–The Atlantic Monthly has reposted its issue for September 1956. This contains Waugh’s article entitled “Max Beerbohm: A Lesson in Manners”. This was a reprint of the article that had earlier appeared in the Sunday Times. It was a memorial of Waugh’s first meeting with Beerbohm written on the occasion of the latter’s recent death. Waugh was invited to a dinner in Beerbohm’s honor in about 1928-29, and then encountered him briefly the next day at the club where both were staying. Waugh’s article concludes that shortly afterwards:
I was greeted by the porter with a letter addressed— could it be? — in the fine little handwriting which fills the spaces of the famous drawings. How I wish I had kept it! Part of the anarchy which I then professed, was a disdain for personal records. I remember the gist but not the inimitable diction. It was an apology. Max Beerbohm was growing old, he said, and his memory played tricks with him. Once in his own youth he had been mistaken by an elder for someone else and the smart troubled him still. He reminded me that he knew my father well and had seconded him in days before I was born for this very club. He said he had read my novel with pleasure. He was on his way back to Italy. Only that prevented him from seeking a further meeting with me. It was an enchanting document. More exciting still was the thought that, seeing my distress, he had taken the trouble to identify me and make amends.
Good manners were not much respected in the late twenties; not at any rate in the particular rowdy little set which I mainly frequented. They were regarded as the low tricks of the ingratiating underdog, of the climber. The test of a young man’s worth was the insolence which he could carry off without mishap. Social outrages were the substance of our anecdotes. And here from a remote and much better world came the voice of courtesy. The lesson of the master.
The article is also collected in EAR.
—The Times in an obituary of film director Gavin Millar opens with this:
Gavin Millar had a laid-back, hands-off approach to directing and often appeared dishevelled on set, lounging in a wicker chair in crumpled clothes, with a mop of tousled hair. And yet, according to William Boyd, who wrote the screenplay for Millar’s ITV adaptation of Scoop in 1987, he would always have the cast “eating out the palm of his hand”.
“Every director wants to do an Evelyn Waugh,” Millar reckoned. “He’s probably the 20th century’s best English comic novelist. But the situations and characters in Scoop are so bizarre that one has to play them down. I just tell the actors to be, not to act and not to be comic, because the comedy is supplied by Mr Waugh.”
The actors for that production, who included Denholm Elliott and Herbert Lom, responded well to this understated method, even when a train full of them got stuck in the searing heat of the Moroccan desert for a day and Millar, recognising the comic potential of the moment, asked them to improvise, with the cameras rolling.
It probably helped to reassure the actors that Bill Deedes, the editor of The Daily Telegraph who was by then in his seventies, had been invited on to the set by Millar and had confirmed that not only were all the period details accurate but also the comic situations. The novel’s hapless journalist hero, William Boot, played by Michael Maloney, had been based on the young Deedes, who had covered the war in Abyssinia in 1935 with Waugh.
For more details on Millar’s life, see our earlier post.
–Conservative news network Newsmax has posted an article that lists the 10 most significant banned books in America. They start by explaining that “books get ‘banned’ in America — by local school boards removing them either from their student reading lists or from their library shelves.” Their alphabetical list includes this one:
“Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh (1945)
The story follows the protagonist Captain Charles Ryder’s life and affairs from the 1920s to the 1940s, with the Flytes, a high society Catholic family who reside in a mansion called Brideshead Castle. Ryder has relationships with two of the Flytes: Sebastian and Julia.
The novel’s themes include dependence-driven relationships, the complexities of religious faith, a hint of homosexuality and nostalgia for the age of English aristocracy.
The American Library Association included “Brideshead Revisited” on its list of banned and challenged classics. Without mentioning the book’s name, Alabama state Rep. Gerald Allen, a Republican, proposed a bill that would prohibit the use of public funds for the “purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.”
Others on the list include Adventures of Tom Sawyer, To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye. The only other book by a British author on the list is Brave New World.
—Penguin Books has also published a list. This includes the 50 funniest books of all time. There is only one choice per author, and for Waugh the choice is Scoop. Here’s the explanation:
With Evelyn Waugh, readers are spoilt for choice, because his novels Vile Bodies, Black Mischief, The Loved One and Decline and Fall (jestful from the opening page) all fizz with waggish genius. However, we’ve gone for Scoop, a cracking satire about the world of newspapers. Waugh’s ability to mock behaviour was at its sharpest in a tale of a dishonest press pack. Waugh perfectly skewers a Fleet Street baron (Lord Copper, owner of The Daily Beast), while protagonist William Boot, the nature columnist mistakenly sent to cover a conflict in the African Republic of Ishmaelia, is a marvellous comic creation. Waugh, like Charles Dickens in The Pickwick Papers, was an expert at characterisation, making us laugh in fiction that was, paradoxically, full of profound wisdom and insight.
The choices are heavily weighted toward more recent books (31 were published after 1990) and it seems to have helped to have been published by Penguin. Oddly missing are books by J P Donleavy (eg, The Ginger Man), P J O’Rourke, and Edward St Aubyn.
–The Oxford Mail has posted several 1970s black-and-white photos from their files. Some of these show cast members of the Granada TV production of Brideshead Revisited filming on location in 1979. The two photos in the posting show Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews in the Botanic Garden and a street scene. Here’s an excerpt:
Kevin Loader, co-producer [of the 2008 Brideshead remake, that also was filmed on location in Oxford], said in 2008: “Oxford is a beautiful place to work. It has its own challenges, one being that it is full of tourists.
“During the shoot in Oxford, the film makers needed to quickly establish key points in the story. We had to really establish the sense of wonder of Charles’s first experiences of the architecture and the hustle and bustle of Oxford and then the difference between Sebastian’s world and the one that Charles has come from, which is reflected a little in the difference between their two colleges.
“Sebastian’s college, Christ Church, is one of the grandest and richest, with the largest quadrangle, where as Charles’s at Lincoln is much more intimate and domestic.”
For many years movie star Mr Irons has shared a home in Watlington with wife Sinead Cusack and over the years they have both devoted time to various projects in the local community.
–Finally, BBC Radio 4 Extra is rebroadcasting an episode of its Great Lives series from 2018. This is presented by comedian and Waugh fan Russell Kane, assisted by Matthew Parris. Their topic is Evelyn Waugh. It will air at 1830 on Th 16 June and 0300 on Fr 17 June. It is posted at this link.