–In this week’s New Statesman, D J Taylor reviews the life and work of Inez Holden, an early friend of Evelyn Waugh in the days of the bright young people. The article opens with this:
Inez Holden’s diary – a mammoth undertaking, only fragments of which have ever escaped into print – carries a rueful little entry from August 1948. “I read Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh,” the diarist writes. But the tale of Charles Ryder’s dealings with the tantalising progeny of the Marquess of Marchmain, here in an unfallen world of Oxford quadrangles and stately pleasure domes, awakens a feeling of “nostalgic depression”. This, Holden decides, is simply another of “those stories of High Life of the Twenties which everyone seemed to have enjoyed but I never did”.
By this point in her career, Holden … was a 20-year veteran of the London literary scene – and also of some of the more spangled redoubts beyond it. She starts turning up in magazine columns in the late Twenties: not as a writer but as an ornament of the hot-house enclosure stalked by the small group of party-goers and well-heeled socialites known as the Bright Young People. Evelyn Waugh’s diary for May 1927, written when he was briefly attached to the Daily Express, mentions “a charming girl called Inez Holden who works on the paper”.
The press photograph of the “Impersonation Party” … a legendary Vile Bodies-era rout in which each guest came as somebody else, depicts a throng of exotic cross-dressers. Stephen Tennant masquerades as Queen Marie of Romania. The actress Tallulah Bankhead, white-costumed with racquet in hand, imitates the tennis player Jean Borotra. In the middle of the tableau sits a small and inconspicuous girl in a Breton jersey. Of the celebrities stationed nearby, Elizabeth Ponsonby (the archetype of Waugh’s Agatha Runcible) and Harold Acton are clearly having the time of their life, but Holden looks nervous, ill at ease, a rabbit caught in the flashbulb’s intoxicating light.
Holden’s book reviewed by Taylor was published last year by Handheld Press and is entitled There’s No Story There: Wartime Writing’s 1944-45. It includes a “novel” originally published in 1944 and based on Holden’s experience working in a wartime munitions factory as well as three short stories from the same period.
—The Spectator has an article about the importance of marmalade to British culture:
It took Paddington Bear to solve the age-old mystery of what the Queen keeps in her handbag. When Her Majesty pulled out a marmalade sandwich during the pair’s sketch at the Platinum Jubilee concert this summer, it did more than just tickle the audience. It also served to remind us of our national love affair with marmalade.
Long before Paddington developed a taste for it, the preserve had been a stalwart of British popular culture, from Jane Austen (where Lady Middleton applies marmalade as balm for her daughter’s scratch) to Evelyn Waugh (where, in Brideshead Revisited, Charles Ryder eats ‘scrambled eggs and bitter marmalade with the zest which in youth follows a restless night’) – not to mention Samuel Pepys, Agatha Christie and Ian Fleming. During the second world war, Winston Churchill is said to have stressed the need to keep the boats of marmalade oranges coming to maintain national morale.
–Cecil Beaton’s diaries have been adapted for the stage. The adaptation is by Richard Stirling and is reviewed in TheStage.com. Here is an excerpt:
…Beaton was a noted diarist and Richard Stirling has taken verbatim extracts of the diaries to create a fascinating portrait of the man and his motivation. Cecil Beaton’s Diaries has been thoughtfully curated to present the many different and not always complimentary aspects of Beaton’s life and work. A product of the wealthy middle classes, Beaton was terrified at the prospect of mediocrity but soon gained acclaim as a fashion photographer on both sides of the Atlantic. […]
Stirling’s portrayal gives us an honest, entertaining personal account of a life lived firmly behind the camera lens. Brittle and uncompromising, Stirling’s Beaton is also painfully aware of his shortcomings and regrets lost loves as age and ill-health bear down. Despite his glamorous clientele, he appeared to remain that nervous, softly spoken schoolboy, terrorised by Evelyn Waugh and destined to find the beauty in others.
The adaptation is being performed in Edinburgh at Greenside@Nicolson Sq where it will run through 28 August. Although not mentioned, it is probably offered as part of this year’s Edinburgh Festival.
–As reported in The Independent newspaper, British Airways has announced direct service to Georgetown, Guyana beginning next March. Waugh’s connection with that country is cited in the story:
The former colony was described by the writer Evelyn Waugh as one of the “gobs of empire” – along with the French and Dutch possessions on the shoulder of South America, Guyane and Surinam respectively. A map of the country is enticing. The road from Georgetown to the Surinam border, for example, passes through the settlements of Success, Paradise, Profit and Whim.
Waugh wrote about his travels in what was then British Guiana in his 1934 travel book Ninety-Two Days. A fictional version appeared in his short story “The Man who Liked Dickens” and the novel A Handful of Dust. He returned for a visit in 1962 and wrote about it in The Sunday Times: “El Dorado Revisited” (EAR, p. 592).
–Novelist Sebastian Faulks is interviewed in the Guardian’s series “The Books of My Life.” Here’s an excerpt:
The author I came back to
I couldn’t stick Evelyn Waugh at first, but I got there eventually by reading the Sword of Honour trilogy in 1991, when we were living in a remote farmhouse in Italy with our first child, who was a year old. Afterwards, I found A Handful of Dust and my ear became attuned to his prose. I still wish he’d used that gift on more worthwhile subjects, but there you go.