Jubilee Roundup

–An American edition of Paula Byrne’s biography of novelist Barbara Pym is being published next week. This is entitled The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym and was issued last year in the UK by William Collins, which is also publishing the US edition. See previous post. It has been reviewed thus far in the New Yorker (Thomas Mallon), New York Times (Matthew Schneier)  and the Wall Street Journal (Katherine Powers, daughter of Waugh’s friend and novelist, J F Powers). Byrne is, of course, well known to Waugh Society members for her biography Mad World and her presentations at Waugh conferences at Downside and Leicester.

–Barbara Pym also is featured in other book news this week. In the Wall Street Journal, novelist and critic Alexander McCall Smith chooses her Excellent Women as one of his “Best Five: Books on Inconspicuous Lives”. His second choice is Evelyn Waugh’s 1952 novel Men at Arms, the first volume of his war trilogy Sword of Honour. The Times newspaper has also produced a “Jubilee books special” in which it asked its critics to pick their favorite novels published by British and Commonwealth writers during the past 70 years. That list included 50 novels and was headed by Pym’s Excellent Women but contained no novel by Evelyn Waugh, even though all three of the war trilogy novels plus Gilbert Pinfold (considered by Anthony Powell, inter alia, his best novel) fall within the designated period. None of Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time novels was selected either.

–The Evening Standard has posted an article reviewing a well-established Mayfair  restaurant with a connection to both The Queen and Evelyn Waugh:

Tucked away on Bruton Place is where you’ll find Bellamy’s, Her Maj’s most visited restaurant, where she has donned her finest co-ords and dined for events including her own 80th birthday and, most recently, an intimate supper with Princess Anne and cousin Princess Alexandra in 2016. Named after the gentlemen’s club in Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour books, its doors were opened in 2004 by long-standing proprietor and master of discretion, Gavin Rankin. Since then, the appearance of the 65-seat French brasserie has barely changed.

–Two journals have reposted articles from their archives relating to or written by Evelyn Waugh. The Atlantic Monthly’s latest repost is a review by Waugh from its January 1949 issue. Here are the introductory paragraphs:

In a stable society, such as nowadays exists nowhere in the world, people live and die in the place and condition of their birth, and social custom is inculcated by precept and example from earliest childhood until it seems to be instinctive. Each nation, religion, class, and trade has its own traditional etiquette — the label frankly proclaiming a man’s social status. Such a society has no need for written manuals of etiquette. They are needed by restless and rootless people who have to adapt themselves to strange ways — in fact by most people today.

Mrs. Millicent Fenwick, in Vogue’s Book of Etiquette (Simon and Schuster, $5.00), has accomplished a clever feat of editorship. The large volume is clearly arranged, illustrated and cross-referenced. She has, moreover, achieved something unique in the literature of etiquette. She has written a book that is not funny. I mean it is not “funny-ha-ha”; it is “funny-peculiar in many respects, as when (p. 42) she states that debutantes with wise parents are “allowed not to drink ; but she nowhere provokes the deep laughter for which we treasured her predecessors’ works. Such lapidary ordinances as: “If you break a glass, apologize, but do not offer to pay and Never touch the fruit; a practiced eye should easily discern the best on the dish, have no place in this studious work. Moreover she professes a different motive from her predecessors’. Their task was frankly to instruct people of low origins in the social habits of their superiors. Not so Mrs. Fenwick, who claims that “the new standards of behavior are based on what, millions of people have accepted as right and wrong. Etiquette is a forum of citizens open to anyone who cares about the amenities of living.”

The review is entitled “The Amenities in America” and is not collected in either EAR or A Little Order.

The New Republic reposts the 1995 review by novelist John Banville of Selina Hastings’ biography of Waugh. It is mostly an essay by Banville about Waugh’s life and work but there is also this:

How to explain the continuing fascination that Waugh holds for us, as a man and a writer? Martin Stannard’s recent two-volume biography, a superb work written in a clean, vigorous style befitting its subject, seemed the last word, but now here is Selina Hastings’s hefty Life. Has she unearthed new material on Waugh, or found new things to say about him and his world? The answer is: not really. All the same her book is a valuable and fascinating biography, not displacing Stannard’s but complementing it. Hastings has drawn a remarkable portrait of a remarkable figure.

UPDATE (8 June 2022): A link to the New York Times review of The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym was added.


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