Roundup: Picture This

A remarkable photo of Evelyn Waugh has been posted on the men’s clothing website Voxsartoria. This is from 1950, although the name of the photographer is not given. What is most noticeable about the photo is the lighting on the fabric of the tweed suit Waugh is wearing. This is appropriate for the photo’s inclusion in a collection dedicated to promoting the return of tweed suits. There are also several photos of other writers, most prominently T S Eliot and the late Tom Wolfe, wearing suits of that fabric.

Another website ( has posted a series of “stock photos” of Evelyn Waugh’s youngest son, Septimus Waugh. He is a woodcarver and sculptor and is depicted at his home and studio in Tiverton, Devon. There are also three photos of modern stained glass windows from County Durham and Yorkshire in the same grouping but there is nothing in the captions to connect Mr Waugh with those windows (although it is quite possible he may have contributed something).

In yesterday’s issue of the newspaper The New European, there is a story describing a photo by Mark Harrison of Conservative Party politician Jacob Rees-Mogg. The article by Bonnie Greer describes Rees-Mogg in the Harrison photo as “presenting the politician as we think we know him.” She goes on to explain that he appears in the photo to look like “a minor character from those two works by Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies and Brideshead Revisited.” That’s not terribly helpful given the large number of characters to choose from. The photo Greer is discussing is this one that was posted several weeks ago on another site. (See update below confirming the identity of the photo.) A better Waugh comparison might be found in another novel: this would be the “questing vole” from Scoop since Rees-Mogg could be fairly described as looking a bit “feather-footed” in this photo (check his hands) and certainly looks as if he might have just arrived in the studio from a “plashy fen” (explaining the need for the makeup). Greer’s story (“A Study in Vanity”) is reposted on PressReader.

One of our readers has sent a link to a literary website called Five Books which contains several references to Waugh’s works. This site invites other writers or experts to propose the best five books they have read in their respective fields of knowledge. The database created may then be mined for specific writers, and this is what reader Dave Lull has done, producing an archive of Waugh references from this website. It is perhaps not surprising that the greatest number of interviewees (7) included Scoop on their lists. Their topics were not all related to journalism, however, but included comic writing (Andy Borowitz) and books that inspired them (William Boyd). Humorist P J O’Rourke included Put Out More Flags on his list of books about political satire. Waugh’s collected Letters was among the 5 best literary letter selections, Decline and Fall, the best of schoolmasters, Sword of Honour, the best of WWII and Robbery Under Law, the best of Mexico. As a sample of the explanatory material available on the database, here’s the entry for Robbery Under Law by Hugh Thomson:

This is a good one. There was a big fashion in the 1930s for making the most of the trip by writing both a novel and a travel book about Mexico, as Greene and Lawrence did, but Waugh only wrote a travel book. It is little known and should be more widely read. It may be little known because of its awful title. The book has an odd genesis – it was a commission from the Pearson family who had oil holdings in Mexico that had been expropriated by the revolutionary government. They were so outraged that they paid Waugh to write a book about how arbitrary and unjust this was.

So, it’s an odd, sponsored book and while Waugh fulfils the brief, he also ranges far and wide across Mexico. He sees that its history is not as simple as ‘noble Indians and brutal Europeans’ and thinks Mexicans should celebrate their post-Columbian inheritance as much as their Aztec history. There is a fair amount of ‘dog eat dog’ in the Mexico Waugh describes – it was a tough place to live and work, and Waugh shows this with no sentimentality.

These interviews are dated from 2012 or earlier except for the one on Schoolmasters which is from March 2018. Oddly missing are lists including Waugh’s best selling novels Brideshead Revisited and The Loved One. Perhaps topics into which they would fit have not yet been assigned: Dysfunctional Roman Catholic Families, Weird Burial Customs, Film Adaptations?

Back to the subject of film, BBC2 will rebroadcast the 2008 film adaptation of Brideshead Revisited next Monday, 28 May. The BBC was one of the film’s backers, as was Harvey Weinstein (Miramax), who was recently arrested in the USA and charged with sexual criminal offenses. He was reported last year as having harassed one of the cast members of the 2008 film adaptation on a visit to the film location in Yorkshire. This was Hayley Atwell who played Julia and was told by Weinstein to lose weight. Another cast member, Emma Thompson, who played Teresa Flyte, told him to back off, which he reportedly did. See previous posts. This film will air at 23:25 and will be available on BBC iPlayer to stream on the internet thereafter. A UK internet connection will be required.

Thanks once again to Dave Lull for sending the Evelyn Waugh archive from Five Books.

UPDATE (27 May 2018): Information about dates of Five Books interviews was added. In addition, The New European story now appears on the paper’s website, and this will confirm that its reference is, indeed, to the photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg linked above in our posting. That photo now appears at the top of the story.

This entry was posted in Film, Newspapers, Photographs, Robbery Under Law, Waugh Family and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Roundup: Picture This

  1. Pingback: Five Books (more) | The Evelyn Waugh Society

  2. Pingback: Updates: Brideshead Tonite | The Evelyn Waugh Society

Comments are closed.