Evelyn Waugh: An End and a Beginning

Writing in the Weekly Standard, Elizabeth Kantor examines the fascination of viewers with the Netflix series The Crown and compares it to the earlier ITV series Downton Abbey. The  article is entitled, with not too subtle irony, “Crown of Duty.”  In the course of her thoughtful and entertaining analysis, Kantor brings in Waugh’s portrayal of an earlier generation as compared to those for and about whom The Crown is written to conclude her article:

Through most of the first season of The Crown, I kept wondering why the theme of “The Abdication” as the disaster to be avoided at all costs, the original Fall and expulsion from the original Eden, had so much resonance. And then the penny dropped. “The Abdication” for the British royal family is just like “The Divorce” for so many of us children of the 1970s. It’s the original tragedy that tore our world apart and must not be repeated. The timing actually makes sense. The British aristocracy embraced its own sexual revolution 40 years ahead of the one that eventually reached the American suburbs. Read the novels of Evelyn Waugh or the real-life adventures of the Mitfords and the rest of the 1930s smart set Waugh was satirizing, and you encounter a strangely familiar world: sexual adventurism suddenly commonplace in a generation whose parents still found it shocking, adults in reckless pursuit of their own happiness in disregard of their children’s welfare, divorce courts rewarding the guilty and punishing the innocent.

Sunday Times political reporter Tim Shipman has written a book entitled Fall Out: A Year of Political Mayhem. This is reviewed on the website Conservativehome.com by Andrew Gimson who opens his article with a quote from Waugh’s 1930’s novel about journalists Scoop:

“He had once seen in Taunton a barely intelligible film about newspaper life in New York where neurotic men in shirt sleeves and eye-shades had rushed from telephone to tape machines, insulting and betraying one another in surroundings of unredeemed squalor.”

So wrote Evelyn Waugh, describing the slight acquaintance with journalism of William Boot, accidental hero of Scoop. Anyone drawing their knowledge of British politics from Tim Shipman’s account of the year since September 2016 might form a similar impression. Neurotic men and women rush about betraying each other. The language is squalid, especially in the period when Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill are running the show for Theresa May, in the period up to her disastrous decision in April 2017 to call a snap election.

The review goes on to describe how Timothy and Hill get their comeuppances and both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbin look not too bad after all.

This entry was posted in Evelyn Waugh, Newspapers, Scoop, Television Programs and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.