D.J. Taylor has reviewed Adrian Tinniswood’s book The Long Weekend in the Wall Street Journal. This is a social history of Britain between the wars. Both Alec and Evelyn Waugh merit attention in Taylor’s article, which is entitled “Do not go gentry”. Alec’s role was already mentioned in an earlier posting:
…Alec Waugh has a cameo in “The Long Weekend,” Adrian Tinniswood’s beguiling if somewhat digressive account of the country house phenomenon, where he turns out to exemplify at least two social tendencies of the age. One is the country house’s habit of falling into the hands of colonizing expatriates (the purchase of Edrington, Waugh’s domicile on the Wiltshire-Hampshire border, was underwritten by his immensely wealthy Australian wife). The other is his employment of the legendary Sybil Colefax—she of D.H. Lawrence’s famous poem about London society hostesses, “the Ladies Colefax and Cunard”—to decorate its interiors.
Evelyn is briefly mentioned in connection with the country house theme of Brideshead Revisited, and the article concludes with a cite to Waugh’s preface to the 1960 revision of that book:
Although Mr. Tinniswood ends his story on a note of diminuendo (“the long weekend was over”) the seeds of rejuvenation had been sown. As he relates, the National Trust and the Council for the Preservation of Rural England were already at work to rescue “furnished historic mansions” for the nation. Writing a new preface to “Brideshead Revisited” in 1959, Evelyn Waugh explained that the original’s lament for what its author then believed to be the irrevocable passing of the great English houses was fundamentally misplaced: “it was impossible to foresee, in the spring of 1944, the present cult of the English country house.” The cult continues, even if the lifestyles and the paraphernalia that Adrian Tinniswood so lavishly celebrates have crumbled into dust.