–Duncan Mclaren has added more information to his website concerning Waugh’s friendship with actress and writer Audrey Lucas. This takes the form of an imagined interview of Audrey by Nancy Mitford in advance of the now postponed Brideshead Festival at Castle Howard. This is mainly focused the the consideration of two novels omitted from Duncan’s earlier posting: Lucas’s Life Class (1935) and Waugh’s Put Out More Flags (1942). Both books contain a character which each of the authors had based upon the other. In Life Class this is Matthew Lenox and in POMF, Angela Lyne. The previous post considered Angela Lyne’s appearance in Black Mischief, but this is much expanded in the new discussion. Here’s is Audrey’s explanation to Nancy of her character’s derivation from Evelyn Waugh :
AL: … The main character, Matthew Lenox, was effectively Evelyn Waugh. He had written one successful novel, called Bright Fear, and he was wondering what to write about next. His sister and mother were scathing about his first book and encouraged him to learn a bit more about life before writing anything else.’
NM: “If that was a side-swipe at Decline and Fall, I have to say that I love that book.”
AL: “I think by the time I wrote Life Class, Evelyn had written Decline and Fall, Vile Bodies, Black Mischief and A Handful of Dust. I wasn’t saying these novels were bad. I was just saying that they focussed on the feelings of a very privileged individual and his set. What about the ordinary man and woman? Life Class was set in a boarding house where Mathew Lenox went to live in order to observe ‘ordinary’ life. But Matthew was not the protagonist of my book any more than the couple who ran the boarding house, or the daughter who first attracted Mathew’s attention, or the henpecked husband and his bullying wife who stayed there, or the lonely spinster, or the Indian guests, or the cleaning woman, or the cook.”
Here’s a link to the new posting on Duncan’s website. Duncan also provides a link to the earlier post at the end of the new one, but I recommend starting with the new one because it is self contained. If you want to know about Audrey herself then go back to the earlier post.
–Ephraim Hardcastle in a recent Daily Mail gossip column includes this entry:
Graham Greene enjoyed a warm correspondence with Auberon Waugh, son of Evelyn, reveals former Private Eye editor Richard Ingrams, now compiling a volume of Bron’s letters. How did he get on with his curmudgeonly father? Asked at the Ritz Hotel launch of Selina Hastings’s biography if the Scoop author was looking down on proceedings, Bron replied: ‘You mean looking up?’
There is no information on the status of Richard Ingrams’s collection, but it is one more thing that we may anxiously await.
–Penguin Books in one of their various newsletters has selected 20 book that defined the 1930s. These are not all available in Penguin editions, but the recommendation of the one by Waugh is a Penguin Classic:
Waugh’s mind was certainly a free flowing fountain of genius [and] Scoop was his masterstroke. The late author [Christopher] Hitchens called it ‘a novel of pitiless realism, the mirror of satire held up to catch the Caliban of the press corps, as no other narrative has ever done save Hecht and MacArthur’s Front Page.’ […] Readers laugh as loudly now as they did in 1938 at the technicolour characters, absurdity of 20th century journalism and pinpoint persiflage of what is widely acknowledged as the unrivalled masterpiece of Fleet Street lamponery.
–Last year’s inaugural David Bradshaw Writer in Residence at Oxford, Rob Francis, has just seen his first novel published. This is entitled Bella and is reviewed in the Express and Star, a regional newspaper based in Wolverhampton. The review by Heather Large also includes an interview. According to Rob (who writes as R M Francis):
His novel, was completed as part of his PhD in Creative Writing in the University [of Wolverhapmton’s] School of Humanities, and is a folk horror story set in Netherton and Dudley. Bella tells the tale of a small community dealing with the hear-say, myths and hauntings of the local woods and the novel plays with oral traditions of storytelling, using Black Country dialects and the different voices of multicultural Britain.
“Almost every community in the UK has got strange stories, not necessarily bodies found in trees but other strange occurrences, especially if they live on the edge of town, that lots of people talk about and pass on through generations so they become part of its cultural psyche,” says the 36-year-old.
Rob, who lives in Dudley, spent three years researching and writing followed by a year of editing and says the story was also inspired by his fascination with the Black Country landscape.
“The novel is like my love song to the Black Country and Black Country culture. I feel like the Black Country is an overlooked community culturally – overlooked by people who aren’t from here and people who are from the Black Country and people from the Black Country take the beauty and culture for granted,” he says.
Last month’s book launch is available on YouTube.
–Oxford post graduate student Franziska Rauh was forced by the Wuhan coronavirus lockdown to return home to Bavaria. She has written an article for Cherwell about her struggle to find reading material that will have the effect of keeping her connected to Oxford during her continental quarantine. The article opens with this:
Okay, I thought, when I found myself two weeks into lockdown: NOW is the time to finally read that copy of Brideshead Revisited I bought at Blackwell’s in my first week at Oxford. I opened Evelyn Waugh’s much beloved masterpiece and read its opening description of a sunny June day in Oxford. But the references to cobblestones, punting on the Isis, walking down High Street, and passing Carfax tower gave me a sharp pain in the chest. I could not read them while feeling that I had been torn away from all this beauty and excitement by a global health crisis; that, in all likelihood, there would not be any days of June in Oxford for me in the foreseeable future (being on a one-year graduate course, I could not soothe myself by hoping for better luck in Trinity 2021, either). I was too heartbroken. So with a sigh, I put Evelyn Waugh back on the shelf, where he had been since October; only, this was now the bookshelf in my childhood bedroom somewhere in Bavaria, and not an Oxford college bookshelf anymore, which had given my earlier failure to read one of the most famous Oxford novels at least some kind of glamour before.
In the remainder of the article she discusses her struggle to decide which book of Dorothy Sayers on the shelf she should read instead of Brideshead. She finally decides on Gaudy Night, set in Oxford, in preference to Have His Carcase which takes place elsewhere.
UPDATE (24 April 2020): Information was added to the entry on Rob Francis’s new book.