Waugh’s Collage

In a recent article in the Indian paper National Herald, reporter Mrinal Pande refers to a collage created by Evelyn Waugh in 1935 which is mentioned without citation in the writings of Graham Greene. This is in an article entitled “A surreal world crumbling around us.” The collage is discussed in the article in the context of writing about the current chaos created by the Wuhan coronavirus epidemic:

In 1935, Evelyn Waugh put together a collection of what Graham Greene described as a collage. It had reports from Waugh’s immediate past, bits and pieces from his personal diary, scraps of newspaper advertisements, lines of poems and bits of social gossip. Greene confessed he did not know why Waugh might have chosen the pieces that he did.

But in March 2020, under the shadow of a mysterious, unknown and tiny virus that has caused a global pandemic, the collection appears apt and faintly familiar. They speak of people living through an unsettled reality, of unnamed dread and a certain black humour. Waugh at one place quoted Stephen Spender:

“We, who live under the shadow of a war,

What can we do, that matters?” [Quotation marks supplied]

What indeed?

Waugh discussed two ideas for making films.

“Ten men on a death row draw lots with matchsticks. One of them, a rich man, draws the longest one. He offers all his money to anyone who will take his place.

A prisoner agrees to take the rich man’s place for the sake of his family. Later when released, the rich man visits the family that benefited from his wealth while remained anonymous. He himself had nothing left but his life…” [Quotation marks supplied]

In the other story, two penniless men meet at a crossing, with one road leading to a scaffold and another to riches; they toss a coin and go their separate ways. But both end up in a town on the morning of a public execution.

Then there are scraps of advertisements that Waugh had clipped and kept, of corsets exuding an odd kind of sadistic pleasure over tightening them, and shoes, and stockings of the finest sheer silk.

There are bits of literary gossip too about writers.

Virginia Woolf had gone mad, believing herself to be Brownings’ dog Flush, wandering about unhappily. And about the widow of GK Chesterton with her bright, dyed red hair and a voice with a grating accent. How will we cope with illnesses, Waugh frets in his diary, when children separated from parents come down with tormenting sicknesses?

After comparing Waugh’s “collage” with various responses to the current epedemic, Pande ends the article with this:

Waugh quoted Tom Paine from Landor’s Imaginary Conversations:

“Eloquence has the varnish of falsehood; Truth has none…Burke is eloquent;

I am not. If I write better… it is because I have seen things more distinctly, and have had the courage to turn them up on their backs, in spite of tooth and claw…”

The final quote (at least, the first line) is correctly sourced to Landor’s Imaginary Conversations and has been much cited elsewhere as is the line from Spender’s 1933 poem quoted earlier, but they do not show up in a search for works by Waugh. There is no reference to a 1935 collage by Waugh in his letters or diaries nor does one show up in the catalogue of the Evelyn Waugh Collection at the University of Texas. He does refer in a 1953 letter to Nancy Mitford to a collage he put together in connection with his composition of Love Among the Ruins (Letters, p. 391) but does not explain what it may have contribited to the published book. It’s possible that the numbers of the year were inadvertently reversed and that he sent such a collage to Graham Greene but, if he did, it is not mentioned in the collected editions of the published letters between the writers. Anyone knowing anything about the collage mentioned in this article or its whereabouts is invited to comment as provided below.

 

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Roundup: Wavian Humour When it is Sorely Needed

–Duncan McLaren has posted a new article in a section of his weblog denominated “Waugh Bites” where one can find miscellaneous articles about various unconnected topics. The new posting is entitled “The Legs Have It”. This posits that two leg injuries–one in his post Oxford years when he fell during an escape from an Oxford hotel to avoid an unwanted engagement and the other in wartime after a parachute jump–contributed to mobility problems experienced later in life. These problems are described in the memoirs of Waugh’s friends Harold Acton and Anthony Powell. Whether or not there is any medical support for Duncan’s supposition, the post makes interesting light reading relating to Waugh personal life spread out from the beginning to the end of his working life.  It also makes the point that had not previously occurred to me that these injuries contributed to the composition of two of Waugh’s works–the first to “The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood” and the second to Brideshead Revisited. Here’s a link. Enjoy.

