Evelyn Waugh and Our Lady of Guadalupe

An article posted in the Burkean Journal (produced by students of Trinity College Dublin) describes the importance of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Mexicans and to the history of Mexico. The article uses as its context the painting by Marxist artist Diego Rivera, The History of Mexico, in which the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appears near that of atheist Karl Marx. The article by James Bradshaw explains that the image has also taken on political implications because it is based on the appearance of the Virgin Mary to one of the indigenous Mexican peasants at a time when they were treated as less than human by some Spaniards who enslaved many of them. The miracle was taken by the Church as confirmation of the indigenous people’s innate humanity and provided a pretext for expansion of the Church’s conversion efforts among them. The spot of the appearance is marked by a Basilica in the northern parts of Mexico City:

While Our Lady of Guadalupe is enormously popular in Mexico, the image – being inextricably linked to Catholicism – is not universally loved. The struggle between the religious and the irreligious has been one of the key conflicts in Mexican history, one which Diego Rivera went to great lengths to illustrate.

During the 1920s, the Catholic Church was viciously persecuted by the leftist victors of the Mexican Revolution. Priests were shot, churches were burned and in some regions of the country the practice of Catholicism was outlawed completely. In this environment, many feared for the survival of the tilma. Indeed, in his book about Mexico of the 1930s, Evelyn Waugh writes of how during the fiercest persecutions, the Indians guarded the Basilica at Guadalupe day and night, for fear that anti-clerical forces would attempt to rid Mexico of the tilma once and for all.

The “tilma” was the cloth on which the image of the virgin was miraculously imprinted at the time of her appearance and seems to have become an object of religious veneration. Waugh’s descriptions of the history of Our Lady of Guadalupe are contained in his 1939 book Robbery Under Law.

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Take a Pew, or Not, as the Case May Be

In “The Times Diary” column of today’s edition of the paper, Patrick Kidd writes this about relations between Evelyn Waugh and John Betjeman:

Visitors to Combe Florey, the family home of Evelyn and Auberon Waugh, used to be shown an ornate chair made from the ends of a medieval pew on which a plaque said: “This chair, which inspired lines 11-12 from The Church’s Restoration by John Betjeman, was given by John Betjeman to Evelyn Waugh on his 60th birthday.” Utter rubbish, it turns out. Alexander Waugh admitted in a talk last week that his grandfather bought it from an antiques shop to give to Betjeman. “He declined it because it was too hideous,” Waugh says. “So it stood in the hall making Evelyn very cross and irritable and eventually he stuck the plaque on.” I suppose that’s what Donald Trump calls fake pews.

These remarks were made by Alexander at the talk mentioned in an earlier post which Alexander delivered at the Travellers Club in London under the sponsorship of the Anthony Powell Society.

In other Betjeman-related news, a recent edition of the New Statesman announced an upcoming broadcast of two programs relating to the poet. This is in an article by Jonathan Smith, who wrote the scripts:

For most of my life I have been “on” Betjeman, if mostly undercover. A few years ago in Cornwall, sitting in the St Enodoc churchyard where he is buried (near the lychgate), I started to reread his collected poems, which led me to his letters and finally to the biographies. Out of this long absorption came two plays, but I always knew who I wanted as Betjeman, and that was Benjamin Whitrow.

Smith goes on to explain that Whitrow unfortunately died 3/4 through the production, but this being Radio 4, and not TV, the producers were able to find a replacement in Robert Bathurst and complete the production:

It feels as right as it could be. Ben and Robert were friends. Indeed, they played golf together on the St Enodoc course, where Betjeman, too, occasionally played, and they liked to quote bits of his poems at each other, only a few shots from the churchyard where he lies. Near the lychgate.

Mr Betjeman’s Class” and “Mr Betjeman Regrets” will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Christmas Day and Boxing Day

Betjeman also appears as a character in the latest series of the Netflix royal soap opera The Crown, now streaming online. The first appearance occurs in episode 4 (entitled “Beryl”) when Princess Margaret meets Anthony Armstrong-Jones. Although not explained in detail in this episode, Betjeman was introduced into the story through Elizabeth Cavendish who was in the same social set as Armstrong-Jones as well as being a retainer on Princess Margaret’s staff and Betjeman’s mistress. Both Cavendish and Betjeman are mentioned and appeared on-screen but don’t have much if anything to say.

UPDATE (14 December 2017): Information about Betjeman’s appearance in the Netflix TV drama was added, and the venue for Alexander Waugh’s speech was confirmed.

