Oxford Mail Previews New Book on Waugh

The Oxford Mail in an article by Andrew Ffrench offers an advance look at a new book about Evelyn Waugh to be issued next month. This is Evelyn Waugh’s Oxford by Barbara Cooke who is lecturer at Loughborough University and co-Executive Editor of the Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh project. According to the Mail:

Alexander Waugh, the author’s grandson, said in his foreword: “As an undergraduate Waugh spent much of his time drinking, socialising, spending too much money and what he called ‘eating wild honey in the wilderness’ but, like his character Charles Ryder, he never looked back in regret. “Barbara Cooke, a leading expert on Waugh’s life and work, offers an engaging account of Oxford’s effect on Waugh and Waugh’s effect on Oxford that should leave the reader with a refreshed, if slightly altered, view of both.”

Published by the Bodleian Library, the new study features illustrations by Amy Dodd, who creates a hand-drawn trail around Waugh’s Oxford, including favourite locations such as the Botanic Garden, the Oxford Union and The Chequers pub off High Street. Dr Cooke’s new book draws on specially commissioned illustrations and previously unpublished photographic material to provide a robust assessment of Waugh’s engagement with Oxford over the course of his literary career.

The book will be released in the UK on 16 March 2018. In connection with the book launch, Dr Cooke will discuss the book at the Oxford Literary Festival on Sunday 18 March. See previous post for details.  A 15 May 2018 date has been announced for the book’s USA release. Dr Cooke is also co-editor of the recently published Complete Works edition of A Little Learning (vol 19).

Meanwhile, on the Thames south of Oxford, another recent Waugh-related event is described in The Tablet’s weblog. This is the opening of a new private Roman Catholic chapel on the grounds of an estate:

Dispensations for private chapels were given up until the Reformation, after which many were lost. But some have crept back in modern times, and none more spectacular than one that’s recently been built from scratch at Culham Court on the banks of the Thames in Oxfordshire. [sic] Constructed in the style of a classical temple, with huge attention to detail, the Chapel of Christ the Redeemer took three years to build. The consecration service was led by the late Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor two years ago. The chapel is located in an estate owned by the Swiss financier, Urs Schwarzenbach….

An idea of the literary and historical context [of the chapel] can be imagined by referencing … Evelyn Waugh. Waugh in Brideshead Revisited writes: “The last architect to work at Brideshead had added a colonnade and flanking pavilions. One of these was the chapel. We entered it by the public porch …Sebastian dipped his fingers in the water stoup, crossed himself, and genuflected; I copied him. ‘Why do you do that?’ he asked crossly. ‘Just good manners’.”

…The Chapel of Christ the Redeemer is set on a hilltop within the Culham Court estate… The Chapel is open to the public for Mass once a month and on Holy Days of Obligation.

The next scheduled service at the chapel is on 25 February at 630pm. See here for details. The estate is situated in Berkshire, not Oxfordshire, although the nearest town is Henley-on-Thames, Oxon. It might also be considered relevant to The Tablet’s article that, after the visit described in the quote from Waugh’s novel, the private chapel at Brideshead was closed and deconsecrated, to the sadness of Cordelia (Penguin, pp. 211-212). As described in the novel’s Epilogue, the chapel was reopened during the war by a “blitzed R.C. padre”, who is sheltering in the house, and was open to the troops: “surprising lot use it too.” At the book’s conclusion, Charles Ryder finds a light still burning “in a copper lamp of deplorable design relit before the beaten copper doors of the tabernacle.”


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  1. Pingback: Private Chapels (More) | The Evelyn Waugh Society

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