Year End Roundup

The Australian has a story headed by a photo of Evelyn Waugh.  The story is by Greg Harrison and is entitled “Our prime ministers need a holiday–and time to read a novel for pleasure.” After noting his disagreement with those who criticized the decision of Scott Morrison to take a holiday in Hawaii that coincided with brush fires in eastern Australia, Harrison discusses the importance of reading matter during Morrison’s well earned holiday:

The best reading is novels chosen for pleasure. Reading a novel integrates the mind and invites the soul in a way that nothing else quite does…Let me suggest the novels that should top the PM’s reading list…One of literature’s greatest themes is the dilemma of the decent man or woman faced with an environment of chaos, corruption and dishonesty, the civilised person among savages. Evelyn Waugh wrote several novels on this theme. The best is his Sword of Honour trilogy…

After a brief summary of the novel, Harrison concludes his discussion with this:

 The three novels’ titles grow in irony and consequence: Men at Arms, Officers and Gentlemen, Unconditional Surrender…[They] are alive with Waugh’s rapier wit, his talent for believable but sublimely comic characters–the redoubtable Apthorpe, a scene stealer who grows and grows until he must be killed off for the sake of the rest of the novel–an acute feeling for the politics of bureaucracies, a healthy disgust for both Nazis and communists, and also a sense of religious consequence and spiritual effort.

The other two novels Harrison recommends are John P Marquand’s H M Pulham Esq and Willa Cather’s My Antonia.

–Food and housekeeping expert Martha Stewart offers her version of the Champagne cocktail, with a nod to Evelyn Waugh (and, indirectly, to Labels):

The Champagne cocktail, an instant mood lightener, was the official drink of the “bright young things” who flitted through the novels of Evelyn Waugh. In this version, a scoop of sorbet takes the place of the traditional sugar and bitters and turns this classic into a delicious holiday slush.

Not sure Waugh would approve of this version, unless a rather spicier sorbet than Martha’s recommended flavor of raspberry is used. Here’s his recipe as described in Labels:

…I commend [this drink] to anyone in need of a wholesome and easily accessible pick-me-up. [Alistair] took a large tablet of beet sugar (an equivalent quantity of ordinary lump sugar does equally well) and soaked it in Angostura Bitters and then rolled it in Cayenne pepper. This he put unto [sic] a large glass which he filled with champagne. The sugar and Angostura enrich the wine and take away the slight acidity which renders even the best champagne slightly repugnant in the early morning. Each bubble as it rises to the surface carries with it a red grain of pepper, so that as one drinks one’s appetite is at once stimulated and gratified, heat and cold, fire and liquid, contending on one’s palate and alternating in the mastery of one’s sensations.

–The National Catholic Register has a review of a recently opened play with the unpromising title of Catholic Young Adults: The Musical. According to the NCR review it is, in fact, a musical comedy! It finds humor in such unlikely subjects as natural fertility methods, parish closings and vocational discernment which challenge young Catholics. The words and music are written by Catholic clergy and the production is staged by the Missed the Boat Theatre company at the auditorium of the St Agnes School in St Paul, MN. They also manage to enlist the participation of Evelyn Waugh:

Being Catholic makes us examine every aspect of our lives. Director Mary Schaffer, in her “Director’s Note” in the playbill, quoted from Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh when the Catholic Sebastian Flyte explains to his friend Charles Ryder that Catholics are not just like other people. Sebastian explains, “Everything they think important is different from other people. They try to hide it as much as they can, but it comes out all the time.”

Since one of the characters has a problem making friends because of his enthusiasm for the Latin liturgy, Waugh would probably have loved it.

–The Sunday Telegraph has published a letter (“On the Waugh path”) relating to last week’s article about the connections between Brideshead Castle and Castle Howard, venue for this summer’s Brideshead Festival. See previous post. In his letter, James Bishop of the Isle of Lewis takes issue with festival organizer Victoria Barnsley’s view that:

…Evelyn Waugh drew upon this stately home when creating the novel’s country house. In fact. the setting and background was always Madresfield Court in rural Worcestershire. Waugh also took inspiration from the family of that house and badly abused the hospitality of that family by his indiscretions in assigning behaviour to the characters. Many years ago, The Spectator carried a delicious article by one of the daughters of the house, concluding with the sale of the family’s London residence to the Ghanaian embassy.

Madresfield Court certainly made a contribution to the chapel at Brideshead Castle as described by Waugh, but the exterior and surroundings of the moated, Neo-Gothic and Tudor Madresfield Court contributed little if anything to Waugh’s description of the Baroque structure with its fountain and obelisk that he imagined. As to the connections between the Howards of Castle Howard and Flytes of Brideshead, that is another matter, and I don’t think Mrs Barnsley made any claims in that direction.

–Benjamin Riley writing in The Spectator takes issue with a new law passed in New York City banning the sale of foie gras effective in 2022. The law was introduced by Councilwoman Carlina Rivera who said it was based not only on animal rights but was intended to punish the rich. Riley goes on to write that the animal rights argument is no longer valid given new more humane methods for feeding the birds that are the source of the product. In dealing with the idea that foie gras benefits only the rich, he notes:

Clearly the image Councilwoman Rivera has in her mind is of Julia Stitch, in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, ‘in the Duke’s dressing-room, sitting on a bed, eating foie gras with an ivory shoe-horn’. This assumes Rivera has ever read Waugh, which I think unlikely given her joylessness. All the same, I’d like to correct her misconception. Foie gras might not be cheap (nothing so rare and labor intensive is), but it isn’t only for the Sauternes set. She can come over whenever she likes to try some foie gras chez moi. We can stand around the kitchen (there is no dining room, or formal table in my one-bedroom apartment; what chairs there are fold) and spread foie gras on Ritz crackers. It will be heaven, save for the company.

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