Roundup: Riots and Pestilence

–Conservative essayist and editor Roger Kimball writing in the journal The Epoch Times (describing itself as “non-partisan” but otherwise characterized elsewhere) addresses the controversial subject of political protests and street riots in the USA. The article is entitled “Those Burning Our Cities Aim at Destroying Our Civilization.” Without attempting to summarize his position (which will come as no surprise to those familiar with his work), here is an excerpt from his conclusion which contains a reference to Evelyn Waugh:

Writing in the dark days of 1939, Evelyn Waugh noted that “barbarism is never finally defeated: given propitious circumstances, men and women who seem quite orderly will commit every conceivable atrocity.” […] Waugh was right. “The more elaborate the society, the more vulnerable it is to attack, and the more complete its collapse in case of defeat.”

We got a taste of that vulnerability when we indulged in a strange cult-like exercise of society-wide self-asphixiation over a novel respiratory bug. Now we seem bent on trying self-immolation instead. “At a time like the present,” Waugh warned, society is “notably precarious. If it falls we shall see not merely the dissolution of a few joint stock companies, but of the spiritual and material achievements of our history.” […]

The quotes are from the concluding paragraph of Waugh’s book Robbery Under Law: The Mexican Object Lesson. It was one his few ventures into written political commentary, and the book was the only prewar volume which was never reprinted in whole or in part during his lifetime.

–The Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias has published the third installment of its series of articles on Evelyn Waugh entitled  “Uma educacao sentimental“. These are written by Antonio Araujo. See previous post. Unfortunately this one is behind some kind of access wall on my laptop. Although it will open on my iPhone, I cannot translate it from there. This episode appears to deal with Brideshead Revisited and the characters as they relate to the Lygon family but that is only an uneducated guess. If any of our readers can open the article and translate it, they are invited to describe its content by commenting below.

–Georgetown University Library in Washington, DC has mounted an online exhibition relating to a history of performances in the university auditorium known as Gaston Hall. This was the site of Evelyn Waugh’s lecture in 1949. Georgetown was the only venue where the original lecture on 10 February was so overbooked that the sponsor scheduled a second performance on 13 February. A ticket to the first night reads as follows:

The Graduate School of Georgetown University / presents  / Evelyn Waugh / The Distinguished British Novelist / Who Will Lecture on / “Three Convert Writers: Chesterton, Knox and Graham Greene” / on Thursday, February 10 at 8:00 PM / in Gaston Hall, Georgetown University / 27th and O Streets, NW / Washington, DC / Reserved Section $2.40 (Tax Included)

–Yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph has a story about a projected biography by literary critic John Sutherland. The subject is Monica Jones, one of Philip Larkin’s girl friends, and it will be based, at least in part, on a collection of over 2,000 previously unpublished letters from her to Larkin. Rupert Christiansen writes about the value and danger in biographical reliance on personal letters. Evelyn Waugh enters into the subject at one point:

Letters can indeed be as rich in artifice as novels or poems: they adopt the narrow perspective of being directed at one person, someone to whom the writer has a specific relationship, someone to whom one shows a particular side of oneself, someone who knows and responds to certain aspects of one’s personality and not others. […]  But they are also less considered and more contingent – vessels for unguarded opinions that we may not precisely mean or believe tomorrow.

Evelyn Waugh once advised his daughter: “When you write a letter, try to put yourself in imagination into the presence of the person you are writing to.” Larkin manages this to a rare degree, which is what makes his correspondence so compelling. He is not there so much as the self that his correspondent requires or desires.

The Spectator recently posted an article by Flora Watkins entitled “Bookish Cakes: From Proust to Pym”. After considering the madeleine and several other examples, including seed cake, angel cake and gingerbread she comes to the primary English example of the cake genre:

Another lost cake, now found only in literature — but remembered fondly by the schoolboys and girls of the 1940s and 50s, for whom it was a tuck box staple — is Fuller’s Walnut. It appears in some of my favourite books, by Nancy Mitford, Evelyn Waugh and Barbara Pym; the comfort reads I’ve been turning to of late.

‘Oh Mrs Heathery, you angel on earth, not Fuller’s walnut?’ exclaim the Radlett children in Love in a Cold Climate. In Brideshead Revisited, Charles Ryder’s cousin Jasper dispenses volumes of preposterous advice over a very good tea of ‘honey-buns, anchovy toast and Fuller’s walnut cake’. It pops up again in Barbara Pym’s Crampton Hodnet, published posthumously in 1985, but written during the war, during an illicit liaison between an academic and his student in Fuller’s Oxford teashop. […]

Unlike Proust, ‘the vicissitudes of life’ did not become ‘indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory’. But I’d found the English equivalent to his madeleine.




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