Roundup: Ruins, Snobs and Remittance Men

An art exhibit in Sheffield is named for a Waugh story. This is Love Among the Ruins at the S1 Artspace gallery. The gallery is temporarily located in the garage of the Park Hill housing estate while another part of the estate is being converted into a cultural center. Park Hill dates from 1961 when it was built in brutalist concrete style (now Grade II listed) along with a neighboring estate called Hyde Park which is already largely demolished. They were part of a social housing scheme which has since been abandoned. The exhibit displays photographs by two photographers retelling the story of life in the two estates when they were still used for housing. A explained in a local paper The Star, the exhibition:

… runs from July 20 to September 15, taking its full title from a satirical short story by Evelyn Waugh, which imagined a dystopian Britain of the future governed by an overbearing welfare state. Written in 1953, Waugh’s story anticipated some of the concerns about the possible social consequences of the government’s post-war approach to rebuilding the country.

Waugh’s story is also published in his Complete Stories volume.

The German-language newspaper Volksstimme, published in Basel, Switzerland, has an article entitled “Ein engischer snob in Africa”. This is by Simone Pfaff and relates to Waugh’s travel book Remote People, translated into German as Expeditionen eines englischer Gentleman. The text of the article is behind a paywall, but a summary is provided: “The book is a timeless account of being on the move as in a nightmare – and as such is a jewel of travel writing.” Translation by Google. 

In a Durban, South Africa paper, The Mercury, there is an article about English “remittance men”. These were usually second sons who disgraced themselves in England and were sent out to Africa where they received a monthly remittance from their families on the understanding that they would stay there. Among the most famous are Denys Finch Hatton, immortalized in Isak Dinesen’s novel and the Hollywood film Out of Africa, William Henry Drummond and Charles Hamilton. Also receiving a mention is a second son in Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited who “develops an incurable drinking problem and ends up in Morocco as a remittance man.” This is Sebastian Flyte.

In a post on his website, blogger “Professor Mondo” reports from a visit to a comics convention in Charlotte, NC:

So as we headed to the con Friday afternoon, I saw a sign for a local business, but since we were at speed and I was staying alert to the traffic, all I caught were the words “Pet Crematory” in an elegant serif typeface. And that was less than cheering, I guess, but a sad necessity of life, particularly in urban areas where you might not have a yard suitable for burying a dead pet (or a live one, for that matter, not that I recommend that.)

But on the way back to the hotel, I saw the sign again, and this time I caught the business’s name: “Paws, Whiskers, and Wags.” And maybe it’s just me, but I felt like I had just discovered a near-perfect intersection of sweet and creepy, a sort of Uncanny Valley of euphemism where the sentimentality turns rancid somehow.

I mean, I suppose it’s better than “Fry-do’s” or “Fleas-y Bake Ovens” for an enterprise of its type, and as I said, I know the business meets a real need. Still, I found myself wondering if Dennis Barlow was in the neighborhood, or whether someone was taking a dip at Norma Desmond’s mansion.

Finally, on the Hertford College website, one of its alumni reports how Evelyn Waugh helped him get into Oxford. This is Eric Martin (Medicine, 1961) who went on to practice radiology in the USA. He explains that when his application to Merton College was turned down, he was invited to apply to Hertford, with this happy result:

I got a charming letter from the late Miles Vaughan Williams offering me a place at Hertford. One of my essays had been on Brideshead Revisited. After a couple of paragraphs I discovered I couldn’t remember Charles Ryder’s name, but it was too late to pick another topic so I soldiered on, hoping against hope that he would emerge from my sleep deprived fog. Perhaps I got points for ingenuity, but Miles opened his letter by saying “did I know that Evelyn Waugh was a Hertford man?”


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