Summer Solstice Roundup

–A new biography has been written of Lord Beaverbrook, primary model for Lord Copper in Waugh’s novel Scoop. This is reviewed by Richard Davenport-Hines in the current TLS. The review opens with this:

There have been previous biographies of the newspaper mogul Lord Beaverbrook, but none has been so timely as the most recent one by the international banker and Labour politician Lord Williams of Elvel. As a study of an arbitrary and lawless spirit, of ill-gotten gains and mischief-making, of the frivolous irresponsibility of newspapermen who reach the Cabinet and above all of Anglo-Saxon chauvinism, Max Beaverbrook provides a parable for our times. “I am no authority on European politics”, Lord Beaverbrook told his Sunday Express readers in the early 1930s when he was running his Empire Free Trade crusade. “I cannot speak their languages. I don’t want to. I don’t know their politicians. I don’t like them. I don’t want alliances with European states.” Beaverbrook died in 1964, but if cryogenics had preserved him for reanimation in 2016, he would have been an arch-Brexiteer.

Although Waugh started his career in professional journalism at Beaverbrook’s Daily Express, he never showed any gratitude. Indeed, he filed multiple libel suits against the paper after the war, successful for the most part.

–Waugh’s biographer and friend Christopher Sykes is profiled in a weblog called “Tweedland and the Gentlemen’s Club.” The posting is by Tom Sykes who is, I believe, Christopher Syke’s grandson. Here’s an excerpt:

Nowadays Sykes is especially remembered for his biography of his friend Evelyn Waugh, whom he met after the success of Waugh’s Vile Bodies. He introduced Waugh to the socialite Diana Cooper, aka Lady Stitch. He praised Brideshead, Waugh’s Catholic epic (the two were both Catholics, but with the notable difference—mentioned by Waugh’s son Auberon when reviewing Sykes’s book in the November 1975 issue of Books and Bookmen – that whereas Waugh converted to Roman Catholicism in his twenties, Sykes was a cradle Catholic) though admitting to his dislike of the character Julia Flyte. Sykes makes some interesting comparisons between scenes in Waugh’s books and those of William M Thackeray – the fox hunting scene in a Handful of Dust is compared to that in Barry Lyndon.

[…] He also wrote [a life] of Orde Wingate (published 1959 – Sykes drew attention to Wingate as the possible basis for Waugh’s character Brigadier Ritchie Hook in The Sword of Honour trilogy, in his biography of Waugh) the general sometimes known as the “Lawrence of Judea” (a phrase that Wingate deplored) […]

After 1945 Sykes worked for many years in BBC Radio, where he helped to get Waugh’s broadcast on P G Wodehouse, who was captured in Le Touquet by the Germnas, on air, as well as writing for several British and American periodicals…

–Here’s a posting from what looks like a Berkeley-based weblog called “Mallory’s Camera”:

Also watching Brideshead Revisted for the 20th time. Love, loss and redemption never get old! The 1981 mini-series is an excellent adaptation of a novel I deeply love. Evelyn Waugh was a right old warthog, a truly obnoxious individual, but he could write!

Many people think this is the greatest line in 20th century English-language literature: So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. They’re wrong.

This is the greatest line in 20th century English-language literature: But I was in search of love in those days, and I went full of curiosity and the faint, unrecognized apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others, I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city.

–The Amherst College website posts a biographical article about a long-serving and outspoken Professor of English named Theodore Baird. That article is based on Baird’s diaries:

William H. Pritchard ’53, the Henry Clay Folger Professor of English, Emeritus, edited two volumes of posthumously published Baird essays. “He was a man of very strong taste, and he really was pretty much of no two minds about anything,” Pritchard recalls. “He liked it or he didn’t like it. He admired it or he didn’t admire it.”

It’s a trait evident in the diaries. In one entry, for example, Baird dismisses an author’s work before describing a trip to the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair: “July 13, 1933: Read Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall, a low dull book. Quite exciting however, to be going to Chi and the Fair. … We walked the 3 miles to the end of the Fair, buying a few souvenirs, going to see Rumba. Remember the smell of the Fair.”

–Finally, conservative journalist and editor of New Criterion, Roger Kimball, has posted an article on the weblog American Greatness on the occasion of the death earlier this month of author and academic Charles Reich at the age of 91. This is not so much an appreciation of Reich’s life as it is a revisit to Reich’s only notable book The Greening of America (1970). The book was a major bestseller when it was first published but is now extremely dated, out of print and best forgotten (although a Kindle edition is available). It seems hardly worth Kimball’s time, but he apparently wants to drive the final nail into the coffin, which he does quite effectively, albeit at greater length (not the nail) than necessary. His conclusion brings Waugh into the story:

…The path to enlightenment that Reich extolled was a path to nowhere —to “utopia” in its etymological sense. That did not prevent it from becoming a major highway “for the long march through American life.” The unhappy example of Charles Reich—his silly book, his 15 minutes of celebrity—should not distract us from the malevolence of the message he helped promulgate. He himself was rather like the unfortunate Seth, emperor of Azania, whom Evelyn Waugh described in his novel Black Mischief:

“The earnest and rather puzzled young man became suddenly capricious and volatile; ideas bubbled up within him, bearing to the surface a confused sediment of phrase and theory, scraps of learning half understood and fantastically translated.”

Although Reich managed pretty well to destroy his own life, he was too fuzzy-headed and inept to find many real disciples. In this respect, he was more a symptom than a cause. In the hands of people like Timothy Leary, however, the nonsense that made up Reich’s pseudomystical “philosophy” damaged countless lives and insinuated itself into the inner fabric of American life. Requiescat in pace.

This entry was posted in Biographies, Black Mischief, Scoop, Sword of Honour, Vile Bodies and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.