On today’s episode of the BBC Radio 4 program Open Book, Mariella Frostrup interviews the Society’s Honorary President, David Lodge. They talk mostly about his memoir just published and described in an earlier posting. Among the topics they discuss is Lodge’s status as a Roman Catholic writer, which he shared with Evelyn Waugh. Lodge felt that as a Catholic he was a member of a minority in England and that Catholic writers as a group formed a sort of elite to which he aspired. Besides Waugh, he mentions Graham Greene and Francois Mauriac among the Catholic writers he admired. He also notes the irony that he has lost much of his faith just at the time many other authors found they needed it most. Other subjects are how his life affected his writing, his academic career as a source for material, his trips to the USA (which he found uplifting in the 1960s compared the darker place it has become), and his future plans for volume two. The interview can be heard over the internet on a standard US internet connection for several more days at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0505t2p
The online edition of First Things, a Roman Catholic journal on religion and public life, has published an article featuring Waugh’s last novel, Unconditional Surrender (1961). The article by Gerald Russello, entitled “Catholicism Before and After 1963: Two Novels,” contrasts the impact of religion on the character of Waugh’s hero Guy Crouchback with that on the character of Monk Dawson in a novel of that title by Piers Paul Read published 8 years later. The website offers readers the opportunity to comment.
David Lodge, the Society’s Honorary President, has written the first volume of his memoirs. This was published in the UK this week under the title Quite a Good Time to Be Born: A Memoir, 1935-1975. An international edition is promised by Amazon. com in February. The book was reviewed in the Financial Times on Friday by Suzi Feay who found it ”not the account of a life packed with thrills other than the intellectual kind. But in its own way, it is a fascinating and moving read.” The FT article announces that Lodge will discuss the book at the Oxford Literary Festival on 27 March.
The book was also reviewed in today’s Sunday Telegraph by Nicholas Skakespeare, who narrated and conducted interviews for the three-part documentary on Evelyn Waugh’s life and works for the BBC Arena series in 1987. The review begins by warning readers not to expect too much from a novelist’s memoirs, calling Waugh’s A Little Learning his “least satisfactory book.” Perhaps Shakespeare hasn’t read A Tourist in Africa or Robbery Under Law. The review also notes that Lodge has written critical studies of both Waugh and Graham Greene, both of whom, like him, are Roman Catholics. Unlike them, however, Lodge grew up “knowing contentedly little about abroad or sex.” D.J. Taylor in the Guardian compares Lodge and one of his fictional heroes to Charles Ryder and also notes that Lodge’s father, who worked as a musician, played at Mrs. Meyrick’s club, the 43, immortalized by Waugh in Brideshead as Ma Mayfield’s Old Hundredth. This volume concludes with Lodge’s early university teaching career and publication of his “breakthrough campus novel” Changing Places, but a second volume is, according to the reviewers, promised.
Posted in A Little Learning, A Tourist in Africa, Brideshead Revisited, Conferences, Documentaries, Evelyn Waugh Society, Festivals, Miscellaneous, Oxford, Robbery Under Law, Television Programs
Tagged D.J.Taylor, David Lodge, Financial Times, Guardian, Nicholas Shakespeare, Sunday Telegraph
The London papers today reported that a hotel in Addis Abba described in Waugh’s writings was badly damaged in a fire. See Daily Mail (“Fire guts Ethiopian hotel made famous by ‘Scoop’”). Similar stories appeared in the Daily Telegraph and Guardian. Now called the Hotel Itegue Taitu, in Waugh’s day it was the Imperial. This was the hotel where the press corps stayed in great discomfort, four to a room. It was thinly disguised as the “Splendide” in Waugh in Abyssinia and inspired the Hotel Liberty in Scoop.
This was not, however, contrary to the London press reports, where Waugh himself stayed while covering the war for the Daily Mail. As explained in William Deedes’ 2003 memoir, At War With Waugh (pp. 24-25), Waugh chose to stay in a less crowded billet. When Deedes arrived in Addis in 1935 to cover the looming war for the Morning Post, Waugh suggested that Deedes join him there. This was the Deutches Haus, called in Waugh’s novel Pension Dressler. Waugh dispatched at least one letter identifying the Deutches Haus as his address in Addis and in another told Penelope Betjeman to send him a Christmas pudding to that address (Letters, pp. 98, 102). Although William Boot in Scoop does stay in the Hotel Liberty before moving to the Pension Dressler, I find nothing in Waugh’s writings to suggest he himself followed that trail from the Imperial to the Deutches Haus. See Waugh in Abyssinia, pp. 66-72.
Deedes identifies the Taitu as the hotel favored by most of the press corps and written about by Waugh. This is in his memoir (p. 126) of a return journey he made to Addis in 2000. But Deedes does not claim to have himself stayed in the Taitu prior to moving into the Deutches Haus with Waugh. Nor does he say whether he sought out the Deutches Haus in 2000 to see whether it, like the Taitu, was still functioning.
Thanks to EWS member R.M.Davis for a link to this story.
A book by Canadian author and educator Mary Frances Coady on the friendship of Evelyn Waugh and U.S. theologian Thomas Merton has been announced. This is entitled Waugh & Merton: A Monk, a Crusty Old Man and the Seven Story Mountain. It will be available on March 1, 2015, and may be purchased on a pre-publication offer from Amazon.com. According to noted Waugh scholar Robert Murray Davis in an advance notice:
…in this brief but thoroughly researched book, Coady provides important new details about Merton’s role not just as willing student but as spiritual advisor to Waugh and puts those details into the cultural and religious context of the years after World War II in clear and sometimes eloquent fashion.
