Roundup of Updates

–The Wall Street Journal’s weekend edition carries a story by Tobias Grey about the upcoming exhibition of Cecil Beaton’s works. This opens on 12 March at the National Portrait Gallery in London. See earlier posts. After describing the genesis of the exhibit, which is entitled “Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things”, and several of the photos to be displayed, Grey writes:

The antics of the Bright Young Things would inspire several novelists, including Evelyn Waugh, whose books Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies satirized the set. At the National Portrait Gallery, oil portraits of Beaton and Waugh by the painter Henry Lamb will eye each other from opposing walls. The two men were famously enemies–Beaton wrote in his voluminous diaries about Waugh bullying him at their boarding school–but they shared similar traits. Both came from middle-class families and used their artistic talents to gain access to a higher social sphere.

The bullying took place at a day school in North London–Heath Mount School–where Waugh and Beaton were both students. Waugh (born in October 1903) was in a higher form than Beaton (born a few months later in January 1904). They did not attend the same boarding school: Waugh was at Lancing and Beaton at St Cyprians (with Cyril Connolly and George Orwell) and, later, at Harrow.

–The dispute at Christ Church, Oxford between its Dean (Martyn Percy) and the governing board continues unabated after a ruling this summer by a legal tribunal in the Dean’s favor. See previous posts. This dispute (which stems from the response of the college to an assault in 2016 by one of its students upon another but has since spiraled far beyond that) has been summarized (if that’s the right word) by Andrew Billen, a Christ Church alumnus, in The Times. So far neither side has conceded. The one thing that is quite clear is that the expenses for the college continue to rise. In his conclusion Billen writes:

Christ Church has long had a reputation, dating at least back to Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, for being a haven for Hooray Henries. Its “sharking parties”, in which second and third-year males target female freshers, are of a newer folklore, for it is only 40 years since women were admitted to the college as undergraduates. It faces other travails. […] For reasons I can only guess at, since the failed attempt to remove Percy, the college has lost £2.5 million in donations and legacies.

Might this be another Jarndyce v. Jarndyce in the making?

In a letter to the editor printed later relating to the article, a reader made this comment:

Sir, Christ Church college was not the only Oxford institution that Evelyn Waugh satirised. In Decline and Fall he satirised the Bullingdon Club under the name of the Bollinger Club. The dons gave tacit approval to the Bollinger’s acts of vandalism because the fines that the dons then exacted paid for Founder’s port, to be drunk at high table.
Robert Rhodes, QC

Outer Temple Chambers

And what about Paul Pennyfeather’s alma mater, Scone College? Perhaps less grand than Christ Church but the subject of satire nevertheless. And Waugh’s own college Hertford gets a mention in the final chapter where it is described as an “ugly, subdued little college.” (Penguin 2011, p. 284)

–The Daily Express asked comedian Alexei Sayle to choose his six favorite books. At the top of his list is Waugh’s Sword of Honour. He explains:

My parents were only interested in books that reflected their views. I am the opposite. Waugh was very right wing, he hated the working class, yet his work had a tremendous humanity. This is the greatest evocation of war and the depths of suffering.

Sayle has consistently named Waugh when asked by the press to categorize his reading, as can be seen in previous posts. Among his other selections on this occasion are Anna Karenina and The Communist Menifesto.

–Daisy Waugh’s latest novel In the Crypt With a Candlestick has been reviewed in the Daily Mail, which previously reported its linkage with her grandfather’s novel Brideshead Revisited. The Mail’s reviewer concludes:

One wonders what Evelyn Waugh would have made of his granddaughter’s plundering of Brideshead Revisited for this light-hearted romp. […] With more literary and media references than you can shake a stick at, this might well be sub-titled The Spoils Of Waugh.

The book was released on 20 February in the UK. Daisy will appear next month at the Hexham Book Festival where she will discuss her new book.

UPDATE (2 March 2020): A letter to The Times printed in today’s edition is added to the update on the Christ Church conflict.

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