Waugh is cited recently in news reports relating to the Conservative Party’s victory in last week’s general election:
–In the Sunday Times, Andrew Gimson, author of the book Boris, The Making of a Prime Minister, writes of Johnson’s ability to find the funny side of potentially troublesome political situations and to turn them to his advantage. One of the early examples involves a novel by Waugh::
… as a schoolboy at Eton, while reciting the first page of Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh, which begins: “Mr Sniggs, the junior dean, and Mr Postlethwaite, the domestic bursar . . . ”, Johnson said “Sniggs” in such a way as to make people laugh, and then turned to the prompter and said: “What’s his name again?” This brought the house down, with even the provost of Eton, Lord Charteris of Amisfield, who liked things done properly, roaring with laughter.
For the past 40 years Johnson has been one of the most entertaining figures of his generation. He sprang to fame by performing with a kind of dazed ineptitude on Have I Got News for You, which the audience found much funnier than if he had rehearsed his lines. […] Those who think politics has at all times to be conducted in a solemn tone of voice underestimated this joker’s chances of reaching Downing Street, let alone of enjoying an electoral triumph once he got there. They thought, and in most cases still think, he is a disgraceful figure. These puritans cannot bear the theatre of politics, and whenever they find it doing a roaring trade, their instinct is to shut it down.
–In the Economist’s Bagehot column, a similar analysis is offered, also with some help from Waugh:
Evelyn Waugh once complained that the Tories had never succeeded in turning the clock back for a single minute. But this is exactly why they have been so successful. The party has demonstrated a genius for anticipating what Harold Macmillan once called “the winds of change”, and harnessing those winds to its own purposes.
There are three other weapons in their electoral armory. In addition to the willingness “to dump people or principles when they become obstacles to the successful pursuit of power” and to rely where need be on patriotism, the third weapon is, harking back to Gimson’s analysis, the party’s
… jollity. The Conservatives have always been the party of “champagne and women and bridge”, to borrow a phrase from Hilaire Belloc, whereas the Liberals and Labour have been the parties of vegetarianism, book clubs and meetings. Conservatives are never happier than when mocking the left for its earnestness.
–While not directly relating to the election, Waugh is quoted, in the context of food politics, on margarine’s decline in popularity as people increasingly prefer butter. This is in an article posted by the Middle East and North Africa Financial News Service (MENAFN,com):
In a column penned by Evelyn Waugh for The Spectator in 1929 , margarine represents a general post-war lack of good taste. During the war, writes Waugh, ‘[e]verything was a ‘substitute’ for something else’, the upshot being ‘a generation of whom nine hundred and fifty in every thousand are totally lacking in any sense of qualitative value’ as a consequence of ‘being nurtured on margarine and ‘honey sugar’.’ Such a diet, according to Waugh, makes them ‘turn instinctively to the second rate in art and life’.
The quote is from Waugh’s 13 April 1929 article “The War and the Younger Generation.” CWEW, v26, p. 184. See previous post.
–Finally, as we approach the year’s end, publications are posting their “best of year” choices on various topics from their contributors. Our own frequent contributor Dave Lull has sent these extracts from Catholic World Report relating to readings for the year. Thanks to Dave once again for his latest offering:
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Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh. I have read Brideshead three times, and continue to extract more of its beauty and truth each time I read it. Interestingly, I have struggled to extract more of the third transcendental, goodness. Brideshead is a book about the goodness of God, and his ability to sanctify those who will at least open themselves up a smidgeon to His grace. But it is not really about characters who themselves exemplify goodness. The novel examines the narrow victories of grace in the lives of those who, generally, have not been good, but who at some decisive moment allow their hearts to be invaded by the goodness of God, having been enticed to this moment of surrender by beauty and truth.
Father Charles Fox is an assistant professor of theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.
[. . .]Timothy D. Lusch:[. . .]A reduced ego is not something detectable in Auberon Waugh’s journalism. But his crisp, cutting commentary in Brideshead Benighted never grows stale, even if the underlying details have gotten moldy.[. . .]
Five books about journalists and journalism:
The Same Man: George Orwell & Evelyn Waugh in Love and War by David LebedoffScoop by Evelyn Waugh[. . .]Tracey Rowland:[. . .]
The Operation of Grace: Further Essays on Art, Faith, and Mystery, Gregory Wolfe, The Lutterworth Press, 2016.This is a collection of short literary essays that would make a great “stocking-filler” for a liberal arts student. Throughout the collection there are references to Walker Percy and Flannery O’Connor, C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot, Tolkien and Evelyn Waugh, and the founder of the movement Communio e liberazione, Luigi Giussani. There are also charming and most uncommon juxtapositions of writers like Trollope and theologians like Romano Guardini.[. . .]Piers Shepherd:
[. . .]
A more modern literary classic which, amazingly, I had never read before this year is Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. This novel vividly captures the life of one of the old Catholic recusant families living in an estate house in the west of England, trying desperately to hang on to a vanishing way of life. But what I really love about Waugh is his humour.
Of the various non-fiction works I read in the course of the year, one of my favourites was The Conservative Bookshelf: Essential Works that Impact Today’s Conservative Thinkers by Chilton Williamson. This is a guide to 50 books that every traditional-minded person should read. Beginning with religious works like the Bible and Augustine’s City of God, the book goes on to recommend works of politics, economics, fiction, and social commentary. From classical works like Cicero’s The Republic, to C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man, to fictional works by T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Evelyn Waugh, and William Faulkner, to latter-day polemical works like Pat Buchanan’s The Death of the West, this book is a definitive guide to conservative thought.[. . .]Father Thomas G. Weinandy, OFM., Cap.:[. . .]
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.
I read Waugh’s work when I was a college student many years ago, but, coming back to it, I gained a new appreciation of it. What struck me is the importance of Catholic culture in the midst of sinful and weak Catholics. All of the flawed main characters are in many ways struggling with their faith or, for all intents and purposes, have abandoned it. Yet, in the end, the Catholic culture that made up their lives supported their weak faith and so carried them back to the Faith. It is a lesson of where sin abounds, grace abounds even more.
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