A preliminary reading from the book was presented by Coady at the March 2012 conference, Evelyn Waugh: An Englishman in Catholic America jointly sponsored by the Society and the Loyola-Notre Dame Library in Baltimore.
The Guardian newspaper is this week running a series of articles on “Families in Literature.” Yesterday’s article, by Moira Redmond, is devoted to the Flyte family in Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. Redmond focuses on the familiar theme that Sebastian is using his friendship with Charles to escape from the family, having been smothered by its “charm,” while Charles, having been enchanted by that same feature, seeks entry through Sebastian. Redmond concludes:
The book is a masterpiece: rereading it you can only gaze in admiration at the brilliant and hilarious details, though I’m never too clear how much charm any of the Flyte family has, apart from Sebastian. However Charles finds them so, and that is what matters. What will happen after the war? He will surely stay a family friend. The middle class boy makes good: Charles has found a family – eccentric older brother, loveable younger sister – and he has found God. Sebastian is a casualty along the way.
Other literary families appearing in the Guardian’s series include the Winshaws in Jonathan Coe’s What a Carve Up!, the Marches in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and the Chances and Hazards in Angela Carter’s Wise Children.
Yesterday’s Independent on Sunday cites several diary entries from English writers, dating back to Samuel Pepys in 1662, in which they describe how they spent Christmas. Waugh’s diary for 25 December 1924 is among those quoted. This was his first Christmas after leaving Oxford earlier that year without his degree:
Evelyn Waugh, the author, aged 21: ”I have decided to grow a moustache because I cannot afford any new clothes for several years and I want to see some change in myself. Also, if I am to be a schoolmaster it will help impress the urchins with my age. I look so intolerably young now that I have had to give up regular excessive drinking.
“Christmas Day always makes me feel a little sad; for one reason because strangely enough my few romances have always culminated in Christmas week – Luned, Richard, Alastair. Now with Alastair a thousand miles away and my heart leaden and the future drearily uncertain, things are not as they were. My only letter this morning was a notice of a vacancy from Truman & Knightley [the educational trust].
“There are coming to dinner tonight Stella Rhys and Audrey Lucas and Philippa Fleming. I should scarcely think it will be a jovial evening.”
After the New Year, Waugh began his short-lived career as a school master. Audrey Lucas had a romantic interest in Waugh at this time when he was infatuated with Olivia Plunkett Greene (Hastings, 125-34). Other entries of interest include those of Virginia Woolf (who spent her holiday in 1931 concerned for the health of Lytton Strachey), Raymond Asquith (in a 1913 Christmas message to Diana Manners, later Diana Cooper, enclosing Beardsley drawings in an effort to cheer her up) and Noel Coward (recording his “delicious” Christmas dinner in 1946, a time of darkest austerity).
This week’s New York Times Book Review is a special edition devoted to the subject of world religion. They asked several authors to recommend novels with religious themes. Novelist and literary journalist Christopher Beha offered the following recommendation for Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy:
“I think it is Waugh’s best work, and it is also one of his most explicitly religious….As a traditionalist Catholic, Waugh was deeply disappointed by the Allied partnership with the Soviet Union, and the underlying theme of the book — that a civilization under threat won’t survive by abandoning what is worth preserving about it — is one worth remembering.”
Beha is a deputy editor of Harper’s Magazine and author of several books including two novels: What Happened to Sophie Wilder (2012) and Arts & Entertainments (2014). Both of these reportedly have religious themes mixed with comedy echoing those of Waugh. Beha says he was influenced by Waugh and Murial Spark in his fiction writing. He has in fact been described in the Roman Catholic press as a “Catholic writer” in league with such as Waugh and Graham Greene.
Thanks to Robert Murray Davis for pointing out this reference to us.
It is with great sadness that the Evelyn Waugh Society announces the death on 11 December in Erie, Pennsylvania of our founder and renowned Waugh scholar, Dr. John Howard Wilson, Jr. He was 53.
An obituary of Dr. Wilson by Dr. Gayatri Devi, a colleague at Lock Haven University, can be found here.
The Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh project notes Dr. Wilson’s passing here.
An obituary of Dr. Wilson published in the Erie Times-News can be found here.
Memorial donations may be made to:
- LSA College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
- University of Michigan
- 500 South State Street, Suite 5000
- Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1382
Dr. Wilson (second from left) with members of the Evelyn Waugh Society at Combe Florey in August 2011
Two well-known Waugh scholars have collaborated on a detailed study of Waugh’s War Trilogy. Their long-awaited work, In the Picture: The Facts Behind the Fiction in Evelyn Waugh’s “Sword of Honor,” was recently published by Editions Rodopi B.V. (Amsterdam and New York, 360 pp., U.S. $98.73, U.K. £70.20). It consists of two parts. The first by Carlos Villar Flor relates the actual historical facts to the events described in Waugh’s trilogy. The second by Donat Gallagher places into context earlier and controversial interpretations of Waugh’s war career from writers such as Christopher Sykes, Antony Beevor, Lord Lovat and Waugh himself by comparing them to more objective and complete accounts in other archival materials now available.