Waugh in the Blogosphere

Several bloggers, especially those with a religious theme, make fairly regular mentions of Waugh and his works. Yesterday, a blogger who specializes in Eastern Christianity posted a review of Waugh’s novel Helena on the day that the Church commemorates the Invention of the True Cross. He begins by quoting  a joke based on the English name of this holy festival that Waugh used to open the novel:

It is reported (and I, for one, believe it) that some few years ago a lady prominent for her hostility to the Church returned from a visit to Palestine in a state of exultation. ‘I got the real low-down at last,’ she told her friends. ‘The whole story of the crucifixion was made up by a British woman named Ellen. Why, the guide showed me the very place where it happened. Even the priests admit it. They call their chapel “the Invention of the Cross”.

The article goes on to explain the derivation of the name of this festival day and the act it commemorates:

In Waugh’s hands Helena is the key figure who “invents” the true cross and so allows Christians, from her day to our own, to mark September 14th as a festival of the cross’s exaltation and triumph. Waugh, a master craftsman of English prose who would have been educated in Latin and who loved using deliberate archaisms, is of course using the verb “invent” here in an older sense of “to come upon, to find”–while also slyly playing on the more common connotation of “creating or producing with the imagination,” which of course his novel was itself doing. (The word itself is derived from the Latin verb invenire, to come upon or find.)…[Helena’s] vocation, in Waugh’s eyes, was to ‘invent’ (=find) the true cross that had been thought to be lost forever.

The article concludes by noting that Waugh seldom missed any opportunity to belittle the Eastern Church (as compared to the one based in Rome) in this and other writings, citing several examples. Helena may be Waugh’s least read novel even though he labored longer on it than most of the others and thought it his best. The blogger says he read it in preparation for the festival day of the Invention of the True Cross. It’s fairly short, at just over 150 pages in the Penguin edition.

Another blogger posted an article quoting descriptions of several wartime meals that occur in the plot of Sword of Honour. These vary from Major Hound’s desparate slapdash combination of various scrounged rations during the evacuation from Crete to the survival rations of Dr Glendening-Rees consisting of seaweed and limpets to the more luxurious meal of lobster, quail and artichokes enjoyed by Guy Crouchback and Tommy Blackhouse before their departure to Crete. The blogger concludes by noting the constant reference to the oyster color of Corporal-Major Ludovic’s eyes. Thanks to David Lull for a link to this blog post.

Finally, a third blogger, in an announcement of a UK book group convening to discuss G K Chesterton’s book about Thomas Aquinas, makes this comment, quoted from a publication of the American Chesterton Society written by Dale Ahlquist :

Evelyn Waugh claimed that G.K. Chesterton never actually read the Summa Theologica. He simply ran his fingers over the binding and absorbed its content.

Ahlquist’s essay provides no source for this quote but it seems to have entered into the canon of unattributed Wavian sayings. 


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