Rex Mottram in Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited has enjoyed something of a renaissance lately, as witnessed in several of our recent postings. George Weigel, writing in the National Review, may have hit upon the reason for this. He reminds people of Donald Trump. According to Weigel:
Rex is very much the Modern Man: Having made his pile, he wants, and gets, the best cars, the best brandy, the best club memberships, the best available seat in Parliament, all of which he is prepared to buy…He has a strange sort of charm, as if completely unaware of his essential vulgarity and gaucheness…He is a fixer and life has taught him that there is very little that money and connections to the right people can’t fix.
Yet, he eventually overplays his hand when he comes up against Lady Marchmain and her church. In his attempt to convert, his instructor Father Mowbray finds that “there is no there there,” just as Gertrude Stein found of her hometown, Oakland, California. Perhaps Trump is more Queens than Manhattan? As Julia Flyte, who marries Rex, despite his inability to convince Father Mowbray, describes him in a passage quoted by Weigel:
“You know Father Mowbray hit on the truth about Rex at once, that it took me a year of marriage to see. He simply wasn’t all there. He wasn’t a complete human being at all. He was a tiny bit of one, unnaturally developed; something in a bottle, an organ kept alive in a laboratory. I thought he was a sort of primitive savage, but he was something absolutely modern and up-to-date that only this ghastly age could produce. A tiny bit of a man pretending he was whole” (p. 177).
Weigel doesn’t tell us whether he thinks Marco Rubio may have read that passage before referring to Trump’s diminutive hands.
Weigel concludes his article :
In creating Rex, one of the great English novelists if our time unwittingly created a portrait of Donald Trump who displays every attribute of Rex Mottram except Rex’s suave manners. That portrait should be studied in the days and weeks ahead.
There is a bit of risk in this analysis, however. As Weigel notes, Rex is politically flexible, having started as a Tory, he then flirted with communism and fascism. Waugh does not reveal Rex’s post war fate, but one could easily imagine his fitting into a seat in the Atlee Government and continuing his inexorably upward movement into the Welfare State from there.