–On yesterday’s 77th anniversary of the D-Day landings, The Herald (Scotland) posted a story by Ron McKay recounting how various people were occupied on the actual day of the event. Among those there were two writers:
… JD Salinger, who landed on Omaha Beach, where there would be 2,400 US casualties, with six chapters of his unfinished novel Catcher in the Rye in his backpack. In one of those spooky coincidences Evelyn Waugh, recuperating with his leg up after injuring it in paratroop training, finished the final chapter of Brideshead Revisited in Devon.
Waugh’s recuperation had been completed by February 1944 when he requested leave to write what became Brideshead Revisited. The Army granted him leave specifically for the purpose of writing the book.
Another incident recounted in the article involved some one important to Waugh’s Army career:
Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, landed at Sword Beach with a wading stick he used for salmon fishing and his personal piper Bill Millin whom he instructed to pipe the commandos ashore, in defiance of strict orders not to do so. When Millin, the only man in the invasion to wear a kilt, demurred, Lovat said: “Ah, but that’s the English War Office. You and I are both Scottish, and that doesn’t apply.”
So Millin played Highland Laddie, The Road To The Isles and All The Blue Bonnets Are Over The Border, in the kilt of the Cameron tartan his father had worn in the Great War as his comrades fell around him. He talked later to German snipers who were there that day and asked them why they hadn’t shot him – they replied that they couldn’t because they thought he was mad. And he surely was.
That is the same Lord Lovat (nickname “Shimi”) who tried to force Waugh out of the Army by having him reassigned to basic training in the Commandos. He failed in this attempt, and Waugh ended up serving out the war in Yugoslavia, in often dangerous circumstances. That is where he made the final edits to Brideshead on a page proof copy parachute dropped to his remote base in Croatia. Brideshead was published in the UK just as the war in Europe was ending in May 1945.
–In the current TLS, the weekly “NB” column is devoted to presentation copies. This describes certain offerings in the catalogue of Jonkers Rare Books in Henley-on-Thames entitled “From the Author”:
We find ourselves peculiarly drawn to what might be called the “author to author” presentations. […] Presentation copies of Charlotte’s Web are “exceptionally rare”; this “very good” copy is priced at £15,000.
The same sum could secure you the Basil Seal Rides Again that Evelyn Waugh presented to Graham Greene – or the Black Mischief (in which the indolent Mr Seal also figures) Waugh gave to Lady Mary Lygon, a daughter of the house – Madresfield Court in Worcestershire – where much of the novel was written. […] Then again, there is Keep the Aspidistra Flying, inscribed by [George] Orwell for Anthony Powell (£25,000), or Venusberg inscribed by Powell for Edith Sitwell (£6,000). Choices, choices. Don’t get us started on H. G. Wells’s gift of Mankind in the Making – “This little bale of Serious Reading” – to that specialist in nautical tales W. W. Jacobs (£4,500), complete with a jovial drawing of “W. W. J.” unwittingly about to be crushed, dockside, by a not-so-little bale of cotton.
–Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, CA has announced an event in its Online Intensive Literary Seminar Series that may be of interest. This will take place in August:
If you have been looking for a novel that is as sumptuous as Downton Abbey or The Crown—and as smart and satirical as John Oliver, read Brideshead Revisited with us! Named one of the top 100 novels in English by Modern Library, Time, Newsweek and the BBC, Waugh’s magnum opus is the most delicious of escapes.
The work is nostalgic in the best of ways, while also tackling large issues such as religion, classism and sexuality. The novel is amazing enough but as a bonus, the Jeremy Irons TV adaptation (from 1981!) really holds up. Join us for a summer in the English countryside!
Join Kimberly Ford, for this two-part seminar series on Waugh’s classic Brideshead Revisited. We will be hosting this two-part series on the following dates:
Monday, August 2 – 5:00-6:30 pm
Monday, August 9 – 5:00-6:30 pm
There are several ticket options that include books with purchase, books shipped to home, books picked up at Kepler’s Books or seminar only. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor all shipping costs will be waived for the literary seminars. The books should be read prior to the meeting date.
–Finally, the website Artribune has posted a 1963 photo of Waugh with Diana Cooper and some one identified as Georgina Masson. This was taken in Rome during Waugh’s visit for Easter of that year. The visit was Diana’s idea and she was apparently staying with some one named Mrs Milton Gendel. MWMS, pp 296-301. Waugh went on to visit Harold Acton in Florence after celebrating Easter in Rome.
I do not recall seeing this photo previously and wonder whether it may be the one mentioned in Waugh’s letter to Cooper dated 25 April. According to her Wikipedia entry, Georgina Masson (1912-1980) was an author and photographer with a particular interest in Italian gardens. The occasion of the 1963 photo, which must have been taken at a picnic on the grounds of the Villa Doria Pamphilj in the Janiculum where she lived in a grace and favor cottage, is explained in a brief memoir of Masson by Milton Gendel:
A picnic she organized [at the Villa Doria] in the spring of 1963, in honor of Evelyn Waugh, who had come to Rome, as he said, to do his Easter devotions, was attended by his great friend, Lady Diana Cooper (the Mrs Stitch of his novels), the Duke of Leeds, Lady McEwen, Judy Montagu, Alvise and Betty di Robilant, and Patrick and Jenny Crosse. Waugh provoked [Masson] and the other English guests by refusing to sit on the ground, as he preferred to eat comfortably and unpicnic-like at a table.
The memoir is posted at this link.
“Mrs Milton Gendel” is the married name of Diana’s friend Judith Montagu, daughter of Conservative politician Edwin Montagu and Venetia Stanley. She is frequently referred to in the Waugh-Cooper letters as Miss Judy or some such. She married American photographer Milt0n Gendel in 1963, both of whom were living in Rome. He may be the source of the photograph in Artribune. The letters record another Easter meeting in Rome in 1964, but that did not go so well, for which Cooper apologized in a letter of April 1964 referring to her “complexion”. She notes that Waugh was “most universally loved in Rome.” MWMS, p. 306.
UPDATE (8 June 2021): Last paragraph added to clarify identities of Mr and Mrs Milton Gendel.