Unsung Waughs

A posting by Ralph Berry on the weblog of the “paleoconservative” journal Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture cites one of Waugh’s least read novels:

I was lately in Exeter, hoping to see something of the Islamic Centre at the University. As it was a Sunday when I visited, I thought they might have been open for business. But the doors were locked and no access was possible. I did however read a massive plaque outside, which read in its entirety:

THIS BUILDING OWES EVERYTHING TO THE VISION AND GENEROSITY OF HIS HIGHNESS SHAIKH SULTAN BIN MOHAMMED AL-QASIMI  PhD (EXON) THE RULER OF SHARJAH 3 JULY 2001

I was put in mind of Evelyn Waugh’s Black Mischief, which opens with the Emperor Seth, ruler of Azania, and his titles. They include “TERROR OF THE SEAS” and “BACHELOR OF ARTS, OXFORD UNIVERSITY.” The ruler of Sharjah follows in the same tradition. But Evelyn Waugh is not mocked. There has never been a film or TV drama of Black Mischief, unlike Waugh’s other major novels. I expect the authorities found the title too incendiary.

Another neglected Waugh novel comes up in another post. This is by Sara Haslam, editor of the Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh edition of Helena. Waugh thought it his best novel and was probably the one to which he devoted the most time relative to its size. Dr Haslam, who is a Senior Lecturer of English Literature at the Open University, recently conducted some research on her edition in the Waugh Archives of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. She reports the results of her visit on the website of the University of Leicester. Here’s an excerpt:

Searches of the [A.D.] Peters papers turned up many useful documents and letters; for example, Waugh’s ‘Notes on Translating Helena’ that was thought lost. Waugh’s instructions for translators were on two sides of the same notepaper used and bound to make the Helena MS. One reason they may have been thought lost is that they seem to have been mis-filed. … Finally, on those kinds of discoveries that justify archive-fever, the collection holds an advance proof copy of Helena, which I hadn’t been able to tell from the catalogue. It’s this proof (and probably this copy of this proof) that Waugh (or someone) copied and then stuck into the back of the AMS for him to annotate, creating UK1’s version of the final lines of the novel.

I returned to the UK with a clearer and near-final version of the MDATV [Manuscript Development and Textual Variants], as well as many pointers for the Introduction. Taking images of covers was the one thing I struggled with. The lights in the HRC have, apparently, foxed many folk trying to do the same thing.

Finally, the death of a somewhat neglected actor is in the news. This is Tab Hunter whose death at the age of 86 was announced earlier this month. According to his obituary in the Guardian, his film career peaked in the 1950s when he played clean cut “beefcake” roles in several popular films. He was already past his peak when he appeared briefly as a guide at Whispering Glades in the 1965 film of The Loved One. He was one of several actors who landed cameo roles in that film. Others included Milton Berle, Liberace, and James Coburn. Although the Guardian describes something of a comeback linked to the John Waters’ film Polyester in 1981, he never returned to the level of popularity he achieved at the beginning of his career.

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