New Year’s Roundup

–On his weblog Anecdotal Evidence, Patrick Kurp has a posting that quotes and summarizes Waugh’s New Year’s article for Harper’s Bazaar, dated 9 January 1934. Here’s an excerpt:

[…] Waugh shifts between the personal and national. He had spent the first four months of 1933 in South America. On his return to England he detects “a vastly more agreeable spirit.” He observes that “everyone seemed younger and more frivolous; there had been a stimulating reshuffle of wives, friends and husbands.” […] The unemployment rate in the U.S. peaked at 25.2 percent. Evidence of sanity appeared late in the year when Prohibition was repealed and a U.S. federal judge ruled that Ulysses was not obscene. Waugh writes:

“It is less cheerful to look back on the past year in search of any interesting achievement in painting or writing. . . . Except for Mr Anthony Powell, whose From a View to Death delighted me, I cannot name any novelist who seems really worth watching.”

Waugh saw King Kong, which he describes as the “most ambitious film, technically, of the year,” but dismisses as “contemptible as a dramatic work.” […]

In an earlier post, Patrick observed his pleasure when cruising around Houston through streets with names having literary associations:

Sunday morning, while driving my youngest son to a friend’s house, we passed through the grid of streets named for poets – Shakespeare, Swift, Addison, Goldsmith, Chaucer, Dryden, Wordsworth, Lanier. The neighborhood is just to the west of Rice University, which may account for the high-toned allusions. A little further north and west is Auden Street and to the northeast, Waugh Drive and Hawthorne and Kipling streets.

Waugh Drive is, alas, not named for the novelist but for a WWI veteran from Houston (see previous post), but it doesn’t really matter. The surname itself is sufficient to create an allusion to anyone bearing the same name as the street.

–The Italian language online religious newspaper Radio Spada has an article profiling the life and works of Ronald Knox. It is written by Luca Fumagalli who proclaims Knox to be the 20th Century Newman. He provides a summary of Knox’s early life and conversion to Roman Catholicism as well as a brief description of several of his works and his clerical career after his conversion. He says that only a couple (“un paio”, literally a pair) of his books have been translated into Italian. That may be a bit understated, as I found 8-10 on WorldCat.

Fumagalli may rely on Waugh’s biography of Knox for much of his research, although the book has not apparently been translated into Italian. He quotes it at least once:

Evelyn Waugh, author of the first biography of the monsignor, The Life of Right Reverend Ronald Knox (1959) comments: “He became a Catholic in contrast with his tastes and human sympathies, obeying his reason and what he recognized as the will of God. ” [This is retranslated from the Italian. There is no page cite.]

The article concludes its discussion of Knox’s career with this:

Without a doubt, Knox’s most brilliant undertaking was the “Knox Bible”, or the translation into modern English of the vulgate, a long and laborious work – especially if entrusted to one person – that Knox was able to complete despite numerous differences of opinion with the same bishops who commissioned it. The New Testament was born in 1945, while the Old Testament had to wait until 1949. […]

With the disappearance of Ronald Knox, whose talent was perhaps never fully understood and valued by his superiors, the last great phase of that revival of English Catholicism that had started more than a century before, at the time of Newman’s conversion and ended [with?] the restoration of the “papist” hierarchy in the country. Only a few friends would survive him, including Waugh, unfortunately destined to witness the inexorable collapse of the Church, a phase of decline that would have had its symbolic beginning only a few years after the death of the monsignor with the opening of Vatican Council II .

The translation is by Google with a few edits.

–The Oxford journal Cherwell includes a Waugh novel among its list of recommended politically inspired readings for 2020:

3.  Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh (1928)

Waugh wrote in the preface to the novel: “Please bear in mind throughout that IT IS MEANT TO BE FUNNY.” Set in the 1920s, the novel caricatures various elements of British society at the time: Oxford and its ‘Bollinger’ Club (no prizes for guessing that one), the public school system, the aristocracy – Waugh manages to satirically critique the society he grew up in, with little moralistic superiority.

Others on the list include Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities and Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections.


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