Oxford Hostelries Commemorate Waugh

According to a recent posting on travel blog ¬†Trip Advisor, there is a hotel bedroom named for Evelyn Waugh at the Head of the River. This is a pub and ¬†hotel located on St Aldate’s¬†at Folly Bridge in Oxford. It’s not far from the place where the Hypocrites Club used to meet, so Waugh may well have been a customer. They serve Fuller’s beers, and it is¬†a pleasant place to eat outdoors on a nice day. The last time your correspondent ate there in June, he didn’t notice any entries¬†on the menu mentioning Waugh. What notable Oxonians the hotel’s¬†other rooms may commemorate is not stated in their online booking information.

Another blogger staying near Oxford found an allusion to Waugh in his hotel located at Eynsham Hall:

“Et in Arcadia Ego”¬†is written in neon above the fireplace in the main lobby. It comes from a painting by Nicolas Poussin and was used by Evelyn Waugh as the title of the first part of Brideshead Revisited. It literally means, “In Arcadia I Am,” with Arcadia being a pastoral paradise.

He might also have mentioned that the quote was usually accompanied by the depiction of a skull, meaning that even in paradise death was present. The practice was widespread and not limited to a single painting by Poussin. The¬†skull was dropped from later paintings and the phrase was taken to mean the painter had himself been in the paradise he depicted. That may have been the case with the Poussin painting mentioned by the blogger. A skull¬†in Charles Ryder’s room had the quote engraved on its forehead. According to Prof Paul A Doyle, by engraving¬†the phrase on the skull itself, Waugh demonstrated that he was aware of this¬†dual significance.¬†¬†A Waugh Companion, p. 50.

Finally, a books blog carries an article about novelist Anthony Burgess’s 1983 book Ninety-Nine Novels. This was his personal list of what he considered the best novels in English between 1939 and 1983. The list includes both Brideshead Revisited and Sword of Honour. The blog post contains a full list of the selections listed alphabetically by author. In the book, they are listed chronologically and are accompanied by a one-page explanation by Burgess for each¬†selection.

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