Roundup: Brideshead Matters

In an article posted on National Catholic Register, Joseph Pearce considers whether education still matters and concludes that it should but doesn’t always manage. In order to matter, education must teach the truth as revealed in the wisdom of the ancients. He refers to a 1977 book by Christopher Derrick entitled Escape from Scepticism: Liberal Education as if Truth Mattered for a fuller explanation.  As examples of what happens to those who fail to acquire a properly based education, he offers two characters from Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited:

Evelyn Waugh, in his magnum opus, Brideshead Revisited, a novel which was itself inspired by a line in one of Chesterton’s Father Brown stories, lampoons the “hollow men” produced by the modern academy in his portrayal of the characters of Hooper and Rex Mottram. Hooper had “no special illusions distinguishable from the general, enveloping fog from which he observed the universe”:

Pearce goes on to explain an emptiness in both these characters that can be traced to what Waugh would have considered an inadequate education.

Co-authors of a new Young Adult novel entitled Freshmen, have prepared a reading list of campus novels for students embarking on their university educations in a few weeks time. Among those listed is Brideshead:

Although the novel spans more than 20 years, some of the most memorable scenes take place at Oxford University, where Charles Ryder meets the “magically beautiful” Sebastian Flyte and his circle of glamorous and debauched friends. Waugh invented the Oxford of literary imagination that tourists hunt for today, but Brideshead explores much more than manicured lawns and medieval panelled dormitories where dilettantes talk to teddy bears. It is about growing up, desire, faith, and loss in a tumultuous and dark world.

The list is published here and is compiled by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison.

Another reference to Brideshead appears in a notice on for a new hotel in the Bordeaux region of France that also mentions two Oxford students about to embark on a day out of the city:

Both wine sales and hotel developments have been slow in Sauternes, but new initiatives are now underway across the board. One of these is Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey’s Hotel & Restaurant Lalique which, acording to owner, Silvio Denz, combines ‘four worlds: wine, crystal, gastronomy and hospitality’.

The hotel, due to open in June, will include a restaurant run by two-star Michelin chef Jérôme Schilling. Fans of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited will also enjoy the fact that this château is mentioned by Sebastian Flyte: ‘I’ve got a motor-car and a basket of strawberries and a bottle of Château Peyraguey – which isn’t a wine you’ve ever tasted, so don’t pretend. It’s heaven with strawberries.’

Meanwhile, The Tablet’s wine reporter, N O’Phile (I’m not making this up), in an article recounting the history of the liqueur Green Chartreuse, made by monks in the south of France, wrote this:

Popular culture is peppered with references to Green Chartreuse. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby it is said to be the favourite drink of the more louche characters in the novel, including Gatsby himself. The outrageously fay Anthony Blanche, in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, refers to “Real g-g-Green Chartreuse, made before the expulsion of the monks. There are five distinct tastes as it trickles over the tongue. It’s like swallowing a sp-spectrum.” …

Actor Rupert Everett, who got his start playing an English public school boy in the 1984 film Another Country, was interviewed in the Evening Standard earlier this week. This was on the occasion of this week’s premiere of his new film The Happy Prince in which he plays Oscar Wilde and which he also wrote and directed. The interview, after exploring the details of the Wilde film, concludes with this:

So what next? What Everett would very much like to do is play to his strengths, as someone from a public school background who’s getting on a bit. He wants to make a film of something by Graham Greene or Evelyn Waugh because he belongs to the “last remaining generation” who knows how people talked and behaved in those days. It drove him nuts when he saw the recent Brideshead, which got everything wrong, and a TV documentary about the 1970s that missed the point of the period. In a way, he’s a repository of memory, which is the one thing our own period lacks.

Finally, a weblog called DailyBritain commemorates the 95th anniversary of the first public performance of Edith Sitwell’s poem Facade set to music. This was performed in the Aeolian Hall on 12th June 1923 to an unappreciative audience:

However the London literati wasn’t ready for such an experimental work and the  performance was greeted with hisses and threats from the audience; ‘though there was considerable applause the house as a whole was infuriated… and so hostile that the performers were warned not to leave the hall until the audience had dispersed’….In the audience was Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolfe, and Noel Coward who walked out of the performance. Afterwards Coward wrote a review lampooning the Sitwells which caused a feud to last decades.

Waugh had been taken to the performance by his friend Harold Acton, and this may have been the beginning of his acquaintance with the Sitwells.

UPDATE (14 June 2018): Reference to article in The Tablet was added.

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