Amazon is offering a new book by London-based playwright and singer-songwriter Roy Smiles. This is entitled Waugh in Winter and is the text of a play which is built around Waugh’s persona. According to the book description:
Waugh in Winter is a piece about Evelyn Waugh, the acerbic right-wing author of Brideshead Revisited. A supposed BBC interviewer from Woman’s Hour has come to interview ‘the cultural dinosaur’. What begins as a useful ploy by Waugh to taunt and sneer at a woman of a lower class becomes an examination of his frightful snobbery and hatred of womankind. This stems from the love and rejection of his first wife ‘She Evelyn’ who haunts his memory whilst reminding him of the decent and loving man he once was.
Smiles has published several books of plays based on biographies of well-known subjects. These include other writers such as P G Wodehouse (Plum), George Orwell (Year of the Rat) and Arthur Miller (Reno). Among the successful productions of his biographical plays, Wikipedia includes Kurt & Sid (Cobain and Vicious, West End, 2009), Schmucks (Groucho Marx and Lenny Bruce, debut, Battersea, 1992) and Ying Tong–A Walk with the Goons (Spike Milligan’s nervous breakdown, Yorkshire to West End, 2004). Smiles has also self-published several albums of his songs. Waugh in Winter will be released next week as a Kindle book. It will, in addition, be included in a collection of 10 of his plays, also to be released next week
The Chicago Review Press has announced the reprint earlier this month of Elsa Lanchester’s autobiography Herself. This was originally published in 1983 and includes Lanchester’s brief memoir of Evelyn Waugh. He was a regular punter at her night club the Cave of Harmony. She recalls him as: “not at all attractive looking. Not very tall, he had a pink face. That is, not all over pink, pink in patches as if he had a bad cold.” She also recalls her role in the Greenidge-Waugh film production of The Scarlet Woman: “…I was the woman…The film was awful though we laughed hysterically.” While she is somewhat dismissive about the film, Robert M Davis says that it was her debut as a film actress. She and Waugh also had the identical birth date: “he said to the hour.” Waugh mentions her several times in his diaries for 1924 (e.g., pp. 167, 170) both in connection with visits to the night club and the making of the film. During the filming, he entertained Elsa and some friends at what became a rather drunken and extravagant dinner (£4) followed by several stops for drinks. He recalls that, at a flat on Great Ormond Street where the party ended up, he “fought [with her] all over the floor for a pound note which eventually became destroyed.” She went on to marry actor Charles Laughton and moved to Hollywood where she starred in several films, including Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Waugh doesn’t mention meeting her when he traveled to Los Angeles in 1947.
Waugh’s French publishers (Editions Robert Laffont) have reissued several of his books recently. One of these (Une poignée de cendres—A Handful of Dust) was featured prominently in the French books blog Dans le manoir aux livres:
…One of the favorite themes of the author is the decline of the British aristocracy. This is therefore naturally and unsurprisingly present here. Evelyn Waugh takes pleasure in scratching this social category. Behind the varnish of appearances, the disintegration of the aristocracy has real consequences for its youngest, quickly lost and unmarked members that we follow between England and the Amazon. The characters are not spared by the caustic spirit of their creator. Indeed, Evelyn Waugh does not shelter them and shows a rather frightening cruelty towards them. Unfortunately, this makes them quite elusive…A Handful of Dust is a rather special novel between satire, a certain realism and a cruelty towards rather elusive characters… (Translation by Google with minor edits.)
Other books reissued in French by Laffont since the first of this year include Le cher disparu (The Loved One), Hommes en armes (Men at Arms) and Scoop.
The Irish Times has an article in which it publishes reactions of several other writers and scholars to a claim made earlier this year by Irish novelist James Kelman in a St Patrick’s Day interview with the paper:
…[Kelman] criticised Irish writers for failing to reflect on the country’s colonial experience and their unwillingness to break with convention and challenge authority, thus benefiting, he claimed, from cushy careers in London and New York.
Professor Jim Smyth of the University of Notre Dame, calling on Evelyn Waugh, offered a partial defense of Kelman’s position:
…. In the 20th century, unionist Scotland had a somewhat more robust left-wing politics than rebel Ireland, nurtured by one account in the rich civic loam of the Scottish “democratic intellect”. Revolutionary Ireland was instructed “Labour Must Wait” and it is waiting still. Where is the fierce indignation about social injustice, and the housing and healthcare crises, to be found amid all the neo-liberal platitudes about “business confidence” and “innovation” recycled daily on the airwaves, online and in print? I write as a keen admirer of the High Tory, Evelyn Waugh, not as an advocate of socialist realism. It seems likely too that Kelman is deprecating complacency about our present discontents, not calling for more political soapbox novels. He exaggerates to be sure, but as Waugh’s Mr Salter might say “only up to a point”.
Finally, the magazine Town & Country has published a collection of 20 quotations that are intended to remind its readers that summer is almost here. One of these comes from Brideshead Revisited:
11. ” If it could only be like this always – always summer, always alone, the fruit always ripe…” -Evelyn Waugh