Pre-Christmas Roundup

–The British Film Institute (BFI) has posted a copy of Evelyn Waugh’s 1924 silent film production The Scarlet Woman. I think the film was more a creation of Waugh’s Oxford friend Terrence Greenidge than Waugh himself, although Waugh seems to have written the script and provided the setting for many of the scenes in the garden of his family’s home on North End Road.  Here is the description of the film from BFI’s website:

Much of the appeal of this confusing but fascinating amateur film is a gloriously camp performance by its writer, Evelyn Waugh. He plays the Dean of Balliol College, Oxford, and based his performance on the real Dean, ‘Sligger’ Urquhart. Urquhart, he observed, was Catholic, homosexual, and a snob; an epithet that could as well describe the author himself after his conversion in 1930. Filming took place at Hampstead Heath, Golders Green, and the Waugh family’s Hampstead back garden in the summer of 1924.

In the film the Dean is under orders from the Pope and his envoy Cardinal Montefiasco to convert the English monarchy to Roman Catholicism. The Dean holds a sinister influence over the Prince of Wales, but this is counteracted by the attractions of cabaret actress Beatrice de Carolle, played by a sinuous Elsa Lanchester (The Bride of Frankenstein) in her first film role.

Here’s a link to the film.  It is available for streaming without charge on the BFI Player via a UK internet connection.

–The website CapX sponsored by the UK’s “center-right” Centre for Policy Studies has posted a list of books read and recommended by its contributors in 2023. Here’s one listed by Tom Jones:

With the rise of medically assisted suicide, it was a ‘good’ year to get round to Evelyn Waugh’s Love Among the Ruins. Written at the very beginning of the welfare state, Waugh delivers a tour-de-force that reminds you satire was, at one point, important rather than impotent. This welfare dystopia has become so unbearable that euthanasia is now the most in-demand government service – as it now seems to be the Canadian government’s first resort.

Waugh’s novella is available in the Complete Short Stories. Here’s a link to the listings.

—Niall Ferguson writing in The Spectator has an article entitled “Students annoyed their elders in the 1930s too”.  Thus was inspired by the debate on apparent student support for the Palestine side in the recent warfare with Israel. Ferguson cites the debate that erupted in response to the 1933 Oxford Union motion that “this House will in no circumstances fight for King and Country.” Here’s an excerpt:

…It is true that Oxford had moved to the left since the 1920s. The onset of the Depression, the fashionable appeal of socialism and communism, and the admission of more grammar-school boys had dispelled forever the indulgent atmosphere that Evelyn Waugh later nostalgically recalled in Brideshead Revisited. [Frank] Hardie, the Union president, was a typical Oxonian of the 1930s. Educated at Westminster, he was also chairman of the Labour Club. Yet his most enduring contribution to our national life was a book on the political role of Queen Victoria…

The Times today has the obituary of Roderic O’Connor, Irish eccentric and environmentalist. Here’s an excerpt:

Roderic O’Connor was born Kevin Roderic Hanly O’Connor in Dublin in 1946, the only son of Captain Maurice Bernard O’Connor and his wife Pamela (née Hanly), who had been married to the 16th Viscount Gormanston. Lord Gormanston was killed during the Second World War. Roderic’s maternal grandmother was Lady Marjorie ­Feilding, daughter of the Earl of Denbigh, aide de camp to King George V.

Roderic’s mother lived at Gormanston Castle, a gothic revival house in Co Meath. Evelyn Waugh considered buying it when it came on the market in 1946 and was somewhat surprised when it was Mrs O’Connor, as she had then become, who opened the front door to his persistent knocking. When Waugh expressed surprise at the chatelaine of such a grand house opening her own front door, she told him, “I’m afraid footmen have gone out of fashion in Ireland, Mr Waugh.’’

UPDATE: Roderic O’Connor obituary added after initial posting.

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