Mother’s Day (US) Roundup

The Oldie has posted an article by Mark McGinness to mark the 75th anniversary of the death of Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy on 13 March 1948. In this, he tells the story of her meeting and engagement with Billy Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington and heir of the Duke of Devonshire. This was during the Kennedy family residence in Britain when her father Joe Kennedy was Ambassador. Both families opposed the marriage on religious grounds, and her family returned to the US in 1939. Kathleen arranged to return to England in 1943 with the Red Cross where their marriage plans were concluded. As described by McGinness:

…their wedding, after four long years, was a ten-minute ceremony in redbrick Chelsea Town Hall. While Billy’s parents were present and the Duke of Rutland his best man, Kick only had Joe Junior as a witness. Rose took herself to hospital with a nervous collapse. Evelyn Waugh, one of Kick’s admirers from a wider circle, warned her she would go to hell (using her plight for Julia Flyte falling in love with Rex Mottram in Brideshead Revisited).

McGinness goes on to describe Billy’s death in action in Belgium a few month’s later and Kick’s acceptance by Billy’s family (which now included Deborah Mitford who had married the new heir).

She chose not to return home but sought the sort of role in British life she might have had; establishing a conservative salon in a townhouse just behind the Houses of Parliament. Evelyn Waugh jested that she was in love with him. As Kennedy scholar, Barbara Leaming, put it in her biography Kick Kennedy: The Charmed Life and Tragic Death of the Favorite Kennedy Daughter (2016), ‘Waugh was partly right. Kick had fallen in love – with the world of Westminster.’

The article concludes with a description of her plans for a second marriage to another English aristocrat (also Protestant and, worse yet, married) but they died in an air crash on the way to meet her father in France to discuss the marriage.

The Spectator has been running a series of articles describing the attractions to be found in the areas encompassed by London’s various postal codes. The final entry discusses London WC but does not distinguish between WC1 and WC2:

Our journey around London’s postcode areas has reached its final destination: WC. One of Evelyn Waugh’s female friends always insisted on referring to it in full as ‘West Central’, because she said ‘WC’ had ‘indelicate associations’. …

A more familiar story about Waugh and London postcodes might be made out of his alleged attitude to postcode area NW. When Waugh was born in 1903, that single “NW” area covered a huge portion of north London including both West Hampstead/Kilburn where he was born and North End (a part of  Hampstead village) to which the family moved. A revision of the system in 1917 (after the Waughs had moved) resulted in North End being assigned to code NW11, which also included Golders Green (an area populated heavily by Jewish emigrants from Eastern Europe). Hampstead village acquired postcode NW3 which several commentators have claimed that Waugh preferred, to avoid possible association with the new emigrants. There is little, if any, actual proof of this bit of snobbery, although it has been suggested that he was known to carry letters up the hill from his house in NW11 to a post box in NW3 to assure the more desirable postmark. On the other hand, his published letters collected from after 1917 correctly display the North End Road NW11 post code in the return address.

The Spectator’s restaurant critic Tanya Gold recently reviewed a new (to me at least) restaurant in Oxford. This is called the Alice and is located in the Randolph Hotel. Its name is attributed to both the fictional character Alice in Wonderland and her namesake, Alice Liddell, the daughter of a Christ Church don who was a friend of the fictional Alice’s creator. According to Gold:

Oxford…needs whimsy to deceive itself about its reality, which is power, and so its famous novelists wrote fantasy, even Evelyn Waugh, whose journey from Golders Green to Oxford was no less extraordinary than Lucy’s to Narnia and Frodo’s to Mordor, and I can testify to that. The Alice may be a dream world, but it is also a brasserie: that is Oxford’s realism. Its immediate competitor is not Narnia or Middle-earth (and I mourn this – I would like to see the Alice near the Cair Paravel Starbucks and the Brandywine Pret) but the Ivy on the High.

An assessment of the menu and service concludes the article.

–The Antiques Trade Gazette has a  report on the prices paid for various of Waugh’s books at a recent auction:

Bearing the cataloguer’s cautious observation that it is ‘Waugh’s masterpiece, arguably’, a copy of A Handful of Dust was one of a number of the writer’s works featured in a March 22 sale held by Toovey’s (24.5% buyer’s premium). Guided at £3000-5000, the 1934 first edition sold for £5500 in the Washington, West Sussex, saleroom.

A 1945 first of Brideshead Revisited made a top-estimate £1200 but the other Waugh lots also included one of his earlier works, Mr Loveday’s Little Outing, and Other Sad Stories of 1936. With ‘flexiback’ reinforcement to the hinges, as issued, it showed some staining and fading to the covers but retained a price-clipped dust-jacket and sold at £650 to an online buyer.

The Globe and Mail (Toronto) has an article by Christine Sismondo on the conversion of English and Irish country houses into luxury hotels as one means of their survival and preservation. Here is an excerpt with a contribution from Evelyn Waugh:

…there are still several hundred four and five-star luxury country house hotels to choose from in the United Kingdom and Ireland. If you include pretenders, like converted hunting and fishing lodges, remote railway hotels and modern homages to stately homes, such as the Jacobean-inspired Fairmont Windsor Park outside of London, the options are endless. Windsor Park, a five-star hotel with over-the-top fitness amenities, first-rate dining and ample space for big celebrations, is almost entirely new, constructed on the site of Heath Lodge, a private home near Windsor Castle. Its construction would have been quite jarring for anyone living through the “crisis of the country house,” circa 1890 to 1950, when so many of the originals had fallen into disrepair and were slated for demolition. In 1944, when Evelyn Waugh wrote Brideshead Revisited, a nostalgic love letter to “buildings that grew silently with the centuries, catching and keeping the best of each generation,” he was convinced such estates would soon be extinct. “In the year 1955, country houses in England were being demolished one per week,” Adrian Tinniswood, British historian and author of Noble Ambitions: The Fall and Rise of the English Country House After World War II ,  says.  Around that time, though, some house-poor owners did the previously unthinkable and threw their doors open to day-trippers who paid a half-crown for an afternoon escape and country house tourism was born.

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