Father’s Day Roundup

–In response to the feverish political activity in London, The Independent newspaper has composed a list of the Top 10 fictional Prime Ministers. While no Waugh character makes the top 10, he is awarded an Honourable Mention:

Honourable mentions for Philip Downer and Matt Wheeldon, who nominated James Brown, in Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, who has to resign after the Bright Young Things run wild at No 10, and his successor Walter Outrage, who is baffled about the conversations at cabinet meetings which he doesn’t understand.

Among the Top 10 are Jim Hacker from the BBC series Yes, Prime Minister, Plantagenet Palliser from Trollope’s novels, and Francis Urquhart from another TV series, Andrew Davies’ House of Cards.

–In another reference to the Prime Ministerial selection process, The Spectator has a story by Nick Cohen entitled “Everything about Boris Johnson is phony.” After discussing and dismissing Johnson’s attempts to compare himself favorably to Winston Churchill, Cohen writes:

As I have said before, Johnson bears few resemblances to Churchill, and far too many to Winston’s shifty sidekick Brendan Bracken, who became propaganda minister during the war. Bracken too was careless with the facts. He invented stories about his childhood to con his way into high society. He was an energetic manipulator of the press in both Churchill’s interest and his own. (Whenever he gave dinner parties he instructed his butler to make up a story that the prime minister was on the phone and announce the news loudly to his guests). Evelyn Waugh couldn’t stand him, and in Brideshead turned Bracken into Rex Motram, who marries the wealthy but naive Julia because ‘he wanted a woman; he wanted the best on the market, and he wanted her cheap; that was what it amounted to’. Inevitably, he betrays her, within in months of the honeymoon. ‘Rex isn’t anybody at all,’ Julia concludes of Mottram/Bracken. ‘He just doesn’t exist.’

–Another Spectator story, this one by Dominic Green, also mentions Prime Ministerial candidates with reference to a current film based on the British class system:

…you can get away with a lot in Britain if you have the right accent and manners. The Souvenir, directed by Joanna Hogg, is a coming-of-age romance about class and heroin, set in London in the early Eighties, when Britain was awash in smack and class war.

After the characters in the film have been dealt with, the article continues:

Poshness is the grift that keeps giving. The romance of Charles Ryder and doomed Sebastian Flyte wouldn’t be quite as fascinating if it had been conducted on a council estate, instead of a country estate. The beautiful surroundings and balmy memories of Brideshead Revisited tend to obscure the sorry fact that Charles is Sebastian’s enabler, just as Julie is to Anthony [in the film]. The same could be said about The Go-Between, where the past is a different country, distant enough for us to enjoy the pipe dream of paradise recovered, even as [L P] Hartley admits his part in a moral disaster. The Souvenir takes its title from Fragonard’s painting of that name, in which a pre-revolutionary aristocrat carves her lover’s initials into a tree.

Esquire magazine has posted on its website a full copy of Waugh’s 1953 article “ST. FRANCIS XAVIER’S BONES: A festival in Old Goa honors the farthest-flung of travelers”. The article was also published about the same time in The Tablet but under a different title: “Goa: The Home of a Saint”. That is the version collected in EAR, p. 444. An earlier, shorter version also appeared in Picture Post (24 January 1953).

–The lastest issue of Harvard Magazine has an article in its “Brief Lives” series devoted to Ellen Newbold La Motte (1873-1961). She is described as a “bold activist…who challenged societal norms as a trained nurse, public-health administrator, suffragist, socialist, self-proclaimed anarchist, lesbian, anti-opium activist, and more.” In the course of her travels, she encountered Evelyn Waugh:

In summer 1916, she had left Europe to tour Asia with Emily Crane Chadbourne, a divorced American heiress and art collector who had been living in Paris. They had become a couple during the first winter of the war and remained together until La Motte’s death, their relationship occupying a liminal social space: recognized by some, considered a close friendship by others. (The acerbic English novelist Evelyn Waugh, who met them in Ethiopia in 1930, called them “two formidable ladies” whom “long companionship had made…almost indistinguishable.”)

Waugh met the two ladies at the coronation of Haile Selassie and mentions them in his book Remote People. This reference appears at p. 50 of the US edition which is entitled They Still Were Dancing; see also Penguin, 2011, p. 48.

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