Waugh in the Belton House Library

A poem entitled "Belton Park" by writer William Bedford has been posted on The Poetry Shed where he is named a Featured Poet. A c.v. and list of his publications can be seen here. The poem was written in memory of Walter Bedford who is presumably his father and is mentioned in the poem. Also mentioned is Evelyn Waugh:

In the library, a visitor worked at his books:
a priestly recorder in a pennyfeather mood,
a yellow waistcoat and hot complexion,
crouched at his words like a smith at the forge.**

**A friend of the Brownlow family, Evelyn Waugh was a frequent visitor to Belton House, where he liked to work in the library.

The footnote is supplied by the poet and refers to the family of Peregrine ("Perry") Brownlow (1899-1978) who was a friend of Waugh, especially in the mid 1930s before Waugh's marriage to Laura Herbert. Brownlow and his wife Kitty lived at Belton House near Grantham in Lincolnshire. They were guests at Waugh's wedding in 1937. Waugh lists Belton as one of the venues where he wrote Edmund Campion. Brownlow also loaned a cottage in Shropshire to Waugh where he wrote much of Waugh in Abyssinia.  That book is dedicated to "Perry and Kitty, who, I have no doubt, will affect to recognize thinly disguised and rather flattering portraits of themselves in this narrative; with my love." Belton House and most of its contents were deeded to the National Trust in 1984 and is now open to the public.

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Waugh in the LARB

The Los Angeles Review of Books contains references to Waugh in two of this months' issues. The first is in a review of a book entitled Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles, by David Ulin, a transplanted New Yorker, who tries to learn about L.A. on foot:

 Among other things, his book is about how Los Angeles’s nonexistent pedestrian culture is beginning to change. Long having built out rather than up, Los Angeles has, in certain neighborhoods at least, recommitted itself to the idea of the street as a public, walkable place, though as Ulin sensibly concedes, “any city where you have to drive to a pedestrian district cannot be called a walking city.”

Waugh comes into the story through The Loved One.  L.A. is there referred to as “the quiet limit of the world,” a quote from Tennyson's "Tithonus." Dennis Barlow reads the lines from his poetry anthology as he takes over his shift at the pet cemetery and later recalls them when he is given a raise by the satisfied proprietor (London, 1948, pp. 12, 19).

The second reference comes in a "Tribute" to critic and poet Clive James and a review of his recent collection of essays Latest Readings. This is by Morten Høi Jensen, a Danish writer and translator living in New York. Jensen begins by recounting a wholly chance  meeting with James in the literary nonfiction stacks of New York's Strand Bookstore. After introductions, James explained that, because of his leukemia diagnosis, his

doctor had forbidden him to leave his hotel room. Despite the doctor’s precaution, however, James was not only out of his room but alarmingly scaling the shelves for hard-to-reach books. At one point, he caught sight of Van Wyck Brooks’ The Times of Melville and Whitman, wedged atop a particularly menacing shelf. I nervously held a rickety stepladder as he climbed to retrieve it while arguing a point about Brooks’ relationship to Edmund Wilson. When he came back down he fell silent and handed me the book. “Take it,” he said, “I already have several copies at home.”

The anecdote will take on a more profound meaning to any one who has read James's book.

In the book, James explains that he intends to continue reading and re-reading books that interest him until the "lights go out." According to Jensen, "he plows through a whole shelf of Joseph Conrad novels without even breaking a sweat. Then he goes straight for Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy" which, James writes, "has the broadness of concept that makes Waugh’s other novels look as if pennies are being pinched…”

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Waugh on Party Dresses

The Daily Telegraph has run an article by its Fashion Features Director containing advice on the choice of the appropriate party dress for various occasions during the upcoming holiday season. One bit of guidance offered is that by Evelyn Waugh:

‘Her clothes were incomparable,’ writes Evelyn Waugh in the novel Vile Bodies, ‘with just the suggestion of the haphazard which raised them high above the mere chic of the mannequin.’ Bring on the haphazard, I say. Perfect is no fun.

This is a description in Vile Bodies (London, 1930, pp. 122-24) of the dress code of Imogen Quest, invented by Adam Fenwick-Symes for his "Mr. Chatterbox" column in the Daily Excess. Her standards of dress and behavior become so popular that she is in great demand at social events and comes to the attention of Lord Monomark, his editor, who asks Adam to arrange a meeting. It was on that day, Waugh writes tersely, "that the Quests sailed for Jamaica."