–Roger Lewis in the Daily Telegraph chooses “10 funny books to keep you laughing through coronavirus quarantine.” Among these is this one:

The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh. Some people are easier to get on with on paper than in the actual flesh, where they’d be brutal and quarrelsome. Such were Nancy and Evelyn, her in Paris, him in the West Country, both of them hating the modern world (Picasso, television, socialism) and united in converting spleen and snobbery into high comic art. Every page contains an outrageous observation: “I went to a circus entirely run by half-witted boys. Such a good idea. They get on far better with the animals than sane people.” “For 150 years or more the only great French men and women have been found in convents.” There is plenty of gossip about Honks, Boots, Baby, Fruity and Boofy, helpfully identified in Charlotte Mosley’s footnotes. Boofy, for example, was the 8th Earl of Arran, who introduced the Sexual Offences Bill and the Badger Protection Bill in the House of Lords. In this book we also discover that, in John Betjeman’s Wantage rectory, “a horse sleeps in the kitchen,” and that when Graham Greene is taken to hospital his ailment may be caused by “five diseases two of which are not immediately fatal, the others are”. Though Waugh “fell into an extremity of rage” most days, he was profoundly moved by his correspondent: “Try not to die. It is the strong ones who go under easiest.”

The Irish Times also has an article recommending funny books to help get through the Coronavirus epidemic. This includes “Evelyn Waugh’s first five novels [which] are Wodehouse with a slice of sarcasm and bitter irony on the side.”

–An earlier issue of the DT had an article by Chris Leadbetter entitled “How to have a holiday in Venice without leaving home”. This recommended various TV and film adaptations to view for this purpose. The list included the Granada series of Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited “which still sparkles in the imagination (almost) four decades after it was first broadcast (in 1981).”

–The novelist Hannah Rothschild whose recent novel The House of Trelawney was was compared in several reviews to Brideshead Revisited (see previous post) was recently interviewed on an Israeli podcast called “Desert Island Books”. The Q&A includes this exchange:

Q. The first book you have selected is Scoop by Evelyn Waugh, written in 1938. Tell us why you selected that book.

A. For many reasons. First, I think it’s one of the funniest books ever written. Basically a man who is a correspondent for a newspaper writing about nature is mistakenly sent to a warzone. He shares the name Boot with their War correspondent. I think Evelyn Waugh is one of our greatest British novelists. He’s funny, he’s acerbic. He turns plots inside out and upside down. If I could write like anyone, I’d want to write like him.

Here’s a transcript from Jewish News.

The Times has a review by Robbie Millen of the book by Robin Muir published in connection with his curatorship of the National Portrait Gallery’s Cecil Beaton exhibit. The review opens with this:

In July 1927 Evelyn Waugh confided to his diary: “I went to another party the other night in Brook Street. I don’t know who the host was. Everyone was dressed up and for the most part looking rather ridiculous. Olivia Plunket Greene had had her hair dyed and curled and was dressed to look like [the leading socialite] Brenda Dean Paul. She seemed so unhappy.”

The host was a Captain Neil McEacharn and the evening that Waugh so ill-enjoyed was an Impersonation Party, or Living Celebrity Party. Everyone was there, darling. […]

It was this party that caused the Daily Express to ask: “Who, then, are the Bright Young Things?” The answer to that question is contained in this upmarket coffee table book, which was published to go alongside a (now mothballed) National Portrait Gallery exhibition. Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things is a collection of the society photographer’s work from the 1920s and 1930s.

It’s a gorgeous affair. There are numerous silvery portraits of Phoebe Waller-Bridge lookalikes, interwar beauties and socialites, all bobs, cheekbones and elbows; the men are prettier and poutier still — they look as if they have escaped from a Marc Almond album cover. […]

Robin Muir, the exhibition’s curator, does a neat job of introducing the rich, famous and posh characters whom the young Beaton photographed, and their world of parties, pageants, charity matinees, evenings of tableaux vivants. Waugh satirised this empty-headed, glitzy scene in his novel, Vile Bodies (1930). I often, though, thought the names he conjured up for that satire were rather silly, the characters too preposterous. This book makes you rethink that, especially because of the preponderance of absurd nicknames — “Eggie”, “Buffles”, “Pempie”, “Dadie”.

