Waugh in Oxford News

Waugh figures in an article in the newspaper Catholic World Report written by a Roman Catholic Rhodes Scholar about her recent experiences as a student in Oxford. She mentions numerous Roman Catholic churches still active in Oxford outside the university but also describes several with university connections in addition to Campion Hall where Waugh was a benefactor. These include Blackfriars, which seems to be nearly a College, and Newman House which she describes as: 

For those who prefer less liturgical formality and more young people… which I found remarkably similar to the Catholic Center at Harvard. Unlike Harvard, however, the Newman Center is also a residence (the antique part of which is the “Old Palace,” referenced in Brideshead Revisited) for students and the (Jesuit) chaplains.

Waugh also wrote extensively about the Old Palace in The Life of Right Reverend Ronald Knox. This was where Knox lived when he was Roman Catholic Chaplain at Oxford. The author of the article is rather standoffish about nearby Campion Hall where she found the Jesuits’ attitude toward women rather off-putting.

She found Catholic life less flourishing at Cambridge on her visits there but upon reflection concluded:

In the most general terms, Cambridge excels in the sciences, and Oxford in humanities. Still, it seems somewhat miraculous that great minds, and especially authors, of the twentieth century would be concentrated at Oxford: J.R.R. Tolkein, John Henry Newman, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, C.S. Lewis (okay, so the last one is wishful thinking…). On the other hand, it is not surprising that a university town in England would produce such riches. In Brideshead Revisited, the agnostic protagonist, Charles Ryder, says that Catholics “seem just like other people,” to which the Catholic Sebastian Flyte responds, “My dear Charles, that’s exactly what they’re not—particularly in this country, where they’re so few.”

Another long-standing Oxford institution associated with Waugh is not, however, flourishing. This is his shoemaker Ducker and Sons at 6 The Turl. According to a blogger, who is also a customer, they are abut to close down:

Clients of Ducker & Son since they opened in 1898 have included: The Baron Manfred von Richthofen, J.R.R. Tolkien, Evelyn Waugh, the Bowes-Lyon family, an entire clutch of Indian Maharajahs and more recently, Rowan Atkinson & Eddie Jordan to mention but a few. John Le Carré wrote Ducker & Son into his novel “The Tailor of Panama” (and gave the firm one or two other mentions elsewhere I think but memory is hazy)…And now Ducker & Son, 6 The Turl, Oxford, is closing. It is time for the current proprietor to retire and there is no one willing or able to carry on the business.

Waugh’s orders and fittings are probably still carried on the books which will be archived at the Bodleian Library. Whether his custom-made lasts survive in the basement storage room and what will become of them isn’t explained.

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