Waugh at Hertford

Hertford College, Oxford has posted on YouTube an excerpt from a recent presentation at the college to a group of its alumni assembled in the college chapel. The excerpt is the opening of the presentation by the college Principal, Tom Fletcher, and relates to a fundraising campaign called Hertford 2030. The prime goal of this is the construction of a new library for the college at a cost of £16m. You may not learn all of this from the excerpt itself, but it may help you to put things into context.

The Principal opens the presentation by reminding those assembled that this year marks the 100th anniversary of Evelyn Waugh’s matriculation at the college in Hilary Term 1922. See previous post. To that end he provides a brief summary of Waugh’s career at Hertford, noting that he probably spent relatively little time in the library. It is an amusing and well-presented talk, although somewhat oversimplified in some respects. For example, he notes that Waugh did so poorly on his finals that he “didn’t bother to pick up his degree.”

That is a correct statement but somewhat misleading. The reason that Waugh did not “pick up” his third class degree was that the college cancelled his scholarship. As explained in the previous post, this was due to the fact that he had done so poorly on his exams. Given his substantial unpaid debts, his father refused to pay the costs of the final term at Oxford. Residence during that term (which would have been his 9th) was required to meet university degree qualifications. Waugh was looking forward to spending that term at Oxford and had even booked a flat on Merton Street (outside of Hertford College) which he would have shared with Hugh Lygon.

The presentation also mentions Waugh’s membership in the Hypocrites Club and his animosity toward his tutor CRMF Cruttwell, who later became the college Principal. The present incumbent concludes by wondering how Waugh might respond to issues facing students today such as wider access to Oxford and climate change. Here is a link to the 11 minute presentation.

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