Roundup (More on Piers Court)

–A feature length article in The Oxford Blue (a new independent newspaper) discusses a Waugh novel. This is “Literature of Love” by Alice Clara State. Here’s an excerpt:

…I want to talk with you about a few texts that deal with love in a way that is at once indissolubly beautiful and emphatically enduring – I am afraid I will only mention ‘classic’ literature, however. […]

The ‘Oxford novel’ beckons to us to begin our foraging, wandering trail of literary love. I hope it is a good place to start. (By the ‘Oxford novel’, I mean none other than Evelyn Waugh’s – graduate of Hertford College and alum of The Isis magazine – seminal Brideshead Revisited.) The early portions of the book, its first soaring overtures, reveal and speak of a life that has been eclipsed even to us as Oxford students one hundred years (to the year!) since the two protagonists, Charles and Sebastian, matriculated. (Hang on – I am going to leaf through the novel now, as I write.) You can open this book to any single page, I should think, and happen upon something hauntingly gorgeous. It is a reservoir, at times still, at other times its tranquillity besmirched by a skittering pondskater, or the disturbance of an unfolding lilypad, and then, at the uncurling of a fist, the fingers flexing openward, the water’s surface sliced into by a launched stone or pebble. Waugh takes his time with his words, he will not stand to be rushed. Arranged like mille-feuille, he plates morsels of dry truth, hungrily-whetted mouthfuls of discovery, and moments of human fragility as light and small as slumbering fairies: precious and injurable—tread carefully—as a heap of crepe dresses and stitched rose-petals and transparent cobwebbed wings. The premise of the book is this – one uncertain boy of eighteen begins at Oxford, blithely unaware of himself and his own desires, and is suddenly waltzed into a great enactment of love and vision by the hands of Sebastian Flyte. Sebastian is a listless, yet mesmerizingly beautiful and unthinkably wealthy young gladiator amongst the pearly amphitheatre of love and boisterous youth. “I am not I: thou art not he or she / they are not they,” Waugh promises us readers in his author’s note, we try to believe him without protest, but catch a hangnail on an inkling of disbelief—you do not need to trawl far in a biography of Waugh to unearth Brideshead’s parallels with his own life. It is this recounted, replaited sadness and memory that helps form the spectral threads of this haunting tapestry of love…

Other authors considered include two poets–John Donne and Frank O’Hara–as well as Jane Austen.

The Spectator has an article by Douglas Murray entitled “The new vandals: how museums turn on their own collections.” This describes “wokeist”actions exemplified by the Tate Gallery with respect to works by Rex Whistler and Stanley Spencer. The article opens with this:

This week I had the pleasure of going to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. I say ‘the pleasure’ but visiting the Pitt Rivers was never precisely a pleasure. Twenty years ago, as an undergraduate, the collection was something of a rite of initiation. The place, filled with strange and wondrous objects, was famed above all for its gruesome pickled heads: artefacts reminiscent of the ‘coconut’ that the one-eyed Brigadier Ritchie-Hook collects in Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour.

The Australian has a story reprinted from the Wall Street Journal, an affiliated publication. This is entitled: “Taylor Lautner and Taylor Lautner? What Happens When Couples Have the Exact Same Name.” After describing the complications arising from this and other recent same-name unions, the story concludes with this:

Back in the 1920s, when the British author Evelyn Waugh married the socialite Evelyn Gardner, their friends differentiated between the two by calling them “He-Evelyn” and “She-Evelyn,” according to Martin Stannard’s two-volume biography of the author.

–Writing in The Oldie’s Blog, editor Harry Mount describes “the funniest, saddest and wisest things he read, saw and heard in 2022”. Among them is this:

  • “I am writing a very beautiful book, to bring tears, about very rich, beautiful, high-born people who live in palaces and have no troubles except what they make themselves and those are mainly the demons sex and drink, which after all are easy to bear, as troubles go nowadays.” Evelyn Waugh writes to Coote Lygon about Brideshead Revisited, 1944

–A Daily Mail gossip column comments on the recent announcement of the sale of Piers Court mentioned in a previous post. Here’s an excerpt:

…former BBC executive Jason Blain […] is selling his £2.5 million Gloucestershire home.

But those who fancy the six-bedroom property once owned by Evelyn Waugh are going to have to trust their instincts – and pictures of it taken back in 2018 – as no one is allowed to view the house in person before they buy it. Not even agents Knight Frank have seen the property since Mr Blain, who worked in business development at the Beeb, bought it in 2019…

So far, the Mail seems to be the only paper commenting on the sale. The Mail earlier this year (11 January 2022) reported a story  about Jason Blain in which they referred to an allegedly unpaid hotel bill which was the subject of a lawsuit and gave his residence as Perthshire. No mention was made in that earlier story of his ownership or occupancy of Piers Court. See link.

Ironically, the hotel involved in this earlier dispute was Waugh’s favorite London venue in the war and post war years. It was then called the Hyde Park Hotel and was managed by Waugh’s Army friend Basil Bennett. Here’s an an excerpt from the hotel’s history posted on its website:

The wicked delights Of Evelyn Waugh – The irascible Evelyn Waugh stayed and visited the hotel on a regular basis between 1942 and 1964 and enjoyed nothing more than playing pranks, such as mixing up the shoes left outside the bedroom doors or satirising fellow guests in his novels. He once sent Basil Bennett, owner of the hotel, a postcard ‘from Adolf Hitler’ requesting a room, but signing it off, ‘I am a respectable Spanish gentleman’!





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