–Duncan McLaren sent over an interesting exchange relating to Waugh’s possible use of Peter Quennell as a model for characters in his novels. His an excerpt from the email that started it:
Dear Mr McLaren,
I am a reader of your Waugh web-blogs and very much enjoyed your book ‘Evelyn!’ I thought you might be interested in some thoughts on who might have been the inspiration for the character Arthur Potts in ‘Decline and Fall’.
I don’t know much about Waugh but have made a few discoveries about Graham Greene, including uncovering two early stories which, I believe, are likely his first published work. Greene also used his friends and enemies as models for his characters and he was caught out in ‘Stamboul Train’, when J.B Priestley identified himself as Q.C.Savory forcing Greene to adjust his text. But Greene did still manage to ‘smuggle’ another author into that book – Mr Kalebdjian a servile hotel manager in the last chapter of the book, is a dig at Dikran Kouyoumdjian, otherwise known as Michael Arlen, author of ‘The Green Hat’ and very famous at the time.
And it’s a ‘friend’ of both Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh who was, I’m fairly sure, the inspiration of Arthur Potts. Not Anthony Powell whom, I suppose, could be suggested by his initials, but someone else very well known in the Waugh world – Peter Quennell.
My identification of Quennell as an inspiration for Potts is based on two lines in the book.
“I bicycled over to St Magnus’s at Little Beckley and took some rubbings of the brasses there. I wished you had been with me.”…
If this whets your appetite for more, follow this link to Duncan’s website: evelynwaugh.org.uk/styled-43/index.html
–Kenneth Craycraft introduces a new column to appear in the religious news service OSV News. Here’s the opening:
“My theme is memory, that winged host that soared about me one gray morning of war-time,” explains protagonist and narrator Charles Ryder in Evelyn Waugh’s novel, “Brideshead Revisited.”
“These memories,” he continues, “which are my life — for we possess nothing certainly except the past — were always with me.”
This theme is so essential to “Brideshead” that the passage provides the subtitle of the book: “The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder.”
The account of Charles Ryder’s memories and the book in which the story is told are both examples of what we intend for this new column. It will be a monthly meditation on what it even means to possess memories, as considered through some cultural possession of the past. We will try to recapture and refine memories by revisiting classic stories, novels, plays, songs, and poems, as well as signal philosophical, theological, and literary essays…
The entire article is available at this link,
–The National Catholic Reporter has an article about how humility is reflected in the works of Roman Catholic writers in Britain. Here’s the portion dealing with Waugh:
The social media landscape doesn’t lend itself well to the practice of humility. At the height of its influence in the 20th century, the legacy press landscape also traded in the inflation of egos. Yet Catholic authors sometimes said or did things that pierced that bubble of ego — and often in jarring ways. At the height of their literary success, authors like Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Spark, Graham Greene and Flannery O’Connor reflected on themselves as sinners in need of grace.
Waugh’s first marriage collapsed in 1929. This crisis left its mark on his satirical 1930 novel Vile Bodies, which he wrote as his own life unraveled. A year after his divorce, he was received into the Catholic Church. His conversion was an unsentimental affair. In Waugh’s estimation, the Catholic Church held the fullness of the truth, therefore it was reasonable to revere it — and that was that.
When Waugh (1903-1966) appeared in a 1960 BBC television interview, he told reporter John Freeman that in the late 1920s he was “as near an atheist as one could be.” Freeman asked Waugh to speak of the greatest gift he’d received from Catholicism. Was it tranquility or perhaps peace of mind? “It isn’t a lucky dip that you get something out of,” Waugh responded. “It’s simply admitting the existence of God or dependence on God or contact with God — the fact that everything good in the world depends on him. It isn’t a sort of added amenity of the welfare state that you say, ‘Well, to all this, having made a good income, now I’ll have a little icing on top of religion.’ It’s the essence of the whole thing.”
Waugh’s temperament was sometimes as extraordinary as his writing. He was often a cruel curmudgeon, a prickly snob; he dabbled in fascistic politics and he was mercurial. If there’s truth to the trope of upper-class British fathers preferring their pet dogs over their children, Waugh took pains to embody that truth. He wasn’t much better with adults. When novelist and friend Nancy Mitford introduced Waugh to her publisher in 1950, Waugh shocked them with his rude behavior. “How can you behave so badly — and you a Catholic,” Mitford exclaimed. “You have no idea how much nastier I would be if I was not a Catholic,” Waugh responded. “Without supernatural aid I would hardly be a human being.
The sections on the other writers may be read at this link.
—The Sunday Times invokes Waugh in an article about education:
“Multi pertransibunt et augebitur scientia,” reads the motto of the Waid Academy, the secondary school founded in 1886 by the philanthropist Lt Andrew Waid in the sleepy seaside village of Anstruther, in the highly desirable location of the East Neuk of Fife.
Many have indeed passed through but whether their knowledge has increased is a moot point. The Sunday Times school rankings put the Waid Academy at number 124 in Scotland, with 42 per cent of pupils passing five Highers.
In Decline and Fall, Evelyn Waugh’s brilliant satirical novel, Mr Levy of the scholastic agents Church and Gargoyle categorises the educational establishments on his books as “leading school; first-rate school; good school; and school. Frankly ‘school’ is pretty bad”, he tells the hapless Paul Pennyfeather.
These days, despite the plethora of league tables, HM inspectors’ reports and education policy documents, we don’t have a system quite as honest as that. But with more than 300 secondary schools in Scotland, Waid could justifiably argue it was a good school, going on first-rate, by Church and Gargoyle’s standards. It is a typical Scottish secondary and, apart from the occasional appearance in the Fife Free Press, exists below the radar.
–The religious philosophical journal Patheos has an article that takes another look at 1960s film adaptation of The Loved One and finds more to like than did the film’s critics when it was first released. Here’s the conclusion:
The intensity of the humor strikes at the heart of our society (then and now). In [Mr Joyboy’s] mother, we have the externalization of mid-century consumer culture, a parody of patriotic citizen who prefers to salivate at ads than actually watch any programming. There is no death so long as there’s endless food and brain-massaging content. Her queer son’s slavish devotion masks an inability to escape the mutually assured destruction that is their relationship—a representation, perhaps, of the dark side of suburban family life or the lonely depths of the closet (writer Christopher Isherwood was gay; director Tony Richardson was bisexual, a fact the world only learned when he suddenly died of AIDS). The reverend is a good ole American confidence man, a whited sepulcher who uses the sacred to profit, conspiring Fat Leonard-style with military brass to blow up the dead and suck dry the living—in essence, the figure who has come to define this great land more than any other. Aimée is a gullible simpleton who actually believes the cemetery owner’s lies. And Dennis—Dennis is an empty shell, the vacuousness of so much pretend youth rebellion of the sort that would emerge shortly thereafter (not that there wasn’t genuine sentiment there—but not every mod or hippy cared for easy living and peace). The gang’s all here.
While The Loved One may be uneven, it’s far from unfocused. Over-ambitious perhaps, the film’s hectic production shows; it is no Dr. Strangelove, even if the two movies share a writer and similar themes. But Kubrick’s horrifying black comedy is among the greatest films ever made. To fall short of that can still mean greatness. Though this Tony Richardson effort doesn’t land every jab, it laughs hard—and makes us laugh hard—in the face of nuclear apocalypse. It has a perspective, a vision, just a deeply cynical one in which we’re left with little to do but lampoon, lampoon, lampoon until the rocket explodes and we can lampoon no more. Waugh probably never saw it and he would have hated it for being so American. But its blithe rancor matches his own; I’d call that a success.