Brideshead and Loving (More)

Duncan McLaren has just posted an interesting comparison between the two 1945 novels: Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and Henry Green’s Loving. This is quite different from the shorter Daily Telegraph article reported in a previous post. Duncan presents the comparison as if written by Robert Byron in the form of a memo to Nancy Mitford. It also includes a dialogue between Byron and Henry Green on the two novels.

Duncan begins with a description of how the two writers attempted to exchange advance copies of their novels but only Waugh’s was received by Green who left the copy of his book at the wrong club. This would have been while Waugh was in Yugoslavia. There is also quite an amusing discussion of the humorous use of lisping speech in the two books. This achieves greater prominence in Green’s novel, as the only example in Waugh’s is the occasional lapse of Kurt, Sebastian’s German boyfriend, into a lisping English. Duncan carries this much further and to good comic effect.

There is also an interesting comparison of the dead peacock in Green’s novel with a well-known scene in Brideshead. This comes about when:

the cook’s nephew at Kinalty […] first comes across a peacock. He kills it by strangulation. And the disposal of the corpse (of one of Mrs Tennant’s favoured pets) causes the servants consternation. Perhaps it’s not surprising that a cockney child taking refuge from the Blitz would experience culture shock in a palace. The equivalent at Brideshead would be the arrival of the rich, brash American Rex Mottram with a gift for the woman he intended to marry. ‘It was a small tortoise with Julia’s initials set in diamonds in the living shell, and this slightly obscene object, now slipping impotently on the polished boards, now straining across the card table, now lumbering over a rug, now withdrawn at a touch, now stretching its ante-diluvian head, became a memorable part of the evening… ‘Dear me,” said Lady Marchmain. “I wonder if it eats the same sort of things as an ordinary tortoise.”‘

Finally, Duncan’s article contains some interesting bibliographical information. Firstly, it almost happened that the same artist designed dustwrappers for both books. This was John Piper whose design was used for Loving, but he withdrew his Brideshead proposal  because of his own dissatisfaction. In addition, Duncan reproduces many of the covers for the several editions of Loving that have appeared. I had no idea that the book was sufficiently popular to support this much reprinting. The article can be accessed at this link.

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