UPDATE 2 (18 December 2017): Having now watched all 10 episodes of Series 2, I am unhappy to report that Betjeman does not make any additional appearances. I can report, however, that another character with a Waugh association does appear in the series. This is Cecil Beaton who appears with a small speaking part in at least two episodes. Most prominent is his appearance in the final scene of the series, where he is taking a group photo of what looks like the whole lot of them (the Royal Family, that is) while he (Beaton) recites Shakespeare’s “this sceptr’d isle” passage from Richard II in an attempt to hold the group’s attention. It makes for a humorous end to what was a fairly somber series.

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D J Taylor Reviews the Complete Works

In the current issue of Literary Review, literary critic and novelist D J Taylor reviews the first four volumes of Evelyn Waugh’s Complete Works. The review, entitled “Author of Himself”, manages to be at the same time thorough, scholarly and amusing. He begins by encapsulating the project’s ambitious goal of publishing 43 volumes:

The appearance of his collected works, monumentally assembled in forty-three stout hardback volumes at £65 apiece, offers the same bewildering spectacle of scholarship running amok through material that, in the majority of cases, was expressly designed to keep scholarship at bay.

He then notes that the editors of Orwell’s complete works managed to fit them into 20 volumes but fails to note that Orwell’s life was even shorter than Waugh’s own. Had Orwell lived to 1966, the year of Waugh’s death at age 62, the volume of Orwell’s output, following the success of Animal Farm and 1984, would surely have rivaled that of Waugh.

Taylor goes on to comment on each of the four volumes published in October, concentrating on Martin Stannard’s edition of Vile Bodies and that by Barbara Cooke and the late John Howard Wilson of A Little Learning. Of Stannard’s edition he notes:

…Waugh’s real entrée to the beau monde came by way of the Bright Young People, the curious amalgam of titled partygoers and arts-world bohemians who romp through the society pages of the late 1920s, form a component part of Decline and Fall and go on to become the principal subject of Vile Bodies. Stannard is good on this, and also on some of the blatant cannibalisations from real life that led to a newspaper article of 1930 entitled ‘People Who Want to Sue Me’.

Of the volume that includes A Little Learning he comments on:

… the many interviews that John Howard Wilson and Barbara Cooke print as addenda. Although these include the famous Face to Face interrogation by John Freeman, perhaps the most revealing is a Frankly Speaking radio feature from 1953, in which serial teasing alternates with patently serious statements about ‘the man in the street’, the welfare state and Waugh’s Catholic faith.

He describes the volume of Rossetti edited by Michael Brennan as “scrupulously annotated” and sees the point “of allowing Martin Stannard to supply twenty-nine pages of microscopically typeset contextual notes to this latest retread” of Vile Bodies. He also thinks that in some cases scholarship may have overstepped its reasonable limits, describing some of the footnotes as “very nearly insane” and citing a nine line example relating to “a man parenthetically mentioned in the Lancing diaries” in the first volume of Personal Writings.

His conclusions about the project as reflected in these volumes is on whole positive:

Taken together, they encourage the Waugh fan to make a variety of individual judgements: on the quality of some of the hack work ferreted out of prewar newspaper archives (not outstandingly high); on the editorial principles brought into play; on the first quarter-century or so of Waugh’s life, the kind of person he was and – a distinction that A Little Learning brings into rather sharp relief – the kind of person he imagined himself to be…As a scholarly treatment of a modern British novelist, The Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh looks as if it will stand in a class of its own, not only for its presentation of definitive texts but also for its patient accumulation of large amounts of personal material that have hitherto escaped the biographers’ gaze…What would Waugh have made of this scholarly juggernaut, which appears under the imprint of the university that he left without troubling to complete his degree? As well as being flattered, you suspect he would also have been highly amused.

 The full article is available online at the Literary Review’s website. The foregoing is only a small sample of Taylor’s comments on the CWW project and on Waugh himself. It is well worth reading.

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Randolph Remembered

The Daily Beast has published a memoir of Randolph Churchill by Clive Irving. This is in response to Randolph’s relative neglect in the wake of all the attention accorded to his father following two recent successful film treatments and several books. Irving met Randolph in the early 1960s:

I was leading the Insight investigative reporting team at the London Sunday Times as we covered the unraveling of the Tory government led by Harold Macmillan. One afternoon I got a phone call, out of the blue, from Randolph. He wanted to compliment the team for our coverage but insisted that we did not really grasp the plot that was unfolding within the Tory party to remove Macmillan.

