Spring Equinox Roundup

–A new book about Evelyn Waugh’s friend Randolph Churchill has been published. This is entitled Churchill and Son and is written by Josh Ireland.  It apparently deals mainly with Randolph’s rocky relationship with his father but may touch on his equally rocky relationship with Waugh. The TLS in a review by Sarah Curtis notes that:

Randolph, always supremely self-confident, took any leg-ups as a right. He was quickly addicted to high living and spending money, of which he never had enough. He was objectionably rude to others, especially when drunk, as he frequently was, though he also charmed many, quarrelling and making up with equally irascible contemporaries like Evelyn Waugh. The American diplomat Averell Harriman found him during the Second World War “a most delightful and stimulating travelling companion”. This book shows that Winston was aware of his son’s offensive traits but could never manage to induce him to moderate them…

–The Daily Mail has published an excerpt from the book that focuses on the break-up of Randolph’s marriage with his first wife, Pamela. Randolph blamed this on his father for having encouraged her affair with Harriman:

Pamela sought solace in the company of the Harrimans; Randolph at the bar at gentlemen’s club White’s, where he heard hints about Pamela’s adultery. He reacted furiously, drinking too much then spreading ‘malicious inventions’ about his wife. He told friends that his father had not just condoned her affair, he had encouraged it because of Harriman’s importance to Britain. He confronted his father but Winston denied knowing about the affair and accused Randolph of mistreating the mother of his son. Neither man could stop himself from saying words they knew would wound the other grievously. Randolph vowed never to speak to his father again. Not long afterwards, he walked out on Pamela.[…]

Randolph later parachuted into Yugoslavia to make contact with Tito’s partisans at their secret headquarters and was again injured. But his undoubted courage did nothing to build bridges with his father.

Back in London, Randolph arrived drunk at Downing Street for dinner and bellowed at his parents, his sister Sarah and the chiefs of staff that his wife was a whore, naming her lovers. There is no record of how comprehensive Randolph’s list was. Her many conquests included the journalist Ed Murrow and Major General Fred Anderson, the American air force commander. Randolph turned on his parents and when Sarah – ‘the only member of his family who ever liked him’, according to Evelyn Waugh – protested, he hit her in the face.

Winston went deathly white and Clementine thought he was on the brink of a heart attack. When Winston could talk once more, he summoned the Marines to eject his son. The violence of the encounter left the family stunned. It became the talk of the Carlton Grill, the bar of White’s and the Commons smoking room. It had long been known that Winston had spoiled his son. Now, they said, he was afraid of him.

On what occasion Waugh may have described Sarah’s loyalty to Randolph isn’t stated. He surely was not present at the family confrontation.

The Times has published a profile of the Devonshire village of Chagford that was one of Evelyn Waugh’s favorite writing venues:

It’s a remarkable town; beautiful, arty and very community minded.[…] The music festival Chagstock returns in July after a Covid-related fallow year, with Seasick Steve and Scouting for Girls due to headline. With any luck, sister festivals Chagfilm (movies) and Chagword (books) will be up and running again soon. There are artists and art galleries everywhere, taking inspiration from the landscape and a longstanding tradition of creativity: Walter Sickert painted in Chagford; and Evelyn Waugh wrote Brideshead Revisited here.

Chagford has all the basics too — great pubs, allotments, a primary school and an impressive collection of local shops, including a greengrocer, a newsagent, a chemist, a superior wine shop, a convenience store and Blacks Delicatessen, whose homemade ready meals (venison and red wine casserole, £6.50) and sweet treats (halva and tahini brownies, £2) have been keeping the town fed during the pandemic…

–The new Mitford Murder book by Jessica Fellowes is reviewed in the California-based online newspaper Kings River Life. This is entitled The Mitford Trial and is summarized by reviewer Sandra Murphy as follows:

Louisa Cannon has been a lady’s maid to the Mitford family since she first went into service at age nineteen. Now she’s taking classes to be a court reporter and is getting married. She won’t be on equal footing with the wealthy Mitfords, but she’ll no longer be at their beck and call.

At least that was the plan. Diana, married to Bryan but unhappy about it, has taken a lover—Oswald Mosley, a political troublemaker. Younger sister Unity is fascinated by Germany’s new leader—Hitler. She feels the German people are not smart enough to decide what’s best for them. In the midst of Diana’s divorce, it’s decided the two sisters will travel with their mother, partly by train and then on a ship. It will serve the purpose of getting Diana away from potential gossip, prevent her from being seen with another man during the divorce, and keep Unity properly chaperoned—by Louisa.

In the interview, Fellowes describes her writing career and in the course of that discussion mentions her favorite reading:

I love reading about and listening to other writers. There’s no magic bullet to writing a novel – you have to sit down and write – but I can’t get enough of hearing about other people’s processes, their writing spaces, their disciplines and tips. But to read: Anne Tyler, Charlotte Brontë, Evelyn Waugh, Bernadine Evaristo, Sally Rooney, Anne Patchett… there’s a long list!

Whether Waugh makes an appearance as a character is this book as he did in her last, Fellowes doesn’t say. She recently interviewed Waugh’s grand daughter Daisy Waugh about her latest writing. See previous post.

–A weblog recently posted a passage from Waugh’s Put Out More Flags that reminded the blogger of current events relating to the British Government’s response to Covid-19:

The passage that caught my eye concerns the government’s requisitioning of a big house to turn it into a hospital for air-raid victims. The result seems to me to parallel exactly the idiocy of the UK government during this pandemic, focussing solely on those with the current virus, forgetting the care they owe to those with other ailments:

“So there was the house … and the government moving in to make it a hospital … It’s full of beds and nurses and doctors waiting for air-raid victims and a woman in the village got appendicitis and she had to be taken 40 miles to be operated on because she wasn’t an air-raid victim and she died on the way.”

Thanks to Dave Lull for passing this one along.


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