Bank Holiday Roundup

Country Life has posted the second part of their interesting and informative essay on the building and decoration of Campion Hall at Oxford. The first installment was described in an earlier post. Here’s an excerpt relating to Waugh’s contribution to the project:

…another chapel is reached through an arch at the east end of the main chapel: the Lady Chapel. Suddenly, the visitor is transported into a world of spring flowers and tender, homely observation, for the walls have been almost entirely covered in murals by Charles Mahoney. They were commissioned in 1941, using royalties from Evelyn Waugh’s Edmund Campion: Jesuit and Martyr, written as a thank-offering to D’Arcy, who had been responsible for his conversion. The royalties amounted to £600 and Mahoney’s estimate for the work was £560.

The original idea had been to commission Stanley Spencer, who had completed his paintings for the Sandham Memorial Chapel at Burghclere in 1932. Declaring that ‘in my painting I owe nothing to God and everything to the Devil’, Spencer proved too much for the fathers and it was clear he would not be prepared to live at Campion Hall for the duration of the project. The Catalonian painter Josep Maria Sert told Lutyens that he would paint the apse if Lutyens gave him the job of artist at Liverpool Cathedral; Lutyens could not promise to, so the deal was off. Happening to meet Sir John Rothenstein, director of Tate Gallery, D’Arcy asked his advice. He recommended Mahoney and described his work, remarkable for its minute observation of Nature. D’Arcy responded: ‘Done.’…

As did Spencer, Mahoney suffused the life he observed around him with the radiance of the Divine. His gentle style, delicate colours and delight in flowers were particularly suited to the Lady Chapel, the theme of which is the life of the Virgin Mary. Shepherds were modelled from the locals around Ambleside in the Lake District, to which the Royal College had been evacuated during the war …

Mahoney was not a Catholic, perhaps not even a Christian, so much as an ‘agnostic socialist,’ according to D’Arcy. But on dull days — he would only paint in natural light, which limited his productivity to the summer months — he would go on walks with people in the hall and quiz them about Biblical story-telling conventions. Was Joseph an old man? Were angels necessarily male? Would the shepherds have brought a lamb?

Sadly, when Mahoney presented his bill in 1953, the then bursar Father Corbishley found the £4,000 he was asking ‘a very unpleasant and distressing surprise’. Relations were broken off. By the time they were restored in the 1960s, Mahoney’s breathing trouble made work difficult and a few scenes were only sketched in black and white.

The article as posted on the internet includes several photographs of the Lady Chapel decorations and is well worth a look. Here’s the link.

–The Washington Post carries a long article by Michael Dirda on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s First Folio. This consists of his review of several books written in connection with the observance. Here’s an excerpt from the one relating to the book by Elizabeth Winkler entitled Shakespeare Was A Woman And Other Heresies:

Alexander Waugh, an ardent Oxfordian, is represented as a learned provocateur in the tradition of his novelist grandfather Evelyn and journalist father, Auberon. Still, Winkler ends her lively, often highly personal book on a somewhat muted note: Pressed again and again, the often controversial Harvard scholar Marjorie Garber dismisses the whole authorship business as uninteresting.

–The religion and philosophy journal First Things has posted some reading recommendations by its editors. Here’s an excerpt from one by Claire Giuntini:

…If you like Evelyn Waugh’s occasionally dark, oftentimes satirical humor, you won’t be disappointed with the Sword of Honour series. There are many who could write—and have written, in these very pages—extensively and eruditely about the merits of this trilogy.

What does this series have to offer? It has Guy Crouchback. There is nothing very exceptional about Guy. His family is unique in that it has always remained Catholic, and that there is a “Castello Crouchback” in Italy, but on the whole, the Crouchback family is fading. In the first book, Guy struggles to become a soldier (a long process, as he’s a touch too old to be wanted anywhere), and the following two books record his different (mis)adventures. In almost every way, he’s very average. You could say that he’s just a normal guy. Yet, this non-ostentatious nature makes Guy and his series stand out all the more. The choices Guy makes are directly relatable to our own lives. In other classics, the dramatic actions of the characters act as megaphones for what to do or what not to do—it’s not hard to miss the memo. With the Sword of Honour trilogy, though, you have to quiet down to hear what’s being said. And we could all do with a little quiet—and not just those of us in Manhattan.

Edge Media Network has posted a review of a novel by Jonathan Leaf entitled City of Angles. The review is by Steve Weinstein. Here’s an excerpt:

As the title implies, “City of Angles” casts a cynical eye on the people who churn out what we generously call entertainment. The vague, noirish sense of menace that underlies the city’s relentlessly sunny sky, epic consumption, and self-absorption has been catnip for authors for decades, from Nathaniel West and Raymond Chandler to Bruce Webber and Bret Easton Ellis. But “City of Angles” most closely resembles the two funniest, and most bitter, Hollywood novels, Joan Didion’s “Play It As It Lays” and Evelyn Waugh’s “The Loved One.” That’s high praise.

The Spectator reviews a debut novel by Alice Winn. This is entitled In Memoriam and takes place in WWI where

…two young men who fall in love at their public school (old money, military and aristocratic connections, tailcoats and buggery), before heading off to the front; the flower of their generation, doomed to die as the mechanistic future tears apart chivalric ideals, and society starts to question its very nature.

After a discussion in which several other books with similar themes and characters are considered, reviewer Philip Womack concludes with this:

…There is an undeniable tension at the heart of the book: Winn decries the public-school system, seeing it as fostering an empty-headed patriotism, forcing boys to cover up their true feelings. She even (anachronistically) trots out Evelyn Waugh’s remark that boarding school is good preparation for prison. (Mine certainly wasn’t — my father used to joke about it being more like a country club.) … This is a remarkable debut, with a keen and wise understanding of human nature. If Winn’s material is familiar, she handles it with skill and panache. …

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