Waugh’s Helena at the Museum of the Bible

A new institution has opened in Washington, DC. This is the Museum of the Bible. It is spread over eight floors of a purpose built structure and is reviewed in the the conservative journal Washington Free Beacon by Micah Meadowcraft. In discussing the museum’s foundation, Meadowcraft makes reference to Evelyn Waugh:

In his short novel Helena, Evelyn Waugh recounts the mother of Constantine’s decision to become the patroness of Jerusalem’s pilgrim sites. Helena concluded, quite logically, that if Christianity makes historical claims there should be historical evidence, and with it, objects and associated locations convenient for and demanding the building of churches. And if she has the money to pay for building them then they ought be built. Though aiming to be nonsectarian (BCE and CE, not BC and anno Domini), the Museum of the Bible is an endeavor in a similar vein by Hobby Lobby president and museum chairman Steve Green and friends. The Bible is the most important—the banal might say best-selling—book of all time; there is evidence and detritus of how it came to be and where it has been, of what it has done and where it is going; there is money, clearly Solomonic amounts of money, to be spent. Spend it they have, to the tune of more than $500 million, and built it, and it is extraordinary.

A New Zealand news website has posted a review of Waugh’s novel The Loved One. This is by Rachel Pope on Stuff.co.nz which is owned by Australian newspaper chain Fairfax Media and publishes three major papers in New Zealand. She recommends the book and opens with this:

This novel is classic Waugh, in that it is sharp, cutting, incisive, sarcastic and spares no one. He is described as one of the best satirists of his day and was widely known for his sardonic wit. Some of the one-liners in this book are truly shocking and I would read it for this alone. For example, conversing with an American, it is noted that one is not required to actually listen to what is being said. Another: an American asked what Hogmanay was and the answer was “Glaswegians being sick in the street.”

Meanwhile, in Australia, the stage production of Brideshead Revisited by Adelaide’s Independent Theatre Company opened this weekend with a favorable review on the website GlamAdelaide.com. The review concludes:

Independent Theatre create something very special here. Their Brideshead Revisited stays faithful to the themes of the original novel, while artfully employing the dry humour of the British upper classes – delivering an enjoyable and unforgettable performance.

Finally, on the occasion of the commemoration of this year’s  World Toilet Day (19 November), the Irish Times includes this reference to Evelyn Waugh:

Then there are those who were dying to go – famous people who departed while on the toilet…Evelyn Waugh collapsed on the commode in 1966 after coming home from a Latin mass and died. Although there were drowning rumours (perpetuated by Graham Greene), his official cause of death was heart failure.

Others in this category were Elvis Pressley, Judy Garland and King George II. The story is by Deirdre Falvey and is entitled “Urine for a treat.”

UPDATE (20 November 2017): An article in today’s Guardian takes up the subject in the above-cited Irish Times article. This is by Michele Hanson in her health column and relates to the need to be willing to talk about constipation:

“Do not strain at stools,” [the] heart-failure-clinic nurse warned …, or you might peg out, like George II, Elvis and (probably) Evelyn Waugh, from fatal heart arrhythmia. We can mention breastfeeding and period stains out loud without shame. Now let’s, please, add constipation. Because the older you get, the more likely you are to have it. So chill out and loosen up. At least at the top end.

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