In the Beginning was the Waugh

Journalists and bloggers are making a practice of opening stories with quotes from or cites to the works of Evelyn Waugh. Here are two notable recent examples:

The Guardian in a story about today’s match between England and Wales in the Six Nations rugby football competition opens with this:

There is a tongue-in-cheek line in Evelyn Waugh’s 1928 novel Decline and Fall – “We can trace almost all the disasters of English history to the influence of Wales” – that resonates on weekends like this. England have played international rugby across the Severn since 1882 yet there is never a year, even now, when they approach the bridge toll booths whistling the carefree tune of the entirely relaxed.

The England supporters needn’t have worried. The final score was England 21 Wales 16.

A blogger (James Wimberley) on the website A Reality-Based Community posts an article entitled “A Letter from Parsnip.” It begins with a quote from another Parsnip:

“I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street…”

This is the opening line of Auden’s fine poem on the outbreak of the Second World War. A year later, Evelyn Waugh memorably pilloried Auden and Isherwood in his satire Put Out More Flags, as the poets Parsnip and Pimpernel bravely opposing fascism from New York. He had a point. In the summer of 1940, petit-bourgeois Kentish shopkeepers and lumpenproletariat middle-aged farm labourers were joining the Home Guard, Dad’s Army, in order to fight invading Panzers and Brandenburgers, a battle in which they would have got themselves killed. Every wargamed rerun of Operation Sea Lion confirms the wisdom of Hitler’s decision to cancel the invasion, but the shopkeepers didn’t know that at the time. My excuse for Parsnippery is that I’m not American and don’t live in the USA, so I’m not running from anything. It would still be rather unseemly to egg on others to take personal and career risks from a safe vantage point in Spain…

The blogger seems to be at a safe distance from the current controversial efforts of the Trump regime to establish a government in the US but is defending the right of himself and others similarly situated to register their opposition.

Elsewhere on the internet, there is a favorable review of Stephen Fry’s 2004 adaptation of Vile Bodies, retitled Bright Young Things,  and, in Time Out, a recommendation for the 1960s adaptation of Waugh’s Decline and Fall, released as Decline and Fall of a Birdwatcher, as well as, for the 1948 novella The Loved One, a review of both the book and the film.

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