Paula Byrne to Appear at Highclere and Other Waugh News

Biographer Paula Byrne (author of Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead (2009)) will appear in a program entitled Literature and Landscapes” to be held at Highclere Castle near Newbury, Berkshire, in May. The venue is better known as the setting for the TV series Downton Abbey, but there is also a Waugh connection. It is the home of the Earls of Carnarvon, and Laura Waugh’s father, Aubrey Herbert, was a younger son of the 4th Earl. His life is described in a book by the Waughs’ daughter Margaret Fitzherbert, The Man Who Was Greenmantle (1983). The family also has a villa in Portofino, Italy, which was named Altachiara, the Italian equivalent of Highclere. Evelyn Waugh was a frequent visitor at Altachiara and first met Laura on a visit there. There is little mention of any visits by Evelyn to Highclere, but he must have made some.  This connection is not stated in the promotional material for the lectures nor is it known whether Byrne intends mention it but she may be unable to resist the temptation to do so. 

In other news, controversial US commentator Milo Yiannopoulos has cited Waugh (also a controversialist in his day) in defense of some of his actions. Yiannopoulos is, among other things, a Roman Catholic and, according to a religious website:

A lot of people have a lot to say about Milo. I want to focus on something constructive. After a talk last year at UCSB, he was asked: “How do you reconcile being a Roman Catholic and a homosexual? I’ve never been able to understand that about you.” Milo responded to this question in a layered way that shocked me, precisely because the response was so adequate, the question so fully answered. … He began by saying that, the question itself exposes a level of ignorance both about Catholicism and about what it means to be gay. He quotes Evelyn Waugh who once said, “If you think I’m bad with God, imagine me without him”…

That’s more of a paraphrase than a quote, but it conveys the general meaning of Waugh’s statement. For a complete description of Milo’s own self-defense, here’s a link to the website

In the Fairbanks (Alaska) News-Miner a local librarian offers an article on lexicography. After a discussion of his attempts to avoid the use of the word “very”,  he lights on the subject of Roget’s thesaurus as his conclusion:

Fortunately, just before publishing the first edition of the thesaurus, Roget added an alphabetical appendix “thus enabling readers to use the thesaurus as a conventional book of synonyms, without necessarily having to delve into its complex philosophical underpinnings.” Like Roget, the new Fairbanks North Star Borough library catalog facilitates getting your head around huge amounts of information. For that matter, “facilitates” is another expression worth trotting out on occasion. As Evelyn Waugh noted, “one’s vocabulary needs constant watering or it will die.”

Finally, a website devoted to developing creative writing skills includes Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited as an example of the skillful use of a book’s setting to advance its story. Other examples offered include J K Rowling’s Hogwarts, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Dickens’ Victorian London, and C S Lewis’ Narnia.

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