Waugh Criminal

A new book about criminality in WWII (Merlin at War) has been written by Mark Ellis and is discussed on Historyextra.com  (official website of the BBC History Magazine). The article opens with this:

The Second World War was a golden period for British crime. Between 1939 and 1945, reported crimes in England and Wales rose from 303,711 to 478,394, an increase of 57 per cent. What was behind this huge jump? The blackout and the bombs were the most obvious factors, and murder, rape, robbery, burglary and theft all flourished in the dark and the chaos. But there were other reasons. The war brought with it a vast raft of new restrictions and regulations which many people chose to break or circumvent. Rationing of various staples of life offered huge opportunities to fraudsters, forgers and thieves and created a vibrant black market…

After considering many of the examples cited in the opening paragraph, the book comes to one with a Waugh connection:

Other government initiatives, such as evacuation, were open to fraudulent manipulation. Some country families were happy to have children billeted with them, but others weren’t – and some resorted to bribery to evade the responsibility. Basil Seal, one of Evelyn Waugh’s protagonists in his wartime novel Put Out The Flags, takes advantage of his sister’s position as a billeting officer and makes a nice sum from this type of corrupt activity, illustrative of activity at the time.

Other examples of wartime criminality in Waugh’s books would include Dr Akonanga, the abortionist/witch doctor in Unconditional Surrender, not to mention Ludovic in Officers and Gentlemen (although killing an officer came under military, not civilian jurisdiction).

Racing Post has a story about a 109-year old resident of Gloucester, Ralph Hoare, who remembers delivering baked goods to Evelyn Waugh in his youth:

Prior to serving in the RAF, Ralph worked as a bank clerk, where he met TE Lawrence, otherwise known as Lawrence of Arabia. “I met Evelyn Waugh before the war as well,” he says. “He was a grumpy old thing. He was very fond of cake as well. My landlady in Somerset made very good cakes. He would come to pick one up, but if it wasn’t ready I had to take it to his house. I thought he was quite surly.”

Since Waugh was living in Gloucestershire just before and after the war (in Stinchcombe near Dursley) Mr Hoare may have gotten his landlady’s locations mixed up. Waugh didn’t move to Somerset until the 1950s.

The Independent newspaper has posted its list of the best 10 alternative titles for books. Waugh’s “alternative title” for Brideshead Revisited is one of those selected: “The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder: … Peter Warner, who had the idea for this list, suggested this one.”  That’s more of a subtitle. I don’t think Waugh ever gave any thought to using it as an alternative. Others on the list include: The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up: J M Barrie, Peter Pan; and The Modern Prometheus: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein. Again, those sound more like subtitles.

Finally, the Richmond Times-Dispatch quotes a speech of a Member of the Virginia House of Delegates (Lee Ware) to a gathering of distinguished local news correspondents about the importance of their work:

…as we gather here I am reminded of the exchange that indicates a rising tension between would-be husband and wife in the novel “Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh. After listening — again — to her consort complain about people believing in the “hocus pocus” of a particular religion (which happens to be mine, by the way) the woman bellows, “Why don’t you write a letter to The Times?!” The man does not do so, not because he lacks the conviction — though it is a conviction he holds only half-heartedly. He does not do so because he recognizes in his lover’s cry of the heart that writing a letter would not only change no one’s mind but bring him no peace.

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