Henry Green, Enthusiasms, Tammy Faye, and Clarissa

The attempted revival of Henry Green’s works and reputation marches ever onward. The latest contribution is an article by Dominic Green (no likely relationship since Henry’s family name was Yorke) in the New Criterion. Green makes the case that Yorke (to avoid confusion) was influenced heavily by cinematic dialogue and tracks the historic development of that genre against developments in Yorke’s own literary style. The article includes the now familiar cite to Evelyn Waugh’s defense of Yorke’s novel Living in a 1929 Vogue article but fails to note the deflation of Waugh’s enthusiasm for Yorke’s later work (at least as expressed in private communications). According to Green, Waugh was influenced by Yorke but only up to a point:

Waugh capitalized upon Yorke’s conversational effects, and nodded to Eliot too, in A Handful of Dust (1934). But the conversational fireworks were only one weapon in the Waugh arsenal, and the resemblance does not run deep. Yorke has wit and can be sexually knowing, but he lacks the eighteenth-century ebullience that drove Waugh to name a character Polly Cockpurse, to tack “The Man Who Liked Dickens” onto the manuscript, and then to cook up an alternative ending to accommodate serialization in an American magazine.

The Weekly Standard in an in-depth article by Martyn Wendell Jones considers the careers of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. religious evangelists in the USA who thrived in the 1970-80s until brought down by sex scandals. The article traces the strand of the Bakkers’ brand of evangelism back to movements in the 17th and 18th centuries discussed by Ronald Knox in his book Enthusiasm:

The American continent, wrote Monsignor Ronald Knox in 1950, “is the last refuge of the enthusiast.” Knox, a Catholic writer and friend of Evelyn Waugh’s, considered the 600-page study Enthusiasm: A Chapter in the History of Religion his life’s work. The primary emphasis in religious enthusiasm, he wrote, “lies on a direct personal access to the Author of our salvation, with little of intellectual background or of liturgical expression.” In both Catholic and Protestant variations, enthusiasm knocked established Christianity off the rails. This personal spirituality was often accompanied, Knox wrote, by “a conviction that the Second Coming of our Lord is shortly to be expected” and “ecstasy, under which heading I include a mass of abnormal phenomena, the by-products, it would seem, of prophecy.” Then, too, there were the tremors and shakes, the falling into trances, and the glossolalia—outbreaks of “unintelligible utterance” believed by the utterers to be a private means of direct communication with the Lord.

Waugh later declared Knox’s book “the greatest work of literary art of the century” (Books on Trial, October 1955; EAR. p. 477). Knox dedicated his book to Evelyn Waugh who after Knox’s death wrote his biography.

Waugh’s friend Clarissa Eden (née Churchill and now Lady Avon) is interviewed in Spear’s Magazine. Winston Churchill was her uncle and Randolph a first cousin. The interviewer asks her about her life before her marriage to Anthony Eden in 1952 and she replies:

…in May 1940, … Churchill became prime minister. The future Lady Avon was just 19, and just two years after she had ‘come out’, as one of the notable debutantes of her year presented at court with Deborah Mitford, later Duchess of Devonshire. That followed several years in Paris and Oxford, where she befriended Evelyn Waugh – ‘a good writer… But that was my world before I was married. I don’t think I ever saw him afterwards’ – Isaiah Berlin, Anthony Powell, Greta Garbo and many others.

She is too polite to recall Evelyn Waugh’s persecution of her (like him a Roman Catholic) for her marriage to Eden, who was divorced. Of course, so was Waugh when he married his second wife, but that didn’t bother him since he had obtained an annullment of his first marriage from the Roman Catholic hierarchy. This was not Waugh’s finest hour (Letters, pp. 378, 381-82).

Finally, the Daily Telegraph has published a list of what its staff reporters have selected as the greatest 100 novels of all time. This includes novels in languages other than English. How the selection was conducted is not explained but no author has more than one work listed (although in same cases multi-volume works are classified as one). Waugh’s 1938 novel Scoop appears on the list at Number 18 (the ranking or numbering is likewise unexplained):

Waugh based the hapless junior reporter hero of this journalistic farce on former Telegraph editor Bill Deedes.

Other novels by writers of Waugh’s generation include Dance to the Music of Time (#32), Brighton Rock (#16), 1984 (#21) Code of the Woosters (#15) and Mrs Dalloway (#9).

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