Roundup: America, America

–The Jesuit magazine America has posted a survey 0f its coverage of Waugh and his works dating back to 1931. This is entitled “God’s grump: The irascible Evelyn Waugh” and was written by James T Keane. Here are the opening paragraphs:

We have a running joke in the offices of America that there are certain figures whose every utterance or act requires coverage in the magazine. Whether it’s Bruce Springsteen, Dorothy Day, Flannery O’Connor or Thomas Merton, we can’t go more than a fortnight without mentioning at least one of them. Our poetry editor, Joseph Hoover, S.J., wrote a spoof about it for April Fool’s Day a few years back—and then about a week later, pitched a story about Bruce’s Catholic imagination.

Not until recently did I discover our forebears were no different; but their Bruce Springsteen was Evelyn Waugh. From the first mention in America in 1931 of “the brilliant young novelist” who had become Catholic the year before up until, well, I mentioned him in this space three weeks ago, the guy has never been far from the minds of America’s contributors.

What follows is an interesting and accurate discussion of Waugh’s life and works as reflected in the magazine’s pages. (The only hiccup worth noting was the reference to Waugh’s first novel as Rise and Fall, which may be part of some in-joke.) After an extended coverage of Waugh’s irascibility, particularly as applied to the magazine’s homeland, this appears:

…Waugh eventually wrote more positive pieces about the U.S. church and donated the profits from the paperback version of The Loved One to the U.S. bishops. “We also forget how he mentored a young Thomas Merton in the late 1940s as the sage editor for the British editions of two of the young Trappist’s books, including The Seven Storey Mountain, which was retitled Elected Silence in England,” Jon Sweeney wrote in America in 2013. Waugh even wrote in a letter to a friend at the time: “It seems to me likely that American monasticism may help save the world.”

–As a bonus, the magazine has posted in full the text of a 1993 article written by John W Donohue, SJ, associate editor of America, whose tenure extended from 1972 to 2007, probably something of a record. This was entitled “Portrait of the Artist as a Christian Wayfarer” and was effectively a detailed review of Martin Stannard’s biography of Waugh, the second volume of which was published in the US in 1993. Here’s an excerpt from that review:

…If the first virtue of Martin Stannard’s biography is the fullness of its chronicle of Waugh’s life, the second is its appreciation of Waugh’s positive qualities along with an understanding of how profoundly his religious faith influenced both his life and books.

So far as one can tell, Mr. Stannard neither shares Waugh’s Catholicism nor is particularly sympathetic toward it. Because he is a thorough and perceptive scholar, however, he has seen how central the Christian view of human existence was for Evelyn Waugh and how he tried, even if only fitfully, to live up to his faith. “The story of Waugh’s later life,” Martin Stannard writes, “is the story of his agonized spiritual quest towards compassion and contrition.” […]

On the evidence Mr. Stannard has accumulated, Waugh made some advance toward his goal even this side of purgatory and did so in the only way that counts—in deeds rather than mere aspirations.

Not that he became as genial as a country pastor, or even imagined that he could. In November 1955, he noted in his diary: “Resolved: to regard humankind with benevolence and detachment, like an elderly host whose young and indulged wife has asked a lot of people to the house whose names he does not know.”

He had no intention of keeping that resolution, but his friends cherished him because he was, as Mr. Stannard says, “essentially kind.” He went out of his way to help young writers or those who were not recognized. He gave generously to friends down on their luck and to charitable causes. He demanded high fees for articles in Life, but wrote without payment for British Catholic magazines like The Month and The Tablet…

Father Donohue’s review concludes with this:

Martin Stannard’s biography succeeds so brilliantly because it honors that distinction Evelyn Waugh drew. As the study of how a great artist developed, it is absorbing. As the story of how this gifted man toiled to be a Christian, it is, in the best sense of the word, edifying.

–The University of Chicago Press has posted a catalogue of  foreign published academic books for which it is US distributor. Among these is the Bodleian Library at Oxford, which operates separately from the OUP. One of the Bodleian’s books on offer is Barbara Cooke’s 2018 Evelyn Waugh’s Oxford. Here is UCP’s description of that book:

Evelyn Waugh’s Oxford years were so formative that the city never left him, appearing again and again in his novels in various forms. This book explores in rich visual detail the abiding importance of Oxford as both location and experience in Waugh’s works. Drawing on specially commissioned illustrations and previously unpublished photographic material, it provides a critically robust assessment of the author’s engagement with Oxford over the course of his literary career.
Following a brief overview of Waugh’s life and work, subsequent chapters examine the prose and graphic art Waugh produced as an undergraduate, together with his portrayal of Oxford in Brideshead Revisited and his memoir, A Little Learning. A specially commissioned, hand-drawn trail around Evelyn Waugh’s Oxford guides the reader around the city Waugh knew and loved through such iconic locations as the Botanic Garden, the Oxford Union, and the Chequers.
A unique literary biography, this book brings to life Waugh’s Oxford, exploring the lasting impression it made on one of the most accomplished literary craftsmen of the twentieth century.

The book is available from UCP at this link. Whether this is something new or a long-standing arrangement is not explained. It is also available, at a discount, from

–The New York Times reviews a new novel entitled The Whalebone Theatre that may be of interest. It is written by Joanna Quinn who is

…being eagerly interviewed because “The Whalebone Theatre,” a generous slab of historical fiction cut from the same crumbling stone as Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited” and Elizabeth Jane Howard’s “The Cazalet Chronicles,” is a big hit in England. Centered on imperiled aristocracy during the well-trod period of 1919-45, it’s also been compared (inevitably, and to Quinn’s dismay) to “Downton Abbey,” Chilcombe [the stately home setting] being almost a character in its own right. I was reminded further, at least during its delightful first third, of Dodie Smith’s cult classic “I Capture the Castle” and of a lesser-known work by the prolific children’s book author Noel Streatfeild, “The Growing Summer,” in which four siblings are sent to live with their eccentric aunt in Ireland.

Shimmeringly if sometimes a little preciously, Quinn depicts the strange, resourceful magic that can be conjured by a cluster of children when they’re neglected by selfish adults. Overseen by a vague French governess, they educate themselves with books stolen from the study, by eavesdropping from cloakrooms on drunken dinner parties and by running around with young “savages” they encounter scuttling naked around the shore, the progeny of Taras, a daring Russian artist.

The book is available at this link and will be released in the US on Tuesday, 4 October.

The Times newspaper has announced the 21 October sale by Christie’s of articles from Clarissa Churchill’s estate. The Times writer is most interested in the two paintings given to Clarissa and her husband Anthony Eden by Clarissa’s uncle Winston. But there are other pieces of interest to our readers:

Alongside the art collection, there is a selection of first edition books and furniture. They include books signed by Churchill, Charles De Gaulle, Harry Truman and the author Evelyn Waugh.

The auction catalogue lists two signed presentation copies:

Helena (1950). Large print limited edition.

Basil Seal Rides Again (1963). One of 750 numbered copies.

There is also included in Lot 86 a presentation copy to Clarissa of Work Suspended and other stories written before the Second World War (1949). The presentation is dated 14 July 1950.

These are signed but contain no message. No correspondence came up when I searched the catalogue, although there must have been some in the archives. Perhaps the archives are separately distributed.







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