Roundup: “The Waste Land” Centenary

–The centenary of T S Eliot’s The Waste Land has been marked in several print and broadcast media. The Washington Post notes the poem’s appearance in Brideshead Revisited:

First published in the inaugural October 1922 issue of Eliot’s literary magazine, the Criterion, “The Waste Land” was quickly recognized as a seismic event. Evelyn Waugh, a novelist of exquisite eye, re-created the force with which the poem landed. In “Brideshead Revisited,” his novel of 1920s Oxford, Waugh placed a sophisticated student of cutting-edge taste on a balcony, loudly declaiming lines from “The Waste Land” as crowds passed below.

The scene in question was inspired by Harold Acton’s recital of the poem from a Christ Church balcony which would have taken place shortly after the poem’s publication.

There is also a BBC documentary (“T S Eliot: Into The Waste Land) in which most of the poem was reread with comments, as well as the rebroadcast of a commentary by A N Wilson (“Return to T S Eliotland”) and a reading of Four Quartets by Ralph Fiennes. The documentary is currently available for streaming and the latter two will be broadcast this evening.  All will be available from tomorrow on BBC iPlayer with a UK internet connection.

–The Spanish paper Diario de Sevilla is reminded of the closing scene of Brideshead Revisited in this recent article:

PERHAPS one of the most beautiful moments in television history is the final reflection of Brideshead Revisited, the series based on the novel of the same name by Evelyn Waugh. Remember: Charles Ryder (played by a young Jeremy Irons), returns to the country mansion of his old and missing friend Lord Sebastian Flyte (Anthony Andrews), where he had been so happy in his youth and which at that time is a makeshift barracks where troops are instructed to go to the front. In the midst of the military bustle, Ryder, a skeptical complement officer, manages to find a few minutes to pray in the palace chapel, built with the stones of the feudal castle of Lord Sebastian ‘s family, former knights who, like the vast majority of the medieval nobility, had fought in the Holy Land. Before the tabernacle and its lamp, Ryder prays and the voiceover sounds: “… That flame that the old knights saw shine from their graves and that they saw go out; that flame burns again for other soldiers far from their homes, further in their hearts than Acre or Jerusalem, and could only have been lit by the builders and the tragic ones. And there I found it that morning, burning again among the old stones.”

It is tempting to feel a little Ryder when passing through the hole in the San Juan de Acre gate in Seville , demolished in 1864 […] Today, the Puerta de San Juan de Acre is a place disordered by development, half town, half neighborhood, with no more interest than the proximity of the river. However, as in that chapel in Brideshead in which Ryder prayed before leaving for the front, a tile-shaped flame continues to burn that reminds us that there was a shutter there with the name of the knights of Acre and takes us back to another time surely worse than the current one, but more beautiful and magical. We should never revile the power of toponymy.

The translation (including the passage from BR) is by Google.

–Peter Hitchens writing in The Spectator remembers former train journeys to France before the Eurostar tunnel service replaced them with faster but more Spartan fare. He thinks some of the old opulence might be restored, noting a passage from Brideshead Revisited:

In fact the delight of eating proper meals aboard trains might be re-established on the Paris run, and spread outwards – once more people realised just how wonderful it was. As Evelyn Waugh described it in Brideshead Revisited:

The knives and forks jingled on the tables as we sped through the darkness; the little circle of gin and vermouth in the glasses lengthened to oval, contracted again, with the sway of the carriage, touched the lip, lapped back again, never spilt; I was leaving the day behind me.”

And so he was, and when I take the train to Paris or beyond, I am leaving the humdrum world behind me. Can’t it once again be a voyage, rather than a bureaucratic, joyless procedure best done under general anaesthetic?

The Epoch Times has published an article reviewing the career of novelist W Somerset Maugham. Here’s an excerpt:

Gabriel García Márquez, George Orwell, James Michener, and Evelyn Waugh all admired his work, with Waugh describing him as “the only living studio-master under whom one can study with profit.” In “Earthly Powers,” Anthony Burgess pays homage to Maugham, sometimes humorously so, by basing his narrator Toomey on Maugham and even having that character meet Maugham.

The Waugh quote comes from a 1939 Spectator review of Maugham’s novel Christmas Holiday. Reprinted in EAR, 247.

–Finally, The Conversation has reposted an article from 2021 about a visit to the church at Blythburgh in Suffolk. This includes a reference to Waugh:

A church first stood in Blythburgh before 654 CE. That was the year King Penda of Mercia slaughtered King Anna of East Anglia and his son in battle. Anna’s followers brought their bodies here for burial. The present building is mostly 15th-century. In this part of England those days were what Evelyn Waugh called the fat days of wool shearing and the wide corn lands. (Brideshead Revisited, Penguin, 1976, p. 317)




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