The Oldie Returns to Brideshead

In its latest issue, The Oldie’s two cover stories are grouped together as “Return to Brideshead: From the film set to the smart set”. They are intended to mark the 75th anniversary of the novel’s publication as a book in May 1945. One article is by Waugh biographer Selina Hastings who sets out to describe “the friends who inspired Waugh’s most successful book.” Her article, entitled “Evelyn’s smart set”, opens with this:

It was in January 1944 that Evelyn Waugh managed to procure three months’ unpaid leave from the army, in order to begin work on what is regarded by many, myself included, as his finest novel, Brideshead Revisited. At that particular period, Waugh had little to do. Nobody seemed to want him. The war was going on elsewhere, and the jobs he had hoped for in his brigade had been allotted to others, his commanding officer explaining that he was so unpopular as to be almost unemployable. Thus it was that he found himself staying at a small hotel in a Devonshire village, writing about a world far distant from the grim austerity of wartime Britain. The book took him only five months to complete…

The other is a memoir by Nicholas Grace, the actor who chewed more scenery than any other in the 1981 Granada TV adaptation of the novel. His portrayal of the character of Anthony Blanche is the most memorable from a cast with several other serious contenders (especially John Gielgud’s Ryder père). Here’s the opening of Grace’s memoir entitled “Britain’s Grandest Film Set”:

Had I been born two years earlier, I would be as old as Brideshead Revisited, published 75 years ago! Still, I’d rather be younger. One sunny morning in 1979, my agent asked me to read for a new series, Brideshead Revisited. My heart leapt – I adored the book at school. I dared to ask the question: which part? ‘Anthony Blanche.’ ‘Oh God, isn’t that the queer guy with the stutter?’ ‘The very same,’ responded my agent. I went off to meet the director, the classically handsome, cigar-smoking Michael Lindsay-Hogg; the producer, the charmingly effusive Derek Granger (who turns 99 on 23rd April); and the casting director, Doreen Jones. She didn’t want me for the role! There was no reading at all; just an informal chat and an invitation to a screen test in Manchester. I found Blanche’s stutter a genuine challenge…

The Oldie has also posted on its weblog a short story by Teresa Waugh, wife of the late Auberon Waugh. This is entitled “Isolation” and is described as “the tale of an elderly lady, tormented by coronavirus-induced isolation.”

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