He goes on to recount that Randolph was thereafter a frequent source of news for the relatively short remainder of his life. He also provides a brief description of Randolph’s friendship with Evelyn Waugh, whom he describes as:

…a man with whom Randolph had a lifelong love-hate relationship, someone who, when he first met him at Oxford university he described as “this extraordinary and formidable little man” – Evelyn Waugh. At Oxford they were both famously debauched. Waugh turned the experience into the stuff of great novels, most notably in Brideshead Revisited.

In 1944 the pair were bizarrely thrown together in a special forces unit that operated in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia, fighting alongside Communist partisans. …Thrown into close quarters with him, Waugh despaired in his diary: “He is not a good companion for a long period, but the conclusion is always the same – that no one else would have chosen me, nor would anyone else have accepted him. We are both at the end of our tether…” After the war they frequently feuded, but the relationship seemed to mellow by the time Randolph moved to East Bergholt, when, both as country landowners, they shared a passion for gardening in regular correspondence…

 Irving concludes with a frequently quoted Waugh comment about Randolph:

In 1964 doctors removed a tumor from one lung, suspecting cancer but the tumor proved to be benign. Hearing this, Waugh told friends, “How typical a triumph of modern science to find the one part of Randolph which was not malignant and to remove it.” Randolph took that in good spirit, but he had only four more years to live.

Perhaps the best quote about Randolph is the one Irving cites earlier in the article from Noel Coward: “One thing you can say about Randolph is that he remains utterly unspoiled by failure.”

In a recent issue of The Times, Waugh is mentioned in connection with an exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum relating to A A Milne and Winnie the Pooh. In the article by Catherine Nixey, Milne’s wife Daphne is described as having “the air of one of those Evelyn Waugh wives who treats all struggles, including her own, as a tremendous bore.” The exhibition Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic will be open from 9 December until 8 April at the V&A London.

In a recent excerpt from a book about philanthropy that it is about to republish in a 4th edition, the Capital Research Center starts with this quote from Evelyn Waugh as one of two epigraphs:

Money is only useful when you get rid of it. It is like the odd card in ‘Old Maid’; the player who is finally left with it has lost.

This comes from Waugh’s 1949 article “Kicking Against the Goad” first appearing in Commonweal magazine and reprinted in EAR.

Finally, the Guardian writes about France’s hope that French will become the dominant international language due to growth in the African Francophone population. The writer of the article Stephen Poole disagrees and concludes with this:

French will always retain its allure to literary and romantic types. It is still the language of elan, of insouciance, of existentialism. As Evelyn Waugh said: “We are all Americans at puberty; we die French.” Perhaps if Macron’s dream of the global primacy of the French language doesn’t succeed in this world, it will in the next.

The quote comes from Waugh’s Diary entry for 18 July 1961 in which he jotted down from his papers numerous items in his archive worth noting as he began writing his autobiography.

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Waugh and the Nazis?

An article in the independent news and opinion website PULSE has an article by Anas el Hawat entitled “On the Astonishment That Nazis Can ‘Still’ Have Taste” that opens with this:

Evelyn Waugh [sic], on a visit to Germany in 1933 shortly after the boycott of Jewish businesses, wrote: “I had come across antisemitism in Eastern Europe before, but I thought racial persecution belonged to another age. Half-civilized peoples might still indulge in it but surely not the Germany I had known.” Waugh’s inability to amputate the image of the exceeding greatness of the German kulturnation from the barbarism it could thus deport itself to was by no means uncharacteristic of his age, nor, apparently, ours. Consider the New York Times article in which its author is too incapacitated in his fascination with a self-described white nationalist’s highbrow cultural tastes and lifestyle (he watches Seinfeld!) to aptly represent the danger that his subject poses.

Unable to recollect any visit by Waugh to Germany such as that described, I looked for where the quote may have come from. It was not written by Evelyn Waugh, it turns out, but by Sir Evelyn Wrench (I Loved Germany, London: Michael Joseph, 1940), one time owner of The Spectator. Knowing nothing of his political views except that they were conservative, I would hesitate to comment on whether the quote is fairly cited in the context of the article. But it is certainly unfair and inaccurate to attribute the views it expresses to Evelyn Waugh.

