Waugh and Wales and Fashion

A recent article in the TLS entitled “Do the Welsh Just Sing?” by Samuel Graydon opens with a quote from Decline and Fall:

“The Welsh . . . are the only nation in the world that has produced no graphic or plastic art, no architecture, no drama. They just sing.” Such is Evelyn Waugh’s damning criticism from Decline and Fall. A little unfair, perhaps, and also, in one particular, very much mistaken. In Wales, it is not just singing. Male-voice choirs and rugby crowds aside, a sense of lyricism, music and song pervades the literature of the country. …

The article continues with a discussion of recent offerings of Welsh literature in such fields as fiction, poetry, drama and even opera. It concludes with a more detailed discussion of historic Welsh literature and in particular the The Mabinogi, which is a Medieval collection that had recently been republished in two versions.

The Daily Telegraph has mentioned Waugh in an article by Alice Vincent. This is in connection with the announcement of a new film to be entitled The Phantom Thread and will star Daniel Day-Lewis in what is said will be his last film performance. The plot, to the extent anything is known about it, is described in a quote from the film’s Wikipedia site as:

 “A drama set in the couture world of 1950s London, where Charles James – played by Day-Lewis – is commissioned to design for members of high society and the royal family.” Charles James was a real designer, who was born in 1906  into a wealthy military family and became known as America’s First Couturier. … James mixed in glamorous circles. He was a close friend of Cecil Beaton whom he met while at school in Harrow, where he also met Evelyn Waugh, before being expelled for a “sexual escapade“. … James is credited with inspiring Christian Dior to create The New Look, the flirtatious, fitted styling of the late Forties that revolutionised fashion in the middle of the last century. 

The inclusion of a Waugh connection seems a bit dodgy. If he did know James, it was not through a meeting at Harrow School which Waugh did not attend. Nor is Waugh likely to have met James there while visiting Cecil Beaton, since Waugh and Beaton were not on friendly terms in their school days. Any association (if there was one) must have have been rather fleeting since it does not seem to have come to the notice of Waugh’s biographers, of which he has had more than the average number for a 20th century British writer. Similar information appears on the Wikipedia site for Charles James. Wikipedia credits the sentence that includes Waugh to a 2014 Daily Telegraph article but that article does not mention Waugh. Perhaps some one might have a word with Wikipedia.

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