Powell Society Visits Waugh’s Oxford

The latest issue of the Anthony Powell Society Newsletter (No. 65, Winter 2016) is largely devoted to reports of a visit to Oxford made by its members last September. The theme was “Oxford Day Out: AP and His Chums,” and inevitably this involved visitation of sites relevant to Powell’s undergraduate friend Evelyn Waugh. These included the site of the Hypocrites Club at 31 St Aldate’s where both writers were members, nearby Christ Church where Sebastian Flyte was a student and Anthony Blanche recited The Waste Land through a megaphone, Balliol College where Powell was a student and Waugh once lewdly serenaded the Dean, and Wadham College where Maurice Bowra was Warden and Waugh was a frequent visitor.  The group ended up having tea at Hertford College where Waugh was a student.  This was much later also the undergraduate residence of the Powell Society’s Chairman (Robin Bynoe), who occupied the same rooms where Waugh lived during his second year. Hertford College was the site of the Waugh Society’s foundation meeting at the Waugh Centenary Conference in 2003.

There are several articles in the Newsletter mentioning Waugh’s Oxford connections, including that by Stephen Walker, its editor, from which the foregoing description was taken. Perhaps the most interesting to Waugh enthusiasts is that by Robin Bynoe: “Powell, Waugh, and Two Contrasting Role Models.” This recounts Waugh’s career as a student at the then rather socially dim Hertford College, and, in dealing with Waugh’s animosity toward his tutor, later Dean, CRMF Cruttwell, Bynoe provides what is to me some interesting new information about Cruttwell’s later descent into madness:

Here we enter the realm of gossip. It is High Table gossip, the best sort. The story is that after an evening spent necking the College port and insulting other members of the Senior Common Room he staggered out with the admirable intention of counting the railings that form a circle around the Radcliffe Camera. He failed however to mark the railing with which he started, and when his fellows emerged from their beds the next morning he was still at it. The tally was by then some thousands. He was dispatched to a place of safety.

One is inclined to feel sorry for him but for another bit of gossip. This involves the aftermath of a tiff with a colleague. This man was standing in the Quad when a large piece of masonry fell from the roof, narrowly missing him. Cruttwell’s face appeared in the space previously occupied by the masonry, “Awfully unsafe, these roofs,” he cackled.

The Newsletter is distributed to members of the Powell Society in a printed edition but will after about a year be posted on the internet here.

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