Crut(t)well Redux

Duncan McLaren continues his project of including on his website essays about Waugh’s close associates. In this latest entry he traces Waugh’s relationship with his history tutor and Dean of his college C R M F Cruttwell. The first half of the essay (from Oxford to 1934) is fairly familiar although this may be the first time Waugh’s satirical references to Cruttwell  in his novels and stories have been systematically gathered.

In 1935, Waugh changed the spelling and raised the volume. McLaren thinks this may have been in response Cruttwell’s apparent rise in the world, succeeding to the Prinicipalship of Hertford College and publishing a major history of WW1. McLaren gives pride of place to Waugh’s short story, published in 1935 as “Mr Crutwell’s Little Outing”. The reproduction of the drawings illustrating the UK publication of the story in Nash’s magazine are alone worth the price of admission to McLaren’s essay. One often forgets the contribution made to storytelling by these illustrations in the golden age of magazines, and they are seldom reproduced or mentioned in collected editions. As McLaren notes, the title of this story morphed into “Mr Loveday’s Little Outing” in future publications.

Finally, McLaren proceeds to his real contribution to Waugh studies in the final pages of this essay as Cruttwell continues to churn out WW1 scholarship and then suffers a decline in health which culminates in his retirement from the college and death in a Bath nursing home in 1941. He also mentions a brief study of Wellington I have not seen mentioned before. McLaren makes Cruttwell’s death seem a bit less sad than it probably was by adding his own contribution to the sickbed visitors as he did in the case of his recent George Orwell essay. I recommend the whole essay as another fine contribution to Waugh scholarship but however much of it you decide to read, do not skip over the second half (beginning with Part Six) most of which is new material.

In the Oxford section of the essay, McLaren poses the question: “I wonder when it was that Cruttwell took away Waugh’s History scholarship. Could it have been at the end of the second year?” The question may be rhetorical but it is answered in Barbara Cooke’s recent book Evelyn Waugh’s Oxford. She quotes the letter from Cruttwell to Waugh after his final exam resulted in a Third Class grade, announcing that his Scholarship would lapse next term. This was probably more a matter of normal practice rather than discretion. Indeed, Dr Cooke notes that Waugh, in the circumstances, actually owed Cruttwell a debt of gratitude: “For reasons best known to himself, Cruttwell refrained from sending Waugh down before he reached those disappointing final Schools. Perhaps he hoped that, against all evidence to the contrary, Waugh would realize his potential. If so, he was right; but he would live to regret it.” (Id., p. 102).

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