Boxing Day Roundup

–Penguin have announced the issuance of a new edition of Waugh’s first book Rossetti: His Life and Work. This will be in the Penguin Modern Classics series and will be issued in the UK in April 2022. It will be the first Penguin paperback edition of this book. The only previous Penguin edition was in the 2011 Penguin hardback series. Here is a copy of the announcement:

Evelyn Waugh’s first book, Rossetti, is an intimate account of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s tragic and mysterious life: the story behind some of the greatest poetry and painting of the nineteenth century. Shot through with Waugh’s charm and dry wit, and illuminated by his sense of kinship with the Pre-Raphaelite artist, Rossetti is at once a brilliant reevaluation of Rossetti’s work and legacy, as well as a bold gesture of defiance against the art establishment of the 1920s.

A copy of the full announcement, including a photo of the cover, is available here.

–The Los Angeles Review of Books reviews a new book about the history of censorship in Britain. This is entitled A Matter of Obscenity and is written by Christopher Hilliard. The review by Thomas Sojka opens with a reference to Vile Bodies:

ON HIS RETURN to England from Paris, Adam Fenwick-Symes faced the inquisition of the customs officer. Fenwick-Symes had in his luggage a veritable library: books on architecture and history, a dictionary, an economics text, and a copy of Dante’s Purgatorio. Of these, the last two were confiscated pending investigation and dubbed by the witless official to be, respectively, “Subversive Propaganda” and “French, […] pretty dirty, too.” Perhaps most tragically for Fenwick-Symes’s livelihood, the manuscript of his autobiography, due at his publisher — deemed “downright dirt” by the official — was to be burned. Despite his protestations, the official was unmoved, saying, “Particularly against books the Home Secretary is. If we can’t stamp out literature in the country, we can at least stop its being brought in from outside.”

Though this account is invented by Evelyn Waugh for his 1930 novel, Vile Bodies, it is illustrative of the culture surrounding obscenity in early 20th-century Britain. The unnamed Home Secretary was a clear stand-in for the real William Joynson-Hicks, who served in the role from 1924 to 1929. The popular press portrayed “Jix” as a moral crusader, launching a war against nightclubs and the bright young things who frequented them and also against obscene literature (particularly Continental imports).

[…] It is this struggle among campaigners against obscenity, reformers, publishers, authors, and booksellers that Christopher Hilliard’s new book so brilliantly illuminates. A Matter of Obscenity: The Politics of Censorship in Modern England refashions developments in the law into a lucid and engaging cultural history, outlining debates around censorship (particularly literary, but also film, magazines, and pulp fiction) in Britain from 1857 to 1979. […]  It is unsurprising that the trial over Lady Chatterley’s Lover takes up an entire chapter — indeed, it serves as a kind of fulcrum. And the compression of the Victorian period and its immediate aftermath into one chapter at the start both grounds subsequent sections and gets some important details out of the way…

–In the Catholic Herald, its editor William Cash recounts a recent visit to the Worth School in Sussex, a Roman Catholic independent school that is an off-shoot of his alma mater Downside:

…In August 1964, in the midst of the Second Vatican Council, five years after Worth separated from Downside in 1959 and became an independent school, the Catholic Herald published a letter from Evelyn Waugh – two years before he died on Easter Friday in the lavatory after receiving communion. In his letter, he lamented over those who celebrated Vatican II as a victory of “progressives” over “conservatives”. Waugh saw it as the defeat of theological principle to cultural fashion.

One thing I have learnt since becoming editor of the Herald is that as we head towards the 60th anniversary of Vatican II, the battle lines that will define the future history of the Church are now well drawn. The next few decades will be a critical time for informed Catholic journalism. Waugh was concerned about the decline of faith and tradition and the relationship of Catholicism to secular populist culture….

–The website for “the b/o/i” (“The Battle of Ideas”) has posted a talk from its current “Academy” series. The podcast takes about 1/2 hour and is described here:

Ideas Matter: ‘Brideshead Revisited: World wars and the end of the old elite’
December 22, 2021
From the series ‘The elite: old and new’, theme of the boi charity’s event The Academy, held online in November 2021.

Published in the weeks after VE day in 1945, just as British voters swept a Labour Government into power, Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited was a surprise bestseller in both the UK and America, and captured the imagination of generations of readers. The story follows the life of Captain Charles Ryder and his fateful obsession with the aristocratic Flyte family as they slowly fall from grace and fortune during the interwar years. So how does Waugh make sense of the decline of the British establishment? Is the destruction of the old order, as one character has it, ‘all on account of the war’? What drove Waugh’s attacks on modernism? And what can the decline of the old elite tell us about the elite of today?

Lecture by Helen Searls, chief operating officer, Feature Story News (FSN); founder, Washington Hyenas’ Book Club

THE ACADEMY ONLINE IV: The elite: old and new
To view the full programme and some suggested background reading to the talks, please visit

You can also listen to the talk at this link.

–A book blogger, writing as “”, has posted on a website called “Books & Boots” a detailed summary and assessment of Waugh’s postwar novella Scott-King’s Modern Europe. The blogger has similarly surveyed most of Waugh’s books that preceded publication of SKME in order of publication, and those are posted on the same site. The exceptions are the biographies and two of the travel books. Here’s the introduction to the SKME entry:

Scott-King’s Modern Europe is a short, boisterous, high spirited, at times farcically crude satire on the state of the world just after the Second World War. I found it humorous and enjoyable all the way through and, as so often with Waugh, also packed with fascinating social and political history.


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