Waugh and Brexit (more)

Waugh gets several mentions in the weeklies in connection with the Brexit debate. Two of these relate to Tory politician Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leading proponent of Brexit. These are based on Dominic Green’s interview of Rees-Mogg for The Weekly Standard on which he also comments in The Spectator. In The Weekly Standard, Green reports:

There is much of P.G. Wodehouse in Rees-Mogg. When he canvassed door to door in his first, unsuccessful attempt to win a seat in parliament, nanny came too. When the papers reported that he was driving around in a Bentley, he objected that it was only a Mercedes. A contemporary of Rees-Mogg’s at Eton recalls how the pupils wagged him by humming the national anthem during class, so that young Jacob would jump out of his seat and stand to attention. But there is more of the serious comedy of Evelyn Waugh. Rees-Mogg’s anachronistic, almost theatrical overdressing; his posh, staunch, and fecund Catholicism, and his conviction that the old days and old ways were better all recall later Waugh. His constituency, North East Somerset, is in Waugh country.

He may mean that last phrase literally since the family of Arthur Waugh lived in Midsomer Norton (which is, indeed, in Rees-Mogg’s constituency), and Evelyn visited his aunts there many times as a child. In summarizing the interview for The Spectator, Green closes with this:

As I leave, I ask Rees-Mogg, a Catholic MP for a Somerset constituency, to name his favorite Evelyn Waugh novel. ‘Scoop,’ he says. ‘It’s such fun.’

American conservative journalist Roger Kimball, whose day job is publisher of The New Criterion magazine, also reports in The Spectator on Brexit in connection with this week’s visit of Donald Trump to Britain. He thinks Trump sees Brexit as a matter of sovereignity and closes his article with this quote from Evelyn Waugh:

The beautiful people who titter over the Baby Blimp and denounce President Trump’s policy of “America First” might take a page from Evelyn Waugh. “I believe in nationality,” he wrote in 1938 [sic], “not in terms of race or of divine commissions for world conquest, but simply this: mankind inevitably organises itself into communities according to it geographical distribution; these communities by sharing a common history common characteristics and inspire a local loyalty; the individual family develops most happily and fully when it accepts these limits. I do not think that British prosperity must necessarily be inimical to anyone else, but if, on occasions, it is, I want Britain to prosper and not her rivals.”

The quote is from Waugh’s book Robbery Under Law (1939) pp. 20-21 (Penguin, 2011 ed.).

UPDATE: Quote is from book published in 1939. Text is changed accordingly.

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