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Waugh's Neoligisms

Novelist and critic D.J. Taylor contributed a column on neologisms to the Independent newspaper earlier this month. This was inspired by the release of the Collins dictionary's latest list of the top new words for this year.  These included "Corbynomics", "dadbod" and "man spread." In his review of how such new words enter the language, Taylor considers  "the ability of highly coded 'insider' language to suddenly break out of its corralling in a tiny demographic subgroup and turn mainstream…" A case in point is offered by:

 Evelyn Waugh’s novel Vile Bodies (1930), a typescript of which was given to the novelist’s elder brother, Alec, towards the end of 1929. While proclaiming himself a fan of the book, Alec enquired: did anyone really use such phrases as “sick-making” and “drunk-making” with which the story was littered? Well, yes, Evelyn conceded, one or two of his friends sometimes employed this kind of argot. Six weeks later, by which time the novel was in proof, Alec noticed that the parties he attended were full of revellers insisting that such and such a beverage was “not very drunk-making” or that one of their number lived in “a very sheepish house” – an adjective Waugh is supposed to have embedded (to use a word that very probably turns up in this year’s Collins) in his text merely to honour the pet lamb owned by the 12-year-old sister of his friend Nancy Mitford...By the week of the book’s publication, on the other hand, the entire West End of London, so far as Alec could tell, was falling over itself to borrow from this new lexicon. And yet in Vile Bodies’ extraordinary colonising progress lay the seeds of its obsolescence. For nothing is so insubstantial, so liable to be superannuated or simply to shift its meaning, as a neologism.

Alec Waugh concluded the passage with the recognition that within six months the expressions would have become "old hat." His description of the neologisms in Vile Bodies comes from My Brother Evelyn and Other Portraits (New York, 1967, p. 195), although the bit about the origin of "sheepish" and Deborah Mitford's pet lamb must come from somewhere else.


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Waugh Out of Context

Writer Joseph Epstein in the latest issue of  Commentary magazine reviews Richard Bradford's book Literary Rivals. The article entitled, "'You Stink', He Explained", opens with a quote from Evelyn Waugh:

“Humility is not a virtue propitious to the artist. It is often pride, emulation, avarice, malice—all the odious qualities—which drive a man to compete [sic]…until he has made something that gratifies his pride and envy and greed.” (Empahsis added.)

The quote is taken from Waugh's review of Gary Wills' book Chesterton: Man and Mask.  This appeared in William F. Buckley, Jr.'s journal National Review in 1961 and is reprinted in Essays, Articles and Reviews of Evelyn Waugh (pp. 558-60). Waugh is explaining his comment at the end of the article that Chesterton, despite his faults, was "a lovable and much loved man abounding in charity and humility." The quote in Commentary is a bit out of context and also incorrect. What Waugh wrote was:

“Humility is not a virtue propitious to the artist. It is often pride, emulation, avarice, malice—all the odious qualities—which drive a man to complete, elaborate, refine, destroy, renew, his work until he has made something that gratifies his pride and envy and greed. And in doing so he enriches the world more than the generous and good, though he may lose his own soul in the process. That is the paradox of artistic achievement.”

The substitution of "compete" for "complete" makes it appear that Waugh is talking about literary rivalry, the subject of the book under review in Commentary, whereas he is actually explaining the paradoxical process of writing as exemplified in Chesterton's work.

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Carly Simon, Brideshead Fan

The Daily Mail has published a review of the memoirs of singer-songwriter Carly Simon, Boys in the Trees. The article, by Tom Leonard, mentions how her life was affected by the 1980s Granada TV adaptation of Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited:

[In 1984], she allegedly began a secret affair with the actor Jeremy Irons, who is not mentioned in the book. According to a 2012 biography by Stephen Davis, an old friend, Simon had fallen for him after watching him in the TV adaptation of the Evelyn Waugh novel Brideshead Revisited...Neither Simon nor Irons has ever commented on the claims.

Ms. Simon is from a literary background, her father having been a co-founder of the publishers Simon & Schuster. The story of the affair or flirtation with Jeremy Irons, if true, may be the only one of many in the Daily Mail's article that has a literary connection (unless one considers the original 007 actor Sean Connery and British satirical writer William Donaldson to qualify). The book seems to end before the release of the later Channel 4 TV series Sword of Honour, starring Daniel Craig who went on to portray 007.  One can only wonder...


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Sword of Honour Study in Sewanee Review

The U.S. based academic literary journal Sewanee Review (v. 123, No. 4, Fall 2015) has published an essay by Robert G. Walker entitled "The Rough-Hewn Patterns of Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honor." Although no abstract is available, some introductory material is reproduced. It begins with an epigraph consisting of this quote from the novel, "There’s a special providence in the fall of a bomb," and continues via quotes from, inter alia, Paul Fussell:

Are we to take the epigraph above, Waugh’s modified echo of Hamlet’s words, as ironic, cynical, even caustic, or has the novelist somehow managed to create a work that depicts a just world, despite its chaotic underpinnings…?

A subscription is required to read the entire article but individual issues are available from the publisher Johns Hopkins University Press.

