Roundup: 12 August 2020

–Digital magazine The Big Smoke–Australia has posted a story entitled: “Two literary sons an equal to their famous fathers.” This is by Loretta Barnard. The first successful father/son literary pairing she discusses is that of Alexandre Dumas and his son of the same name. The other is Evelyn and Auberon Waugh. The story is headed by a photo of Auberon and Evelyn sitting on a sofa with Auberon’s young son Alexander in between:

…Reams could be written about [Evelyn] Waugh the man and the writer. Sadly, space doesn’t permit, but it’s safe to say that he’s one of the great English novelists of the twentieth century. It’s also safe to say he wasn’t a very likeable man. As a father he was distant, avoiding his children as much as he possibly could. His son Auberon wrote: “He reserved the right not just to deny affection to his children, but to advertise an acute and unqualified dislike of them.”

Auberon Waugh (1939-2001) was a journalist and novelist. It can’t have been easy being the son of such a renowned author but Auberon made his way in the world on his own terms. He’d written five good novels by the age of 33 and his autobiography Will This Do? (1991) is as hilarious as it is insightful.

It was as a journalist that Auberon came into his own.  […] A highly intellectual man, in private Auberon Waugh was well liked by his friends for his roguish sense of humour and his charm, and he was a good father to his four children.

In 2004, Auberon’s son Alexander Waugh (born 1963) wrote Fathers and Sons, an account of the male members of the Waugh family across five generations. He writes that in spite of the emotional distance between Evelyn and Auberon, the Waughs “entertained people and gave people pleasure”. And that counts for a lot.

Also mentioned but not discussed are the Kingsley/Martin Amis twosome and that of the two writers named William S Burroughs. Neither of those literary duos got along terribly well with each other.

–In the New York Review of Books, writer Jay Neugeboren tells the bittersweet history of his New York City family in terms of a set of the Complete Works of Dickens. The story begins:

My parents were married at six o’clock on Sunday evening, October 25, 1936, at the Quincy Manor in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, and a week or so later, they began clipping coupons from the front page of The New York Post, one coupon a day, and mailing them to the Post, twenty-four coupons at a time, which coupons, along with ninety-three cents, brought them four volumes of a twenty-volume set of The Complete Works of Charles Dickens, a set that, with full-page illustrations, was printed from plates Harper & Brothers had used for older, more expensive sets. The Post’s promotion began in January 1936 and expired on May 16, 1938, two weeks before I was born. And when, eighty-two years later, in the week of June 9, 2020—a week that marked the 150th anniversary of Dickens’s death—I was isolated in my New York City apartment due to the Covid-19 lockdown, it occurred to me that this might be a good time to do what I’d often thought of doing: reread all of Dickens.

The set of books stayed with him to the present and seems to have contributed to his inspiration to write about the family. The resulting essay is entitled “Dickens in Brooklyn” and ends with this:

Now, in the spring of 2020, isolated in my New York City apartment, I took down The Pickwick Papers, Dickens’s first published novel, and began reading. But as the prospect of rereading all of Dickens beckoned, I thought, too, of Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust. In that novel, Tony Last, an English country gentleman, goes on an expedition in search of a supposed lost city in the Amazon rainforest. On the journey, he falls ill, and is cared for by Mr. Todd, a British Guianan who lives in a remote part of the jungle. Although he is illiterate, Todd owns a set of the complete works of Dickens, and asks Last to read to him—first Bleak House, then Dombey and Son, Little Dorrit, Oliver Twist, and Nicholas Nickleby. Meanwhile, a rescue party sent out to search for Last approaches. Todd conceals Last after drugging him into a comatose state, and tricks the would-be rescuers into believing that Last is dead. When Last comes round, he realizes there is no escape: he has been condemned to spend the rest of his life in the jungle reading Dickens to Todd.

“Let us read Little Dorrit again,” Todd says, near the end of A Handful of Dust. “There are passages in that book I can never hear without the temptation to weep.”

–The website of the Italian press agency Agenparl has posted the second part of a historical essay entitled “The Defense and Loss of Crete, 1940-1941”. This is based on research in the historical archives at Kew in London, which is where it is datelined. Among its conclusions from those materials, this appears:

Following the loss of Maleme the Allies fell back to regroup, but within a few days the situation deteriorated as the Germans began to push towards Canea, threatening the supply base at Suda Bay. They were also still holding ground outside Retimo and Heraklion, and their air attacks put the Allied troops under great strain throughout the battle. Among the few Allied reinforcements to arrive was a commando outfit known as Layforce, which included the author Evelyn Waugh. These troops were meant to carry out raids but instead had to be used as a rear-guard once the withdrawal began. There are some records relating to Layforce listed in our catalogue here.

On 26 May Freyberg sought permission to begin an evacuation of his forces, as he considered the situation hopeless. Wavell quickly agreed, after sending a signal to the Prime Minister stating that Crete was ‘no longer tenable’.

The link to the catalogue in the quote is from the original text. There is also a video included in the article. I have not tried opening or downloading either of those.

–The Courtauld Institute of Art has posted a story about the recent visit of one of its volunteer curators to Castle Howard:

In Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited two friends, Charles and Sebastian, lounge in the colonnade of Brideshead Castle, the stately home of Sebastian’s family. They have just come down from their first year at Oxford. It is a peerless summer’s day. Charles is sketching an ornamental fountain.

Referring to the main house, Charles says, “Is the dome by Inigo Jones, too? It looks later”.

Sebastian replies, “Oh Charles, don’t be such a tourist”.

It is believed that Waugh based Brideshead on Castle Howard, the only stately home of England to have a dome. It also has its own box in the Conway Library, with many photographs taken by Anthony Kersting. One image, showing the south front from the fountain, looked wrong somehow. Why? The dome had disappeared.

The article goes on to describe what happened to make the dome disappear during a fire in WWII (unrelated to enemy bombing) and how the family have rebuilt the structure since that time. It is correct to say that Castle Howard is the only baroque country house in England to have a dome, and Waugh may well have had that dome in mind when he constructed that feature of Brideshead Castle in his imagination. But, as discussed in a recent article in Evelyn Waugh Studies, he had venues in mind other than Castle Howard as well. “Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead and Castle Howard”, EWS 50.3, Winter 2019.

–The Spanish paper El Correo, published in Bilbao, has named Waugh’s novel Scoop (in Spanish “¡Noticia bomba!“) its book of the week. The article is by César Coca and is subtitled “A humorous novel about the most unlikely war correspondent lost in a conflict in Africa in the 1930s”. Here are some translated excerpts:

Many people know Evelyn Waugh from a novel and more especially  TV series and the subsequent film made from it. This is ‘Brideshead Revisited’. However,  Waugh had acquired celebrity before that book as a result of the publication of some volumes of travel  where he collected his own experience and an excellent humorous novel, one of the best of the genre in the 20th century. It’s this ¡Noticia bomba(Scoop! is its original title).

Starting from a random and crazy event, Waugh criticizes the behavior of the mass media in the 1930s , when the novel was published. […] Everything is a caricature from that moment: the luggage that the inexperienced war correspondent carries with him, his chronicles and, of course, the great exclusive that he completely accidentally achieves and that gives the novel its title. This classic of English literature is one of the best imaginable readings for these days of rest with a mask.

The translation is by Google with a few edits.

This entry was posted in A Handful of Dust, Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh Studies, Newspapers, Scoop, Waugh Family, World War II. Bookmark the permalink.