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The Saga of the Stella Polaris

Waugh readers will know of the cruise ship M/V Stella Polaris as the vessel on which Evelyn Waugh and his first wife traveled on the 1929 cruise that became the subject of his first travel book. This was Labels  published in 1930. The travel column of the South China Morning Post carries a story about the ship’s history after Waugh’s noteworthy journey:

The arrival on Christmas Eve, 1929, of the Stella Polaris was eagerly awaited in Hong Kong. “From the illustrations and brochures,” noted the Hong Kong Daily Press on December 14, “the vessel appears to be as luxurious as any ship that has ever steamed into the port […] with spacious promenade decks and comfortable cabins with the latest Thermotank Punkah ventilating system.” The same paper witnessed her grand arrival at the Kowloon Wharf: “Her graceful yacht-like lines, and gleaming white paint attracted immediate attention as she made her way into her berth passing sturdy cargo boats, warships, and native craft.”

The SCMP article includes an excellent photo of the ship which looks more like a yacht than a cruise ship, at least by today’s standards. The article then mentions Waugh’s connection with the ship:

One of the first purpose-built luxury cruise ships, the “Stella” had carried English writer Evelyn Waugh around the Mediterranean earlier that year. The resulting Labels: A Mediterranean Journal (1930) was his first travel book, in which he had promised the ship’s Norwegian owners generous coverage, in exchange for a free berth.

“Every Englishman abroad, until it is proven to the contrary, likes to consider himself a traveller and not a tourist,” he wrote. “As I watched my luggage being lifted on to the Stella I knew that it was no use keeping up the pretence any longer. My fellow passengers and I were tourists, without any compromise or extenuation.” On board, “as one would expect from her origin, she exhibited a Nordic and almost glacial cleanliness. I have never seen any­thing outside a hospital so much scrubbed and polished.”

Waugh also offers a more detailed description of the ship not quoted in the SCMP:

She was certainly a very pretty ship, standing rather high in the water, with the tail-pointed prow of a sailing yacht, white all over except for her single yellow funnel, and almost ostentatiously clean […] So far, I was agreeably impressed, but I reserved judgment, for she has the reputation of being “the last word” in luxury design, and I am constitutionally sceptical of this kind of reputation. (London, 1974, p. 39)

The SCMP story goes on to explain that the ship was one of the first to be used for pleasure cruising in the Arctic regions of Scandinavia and concludes with this:

After a long and distinguished career, the Stella was sold to a Japanese company in 1969. She became a floating hotel then a floating restaurant, serving Scandinavian smorgasbords off the Izu Peninsula. In 2006 she was bought by a Swedish company for refurbishment in Stockholm, but sank under tow while still in Japanese waters.

For more information on the ship see this link.

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The Oldie Returns to Brideshead

In its latest issue, The Oldie’s two cover stories are grouped together as “Return to Brideshead: From the smart set to the film set”. They are intended to mark the 75th anniversary of the novel’s publication as a book in May 1945. Onc article is by Waugh biographer Selina Hastings who sets out to describe “the friends who inspired Waugh’s most successful book.” Her article, entitled “Evelyn’s smart set”, opens with this:

It was in January 1944 that Evelyn Waugh managed to procure three months’ unpaid leave from the army, in order to begin work on what is regarded by many, myself included, as his finest novel, Brideshead Revisited. At that particular period, Waugh had little to do. Nobody seemed to want him. The war was going on elsewhere, and the jobs he had hoped for in his brigade had been allotted to others, his commanding officer explaining that he was so unpopular as to be almost unemployable. Thus it was that he found himself staying at a small hotel in a Devonshire village, writing about a world far distant from the grim austerity of wartime Britain. The book took him only five months to complete…

The other is a memoir by Nicholas Grace, the actor who chewed more scenery than any other in the 1981 Granada TV adaptation of the novel. His portrayal of the character of Anthony Blanche is the most memorable from a cast with several other serious contenders (especially John Gielgud’s Ryder père). Here’s the opening of Grace’s memoir entitled “Britain’s Grandest Film Set”:

