Roundup: Whigs, Scribblers, Converts and Teddy Bears

–In a recent Wall Street Journal there is a review of a new book by Jeremy Black  entitled Charting the Past. This is a consideration of English history as described by historians of the 18th Century. It begins with this quote from Evelyn Waugh:

In Evelyn Waugh’s novel A Handful of Dust (1934), Lady Brenda Last remarks of her husband’s beloved ancestral home Hetton Abbey” “I detest it…at least I don’t mean that really but I do wish sometimes that it wasn’t all, every bit of it, so appallingly ugly.” Her husband, Tony Last, will do anything to keep up the old ways. Though lacking any semblance of religious feeling, he dutifully attends the village church every Sunday and sits in the pine pew that his great grandfather installed there generations ago. While Tony is fussing over his neo-Gothic pile, Brenda takes a flat in London “with limitless hot water and every transatlantic refinement.”

The reviewer (Benjamin Riley) explains that these two positions represent the “opposite strains” of the approach taken by the English to their history. Tony’s, a Tory view, looking backward, and Brenda’s the Whig version, forward looking.

–There are more reviews of the recent book of the collected writings of Auberon Waugh: A Scribbler in Soho. These are by Lewis Jones in last week’s Sunday Telegraph and William Cook in The Spectator. Both are pleased to see more of Auberon’s writings reproduced but both have reservations about Naim Attallah’s narrative. Jones writes:

This is an affectionate and admiring book, but an odd one. Attallah sets the Soho scene with generous excerpts from Arthur Ransome’s Bohemia in London (1907). […] There is a certain quaint and dusty charm to this, and even echoes of more recent times, but scant immediate relevance. Moving rapidly onwards to the Soho of the Fifties, with its dives and drinking clubs, Attallah recalls his stint as a bouncer in a nightclub off Charing Cross Road, and the occasion of his hospitalisation by a drunken Scotsman. And he gives a somewhat incoherent account of Waugh’s early career on Private Eye and The Spectator. […]

Attallah devotes 24 pages to a selection of the Private Eye Diaries, which is not nearly enough, and 59 to various deservedly forgotten libel cases (including, bizarrely, one between Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Spain), which is far too many. There are warm recollections of the old Academy Club, a relaxed establishment with some eccentric rules, among them that “shoes must be worn”, and that members who have “the misfortune of being sent to prison may take up the unused part of their membership upon release”.

Cook, who also edited a collection of Auberon’s writing that appeared as Kiss Me, Chudleigh (2010), writes:

Like a eulogy at a funeral, Attallah’s adulation may be touching, but it leaves the riddle of Waugh’s split personality (a demon on the page and an angel off it) tantalisingly unresolved. Attallah makes some telling points about Waugh’s ‘radical fury’, but the deepest insights in the book come from other people, most notably Kathy O’Shaughnessy, Waugh’s sometime deputy editor at Literary Review. […] No matter. It would be very difficult to produce a bad or boring book about Auberon Waugh — and although Attallah sometimes threatens to have a jolly good go, Waugh rides to the rescue whenever the paean becomes too fulsome. Waugh was incredibly prolific (you could compile several books like this one and still not scratch the surface) and among these old favourites are many entertaining articles I’ve never seen before.

–Joseph Pearce, Roman Catholic literary critic and editor of the St Austin Review has an interesting article posted on the website. This considers the religious conversions of Evelyn Waugh and T S Eliot:

What was most shocking to [Virginia] Woolf and her ilk was that Eliot and Waugh were “modern”. They were doing innovative and exciting things with poetry and fiction. They were the heralds of the new dawn of modernity. How could the most exciting and cutting-edge literary talent find its home in the Church? The fact is that Eliot and Waugh had experienced the secular fundamentalist “future” as a wasteland of barren emptiness. In the midst of this vacuity they had sought to fill modernity’s vacuum with traditional Christianity seeing it as “the essential and formative constituent of western culture”. This might have led to their being considered “dead” to the suicidal nihilism of Woolf and her fellow Bloomsburys, but it breathed astonishing literary life into their post-conversion work. Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited is arguably the greatest novel of the twentieth century, and Eliot’s Four Quartets is indubitably the century’s finest poem.

–Finally, the teddy bear named Aloysius who appears in Brideshead Revisited is mentioned in two recent articles. The Guardian has a story in which it is noted that the:

…current vogue for animal-related fashion isn’t all down to Instagram and influencers. Sebastian Flyte’s teddy bear Aloysius, featured in Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel Brideshead Revisited, suggests animal accessories were a thing decades ago. Aloysius, in turn, was based on a real life It-bear, Archibald Ormsby-Gore, owned by Waugh’s poet friend, John Betjeman. Betjeman died holding Archie – a classic teddy in smart waistcoat – in 1984. Fast-forward 35 years and animal accessories are a thing again – although admittedly in less highbrow company.

The Norwich Evening News considers the reasons children are so comforted by soft toys and security blankets and concludes with this:

Some famous teddy bears and blankets:

In Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip, Linus has a “security and happiness blanket.”

Winnie the Pooh was the teddy bear owned by AA Milne’s son Christopher.

Aloysius accompanied Lord Sebastian Flyte to Oxford in Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited – and is said to have been modelled on John Betjeman’s beloved bear Archibald Ormsby-Gore.

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