The Cambridge University student paper, Varsity, has cited Jasper Ryder’s advice to his cousin Charles on how to succeed at Oxford:
“You want either a first or a fourth. There is no value in anything between. Time spent on a good second is time thrown away.”
This appears in Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited (Penguin, p. 28). Varsity’s correspondent (Bret Cameron) thinks that Waugh’s advice may be sound for the exceptional student. He thinks that the less exceptional, however, in which he includes himself, will be happier spreading themselves around numerous activities offered by a university such as Cambridge, rather than concentrating on achievement of academic success or failure. He might have noted that this is what Waugh himself did and, contrary to Cousin Jasper, passed at Oxford with a poor third. If only Waugh had not bothered cramming in his last few weeks, he might have become exceptional and pulled off a fourth.
Earlier in the week, another Waugh character was prominently cited in a review of a book about modern architecture. This was Otto Silenus, the practitioner of Bauhaus architecture in Decline and Fall (Everyman, p. 101):
“The problem of architecture as I see it…is the problem of all art—the elimination of the human element from the consideration of form. The only perfect building must be the factory, because that is built to house machines, not men.”
The reviewer in City Journal (an urban policy quarterly), warns that planners devoted to the philosophy of Silenus, such as Robert Moses and Edward Logue, have damaged many US urban environments. This is a result foreseen by Waugh in his novel of 1928.