Roundup: More Letters and a Radio Adaptation

–Another batch of Waugh’s letters have been auctioned recently. These consisted of communications with his bookbinders Sangorski & Sutcliffe regarding special bindings for his own library and presentation copies. These were recently sold by the auction house RR Auction in Amherst, NH. Here’s their description:

A group of three ALSs and one ANS from English writer Evelyn Waugh, one signed in full and three others signed with his initials “E. W.,” each one page, penned either on his personal postcard or on Combe Florey House letterhead, 5.5 x 3.5 and 8 x 10, dating to the early and mid-1960s, all seemingly addressed to his bookbinders Sangorski and Sutcliffe. Highlights from the handwritten letters include:

No date: “I may return the samples of leather given to Mr. Walker of Chapman & Hall. Will you please use the lighter of the two blues for binding ‘The Loved One.’”

September 5, 1963: “You will shortly receive from the printers sheet and a plate (frontispiece) of my ‘Basil Seal Rides Again.’”

April 3, 1965: “Thank you for your letter of yesterday about A Little Learning. I am distressed to learn that Chapman & Hall misunderstood my instructions. I am afraid it does make a serious difference.” In overall fine condition, with a block of toning to one of the postcards.

A third postcard dated 7 March 1962 informed the bookbinders that Waugh was now ready to accept the materials they were preparing for him. The items were sold for $368. The letters and other details are posted here.

The Imaginative Conservative has reprinted Waugh’s preface to a 1958 edition of Ronald Knox’s A Spiritual Aeneid. Originally published in 1918, Knox’s book explains his migration from the Anglican to the Roman Catholic Church. Waugh’s preface consisted primarily of the “tribute” he wrote for The Sunday Times (1 September 1957) marking Knox’s death. The discussion of The Spiritual Aeneid appears at the end of the preface:

…A Spiritual Aeneid is his account, ingeniously constructed on the Virgillian frame, of his transition from Anglo-Catholicism to Roman Catholicism. It was written immediately after his reception and before his ordination as priest and is, by contrast with many similar confessions, remarkably unemotional and full of charity and justice towards the Church of his upbringing. It was not a book which in later years he liked—indeed he sometimes spoke of it in terms almost of disgust—but he agreed to its re­issue in 1950 and wrote his own preface, “After 33 Years,” for that edition. That essay makes any further preface unnecessary except such as I have attempted here, to complete and amplify the biographical details…

Waugh’s Sunday Times tribute as well as the preface have never been republished in his collected essays, articles and reviews. It may have been omitted in a recent reprint or ebook edition of Knox’s book in 2017-18 but has now been included in another new edition published a year ago in the US by Cluny Media. That is the source of the copy in The Imaginative Conservative. A complete copy of the preface is available at this link. Thanks to Dave Lull for sending it.

–A website that preserves and publicizes radio programmes of interest has noted two radio adaptations of Waugh’s short story “The Man Who Liked Dickens,” for at least one of which a recording survives. These were both broadcast on American radio networks. Here are excerpts from the posting. One episode appeared in the radio series “Suspense”:

This episode stars Richard Ney in an Evelyn Waugh classic story. It was adapted by Richard Breen. The story is considered a classic. Stephen King’s novel Misery was partly inspired by Waugh’s original short story. King has been known to like radio drama, and he may have heard either of the radio adaptations.

Richard Ney’s character is injured on a trip to the Brazilian jungle and is helped back to health by a man obsessed with the work of Charles Dickens. It seems he had “helped” others in the past. They were forced to read Dickens stories to him – in fact, the entire library – a few hours a day. It becomes clear they were never able to leave, and Ney’s character fears he may have the same fate.

The Suspense adaptation of the story has a more optimistic ending than the Escape version (1952-12-21). The latter was true to the original story’s pessimistic ending, and was adapted by John Meston, known most for his original writing for Gunsmoke.

Joe Kearns plays “Mr. Todd” in both the Suspense and the Escape productions and is superb in both. At the beginning of the broadcast he announces himself as co-star “Mr. Joseph Kearns.”

One network recording has survived. It is not known to which coast it was broadcast. It has a 15 second pause before network ID (“15s”).

This was Richard Ney’s first of two Suspense appearances. Ney’s movie and television career had sporadic success. He was an economics graduate of Columbia University and his career gradually moved to investing and as an investment advisor. Ney was eventually more successful as an investor than he was as a performer.

The cast:
RICHARD NEY (Anthony Last), Joe Kearns (Signature Voice / Mr. Todd), Eric Snowdon (Dr. Messinger), Tony Ellis (The stranger), Hans Conried (Missionary)

The surviving episode is apparently the one broadcast in the Suspense series on 9 October 1947. This is a 30 minute recording. It is available on the Internet Archive at this link.

–The New Yorker’s film critic Anthony Lane reviews the recent film “The Holdovers”. Lane is also an admirer of Evelyn Waugh and has written articles on his works. Here’a an excerpt from the film review:

The new film from Alexander Payne, “The Holdovers,” is set in the dying days of 1970. It is the season of good will, though not in the sour and unused heart of Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti). At Barton Academy, a hidebound East Coast prep school, he has been teaching Ancient Civilizations for so long that most of his pupils, not to mention his colleagues, view him as a product of antiquity—no better than a broken shard of the past. He is, in every sense, history. Needless to say, the antipathy is requited; near the start, Hunham refers to the boys in his class as “lazy, vulgar, rancid little philistines.” In his dreams, I imagine, he would smite them with the jawbone of an ass […] As for Hunham, he’s like the classics teacher in Evelyn Waugh’s 1947 novella “Scott-King’s Modern Europe,” who declares, “I think it would be very wicked indeed to do anything to fit a boy for the modern world.”

Here’s a link to the full review.


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