Roundup: From Seven Deadly Sins to Four Brandy Alexanders

–The Spanish newspaper El Mundo has a story about the career of novelist Ian Fleming, best known for his James Bond novels and films. This begins with a discussion of Fleming’s less well-known role as International Editor of The Sunday Times. During his tenure in that position, he put together a series of essays on the subject of the Seven Deadly Sins. According to El Mundo:

As he writes in the preface, the idea of ​​making a book about the seven deadly sins was [Fleming’s], and he himself chose and matched the outstanding writers–several of them his friends–with the sin they were to write about, giving rise to an intelligent, funny and insightful work. So the result remains: Angus Wilson (envy); Edith Sitwell (pride); Cyril Connolly (covetousness); Patrick Leigh Fermor (gluttony); Evelyn Waugh (sloth); Christopher Sykes (lust) and W. H. Auden (anger). Three of these writers (Sitwell, Waugh and Sykes) were Catholics.

These articles were first published as a book in 1962 by The Sunday Times, which had earlier published them in the newspaper. The first UK edition does not mention Ian Fleming’s role in their production and has an introduction by Raymond Mortimer. The US edition, by William Morrow, also published in 1962, has a “Special Foreword” written by Fleming, and it is probably to this that the El Mundo article refers. Waugh’s contribution on “Sloth” is available in Essays, Articles and Reviews and A Little Order.

–Several papers report the premiere USA performance of the Letters Live review at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. The Daily Mail prominently mentions the appearance of Stephen Fry, the first since he announced his cancer diagnosis late last year. According to the report by Sam Blewett in the Belfast Telegraph and other Irish papers: “Fry read a letter from Brideshead Revisited author Evelyn Waugh as well as one from Archibald Clark Kerr during his tenure as ambassador to the Soviet Union during the Second World War.” This may be the same Waugh letter (31 May 1942, Letters, p.161) read out in previous performances of this program by other actors. This was written to his wife from Scotland where he was stationed in the Army and describes the Army’s removal of a tree from the garden of a local aristocrat with disastrous unintended consequences. See previous posts.

–The New York Times in its “New & Noteworthy” book review column includes a recommendation of Waugh’s novel A Handful of Dust. This is written by its Sr Staff Opinion Editor, Honor Jones:

I can’t help it. I like books set in pleasant English country houses. But I also like books that shake me up. In Evelyn Waugh’s A HANDFUL OF DUST, I have found the perfect combination. Imagine you’re watching ‘Downton Abbey’ and Carson the butler, instead of serving the sherry, slits the throat of the family dog…

–British politician Dan Hannan writes in the Washington Examiner about the muddle of “conservatives” in the USA. This is illustrated in Hannan’s article by the recent invitation extended by the conservative association CPAC to Marion Maréchal-Le Pen to speak at a major gathering this Friday. Hannan, a British MEP and member of the Conservative Party, argues that the Republican Party and its supporters appear to be moving beyond traditional conservatism to what he calls the European “far right” model based on an authoritarian state structure. Ironically, he sees a convergence of extremists on the right and the left, citing Evelyn Waugh’s response to a previous example of this phenomenon:

…the reason that the rivalry between “far-right” statists and left-wing statists is so fierce is that they are competing for the same kind of voter. Theirs is, as Hayek used to say, a quarrel between brothers. Both sets of socialists — national socialists and Leninist socialists — regard classical liberals, not as heretics, but as infidels, damned beyond redemption. From time to time, the two sets of socialists have patched up their quarrels to stand together against Western free-market democracy. It happened in August 1939, when Hitler and Stalin signed their pact. The British writer Evelyn Waugh — a proper conservative if ever there was one — recorded the moment in one of his novels: “The enemy at last was plain in view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off. It was the Modern Age in arms.” That, surely, is the proper conservative response to authoritarians of any stripe. They have done enough damage in Europe. No American should want to copy them.

Waugh’s statement appears in his novel Men at Arms and is Guy Crouchback’s reaction to the Nazi/Communist Non-Aggression Pact.

–A Dutch blogger (Ferdi de Lange on has posted a discussion of Alan Hollinghurst’s new novel The Sparsholt Affair. In this, he compares Hollinghurst’s previous novel The Stranger’s Child to Brideshead Revisited: “At the center is the somewhat famous poet Cecil Valence, in which Hollinghurst in five episodes – from 1913 to 2008 – after Valence is killed in the First World War– makes the link between the lifestyle of a diverse range of characters.” If such a comparison is to be made, however, the story in The Sparsholt Affair itself seems closer to Brideshead than The Stranger’s Child: “A young fit man who studies in Oxford at the beginning of the Second World War. Sparsholt is an endless source of inspiration and fascination for a group of well-to-do students who secretly all have an eye on him.” Indeed, Hollinghurst’s earlier novel The Line of Beauty, also discussed by the blogger, may come closer than either of these later ones: “A novel where we follow the young Nick Guest who settles in the family of a British Conservative MP and eventually steals the show by dancing with Margaret Thatcher.” Several reviewers, when it was published, noted the similarity. Perhaps it suffices to say that there is much in Hollinghurst’s novels that reminds one of Brideshead Revisited.

–Finally, in the online newsletter Quartzy, which is dedicated to “living well in the global economy,” there appears an article on cocktails that opens with this:

Cream is not an intuitive mixer for alcohol, as lime juice and ginger ale are. You might try a creamy cocktail as a kitschy throwback, or make one for a themed party, but how often do you crave what amounts to a boozy milkshake? At least that was my thinking, until I read about the history of the Brandy Alexander in 3-Ingredient Cocktails by Robert Simonson. According to Simonson, Tennessee Williams was known to drink one before his daily swim. Evelyn Waugh wrote about them in Brideshead Revisited, and Kingsley Amis counted them among his favorite drinks, so long as the standard amount of brandy was quadrupled…

It was, of course, Anthony Blanche in Book One, Chapter II of Waugh’s novel who was so ecstatic over the experience of a Brandy Alexander (or four):

At the George bar he ordered ‘Four Alexandra [sic] cocktails please,’ ranged them before him with a loud “Yum-yum’ which drew every eye, outraged, upon him. ‘I expect you would prefer sherry, but, my dear Charles, you are not going to have sherry. Isn’t this a delicious concoction? You don’t like it? Then, I will drink it for you. One, two, three, four, down the red lane they go. How the students stare!’…

Actor Nicholas Grace, playing Anthony Blanche in the 1981 TV film adaptation of the novel, made an absolute meal of this scene. It was one of the most memorable moments in a film that was overflowing with them.

Translations from Spanish and Dutch are by Google with a few minor edits.


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