Had I been born two years earlier, I would be as old as Brideshead Revisited, published 75 years ago! Still, I’d rather be younger. One sunny morning in 1979, my agent asked me to read for a new series, Brideshead Revisited. My heart leapt – I adored the book at school. I dared to ask the question: which part? ‘Anthony Blanche.’ ‘Oh God, isn’t that the queer guy with the stutter?’ ‘The very same,’ responded my agent. I went off to meet the director, the classically handsome, cigar-smoking Michael Lindsay-Hogg; the producer, the charmingly effusive Derek Granger (who turns 99 on 23rd April); and the casting director, Doreen Jones. She didn’t want me for the role! There was no reading at all; just an informal chat and an invitation to a screen test in Manchester. I found Blanche’s stutter a genuine challenge…

The Oldie has also posted on its weblog a short story by Teresa Waugh, wife of the late Auberon Waugh. This is entitled “Isolation” and is described as “the tale of an elderly lady, tormented by coronavirus-induced isolation.”

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Waugh and the Coronavirus (more)

An estate owner in rural Shropshire called into The Times with a story suggesting that rather than being locked-down in London, those of its readers with sufficient funds might like to avail themselves of vacation lets on his estate which were otherwise going empty. The landowner recalled the days of WWII when many residents of the capital fled the bombing to seek refuge in estates such as his (although his was apparently deemed too remote to be of any wartime interest to the military or civil authorities). Here’s a link.

One example he offers is this:

During the war, country houses were turned into hospitals, schools and training camps redolent of the prologue of Brideshead Revisited, which was written by Evelyn Waugh over six months in 1943-1944, mostly in a secluded country hotel in Devon.

In Waugh’s case, he was not fleeing from London but from an army base in Windsor. He was granted an extended leave to write his novel Brideshead Revisited. His own country house in Gloucestershire was occupied by nuns, and his wife was living in West Somerset with her family–i.e., Waugh’s in-laws, with some of whom he did not get on particularly well. If he was fleeing from anything, it was both the Army tedium and the small children and family life that he found interfered with his writing. Indeed, he was also absenting himself from the birth of his 5th child which occurred while he was holed up in Devon writing his novel. He had used the Easton Court Hotel in Chagford on several previous peacetime occasions to write in seclusion. His wife joined him there as soon after their daughter Harriet was born as was feasible and helped him proof the final typescript.

In another story in the same issue of The Times, columnist Quentin Letts makes an allusion to Waugh’s novella The Loved One to support a point:

The Commons had spent much of its day passing the Coronavirus Bill, the legislation strengthening ministers’ powers, constraining our freedoms. It became easier to lock up the mentally ill, close borders and, in the sterile language of officialdom, “enable the death management system to deal with increased demand”. If that formalin-scented phrase carried an echo of Evelyn Waugh’s embalmer Mr Joyboy, it returned when Matt Hancock, the health secretary, spoke of victims as “those who are taken from us”. …

The Roman Catholic news website The Catholic Thing also cited Waugh in a story about the emergency practices adopted by the Chutch to deal with the coronavirus epidemic:

Last Tuesday [17 March 2020]– the first day of no public Masses in our diocese – I was reminded of this scene from Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited, when the priest came to close up the Marchmain family’s chapel:

“The priest came in. . .and took out the altar stone and put it in his bag; then he burned the wads of wool with the holy oil on them and threw the ash outside; he emptied the holy water stoup and blew out the lamp in the sanctuary and left the tabernacle open and empty, as though from now on it was always to be Good Friday.”

That last line in particular rang in my mind:”as though from now on it was always to be Good Friday.”…

The story was by Fr Paul Scalia from the Diocese of Arlington, VA and was entitled “Priests without People”. Here’s a link.

