. This was written in 1939 as the second in his series of books featuring the detectives Bertha Cool and Donald Lam. His publisher informed him that Miss Cool's coarse language and bad habits made publication unadvisable. Gardner set it aside, but the series continued, resulting in a total of two dozen volumes. The lost volume is entitled The Knife Slipped, and it will be issued next week in a paperback edition with an appropriately lurid 1940's style cover. 

The Times story also mentions that Evelyn Waugh was a fan of Gardner's work and quotes a 1949 interview of Waugh by Harvey Breit that appeared in the Times (13 March 1949). Waugh, then in the US for a lecture tour, was asked what American writers he admired. After mentioning Thomas Merton, J F Powers and Christopher Isherwood as the best young writers he went on to say:

The best American writer is, of course, Erle Stanley Gardner...Do I really mean that? By all means."

Waugh did not meet Gardner on his lecture tour but did mention him several times in other interviews in US newspapers as his favorite US author. Many in the US, including Gardner, thought this was another one of Waugh's jokes at their expanse. This was clarified, however, when the two writers later had a brief correspondence. Waugh wrote Gardner a fan letter in which he questioned Gardner's use of the word "davenport" for a sofa. In the letter (dated 20 June 1960) he introduced himself to Gardner as "one of the keenest admirers of your work." Gardner was skeptical that this was from Evelyn Waugh the well known writer and had an editor answer, but then added his own note to the letter informing Waugh that if he was:

the Evelyn Waugh who wrote that wonderful expose of Hollywood and apparently you are...you have the greatest gift of satire I have ever encountered and that means philosophical perspective and writing ability of a high order." (Letters, 546)

Alfred Borrello, writing in an early issue of the Evelyn Waugh Newsletter, got permission  to publish this correspondence which he had obtained from Gardner himself. Still in some lingering doubt about the bona fides of Waugh's admiration for Gardner's work, Borrello wrote to Laura Waugh and asked her to elaborate. She explained that her husband had, indeed, read every one of Gardner's books and that his appreciation for them had spread to other members of the family (EWN, 4.3, Winter 1970).

Posted in Interviews, Letters, Newsletter, Newspapers, Waugh Family | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Tony Last on Fifth Avenue

In a recent post on his weblog, political commentator, enemy of political correctness and general iconoclast Taki Theodoracopulos (sometime contributor to the Spectator) has conjured up the image of Tony Last from Waugh's novel A Handful of Dust among the anti-Trump protestors in front of the Trump Tower office building on Fifth Avenue. He gets there by asserting that the protestors are being paid for their activity by George Soros:

How is it possible for ... George Soros, to mask himself in virtue by paying self-aggrandizing, mostly young well-off people to protest while the cameras are whirling? ... [T]he protesters remind me of Tony Last, held prisoner by a madman reciting Dickens in perpetuity. They will be yelling the same slogans eight years from now, or for as long as the ill-gotten Soros billions hold out.

At first glance, Mr Todd, who holds Tony captive in Waugh's novel, seems to have little in common with Soros. However, upon further reflection, and accepting for the sake of argument that Soros is paying the protestors, the analogy makes some sense. The  protestors are free to move on whenever they please, but only assuming they no longer need the alleged support of Soros. You could say the same about Tony Last, except if he moved very far he would have been eaten by a crocodile. And although Mr Todd didn't need to pay Tony, he did provide fairly basic food and shelter, as well as reading material. Thanks to a reader for sending us this link.  

Posted in A Handful of Dust, Humo(u)r | Tagged , | Leave a comment