Bastille Day Roundup

The Australian newspaper’s “Media Watch Dog” column cites its previous mention of Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop

where the snobbery of the leftie journalist Pappenhacker was revealed. Waugh’s line was that a wealthy communist university-educated chap named Pappenhacker believed that the best way to undermine the capitalist system was to be rude to the members of the proletariat. This would make them angry and help to bring about a revolution. Your man Pappenhacker specialised in being rude to waiters. Others it seems target taxi drivers.

Some recent examples in Australia include rude comments about a politician’s English pronunciation and a celebrity’s criticism of the behavior of low paid security guards at a hotel where those under a coronavirus quarantine had been housed.

In another article, the paper’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan writes about “five books that changed me.” One of these was Evelyn Waigh’s Sword of Honour trilogy. Later in the week, Sheridan appeared in a podcast interview about the novel produced by the Institute of Public Affairs, a conservative think-tank based in Melbourne. This is conducted by Bella d’Abrera and is the second in a series called Five Favorite Books. It extends over 45 minutes and turns out to be a very lively and penetrating analysis of the war trilogy as well as some of Waugh’s other works. Here’s the summary posted with the interview:

This episode is a discussion of Evelyn Waugh’s masterful and epic work which follows Guy Crouchback’s experience of World War Two. Greg [Sheridan] loves this book because it’s a celebration of Guy’s decency. Guy is not a superhero, he doesn’t have a particular high IQ, he doesn’t win the war and he doesn’t even win the girl. But there is a theme of moral survival in the novel which comes through as it occurs to Guy during the course of the war that Stalin cannot be allowed to win.

The complete interview is posted on YouTube.

The Oldie has posted an article in which Rachel Billington describes her new novel which is set in World War II as fought by the RAF:

As I grew up, I discovered the famous [RAF] memoirs including the doomed Richard Hillary, Brian Kingcome, Geofrey Wellum and even the royal amour, Peter Townsend. There were fewer novels. Writers of fiction, it seems, fought on the ground and left the skies to the next generation. It is hard to imagine Anthony Powell or Evelyn Waugh in a cockpit. Perhaps the newness of the RAF seemed lacking in historical resonance.

Her novel is called Clouds of Love and War  and:

is about Eddie, a disaffected young man who joins the RAF in order to escape into freedom. Eddie flies his Spitfire as a man of the sky. The book is also about the people on the earth who can never quite pull him back. He kills and feels triumphant but mostly believes he has killed a Messerschmitt 109, not another man. The sky, the youth, the people on the ground and the war. It is not the right moment to fall in love. Eva doesn’t think of that. She assumes human nature doesn’t live in the clouds.

In another article in The Oldie, editor Harry Mount considers why Boris Johnson is so enamored of Latinate constructions in his speaking and writing. He recalls a discussion of several years ago where both were invited to speak. As recalled by Mount:

“The thing about Latinate words is they’re evasive,” said Boris. “There’s a whole world of difference between ‘You’re sacked’ and ‘We want to restructure the whole operation in the M4 corridor’. […] As Evelyn Waugh said of his own classical education, he learnt “that words have basic inalienable meanings, departure from which is either conscious metaphor or inexcusable vulgarity”. Boris knows exactly when to depart from those meanings to produce metaphor or vulgarity, and sometimes both at the same time.

–Peter Hitchens writing in the religious journal First Things has an article evoking the joy of riding on trains when service was still an important selling point:

… no restaurant meal I have ever had, including the pressed duck at the old Tour D’Argent in Paris (before it became a museum where you could eat the exhibits), has surpassed the breakfasts, lunches, teas, and dinners I have eaten in trains.

I think of the wonderful bacon and eggs, accompanied by soda bread, on the cross-border Belfast-to-Dublin flyer in Ireland; […] Then there were the toasted teacakes near Grantham on the southbound Flying Scotsman, and the superb galley-cooked steak on the upper deck of the Chicago-bound Capitol Limited, as it climbed westward through the evening into the forests beyond Harper’s Ferry and up the Potomac valley.

Evelyn Waugh conveyed a tiny part of this abolished, intense pleasure in one of my favorite passages of Brideshead Revisited:

The knives and forks jingled on the table as we sped through the darkness; the little circle of gin and vermouth contracted to oval, lengthened again with the sway of the carriage, lapped back again, touched the lip, never spilt. I was leaving the day behind me. Julia pulled off her hat and tossed it into the rack above her, and shook her night-dark hair with a little sigh of ease—a sigh fit for the pillow, the sinking firelight and a window open to the stars and the whisper of bare trees.

He was leaving the day behind him. And that is the trick of it.

–Finally, the newsletter of the Stinchcombe Parish Council has posted a notice by the new owners of Evelyn Waugh’s former home Piers Court about public access. Here’s an excerpt:

…Now that the lockdown is being slowly relaxed, the owners have placed signs over the grounds of the property to guide walkers to the footpaths. […]   The owners have a contract in place with a local farmer Chris Morgan who takes care of the fields in return for the hay yield.  The owners are therefore requesting that walkers be community-spirited.

In addition, the owners of Piers Court are investing a substantial sum of money in restoring the original Parkland and planting new trees to replace those that are coming to the end of their life.  This would be for future generations to enjoy.

The owners are close friends with Evelyn Waugh’s family, in particular with Septimus (Evelyn’s youngest son) who vividly remembers his early childhood at Piers Court and who is currently assisting the new owners.  Given that it is the 75th anniversary of the publication of Brideshead Revisited (which was written at Piers Court), the owners will be inviting some of the Waugh family to Piers Court to mark the occasion.

Sorry to say that Brideshead was not written at Piers Court but at the Easton Court Hotel in Chagford, Devon. Several other novels, however, were written at the house during Waugh’s residence, including Helena, The Loved One, the first two volumes of the war trilogy and The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold.

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