Easter Roundup

–Drinks website The Master of Malt has posted a story tracing the history of Cognac. Here’s a contribution from Waugh:

…According to Boswell, Samuel Johnson said: “claret is the liquor for boys; port, for men; but he who aspires to be a hero (smiling) must drink brandy.” Before there was blended whisky, the drink of  British upper classes in the nineteenth century was Cognac mixed with soda. Winston Churchill wrote, “my father could never have drunk whisky except when shooting on a moor or in some very dull chilly place. He lived in the age of brandy and soda.”

As with Bordeaux and Burgundy, there was the pure product and then something doctored to British tastes. Additives such as sugar syrup, prune juice and a wood solution made from boiling oak were added to give the brandy an antique feel. This vulgar brandy feels the full force of Evelyn Waugh’s disdain in one of the most famous scenes from Brideshead Revisited where Charles Ryder has dinner with Rex Mottram, an arriviste businessman, in Paris. Ryder orders a Cognac which is dismissed by Mottram as “the sort of stuff he puts soda in at home. So, shamefacedly, they (the waiters) wheeled out of its hiding place the vast and mouldy bottle they kept for people of Rex’s sort. ‘That’s the stuff,’ he said, tilting the treacly concoction till it left dark rings round the sides of his glass.”…

–Here’s an event at the upcoming Stratford Literary Festival that may be of interest to Waugh readers (at least those who also share his love of PG Wodehouse):

Alexander Armstrong and Dame Harriet Walter

What ho! PG Wodehouse in words and music

Wednesday 3 May 2023 7:30pm-8:45pm


£18 students

To book call the box office on 0333 666 3366

‘Mr Wodehouse’s idyllic world can never stale,’ wrote Evelyn Waugh. Join us for a sparkling evening, celebrating two of P G Wodehouse’s best-loved characters, Bertie Wooster, and the inimitable Jeeves. Alexander Armstrong, President of the P G Wodehouse Society, and Dame Harriet Walter bring the world of Jeeves and Wooster to marvellous life, together with hapless chums, a battalion of Aunts, and the voice of Wodehouse – ‘Plum’ – himself. All served up with a delicious cocktail of period music, from jazz pianist Toby Boalch and his suave quartet. With thanks to The P G Wodehouse Society (UK) which exists to celebrate and share the enjoyment of his work. For more information, visit pgwodehousesociety.org.uk

Harriet Walter’s appearance is subject to her filming commitments

–The Betjeman Society has also announced an event next month in London that may be of interest:

‘Not Far From Brideshead: Oxford Between the Wars’ a talk by Dr Daisy Dunn

May 16 | 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm


Award-winning author and historian Dr Daisy Dunn introduces the world of interwar Oxford with its punting, picnics and warring dons. This was the world that inspired Evelyn Waugh as well as John Betjeman and many others. Soldiers returned to study after the horrors of the trenches and women received degrees for the first time. But amid the relief and jubilation came the threat of further unrest as events in Europe began to spiral.

Dr Daisy Dunn is the author of six books, including Not Far From Brideshead: Oxford Between the WarsOf Gods and Men: 100 Stories from Ancient Greece and Rome, and Catullus’ Bedspread: The Life of Rome’s Most Erotic Poet. She read Classics at Oxford before receiving an MA in Art History from the Courtauld and PhD in Classics and Art History from UCL. She is a critic for The Spectator and writes widely for the press.

The venue for this talk is the Grosvenor Chapel, deep in the heart of Mayfair. It the setting for Betjeman’s “Lenten Thoughts of a High Church Anglican” and well worth visiting. It contains a recently installed plaque, with the full text of the poem, commemorating Betjeman and his muse for the poem, Joan Constantinidi. For more on this please see page 7-8 of Betjeman Society Newsletter 116.

Guests are welcome.

Details available here.

–Blogger Steve Sailer posts an article from the New York Times about recent stories relating to “updates” made by publishers without the knowledge of long dead authors or their literary estates not to mention no notice to existing owners of e-books whose editions are edited automatically. The article ends with this:

“…Terry Adams, a vice president who runs paperback and digital publishing at Little, Brown and Company, whose authors include James Patterson, Evelyn Waugh and Donna Tartt, said the company regularly makes “corrections” to e-books at editors’ and authors’ discretion, fixing factual errors and typos, rewording phrases and adding new passages, among other changes. These edits are typically not recorded publicly, Adams said, in line with industry standards.”

Here’s Sailer’s comment:

I could at least see an argument for allowing Donna Tartt, who is a living author, to alter her books on your device (not that there’s any evidence she wants to). But I would think that Little, Brown would want to issue a statement saying they will never, ever alter your Evelyn Waugh books on your device.

After all, what would Waugh say?

The entire article can be read here.

–The Hollywood entertainment website GoldDerby.com has posted a review of what it deems the best 12 movies by the late film actor Rod Steiger. The 1965 film adaptation of The Loved One is among those selected:

Steiger was known as one of the most macho of actors, so it was a bit of a surprise when he was cast in Tony Richardson’s funeral industry satire as the fey Mr. Joyboy, the chief embalmer at Whispering Glades cemetery and mortuary.  Mr. Joyboy loves children, particularly if they’re dead.  Reportedly one of Steiger’s own favorite performances, his work in “The Loved One” is a hoot, sending up his macho image while at the same time staying true to this key character in the Evelyn Waugh satire.

I would have to agree that Steiger’s performance accurately portrayed the character as written by Waugh. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said to have reflected various other plot and character changes incorporated into the script by writer Terry Southern and director Tony Richardson.

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