Weekend Roundup: French Connections

In a Times review of  Nina Caplan’s new book The Wandering Vine: Wine, the Romans and Me, reviewer Michael Henderson includes this as his opening:

“O for a beaker full of the warm south!” Keats, who died in Rome, gave voice to a universal wish when he marvelled at the nightingale singing of summer in full-throated ease. Wine as consolation. Evelyn Waugh was hardly less clear when he described Charles Ryder’s dinner with the vulgar Rex Mottram in Paris. Draining a sapid Clos de Bèze, Ryder “rejoiced in the Burgundy. It seemed a reminder that the world was an older and better place than Rex knew, that mankind in its long passion had learned another wisdom than his.” Wine as civilisation.

The reference is of course from Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited; a formal citation is deemed unnecessary.

The same issue of the Times also contains a review of Agnes Poirier’s book Left Bank: Art, Passion and the Rebirth of Paris 1940-1950. This is by Laura Freeman who discusses the contribution to the subject by noted Francophile, Waugh’s friend Cyril Connolly, who never ceased to express his longings for things French throughout the run of his magazine Horizon:

After the Occupation ended Connolly complained of the “lassitude, brain fatigue, apathy and humdrummery of English writers” compared with a Paris that “blazed with intellectual vitality and confidence”. Evelyn Waugh, visiting the Horizon office, complained to Nancy Mitford: “Miss Sonia Brownell [Connolly’s editorial scout and later Mrs George Orwell] was working away with a dictionary translating some rot from the French.”

This quote is from Waugh’s letter to Mitford dated 10 October 1949 (NMEW, p. 149) in which he continues with the statement: “That paper [Horizon] is to end soon”, which it did. Waugh had done what he could to support the magazine’s continued existence by allowing Connolly to include the text of his novella The Loved One which took up the entire February 1948 issue. The only payment asked by Waugh was his yearly subscripton fee. Horizon’s last issue was a double: No. 120-121, dated December 1949-January 1950.

In what amounts to a hat trick plus one (or a “haul” in soccer) yet another Times book review (for a total of four in the 2 March 2018 edition–including the one discussed in the preceding post) contains a reference to Waugh:

All who are familiar with the prologue of Brideshead Revisited will instantly grasp what this book is about. It’s about those houses, like Brideshead, that were requisitioned by the War Office in 1939 and freely handed over by their owners, who had to move out or live in the bachelor wing for the duration. It’s Nissen huts on the lawn, Essex board nailed over the murals, locked drawing rooms, Van Dycks used as dartboards, men in uniform barking orders with their hot breath in the cold air, unheated dormitories and not nearly enough bathrooms. …

This is in a review by Ysenda Maxtone Graham of the book Our Uninvited Guests: The Secret Lives of Britain’s Country Houses 1939-1945 by Julie Summers.

Meanwhile, the Canadian magazine Maclean’s also cites Brideshead in an article by Tabatha Southey entitled “Why we should talk about masculinity more often”:

Mostly, I’m just confused when people complain about the recent “feminization” of education as the cause of cause of men not pursuing higher education. Were there chapters of Brideshead Revisited I missed where they suddenly stopped picnicking and punting and just spat and bludgeoned each other with sledgehammers for a spell? Certainly there was that one time that Boy Mulcaster and some others tried to throw Anthony Blanche into a fountain, but he jumped in himself, “struck some attitudes, until they turned about and walked sulkily home…” Brutal stuff, but they all had to have a sherry afterwards. The beloved teddy bear in Brideshead, Aloysius—the model for whom was Archibald Ormsby-Gore, Sir John Betjeman’s teddy—was perhaps part of the nuance we’ve been rejecting for our boys and men that they may just demand, in a manly way, to have back, thanks very much.

Finally, UK Channel 4 tonght at 10pm will air Churchill’s Secret Affair which also has a French connection, as previewed by Suzi Feay in the Financial Times:

…The sizzling Doris Castlerosse had racehorse legs and zero scruples. … Before marrying a besotted Lord Castlerosse, Doris was a “professional mistress” who “slept her way up the social ladder”, according to her biographer. She’s a figure straight out of Evelyn Waugh, partying on the Côte d’Azur at the racy Château de l’Horizon with Randolph Churchill and other socialites just before the war. She moved on from Randolph to his father, who promptly brandished his paintbrushes and got her to pose. The resulting portrait was far from racy, but times were different and two academics get very excited about what might have happened to Churchill’s reputation had the scandal not been hushed up. …

The preview in the Daily Mail had Winston passing her along to Randolph, and this was backed up by dates. (See previous post.) Perhaps the TV script will clarify this.

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