End of January Roundup

–The BBC has reported an exhibit that may be of interest:

Much-loved teddy bears with their own unique stories have gone on public display.

The cuddly toys are part of a new exhibition at the council-owned Oxfordshire Museum, in Woodstock, which features 20 stuffed animals from families across the county. The exhibition, called Archie and the Poet, focuses on Uffington poet John Betjeman and his teddy bear, Archibald Ormsby-Gore, who is now 114 years old. It will run until 25 February.

Together with Jumbo the elephant, now aged 92, Archie was adored by the Poet Laureate. As a little boy, Betjeman was often very lonely and Archie was his constant companion. Archie was used as Betjeman’s alter ego and later became the model for Aloysius, who was owned by Lord Sebastian Flyte, in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. Archie and Jumbo were reportedly in Betjeman’s arms when he died in 1984…

–Political commentator and Waugh fan Charles Moore writes in the Daily Telegraph that the Conservative Party seriously needs a rethink of its policies but not a change of leader just now. Here’s an excerpt:

…Earlier this week, the third item in a “grid” supposedly designed by Tories wishing to overthrow Rishi Sunak was reported on a newspaper front page. The story was that a former special adviser to Rishi Sunak had joined the plot to depose him. His Shakespearean name was Will Dry.

I had not previously heard of Mr Dry, 26. Further reporting revealed that, in his short life, young Will had originally been a Leaver, but then turned into a sort of Nellie Wet, becoming the co-founder of Our Future, Our Choice, a Remainer group campaigning for a second EU referendum. Now Mr Dry has re-repented, living up to his name and making life difficult for his former boss.

It is aeons since I worked as a lobby journalist “conveying”, in Evelyn Waugh’s phrase of Randolph Churchill, “political gossip on whiskyladen breath”.  So I may be misjudging the situation, but it does seem to me that if Mr Dry – versatile though he is – is considered a stand-alone item in a political assassination plot, then this is a comedy and Mr Sunak need not lose much sleep…

–The New York Times has posted its 11 April 1966 obituary of Evelyn Waugh. It was unsigned. Here are the concluding paragraphs:

Mr. Waugh, though of only middling height, was an impressive figure as he walked along the fashionable streets and squares of St. James’s, one of London’s most elegant neighborhoods. In the clubs of that section–he was a member of White’s and St. James’–he was thought a dandy. He wore well-cut suits and in London topped them with a bowler hat. In later years, he added bulk to what had been a slender frame.

He had a round face, a short broad nose, a squarish chin and fair hair–curly in his youth, slicked straight in his mature years–which he parted on the left. He wore metal-rimmed round spectacles for reading and for a time in his middle years had a military mustache.

A portrait done by Henry Lamb in 1926 shows him with a pipe in his mouth, a beaker of ale in one hand and a wide, florid, spotted necktie. What rivets the attention to the picture is the eyes, which stare out at the world like a malevolent eagle’s.

The eyes matched the judgments he often made of men and mores. In an aphoristic view, he once said: “Manners are especially the need of the plain. The pretty can get away with anything.”

He had a deep suspicion of things mechanical. He never learned to drive a car, and he disliked using the telephone.

The entire obituary may be read online without a subscription at this link.

–Actress Jane Asher is interviewed in a recent issue of the Cambridge Independent. Here’s an excerpt:

…The mention of Lady Kitty [a character she is playing in a current performance of Somerset Maugham’s The Circle] and her lover running away to Italy brought to mind the character of Lord Marchmain from Brideshead Revisited, who in the novel was living in Venice with his mistress, Cara.  Jane appeared in the much-loved 1981 television adaptation of one of Evelyn Waugh’s most popular works, as Charles Ryder’s wife Lady Celia Ryder (Charles, of course, was famously played by Jeremy Irons).

“That was a lovely character too,” reflects the experienced actress. “I mean in some ways she was vaguely similar to Lady Kitty, although I think Celia was probably more genuinely shallow than Lady Kitty because Lady Kitty actually has much more depth to her than we at first see.

“But Celia I think was very socially-minded and a really annoying woman – but I loved playing her. The thing about playing somebody like Celia, who is really irritating, is that you’ve got to like her yourself, you’ve got to see her point of view, and I got really annoyed about the fact that my husband was flirting with this other woman on board the QE2, or whatever it may be, and it’s really good to get into a character and see the side of it from their point of view, which I think you have to try and do.”…

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