In this connection, a recent post noted that Waugh had signed an inscription in a copy of Black Mischief presented to Mary Lygon by placing the letters BOAZ (a nickname he used) inside a hand drawn swastika. This seemed odd, since neither Waugh nor Mary Lygon, unlike some of the Mitford sisters, had any particular history of open support for the Nazis. The inscription would have been written about the time the book was published in October 1932. Upon reflection, it would appear that this signature was proabably intended as a joke, although in retrospect, it has lost its humor. In October, the Nazis were still struggling for political power within the democratic structure of the Weimar Republic. Earlier in the year, they had achieved 37% of the vote in parliamentary elections but were unable to enter into a coalition with other parties needed to form a government. This resulted in a highly fraught and chaotic situation involving, inter alia, frequent, well-publicized demonstrations and street fights between the Nazis and the Communists and requiring new elections in November. So the book would have been signed while that election was being fought (quite literally) and was in the news headlines. In those circumstances, the Nazis could still be viewed as a fair target for satire and ridicule as just another party on the lunatic fringe, and it was probably in that spirit that Waugh used the swastika in his signature. A few months later, after several weeks of negotiations following the November elections, some other right wing parties agreed to join the Nazis in a coalition with Hitler as Chancellor (even though the Nazi share of the vote had decreased). It was only a matter of a few more weeks before they managed to dissolve the Reichstag and seize dictatorial power–no longer a laughing matter perhaps (although it didn’t stop Charlie Chaplin).

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Literary Drinking Bouts

In today’s Guardian there is an article in the “Rereading” column by Mark Forsyth discussing the 10 most entertaining discriptions of drinking bouts in literature. One of those included is from Waugh’s novel Decline and Fall:

Decline and Fall starts with the famous drunk scene where Paul Pennyfeather is debagged by the Bollinger Club, but it ends with a better one. Waugh not only captures perfectly the ability of a drunkard to repeat himself ad nauseam, but he also uses those repetitions to make the final conversation of the book into a literary symphony of theme, repetition, variation and motif. And when the drunkard is told he drinks too much, he replies: “Oh, damn, what else is there to do?”

The drinker in the final scene is Peter Pastmaster (Margot’s son), but the confused roaring and broken glass of the Bollinger Club show up again there as well. Other novels with notable drinking bouts include Lucky JimRight Ho, Jeeves and Our Man in Havana.

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Wavian Echoes from Abyssinian War

Milena Borden has sent the following article based on a recent event reported in Italy (see link) that recalls Waugh’s coverage of the Abyssinian War:

Earlier this year, in Italy, the mayor and two town councillors of the town of Affile near Rome were sentenced to prison for using public money in 2012 to commission a memorial of Rodolfo Graziani, the Marshal in charge of the Italian invasion in Abyssinia in 1936 who later became a minister of defence to Benito Mussolini’s fascist government from 1943 until the end of the Second World War.

Evelyn Waugh met Graziani during his war correspondent visit to Abyssinia in the summer of 1936. He described the meeting in “Addis Ababa During the First Days of the Italian Empire”, Chapter 6 of his travel book Waugh in Abyssinia, pp. 228-29 (1936):

‘He gave me twenty minutes. I have seldom enjoyed an official audience more. His French was worse than mine, but better than my Italian. Too often when talking to minor fascists one finds a fatal love of oratory. …There was no nonsense of that kind about Graziani. He was like the traditional conception of an English admiral, frank, humorous and practical. He asked where I had been, what I had been, what I wanted to see. Whenever my requests were reasonable he gave his immediate consent. If he had to refuse anything he did so directly and gave his reasons. He did not touch on general politics or the ethics of conquest. He did not ask me to interpret English public opinion…I left with the impression of one of the most amiable and sensible men I had met for a long time.’

Waugh also wrote about the meeting in his diary: Thursday 27 August 1936, “Very fresh and businesslike. No Fascist speeches about the Roman civilization and the wickedness of sanctions” (Diaries, p. 401).

Graziani was sentenced to nineteen years imprisonment for war crimes in 1948 but served only two years and died in 1955. His memoir, which covers the invasion of Abyssinia, Una vita per l’Italia, was published in Italy in 1998. Historians continue to argue about the extent of the damage caused by the use of chemical gas in Abyssinia on his orders. The exact number of victims remains unconfirmed to this day, with some claiming there were thousands. Evelyn Waugh wrote: ‘Gas was used but accounted for only eighteen lives.’ (Waugh in Abyssinia, p. 239).

