–The New Yorker offers a special Father’s Day treat by reposting several articles from its archives on the subject of fathers. One of these is the 2007 review by Joan Acocella of the book Fathers and Sons by Alexander Waugh. This is “about the father-son relationships—dramas, often, of mutual incomprehension and dismay—in five successive generations of his family.” The review is a thorough summary of the Waugh fathers, noting Arthur’s almost pathological favoritism of Alec over Evelyn and Evelyn’s own tendency to find his children boring and to avoid them if at all possible. Auberon, on the other hand was another matter:
He turns out to have been the best father of those surveyed in “Fathers and Sons.” He “was never—well, hardly ever—sharp with us,” Alexander writes, and he was huge fun to be with. He loved games; he loved dinner; he would sing Offenbach with a glass of port balanced on his head. Alexander recalls that his school friends often asked Auberon, with horror, what had happened to his left index finger, which the accident in Cyprus had reduced to a stump. He would explain to them that it “had been bitten off by a Royal Bengal Tiger . . . or had dropped off, quite inexplicably, that very morning.”
Auberon was also wise, as is clear from his autobiography, “Will This Do?,” which he wrote when he was in his fifties. All the Waugh literary men produced histories of themselves and their family. Auberon’s is the best—far better than Evelyn’s “A Little Learning” (1964), a late, bored book—and one of the finest things in it is his discussion of his mother, Laura.
The review is available at this link and is not behind a paywall (although you may be asked more than once if you would like to subscribe to the magazine). Alexander’s book is still available for sale in both print and digital editions from Amazon.com.
–The auction house Bonham’s has an interesting item for sale. This is described as the “Visitor’s Book” of the BBC interview series Face to Face that was broadcast in the late 1950s. It was compiled by the producer Hugh Burnett. Here’s the description:
Visitors’ book from the BBC’s Face to Face series of television interviews with John Freeman, including the signatures of thirty-one guests, one on each page, including the bold signature of C.G. Jung (dated 26 June 1959, a particularly important interview made two years before his death), Evelyn Waugh (a subject of a notoriously awkward interview, here signing himself “E.A.St.J. Waugh”), John Reith (his signature subscribed “Late BBC and regrets he ever left it”), Otto Klemperer, Jomo Kenyatta, Tony Hancock (whose grilling is thought by some to have strengthened his suicidal tendencies), Gilbert Harding (who was, famously, reduced to tears), Adam Faith, Stirling Moss, Compton Mackenzie (“A very pleasant talkative half hour for me”), Danny Blanchflower (after famously refusing to take part in This is Your Life), Augustus John and others, prefaced by that of John Freeman himself (“To Hugh Burnett – whose idea it all was – way ahead of his time”), 49 album leaves, some loose, others excised, red cloth, some wear, 4to (292 x 238mm.); with gelatin silver prints of the Jung interview at Küsnacht (4), Cecil Beaton, Augustus John and Albert Finney; three items of correspondence including an undelivered typed memo from Hugh Burnett dated 20 February 1962 explaining the difficulties encountered on the last series (ending with the assurance “…the reports of personal difficulties and ill will between John and myself are quite unfounded and unjustified…”); with a copy of Jonathan Cape’s book based on the programme and edited by Burnett, published in 1964, signed by the portraitist Feliks Topolski (small group).
The auction is scheduled for 22 June at 11:00 BST. It will take place at Bonham’s in Knightsbridge, London but online participation may also be available. See details here.
–The local newspaper WiltshireLive.com is promoting visitors to a village in neighboring Gloucestershire. This is Stinchcombe, only 1/2 hour from Wiltshire. Here’s an excerpt:
Considered one of the area’s ‘hidden gem’ places to visit, there might not be a post office or village shop anymore however it does have plenty of beautiful English countryside and some charming spots to eat, drink and stay on its doorstep. And the picturesque village is also said to be the haunt of Love Actually and Bridget Jones star Hugh Grant.[…]
Nor is that the only celebrity link that the miniature village can boast. Famous English writer and journalist Evelyn Waugh lived at Piers Court, a similarly magnificent, listed property in Stinchcombe for twenty years in the mid-20th century, even acting as Chairman of the Parish Council and writing his literary masterpiece Brideshead Revisited here.
