Flag Day Roundup

–Author Irvine Welsh (best known for his novel Trainspotting) was interviewed in advance of an appearance at the Beyond the Pale Festival at Wicklow, Ireland, 10-12 June. This appeared in the Irish Examiner. Here’s an excerpt:

I’ve always admired writers that are from different backgrounds and social milieu to me. A writer like Evelyn Waugh. His Sword of Honour trilogy, which is about upper-class English people, has nothing to do with me, but what I liked was the way he handled male relationships and the schadenfreude between men. That was quite influential to me.

–An article in the leftist online and print journal Protean Magazine discusses the British class system. This is entitled “The Road to Brighton Pier: Class, Caste, and the British Left” and is written by Samuel McIlhagga. This extract appears near the beginning:

… the English, and to an extent British (the Scottish, Welsh, and Irish elite are often extremely Anglicized) upper-middle class operates a damaging, and very silly, binary code of speech. These rules were formalized by British linguist Alan S.C. Ross as U and non-U (upper class and non-upper, i.e., middle, class), and popularized by the socialite Nancy Mitford in the 1950s. Mitford used them to mock the perceived non-U bourgeoisie prissiness of words like “settee,” “serviette,” and “pardon.” As with all honest illustrations of cultural class differences, there was anxiety around even raising the issue. Indeed, the author Evelyn Waugh responded to Mitford stating: “There are subjects too intimate for print. Surely class is one?” The taboos around the discussion of class serve to stifle class consciousness, silence critics, and create the conditions for politicians like John Prescott, Labour deputy prime minister under Blair, to argue that, “We’re all middle class now.”

–The Daily Mail in a story by Victor Sebestyen describes the tourist attractions of Budapest, which he explains is really two cities on opposite sides of the Danube. Evelyn Waugh is quoted as a proponent of the city’s attractions:

The novelist Evelyn Waugh wrote that ‘with the Danube, Budapest forms one of the most beautiful cityscapes that exists along a river.’ The Danube is central to the city — figuratively as well as physically. One of the best ways of seeing Budapest, particularly at night during spring and summer, is on the river ferries, part of the cheap public transport network, or — kitsch but charming — a river cruise complete with (drinkable these days) Hungarian wine and violin music.

Waugh wrote of the delights of Budapest in a 1938 article in the Catholic Herald. This was entitled “Impression of Splendour and Grace” and was about a religious conference he had attended in that city. It is reprinted in EAR (p. 234) but I could not find the exact phrase quoted in the Daily Mail article. This may have come from an earlier article in the Catholic Herald which was not reprinted: “From London to Budapest,” 27 May 1938, p. 1.

–An interesting copy of Waugh’s first novel Decline and Fall is on offer from Harrogate booksellers John Atkinson Fine & Rare Books. Here’s the description:

A first edition, first printing published by Chapman and Hall in 1928. A very good copy with sunning to the spine with some light wear and a little chipping to the spine tips, a little spotting to the contents and crease to page 81. SIGNED by Evelyn Waugh in his elaborate hand without dedication. beneath Waugh’s signature is the inscription ‘Stolen from John Betjeman’ in Betjeman’s own hand. In the supplied dust wrapper which is near fine (or better) with a little wear to the spine tips and corners. The titles are strong. A very nice example of the Author-designed dust wrapper. […]

A superb association and more so given the fact this is Waugh’s first novel. In a custom-made clamshell box.

Here’s a link to the announcement. The price is £30,000.

–The New Republic has reposted its 24 January 1959 review by Malcolm Muggeridge of Frederick J Stopp’s book Evelyn Waugh: Portrait of an Artist (1958). It is more a rambling description of Muggeridge’s troubled relationship with Waugh than a book review but it does offer comments on Stopp’s book. Here is an excerpt from the beginning:

My own acquaintance with Mr. Waugh is slight. The last time I saw him was at a wedding. I am no expert on wedding attire, but his seemed unusual. A tall black top hat, I thought funereal in character, provided an additional bizarre touch. He made considerable play with an old-fashioned Victorian ear trumpet, though whether for use or ostentation I cannot say. Occasionally he seemed to head in my direction, almost to orbit round me, but no trace of recognition appeared on his large, rubicund countenance. I felt no particular desire to be recognized by him, but these strange gyrations struck me as odd. In any case, on the few occasions that I have been on speaking terms with Mr. Waugh, I have formed the impression that he does not like me.

Usually, such antagonisms are mutual. I cannot, however, say that I reciprocate Mr. Waugh’s dislike. There is, to me, something oddly sympathetic about this professional eccentric. I admire the bizarre, though none-the-less often highly effective, protests he has made against the times in which we both live. I once saw him at Brighton, on this occasion attired in an enormous overcoat and grey bowler hat. He was making his way alone on to the pier. I was tempted to follow him and see whether it was the machines—“What the Butler Saw,” or some other—which attracted him thither, or whether he just went to the end to stare for a while out to sea. Despite his bulk and peculiar accoutrements, he had, I thought, an air almost of sanctity. The fool who persists in his folly becomes wise, Blake wrote. In this sense at least, Mr. Waugh may be accounted wise. Most of us, in the pursuit of folly, at a certain point prudently draw back. Mr. Waugh has persisted to the end. He has fought the good fight, if only with bladders and in the setting of a harlequinade.

The article is entitled “My Fair Gentleman” and a revised version is reprinted in the 1966 collection of Muggeridge’s articles entitled in the UK Tread Softly For You Tread on My Jokes and in the US, The Most of Malcolm Muggeridge. It was originally written less than 2 years after Waugh had purposefully embarrassed Muggeridge at the 1957 book launch for The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold at a Foyle’s book luncheon where Muggeridge was scheduled to introduce Waugh. When Muggeridge began his introduction, Waugh removed his large ear trumpet and placed it in front of him on the table, staring straight ahead throughout Muggeridge’s presentation. The incident was widely reported in the next day’s trade press, to the advantage of neither Waugh nor Muggeridge.

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