The Waugh Before Christmas

–The Daily Mail includes Waugh in a Christmas quiz set by humorist Craig Brown. Here’s the question:

10) Match the Christmas with the participant:

a) ‘The presents I got were — as always — far inferior in every way to the ones I gave, that is annoying. The parties I went to didn’t have any nice young ladies at them, and everybody had a much smaller brain than mine.’

b) ‘The presence of my children affects me with deep weariness and depression. I do not see them until luncheon, as I have my breakfast alone in the library, and they are in fact well trained to avoid my part of the house; but I am aware of them from the moment I wake.’

c) ‘All my loathing of Christmas . . . poured over me during the walk home. All those ‘merry people’, windows open & awful noise of singing, and daft decorations everywhere & drunks and bad driving and just below the surface — the extreme rude bestiality.’

d) ‘Every year on Christmas day I like to tell my mother that I’m lesbian, even though I’m not. It just gets everything going.’

i) Jenny Eclair

ii) Kenneth Williams

iii) Kingsley Amis

iv) Evelyn Waugh

You will find the answer along with several other questions here.

–The Paris Review has an article by Katy Kelleher about the history and tradition surrounding the French liqueur Chartreuse and the color to which it has given a name. The potion was perfected in 1737 by a group of French monks who were given the recipe developed by an alchemist in the 16th century:

Over the years, they tweaked the recipe slightly, making it less alcoholic and more palatable to the general public. Then they began to sell it.  This worked fine for everyone involved until 1903, when the French government nationalized the Chartreuse distillery. They expelled the monks, who went to Spain and built a new distillery there. “The pre-expulsion stuff was much prized,” writes Henry Jeffreys for the Guardian. He was introduced to the drink by his “louche uncle.” As Jeffreys relays, the joys of the original version were sung in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. “There are five distinct tastes as it trickles over the tongue,” Anthony Blanche, Waugh’s stuttering gentleman, says. “It’s like swallowing a sp-spectrum.”

Deborah Mitford in her memoirs Wait for Me remembers another Waugh connection with this particular libation. This occurred at her first meeting Waugh at a Christmas party of her friend Daphne Weymouth (later Fielding) in 1942:

One night he poured a bottle of Green Chartreuse over his head and, rubbing it into his hair, he intoned: “My hair is covered in gum; my hair is  covered in gum,” as the sticky mess ran down his neck. (p. 123)

Waugh, then stationed at Sherborne on a training course, wrote to his wife about the party. He mentions meeting Deborah Mitford but not the self-dousing with Chartreuse (Letters, 164). One can only wonder whether Waugh remembered that occasion when he wrote Anthony Blanche’s description 2 years later.

THE has an interview with Tereza Topolovská, lecturer in Eng. Lang. & Lit. at Charles University in Prague. This is about her new book The Country House Revisited: Variations on a Theme from Forster to Hollinghurst in which she mentions Waugh’s contribution:

Your new book explores the theme of the country house in English literature. Which books spurred your interest in the theme?

Originally, I was drawn to the more generic theme of houses in English literature and therefore analysed mainly the works of John Galsworthy, E. M. Forster and Simon Mawer, where I approached the houses as symbols, settings and subject matters. After having read some of the must-reads of country-house fiction – Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and A Handful of Dust, Galsworthy’s The Country House, Forster’s Howards End – I noticed a repetitive pattern of a house embracing some aspects of a communal paradigm: the country house. I widened the scope of my study and included uncharacteristic examples of fictional houses, such as Shruff End in Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea. Last but not least, I was intrigued by the sumptuous evocation of the splendid ugliness of the houses in Ian McEwan’s Atonement or Alan Hollinghurst’s The Stranger’s Child, and the aesthetic of inevitable decline in Sarah Waters’ gothic The Little Stranger.

–Finally, BBC has, according to an LGBT entertainment site, scheduled a Christmas treat (or not, as the case may be) for Waugh fans. This is a rebroadcast of the 2008 theatrical film adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, co-produced by the BBC with Miramax and Ecosse Films. This will be transmitted by BBC2 on Friday, 28 December 2018, at 1425p London time.



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