Bastille Day Roundup

–Veteran British actor Freddie Jones died earlier this week at the age of 91. Both the Times and the Daily Telegraph mention his portrayal of Corporal-Major Ludovic in the BBC’s 1967 three-part adaptation of Sword of Honor as his first major role. He appeared widely in other TV, film and stage roles. One of the most memorable was as the drunken reporter “Orlando” in Federico Fellini’s And the Ship Sails On (1983). He also had a long-standing role in the ITV’s Emmerdale series. He was the father of actor Toby Jones who has also had a successful career, notable most recently for his appearance in the BBC’s series The Detectorists.

The BBC’s 1967  Sword of Honour TV adaptation remains unavailable for home viewing. It can be viewed at the BFI locations at Southbank London and Mediatheques in Manchester, Birmingham and Bradford but it is otherwise not available for purchase, rental or streaming. This is apparently due to distribution rights issues. It was adapted by Giles Cooper in three 90-minute episodes. Waugh cooperated in the preparation of the script but did not live to see the final production, which was first aired in January 1967. Other notable performances were Edward Woodward as Guy Crouchback, in his first major role, as well as Vivian Pickles as Virginia Troy and Ronald Fraser as Apthorpe.

–An article in considers that the future of the Christian Church lies in the third world countries of the Southern Hemisphere. This is by Robert Hampton and considers, inter alia, the case presented in a book by Philip Jenkins entitled The Next Christendom:

Jenkins convincingly lays out the case that the Church’s future lies with the Global South: “There can be no doubt that the emerging Christian world will be anchored in the Southern continents.” Demographic trends show that non-white Christians will vastly outnumber white followers of Christ by mid-century. Meanwhile, Christianity is minimized in the secular West and faith is now relegated to “a personal matter.” Western society does not care about what religion you practice, insisting that church and state must remain separate. In contrast, the faith wields tremendous influence over the Global South and even inspires violent conflicts.

In marshaling his arguments, Jenkins makes a  reference to a short story by Evelyn Waugh. According to the article:

Throughout the book, Jenkins positively compares the global South to the secular North. The historian hopes that the South will evangelize the North and revive conservative Christianity. He retells a portion of Evelyn Waugh’s short story “Out of Depth,” which depicts a future England where bewildered whites listen to their black priest recite the liturgy in Latin. Many Westerners experience this already – just without the Latin. A black priest is more likely to employ bongo drums.

Waugh’s story first appeared in Harper’s Bazaar (London) in December 1933 and was included in the 1936 collection Mr Loveday’s Little Outing. It also appears in Complete Short Stories.

–On his weblog, Robert Hickson has posted several recent entries containing extensive extracts from Waugh’s 1950 novel Helena. The most interesting is probably  the one dated 5 May 2019 and entitled “A Form of Style Not to be Despised: Evelyn Waugh’s Lactantius in Helena”. Here’s a paragraph from the opening:

In the sixth chapter of his historical novel, Helena (1950), Evelyn Waugh introduces us memorably to the historical character, Lactantius (c. 250-c. 325), the early Christian Latin writer and occasional tutor who was also later to be an advisor to Emperor Constantine. However, at one point in his earlier life–while he was still in exile in Trier on the Moselle River—Lactantius conveys to the Empress Dowager Helena herself—who is not yet a Christian– his considered views on the mystery of martyrdom and on the lesser mysteries of forms of alluring language. He thus briefly considers the role of a writer as well as the enduring power (and regrettably abiding influence) of some eloquent, but specious, forms of prose style. He especially shows his own attentiveness to those writers who give the right form to the wrong thing, as well as those who give the wrong form to the right thing. (Emphasis in original)

There are then several pages of extracts from the novel, followed by a “Coda” that opens with this:

In Waugh’s historical novel, Helena and Lactantius are both depicted as critical of, and especially resistant to, the permanent temptation of Sophistry to the human mind. And this sustained resistance to various forms of specious Sophistry, as it turns out, further prepares Helena herself to become a faithful and resourceful Christian—and one who will then adventurously come to discover the Holy Cross in distant Jerusalem…

–Waugh biographer Paula Byrne has revealed that she is currently working on a biography of novelist and Waugh contemporary Barbara Pym. In an interview in the current issue of Green Leaves, the newsletter of the Barbara Pym Society, Byrne explains her interest in this subject:

I came to Barbara Pym relatively late. I discovered her novels in an independent bookshop in Oxford and was drawn to the lovely bright covers of the Virago paperback reprints. The bookshop owner, a man called Dennis, was a great Pym fan and encouraged me to buy the books. I thought they were wonderful, and then discovered that many of my friends were huge admirers. I’ve always loved the poetry of Philip Larkin, so I was intrigued by his endorsement of her novels. Like Pym, I am a girl from the north-west, who came south and never returned. I know Liverpool and Shropshire very well, where Barbara spent her early years.

When asked what she might bring in the way of a new approach to Pym’s life, Byrne offered this:

…I think readers will be interested in the social history of the era:what was it like for women at Oxford in the 1930s, and then the War and postwar experiences. The main purpose of the biography is to bring Pym to a wider readership. Readers are fascinated by the lives of women writers; and she is up there with the top writers, but not enough people are familiar with her writing, and they are missing out.

If Waugh had any knowledge of or interest in Pym’s work, most of which was published in his lifetime, Byrne will surely find evidence of it. David Cecil, a friend of Waugh from Oxford, was the other writer, besides Larkin, who endorsed her work in a TLS collection of nominations for “Most Neglected Writer” in the late 1970s. Pym was a great fan of Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time, which Waugh also enjoyed, but Powell did not read her work, which he also came to admire, until her rediscovery following the TLS article. See link. Byrne says her biography should be published in early 2022. She has also written an historical novel, Mirror, Mirror, about the life of Marlene Dietrich, which will be published in January 2020 and is working on a book about Thomas Hardy’s women.

–Finally, the Washington Examiner reviews a travel book entitled Unlikely Pilgrim by Al Regnery that opens with this:

Ninety years ago, Evelyn Waugh wrote a travel book called Remote People. You couldn’t do that today. Those remote people are now your Facebook friends. But Al Regnery has found a way to write a travel book about remote places that will never be mentioned in the New York Times travel section. That’s because he visited ancient Christian sites in Europe and the Middle East and wrote about them in a wonderful new book, Unlikely Pilgrim (Beaufort Books, 2019).

The review by F H Buckley goes on to describe some of the sites visited in the book, including religious establishments in pre-war Syria and off-the beaten track churches and monasteries in Eastern Europe. According to Buckley, “Regnery’s travels in Slavic countries invite a comparison to Patrick Leigh-Fermor’s account of his walk from Holland to Constantinople, far-away countries of which we know little.”  Coptic Churches in Ethiopia, such as Waugh described in his book, do not appear to fall within his orbit however.

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