Waugh and the Coronavirus (more)

An estate owner in rural Shropshire called into The Times with a story suggesting that rather than being locked-down in London, those of its readers with sufficient funds might like to avail themselves of vacation lets on his estate which were otherwise going empty. The landowner recalled the days of WWII when many residents of the capital fled the bombing to seek refuge in estates such as his (although his was apparently deemed too remote to be of any wartime interest to the military or civil authorities). Here’s a link.

One example he offers is this:

During the war, country houses were turned into hospitals, schools and training camps redolent of the prologue of Brideshead Revisited, which was written by Evelyn Waugh over six months in 1943-1944, mostly in a secluded country hotel in Devon.

In Waugh’s case, he was not fleeing from London but from an army base in Windsor. He was granted an extended leave to write his novel Brideshead Revisited. His own country house in Gloucestershire was occupied by nuns, and his wife was living in West Somerset with her family–i.e., Waugh’s in-laws, with some of whom he did not get on particularly well. If he was fleeing from anything, it was both the Army tedium and the small children and family life that he found interfered with his writing. Indeed, he was also absenting himself from the birth of his 5th child which occurred while he was holed up in Devon writing his novel. He had used the Easton Court Hotel in Chagford on several previous peacetime occasions to write in seclusion. His wife joined him there as soon after their daughter Harriet was born as was feasible and helped him proof the final typescript.

In another story in the same issue of The Times, columnist Quentin Letts makes an allusion to Waugh’s novella The Loved One to support a point:

The Commons had spent much of its day passing the Coronavirus Bill, the legislation strengthening ministers’ powers, constraining our freedoms. It became easier to lock up the mentally ill, close borders and, in the sterile language of officialdom, “enable the death management system to deal with increased demand”. If that formalin-scented phrase carried an echo of Evelyn Waugh’s embalmer Mr Joyboy, it returned when Matt Hancock, the health secretary, spoke of victims as “those who are taken from us”. …

The Roman Catholic news website The Catholic Thing also cited Waugh in a story about the emergency practices adopted by the Chutch to deal with the coronavirus epidemic:

Last Tuesday [17 March 2020]– the first day of no public Masses in our diocese – I was reminded of this scene from Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited, when the priest came to close up the Marchmain family’s chapel:

“The priest came in. . .and took out the altar stone and put it in his bag; then he burned the wads of wool with the holy oil on them and threw the ash outside; he emptied the holy water stoup and blew out the lamp in the sanctuary and left the tabernacle open and empty, as though from now on it was always to be Good Friday.”

That last line in particular rang in my mind:”as though from now on it was always to be Good Friday.”…

The story was by Fr Paul Scalia from the Diocese of Arlington, VA and was entitled “Priests without People”. Here’s a link.

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