–The London Review of Books in its latest issue has published an article by Rosemary Hill on the life and career of Auberon Waugh. This is entitled “Woof, woof” and includes a description of Auberon’s life from the time he was injured in Cyprus through his journalism at Private Eye and the Literary Review via several other publications. There is also a brief review of the book A Scribbler in Soho. This comes to the same conclusion as other reviewers that there is too much emphasis on the late journalism as compared to that of the earlier days at Private Eye. The article concludes with a discussion of Polly Toynbee’s obituary of Auberon written in 2001, in which she compares him with the then rising young journalist Boris Johnson whom she foresaw as carrying in Auberon’s tradition:
…”Boris Johnson, editor of the Spectator, is only 36, a writer of just this humorous stamp, with mannerisms to match. The fact that the obits proclaim Waugh ‘the most courteous and loveable of friends’, or that Boris Johnson is also a charming and affable fellow, is neither here nor there.”
As their political careers demonstrate, Waugh and Johnson were opposites. Johnson wanted power, Waugh distrusted power, wanted to subvert it, and believed that the best form of subversion was flippancy. By the time he wrote Will This Do? flippancy was under increasing pressure from political correctness, the libel laws and an increased social anxiety about causing offence. ‘I am mildly surprised,’ he wrote, ‘that I am still allowed to exist.’ For an indication of what his diary might have said today here is the entry for 2 July 1982:
“Nearly 2000 readers have written to ask my advice on whether or not Prince William of Wales should be circumcised. It is not an easy question … It all depends on what sort of a monarchy people want … I feel it should be made the subject of a national plebiscite, like the Common Market referendum. We have to think of something to keep us amused now the Falklands are over.”
–A collection of the essays of literary critic and classical scholar Daniel Mendelsohn has been published by New York Review Books. The book is called Ecstasy and Terror. It includes an article entitled “Brideshead, Revisited: Getting Waugh Wrong”. This is Mendelsohn’s review of the 2008 film of the novel by Julian Jarrold that appeared in the New York Review of Books for 9 October 2008.
–The National Portrait Gallery has announced additional details of next year’s exhibit of the works of Cecil Beaton. This was mentioned in a previous post. The exhibit will be open between 12 March and 7 June in the NPG at St Martins Place, WC1. Here’s a description:
This major new exhibition will explore the extravagant world of the glamorous and stylish ‘Bright Young Things’ of the twenties and thirties, seen through the eye of renowned British photographer Cecil Beaton. It will bring to life a deliriously eccentric, glamorous and creative era of British cultural life, combining High Society and the avant-garde, artists and writers, socialites and partygoers.
Featuring the leading cast of the ‘Bright Young Things’, many of whom Beaton would call friends – Anna May Wong, Oliver Messel and Stephen Tennant among others, this show will chart Beaton’s transformation from middle-class surburban schoolboy to glittering society figure and the unrivalled star of Vogue. In addition to Beaton’s own portraits, the exhibition will also feature paintings by friends and artists including Rex Whistler, Henry Lamb, and Augustus John.
Further details regarding booking and related matters are available here.
–The New Criterion in its current issue carries a report of the opening of a new chapel at Hillsdale College in Michigan. From the accompanying photograph, this looks like an 18th century classical style (possibly Georgian) and is certainly proclaiming its distinction from the architecture of most contemporary academic institutions.
The chastely sumptuous, classically inflected structure occupies a prominent spot on the college’s central quad. It is, the college reports, the largest classical chapel built in America in seventy years. It must also be the most beautiful.
After several paragraphs proclaiming how the college’s construction of a chapel in this style demonstrates its adherence to the New Criterion’s conservative principles, the article offers a quotation from Evelyn Waugh:
We are living with a crisis of values that amounts in the end to a crisis of faith. There are many sides to this crisis, and a long history. […] The problem is not just around us: it is potentially within us as well. As Evelyn Waugh noted,
“barbarism is never finally defeated; given propitious circumstances, men and women who seem quite orderly will commit every conceivable atrocity. The danger does not come merely from habitual hooligans; we are all potential recruits for anarchy. Unremitting effort is needed to keep men living together at peace; there is only a margin of energy left over for experiment, however beneficent. Once the prisons of the mind have been opened, the orgy is on.”
The quote comes from Waugh’s book Robbery Under Law (London: 1939, p. 279).