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Waugh and Father Pro

Waugh's biography Edmund Campion is quoted in a Roman Catholic blog maintained by Stephanie Mann, author of the book Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformaton. The article in question is about Fr. Miguel Pro, a Mexican Jesuit who was executed in 1927 by the anticlerical Mexican regime then in power. Waugh briefly compares his martyrdom with that of Campion in Elizabethan England. The comparison appears in a new preface written by Waugh  for what is described as the "First American Edition" of the biography, issued by Little, Brown in June 1946 (not to be confused with the 1935 U.S. edition of Sheed and Ward which was printed the U.K.). The preface appeared in slightly different form in a new U.K. edition published by Hollis and Carter in 1947. The quote in the blog comes from the 1947 version, not the 1946 version as stated ("Simpson" refers to a 19th c. biographer of Campion):

We have come much nearer to Campion since Simpson's day. He wrote in the flood-tide of toleration [when] Elizabeth's persecution seemed as remote as Diocletian's. We know now that his age was a brief truce in an unending war. The Martyrdom of Father Pro in Mexico re-enacted Campion's in faithful detail. We are nearer Campion then when I wrote of him. . . . The haunted, trapped, murdered priest is our contemporary and Campion's voice sounds to us across the centuries as though he were walking at our elbow.

Waugh actually wrote in greater detail about Fr. Pro's martyrdom in his book Robbery Under Law: The Mexican Object Lesson (London, 1939, pp. 238-40); published in the U.S. as Mexico: An Object Lesson. In his Mexico book, Waugh also implicates the populist and anticlerical Mexican President Calles, as well as U.S. Ambassador Dwight Morrow, in Pro's death, but he does not draw the comparison to the martyrdom of Campion.

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Waugh and George Steer

In a story about the upcoming release of a major English language film production entitled Gernika (Basque for Guernica), the Cape Argus (a South African newspaper) recalls Evelyn Waugh's assessment of a fellow journalist in the Abyssinian War, George Steer. It was Steer, a South African, who later broke the story of Nazi involvement in the destruction of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. The film includes an a American journalist who, according to the film's director, combines "character traits" of Steer as well as Ernest Hemingway and Robert Capa.

Waugh also has a bit of history with Steer whom he met during the Abyssinian War which Steer was reporting for The Times. This is recounted in the Argus article which claims that Waugh:

... dismissed Steer as “a zealous young colonial reporter” opposed to the Italians’ “civilising” African mission.

Rankin [Steer's biographer] believes Waugh may have been jealous of Steer, whose education was grander than his own. Steer had graduated with a “double first” in classics, while Waugh had scraped through with a third class honours in history.

Waugh would later waspishly comment on Steer’s “affinity” for the Ethiopians, “like himself African born, who had memorised so many of the facts of European education without ever participating in European culture”.

The "zealous young colonial reporter" appears in Waugh in Abyssinia (p. 166) and is temporarily retained by Italian troops when attempting to scale the walls of the  legation compound. Steer is also said to be the model for the fictional correspondent Pappenhacker who appears in Scoop. Steer was educated at Winchester and Christ Church, and it may be those credentials rather than his "double first" which rankled Waugh. Waugh reviewed Steer's book about the Abyssinian War in The Tablet (from which Waugh's last quoted comments are taken) and, while he disagreed with Steer's support for the Ethiopians, he concedes that Steer

exhibited in a high degree the peculiar gifts required for [international] journalism--keen curiosity of mind, a retentive memory, enterprise, a devotion to duty even at the expense of personal dignity and competitive zeal that was notable even in the international cut-throat rough and tumble of his colleagues…[H]e did earn the affection and respect of many of us… "A 'Times' Correspondent", The Tablet, 23 January 1937 (reprinted EAR, 188-89).

Waugh later wrote a largely favorable review of another book by Steer. This was about the British forces' East Africa campaign during WWII, and Waugh describes it as "full of witty narrative and sharp portraits." The Tablet, 26 September 1942 (reprinted EAR, 271-2).

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Telegraph Marks Arena's 40th Anniversary

The Daily Telegraph has marked the 40th anniversary of BBC's award-winning arts documentary series Arena by selecting what it regards as its 10 best programs. Among the Telegraph's top 10, no. 4 is the 1987 production entitled "The Waugh Trilogy":

With Granada’s Brideshead a barely faded memory, Nicholas Shakespeare’s three-parter took its structural cue from the Sword of Honour novels to unravel a life which followed the time-worn trajectory from goggle-eyed innocent to harrumphing curmudgeon.

The selection, by Jasper Rees, also names at no. 5 a 1989 one-off production entitled "The Other Graham Greene." The notoriously TV-shy Greene agreed to participate but not to appear on film. Arena also did a three-part program on Greene as well as a five-part series on George Orwell and a single program on Anthony Powell, but these did not make Rees's final cut.

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