Roundup: End it with a Waugh

–An opinion article in The Times by Matthew Parris considers the actions that will be taken on the part of Tory politicians seeking to replace Boris Johnson as their leader. Their different political placements call for different tactics. But the article ends with this observation that is generally applicable to all:

They should be warned, though, that with Johnson the traditional procedure cannot be relied upon. Max Hastings reminds me that when Evelyn Waugh’s Captain Grimes was left with a revolver and a bottle of whisky, colleagues returned to find the revolver untouched, and the man — and the whisky — gone.

–The New York Times has an opinion article by a Jesuit priest (James Martin) about the proper reaction by the vaccinated on the death of an outspoken Anti-vaxxer. He explains that the German’s have a word for this dilemma: schadenfreude. After discussing several alternatives, the article ends with this:

When it comes to schadenfreude, a line from Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited” is apposite. The dotty father of Charles Ryder, the protagonist, is hosting a meal at home. The father mentions someone whose business has failed, and another guest chuckles.

“You find his misfortune the subject of mirth?” Charles’s father retorts.

It’s a lighthearted scene, probably not meant to carry as much weight as other scenes in Waugh’s novel about moral choices. But it has always stuck with me. Don’t find another person’s misery the subject of mirth, glee or satisfaction. Doing so is mean. It’s immoral. And one day you may be the unfortunate one.

–Johanna Lane writes in the Daily Beast about novels in which the large house or castle in which the action takes place is as important as the characters. After several examples, including Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Elizabeth Bowen’s Danielstown in The Last September, she closes with this:

I chose this because it’s the novel from which I took the epigraph for my book: Charles Ryder, the narrator of Brideshead Revisited, says “I regarded men as something much less than the buildings they made and inhabited, as mere lodgers and short-term sub-lessees of small importance in the long, fruitful life of their homes.” I love this sentiment because it articulates how ironic it is that families create these great houses to demonstrate their own importance, but their houses almost always outlive them—and their family line.

Her book that she refers to is probably her first novel Black Lake which she cites at the beginning of the article.

–Novelist Susan Hill marks her own 80th birthday in this week’s issue of The Spectator. One of the things she finds herself enjoying is rereading her favorite books: Dickens (Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Great Expectations) leads the list: “I am also having an Elizabeth Bowen jag this year and finding Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse even better than I remembered. That’s also the case for the trilogies by Olivia Manning and Evelyn Waugh set during the second world war…” Diary of a Nobody, Three Men in a Boat and Pursuit of Love close out the discussion.

The Times has another article citing Waugh’s writing. This is about a school in North London called City of London Academy Highgate Hill. Although it is a state comprehensive school, it has over the 17 years of its existence managed to become “nakedly selective” and a target for admission of  a “pupil premium”. The headmaster explains his:

… conviction that without great teaching in lessons, you might as well let children run riot.

In Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall, the hapless Paul Pennyfeather, landed with his first class, asks in panic, “But what am I to teach them?” He is told, “Oh, I shouldn’t try to teach them anything, not just yet anyway, just keep them quiet.”

This is anathema to [Headmaster] Gennuh. “The lesson has to be good,” he says. “With students behaving themselves in the classroom, teachers have to teach. If you’re not teaching good lessons you may as well let the students run around in the classroom and babysit them.”

–Finally, in The Imaginative Conservative, religious commentator Joseph Pearce considers two examples of TV adaptations of novels where the success of one doomed the effort of a remake. The two adaptations are Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1995/2006) and Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited (1981/2007). While not mentioned, another story in the Irish Times confirms that the plans for a third attempt at a Brideshead adaptation have not yet quite jelled. This is in an interview of actor Andrew Garfield:

Garfield confirms that, as has been reported, he hopes to play Charles Ryder in a new TV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited for Luca Guadagnino. “It’s a matter of time and schedule, and financing and all that stuff,” he says.


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