A Waugh novel has been selected for a list of potential gifts to be given to “conservative gentlemen.” The list appears on the weblog The Imaginative Conservative. The criteria for inclusion provide that the gift must be “quality if not…costly” (avoiding ties, slippers, sweaters and pipes) and begin with the letter B, thereby making it a “B-list.” Other articles on the list include bourbon, beard balm and badger-hair shaving brushes. The Waugh novel selected is:
Brideshead Re-Visited [sic]– Evelyn Waugh was, perhaps, the perfect fogey. A delightful curmudgeon, he crafted some of the most hilarious stories in modern English literature. He called Brideshead Re-Visited his “GEM—Great English Masterpiece” and so it is. The book needs to be read, but the award-winning 1981 English television series is one of the most faithful book-to-film adaptations available. To view the series is to step into a golden England which, even in Waugh’s time, was fading away. Don’t worry too much about the flamboyant “aestheticism” in the opening episodes. It is all resolved in the end with a satisfying “twitch on the thread.”
I’m not so sure Waugh ever referred to the novel as the “Great English Masterpiece” and even less so as the “GEM.” No source is cited. A Google search traces those terms back no further than 2014 to an article by Dwight Longenecker that appeared, inter alia, in this same conservative weblog. Waugh somewhat jokingly referred to the book several times in letters as his “Magnum Opus” or “M.O.” Writing on 29 January 1945 (to his wife) and 17 January 1945 (to Nancy Mitford), he mentions what he describes as Mitford’s preferred reference to it as the “G.E.C. (Great English Classic)”. Letters, pp. 182, 184, 189, 198-99; Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, pp. 14-15. But “masterpiece” may be a stretch.