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A Handful of Hard Cheese

Michael Deacon writing in the Daily Telegraph finds echoes of Waugh in a recent story. This involves the rescue of TV presenter and explorer Benedict Allen from the jumgles of Papua New Guinea into which he had disappeared. Deacon is:

…relieved to learn that Allen… has been found and is on his way home. When I read that he’d departed alone to Papua New Guinea on a search for an ancient tribe of alleged headhunters, and hadn’t been heard from since, I feared that he’d suffered the most terrible fate. Not death, but the horror that befalls Tony Last, the main character in Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of DustAt the end of the novel, Tony, like Mr Allen, sets off on an expedition into the jungle – only to be taken captive by an ancient tribe. Instead of killing or torturing him, however, their chief subjects Tony to a far graver punishment. He forces him to spend the rest of his life reading aloud the complete works of Charles Dickens, over and over and over.“Let us read Little Dorrit again,” the illiterate chief tells Tony, after telling an English rescue party that their missing compatriot has sadly passed away. “There are passages in that book I can never hear without the temptation to weep.”

Another recent allusion to Waugh’s novel occurs in a New York Times article on the growing number of American women cheesemakers who are achieving notice and success. The article by Alexandra Jacobs opens with this:

Last year Erin Bligh, the proprietor of Dancing Goats Dairy in Newbury, Mass., planned to introduce a new cheese — hard, with spicy peppers — called Madam President, in what she assumed would be a fromage homage to a historic election. Then came the unexpected result: hard cheese indeed, in the Evelyn Waugh sense of the phrase.

“I’m like, ‘Oh damn, this is awful,’” said Ms. Bligh, 29, who has four full-time employees overseeing a herd of 45 goats. She renamed the cheese General Leia Organa, after the Rebel Alliance leader in “Star Wars,” and sent chunks to fortify friends attending the women’s march in Boston. “This is my small piece of the resistance,” a local customer told her, brandishing a wedge.

The reference is to chapter III of Handful entitled “Hard Cheese on Tony” in which his marriage falls apart and his son dies.

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Waugh’s Cameo in Alternative History Novel

A books blog, the Deighton Dossier, recently posted an updated article discussing novels based on alternative histories comparable to Len Deighton’s SS-GB in which the Germans successfully invade and occupy Britain in WWII. Among those considered is Lavie Tidhar’s A Man Lies Dreaming in which there is a another alternative: the Nazis lose to the Communists in 1933 and Hitler (along with several henchmen) escapes to London where he makes a marginal living as a private detective by the name of Wolf. The plot takes place in 1939. As described in the weblog (and mentioned in a previous post) Evelyn Waugh makes a cameo appearence in the novel:

For lovers of black literary humour, this book is a must, if only for the scenes where Wolf the penniless author of Mein Kampf rages at his agent (Curtis Brown) for not getting him a deal on the sequel and then has to be ejected from a literary soiree by Leslie Charteris and Evelyn Waugh!

There are several other cameo appearances of literary figures worth noting. In addition to Christopher Isherwood and Stephen Spender, mentioned in the earlier post, Diana and Oswald Mosley appear at an earlier party to which they have invited Wolf (knowing his true identity), and he also meets Ian Fleming (who is working as a stockbroker) on another occasion. The party attended by Waugh takes place at the Bloomsbury premises of publishers Allen & Unwin. Also present are J R R Tolkien, Cecil Forester (to whom Waugh is talking when Wolf arrives), Lord Rothermere and Leni Riefenstahl who has just arrived from Hollywood. There is an interesting interchange between Wolf and Leni in which she explains she is in London for the filming of a Warner Bros movie based on F Scott Fitzgerald’s sequel to The Great Gatsby. In this, Gatsby survives the shooting which ends the original novel and is living in Tangier, which is the film’s title. Leni is playing the female lead opposite the Gatsby character who is played by Humphrey Bogart. It would appear that Tidhar has rounded up the usual suspects except perhaps for Claude Rains.

The contretemps involving Waugh takes place after Wolf has had an argument with Stanley Unwin over his firm’s refusal to publish the British edition of Wolf’s book My Struggle. According to Wikipedia, this is alternative history, since it seems that there was no difficulty finding a publisher for the English translations of the book–indeed, there appears to have been a good bit of competition. After their argument got overheated:

Two of the more burly authors present had materialized beside Unwin and were moving on Wolf, who backed away, his face red with anger…He wasn’t afterwards sure who the men were who threw him out: Leslie Charteris and Evelyn Waugh, perhaps, as unlikely as that pairing may have seemed. They dragged him, still screaming and cursing, outside. They didn’t let go until they reached the end of Museum Street…The two men stood panting above him, and one of them lit a cigarette while coughing. “Forget it, man.” he said. “It’s just a God damned party.” The other [added], “Everybody gets rejected, sometimes.”