Though literary fans can’t go into the property, which is privately owned, there are a number of public footpaths near Piers Court. Lovers of the outdoors will also want to climb Stinchcombe Hill, which offers incredible views of the surrounding Severn Valley and Cotswold Way, or head over the Tyndale Monument in nearby North Nibley. Another exceptionally pretty site of interest worth checking out while in Stinchcombe is St Cyr’s church.
As for where to eat and drink, there’s plenty of options in the surrounding area that only require a short walk or drive to get to. Nearby market town Dursley, for example, has everything from traditional pubs to takeaways and coffee shops.
The quaint Old Spot Inn is a particularly well-rated pub to head to. Ranked number one in the area by Tripadvisor users, this spot is loved for its real ales, classic dishes and relaxed, dog-friendly atmosphere. Or, if you’re after a delicious Sunday roast dinner and sunny beer garden to spend an afternoon, there’s also The King’s Head. Each is only five minutes from Stinchcombe by car, or around 42 minutes to walk.
Waugh was not living at Piers Court when he wrote Brideshead Revisited. That was during the war in 1944 when the premises were leased out to a convent. The novel was largely written in the Easton Court Hotel, Chagford, Devon. The Waughs reoccupied Piers Court in late 1945 after Brideshead had been published.
–Tim Dawson writing in The Critic has posted an essay entitled “I Miss the Simon Ravens”. This opens with a brief explanation of who it is that he is writing about:
I am fortunate to count amongst my eclectic circle of friends a brace of middle-aged, misanthropic homosexuals who suggested to me one day when I was moaning about something — performative corporate “allyship”, perhaps, or our hopeless government — that I should read Simon Raven.
Raven was one of those twinkly-eyed twentieth century mischief makers who have crashed out of fashion. He was a product of Charterhouse, from which he was expelled for licentious activity, and the Army, from which he resigned pending a court martial for gambling. His novels chart — in crisp, elegant, acerbic prose — the post-war decline of the British upper-middle class and, with it, the decline of Britain. His most famous work is Alms for Oblivion, a ten part roman-fleuve written between 1964 and 1976, and set between 1945 and 1973. Journalism and plays also abound, as well as a multitude of pot-boilers (Raven had a fascination for vampires, which crop up, more camply than erotically, in a number of his lesser works). But Oblivion is the masterpiece.
After a brief but detailed description of Raven’s life and work, the essay concludes with this:
I miss the Simon Ravens of this world. They were a British tradition, of the old sort: whimsical, sharp, self-deprecating, rather than ironic. (Why must everything be ironic now? From scones and jam to the “platty joobs”, everything British — and particularly English — has to be drenched in sickly-sweet, postmodern irony; the real flavours obliterated by Blairite ketchup.) Evelyn Waugh was a roughly equivalent figure, though arguably less subversive, and definitely less rude — but an effective gateway drug. More broadly, Anthony Powell, Auberon Waugh, James Lees-Milne, Christopher Isherwood, art historian Kenneth Clark and his miscreant son, Alan, satirists Peter Cook and Willie Rushton — all seemed to be hewn from similar material.
Such figures may have left the public square. But I hope, somewhere, they are sprawled louchely around a cricket pitch, warm in the smile from a long lost August’s sun.
–Finally, the website Harvard Law Today has issued it’s summer reading list. This is produced by the staff of the Harvard Law School. Their selections include this by law professor Sharon Block:
I started my summer with my first trip to Oxford [England] and fell in love with the city. The trip inspired me to reread “Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh. I had the fun of staying in Hertford College during my visit, which is where Charles Ryder, the Brideshead protagonist, is a student and where much of the book’s action takes place.