Early April Roundup

–In the Daily Telegraph, Rupert Christiansen has reviewed Daisy Dunn’s previously mentioned new book Not Far from Brideshead. The review is entitled “The Greats [sic] and the good at Oxford.” Here’s an excerpt:

…Dunn writes with intelligence and verve, but her book doesn’t quite add up. One suspects that her concept was something more rigorously focused, until a commercially minded publisher asked her to sprinkle in more anecdote and eclat – hence the fleeting appearances of peacock aesthetes such as Harold Acton and Eddy Sackville-West, the undergraduate japes of the Hypocrites’ Club and other cliches redolent of the fantasised Oxford of Brideshead Revisited that have little bearing on the central theme.

What is more crucially lacking is any exploration of Greats students who did not aspire to glamorous literary fame – for instance, Dunn tantalisingly mentions in passing that many of them ended up as code breakers at Bletchley Park – or any sense of the broader context in which the culture of Oxford shifted away from the classics and humanities towards the sciences and engineering with the establishment of Nuffield College in 1937. What Dunn ends up presenting sits uncomfortably between an engaging picture of donnish eccentricity and a substantial essay in intellectual history.

The author of this new book Daisy Dunn is interviewed on the website LitHub.com. Here’s a link to the interview conducted by Andrew Keen.

–The Jesuit magazine America has published an article entitled “Leonard Feeney said there was no salvation outside the Catholic church. Then he was excommunicated.” This is about a Roman Catholic chaplain at Harvard University in the 1940s who wandered off the reservation. The article by James T Keane also mentions Waugh’s brief encounter with Fr Feeney:

Two people who didn’t care for Feeney’s rhetoric were Robert F. Kennedy, who stormed out of one of Feeney’s lectures, and Evelyn Waugh, who after hearing him speak called Feeney “a case of demonic possession.”

Waugh’s confrontation occurred in Fall 1948 during his visit to Boston in advance of his 1949 US lecture tour (Letters, 292-93).

–The entertainment website MentalFloss.com has posted a detailed article by Jake Rossen on the making of the 1981 Granada TV series of Brideshead Revisited. After describing the roles of producer Derek Granger and the two directors, Michael Lindsay-Hogg and Charles Sturridge, the article explains:

The result was something unique not only to television, but to book adaptations in general. Instead of striking great portions of the book or altering its structure, the production opted to insert only minimal interpretation. Much of the dialogue and voiceover would come from Waugh’s book verbatim. At times, actors who hadn’t received new script pages simply recited from the pages of the novel. Irons provided voiceover as Charles, which would provide the internal monologue that dominated the book.

Granada also agreed to stretch the six episodes to 11, providing a deeper and more inclusive look at the novel’s many emotional entanglements and narratives. Brideshead Revisited was becoming something unique—not a book-on-tape, but a kind of book-on-film.

The article continues with a reference to the TV series’ positive critical receptions in both the US and UK and concludes with this:

It’s possible, as Christopher Hitchens observed in 2008, that even American viewers far from British aristocracy found something relatable in Brideshead—the tug of nostalgia for a simpler time. (So potent was that affection, Hitchens noted, that when he was wearing a white linen suit and carrying a teddy bear in a profile reminiscent of young Flyte, passersby yelled “Hi, Sebastian!” at him.)

There is also a brief reference to other remakes the Granada production has inspired, including “a planned BBC presentation with Andrew Garfield as Charles.”

The Times has the obituary of an eccentric gardener who was responsible for the introduction of mini gardens along the banks of the River Thames as it became more accessible during the final years of the 20th century and later spread to other urban environments. This is Hilary Peters (1939-2022) whose family has a close connection to Evelyn Waugh:

She was born in 1939 in London but shortly after her birth the family moved to Boarstall Tower and did not return to the capital until the early 1950s, when she went to Francis Holland School. Hilary was the only child of a second marriage and had two half-siblings. Her father, AD Peters, was the literary agent of writers including Hilaire Belloc (who became Hilary’s godfather), JB Priestley, Evelyn Waugh and Kingsley Amis. Her mother, Margaret, was a novelist.

–Finally, on the religious website CatholicCulture.org, Dr Jeff Mirus has posted a review of Waugh’s biography of Edmund Campion. Here’s an excerpt:

Campion … was a remarkable prose stylist, in addition to being quite capable of speaking off-the-cuff as if he had already carefully drafted and even corrected his remarks—an achievement demonstrated in extracts from his trial. It is fitting, then, that the magnificent prose stylist Evelyn Waugh should have been Campion’s biographer in the twentieth century. Waugh’s most famous work, Brideshead Revisited, is a joy as much for the brilliance of the writing as for the deftly personal treatment of its very serious characters. In much the same way, Edmund Campion: A Life engages the reader fully at every level of the storyteller’s craft. The book is divided into four powerful chapters: The Scholar, The Priest, The Hero, The Martyr. This is Waugh’s telling outline of Edmund Campion’s life.

COMMENT (Don Kenner, 4 April 2022):

I believe Father Feeney was excommunicated for his disbelief in “baptism by fire” and “baptism of desire,” two ways of establishing communion with the Church outside of the normal sacrament of baptism. The phrase “extra Ecclesiam nulla salus” (no salvation outside the Church) is dogma in the Catholic Church.

I can’t say for certain what angered Waugh about Feeney’s speech, but Waugh, a faithful and traditional Catholic, would’ve been surprised (to say the least!) that Father Feeney denied these two established doctrines of the Church. However, it is very doubtful Waugh would call a priest “demonic” simply because the priest affirmed the n0-salvation-outside-the-Church doctrine. America magazine’s headline is a bit misleading.

REPLY (Jeff Manley, 4 April 2022):

Waugh explains in his letter to his wife several aspects of Feeney’s presentation of which he disapproved, including denunciation of a book by Ronald Knox. (Letters, p. 292) I can’t say that he discussed these two matters specifically.


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