Leslie Charteris was the pen name of an the Anglo-Chinese writer best known for his novels involving his “Robin-Hoodish” antihero Simon Templar, known as “the Saint.”  Cecil (or more usually “C S”) Forester was the pen name of the author of the Horatio Hornblower series, as well as dozens of other adventure novels. Whether Waugh knew either of them or their works well enough to chat them up at a party is hard to say.

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Hooper Floribundus

Two religious bloggers have posted extended discussions of Waugh’s works. The Rad Trad has written an essay entitled “The Age of Hooper”. This opens with Waugh’s own introduction of Hooper and his foibles to the readers of Brideshead Revisited:

“…Hooper was no romantic. He had not as a child ridden with Rupert’s horse or sat among the camp fires at Xanthus-side; at the age when my eyes were dry to all save poetry—that stoic, red-skin interlude which our schools introduce between the fast flowing tears of the child and the man—Hooper had wept often, but never for Henry’s speech on St. Crispin’s Day, nor for the epitaph at Thermopylae. The history they taught him had had few battles in it but, instead, a profusion of detail about humane legislation and recent industrial change. Gallipoli, Balaclava, Quebec, Lepanto, Bannockburn, Roncevales, and Marathon—these, and the Battle in the West where Arthur fell, and a hundred such names whose trumpet-notes, even now in my sere and lawless state, called to me irresistibly across the intervening years with all the clarity and strength of boyhood, sounded in vain to Hooper. He seldom complained.”

The passage comes from the Prologue to the novel. The blogger goes on to trace the elements of “Hooperism” in many present day Roman Catholics. For example:

I do not know what young Catholics today actually learn, but my brief experience with teenage preparation for Confirmation suggests that it is nothing much beyond vague sentimentalities about God’s love….Hooper would be barely sensible to the shipwrecks of Paul, the exile of Athanasius, the trial of Formosus, the conversion of Augustine, and the death of Joan of Arc. Annoyance and sentimentality are the only passions left to the Hoopers of the world. Greatness is quite literally unimaginable to them, whether that greatness be heavenly or hellish; Paradise is bland and the Inferno desolate. Heroism and hedonism alike hold no appeal for Hooper.

The essay concludes with an interesting consideration of how early Christians were inspired by the writings of Virgil and supposes that would be unlikely to happen today.

Another blogger on the religious-historical website EdgeInducedCohesion.blog has recently posted reviews of two of Waugh’s books (Scoop and Decline & Fall) and earlier posted one on Put Out More Flags. These contain some interesting insights. Here’s an example from POMF:

This is decidedly dark material for a comic novel. That said, it is very funny, if one has a sardonic and cynical sense of humor. Since I do, the novel was easy to read and quite entertaining in a somewhat unpleasant way. …  If you like biting and satirical British novels showing corrupt human nature in wartime, this is a suitable black comedy to read, and reread, in moments of extreme cynicism

Finally, writing in the Cincinnati Enquirer, professor of theology Kenneth Craycraft reminds readers of the origins of the feast day of Christ the King which is celebrated on the last Sunday before Advent. That was 26 November this year. The commemoration was created by Pope Pius XI in 1925 to remind Christians of the importance of putting religious beliefs above those of nationalism which had resulted in the carnage of WWI. Similar motivations also inspired literary works of the same era, as explained in the Enquirer article:

Pope Pius was not alone in his diagnosis of the moral crises in the events leading up to the war, and the immediate aftermath of it. Novelists such as Ernest Hemingway (“The Sun Also Rises”), Erich Maria Remarque (“All Quiet on the Western Front”), and Evelyn Waugh (“Vile Bodies”) wrestled with the emptiness of the rising secular ethos that led to the war, and which continued in the vacuous excesses after. Indeed, Waugh’s “bright young things” and Hemingway’s “lost generation” illustrated the unmoored cynicism of those that had endured the trench-warfare horror described through Remarque’s jaded and psychologically wounded soldiers. They drift from one meaningless folly to another, with no sense of transcendent purpose. Whether through indifference or disillusionment, the rudderless post-war generation cried out for a restoration of meaning to human striving.


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