Vile Bodies Artifact Posted on Etsy

A theatre programme from the 1932 London stage production of Vile Bodies was recently posted for sale on Here’s the description:

This is a very rare survivor – and indeed so much so that I am unable to find another copy of this vintage theatre programme. It is for Evelyn Waugh’s famous work: Vile Bodies. It is a theatre programme for the play and the April 1931 [sic] production at the Vaudeville Theatre, London. The programme cost six old pence – which was quite a lot of money back in the 1930s.

The cover has an original printed colour lithograph on the front page- this image also appears on first editions of the book published in the 1930s – and I think that this image was actually designed by Waugh himself. The reverse of the cover image has a printed advert for a Columbia radio-graphaphone. Inside – is also an advert for the book – “Take a copy home with you”. Love the fact that you could also smoke in the theatre!

The production was by Lionel Barton. and adapted by H. Dennis Bradley from Waugh’s novel. All aspects of the performance are fully documented in the programme – as are all seat prices. – afternoon teas and even who ventilated the theatre itself!

Dimensions: 24.5 x 17.5 cm

Total pages: 6 plus the cover.

This is a very rare item and this is reflected in my asking price – the original two block woodcut on the front cover would look fabulous framed with a cream window mount and framed for display. The cover is made of thicker wove paper. It is in pretty good condition for its age – not pristine – but very acceptable. Given many of these must have been thrown away over the last 90 years – this is probably a special document for a Waugh collector or museum.

Unfortunately, the item has already been sold. But if you click on the link below, you can see detailed photos of the cover and some of the contents. These include the offer of copies of the C&H edition of the novel “available from attendants” at 3s/6d. The offer is still posted at this link. There is, alas, apparently no written material included from the hand of Evelyn Waugh in the programme.

The Waugh bibliography (pp. 60-61; 167-68) lists several published items regarding the play, such as reviews and a statement by Waugh regarding censorship of an earlier version privately performed at the Arts Theatre Club in October 1931. Waugh’s statements appeared in the Evening Standard on 17 August 1931 (“Mayfair Play Banned: Censor Objects to Stage Version of ‘Vile Bodies’ a Private Show: Mystery of Who Adapted the Novel”, with a follow up  in the same paper on 25 August 1931. Those “statements” have not been reproduced in the collected journalism, so far as I am aware, although the bibliography includes them under “Primary Material”.

The programme just sold on was for the public performances of the play at the Vaudeville Theatre which ran from 10 April to 11 June 1932, not 1931 as stated in the sale offering. This is explained in Martin Stannard’s CWEW edition of the novel  (Volume 2, p. lxxxix). The CWEW edition also contains several press clippings illustrating scenes from the 1932 production. The typescript text of the play showing revisions is on file at the British Library

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