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Evelyn Waugh Studies 50.3 (Winter 2019)

The Winter 2019 issue of the Society’s journal Evelyn Waugh Studies No. 50.3 has been issued. It is posted at this link. The contents are set out below:

ARTICLES

“Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead and Castle Howard” by Jeffrey Manley

INTRODUCTION

Castle Howard has become inextricably connected in the public perception with Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited. This is due more to its selection as a setting for two popular film adaptations than to what was written by Waugh himself. And yet because of the overwhelming effectiveness of the portrayals of Waugh’s story in these films (or at least the earlier Granada TV production), even some literary scholars have come to accept the identity of Castle Howard as the setting intended in Waugh writings. The purpose of this paper is to compare Waugh’s descriptions of Brideshead Castle to Castle Howard itself and to review the process of the filmmakers in selecting that site as the setting for the story. The paper will then consider to what extent the identification of Castles Howard and Brideshead can be attributed to Waugh and what to the film adaptations.

Another question arises relating to the source for the Flyte family itself. They are clearly identified with the Lygon family who lived in Worcestershire at Madresfield Court. To some extent, Sebastian Flyte has similarities to Hugh Lygon, who was the second son of the Lygons and had a serious drinking problem that contributed to his early death. Hugh was to have been Waugh’s flat-mate in his final term at Oxford if Waugh had not left without finishing his degree. Hugh’s father, Lord Beauchamp, was forced into exile by homosexuality, whereas Lord Marchmain exiled himself by choice to escape his domineering wife and her religion in favor of his Italian mistress. Few among Waugh’s friends missed these connections. But to spare the Lygon family further embarrassment, Waugh provided thefictional Brideshead Castle and its residents with identities that are intended to distinguish them from the Lygons and Madresfield. His efforts in this regard were more successful in the case of distinguishing the houses than it was the families.

REVIEWS

“The Ghosts of Romance”, Lost Girls: Love, War and Literature 1939-1951, Constable, 2019. 384 pp. £25.00, or Lost Girls: Love and Literature in Wartime London, Pegasus, 2020. 336 pp. $28.95, by D. J. Taylor. Reviewed by Jeffrey Manley

NEWS

UPDATE (26 March 2020): A link to EWS 50.3 has been added.

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The Loved One Meets the Wuhan Coronavirus

–A blogger posting as “Sapper” traces the influence of Waugh’s writing about Los Angeles in the post war 1940s to what may be the first of several New Yorker essays by English writer and satirist Geoff Dyer, now a resident of that city (more specifically, the beach suburb of Venice):

Roll Over, Evelyn Waugh — Geoff Dyer Finds Laughs & Humor In Our Own Plague Year

As this blogger read Geoff Dyer’s essay about living in the US during a pandemic and scanned Dyer’s descriptions and reactions, the blogger remembered reading another Brit’s reaction to US attitudes toward death, Evelyn Waugh (full name: Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh) spent a brief post-war interlude (1945-1947) on a film project of one of Waugh’s novels, Brideshead Revisited. When the project collapsed, Waugh remained in Los Angeles and went on a tour of one of the most famous (or infamous) cemeteries in Southern California: Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, CA. The experience and several return visits to Forest Lawn, were the basis of Waugh’s British interpretation of death and funerals in the United States: The Loved One. And Geoff Dyer carries on the tradition of a British view of US attitudes toward death and dying. If this is (fair & balanced) macabre humor, so be it.

Waugh’s tenure in Los Angeles was much shorter than indicated in the blogpost. His visit lasted for about 6 weeks in February-March 1947. The Forest Lawn Memorial Park that Waugh visited was the original incarnation of that institution in Glendale. The Hollywood Hills branch opened after his trip, in 1952. Dyer’s New Yorker article appears in the March 23, 2020, issue of the magazine. Here are the opening lines, mentioning two other English writers (and later a French one), but not Waugh:

This might be the first installment of a rewrite of “A Journal of the Plague Year,” but it will be written in real time rather than with the benefit of the fifty-odd years of hindsight that Daniel Defoe was able to draw on. If all goes well—or very badly—it might also be the last installment, because although we’re only at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, I’m close to the end of my tether. Physical effects lie in the future, but the psychic toll is already huge—and wide-ranging. At the top end: Am I going to catch it? This can be answered with a slight rephrasing of Philip Larkin’s famous line from “Aubade”: most things may never happen; this one probably will.

Dyer’s article is entitled “The Existential Inconvenience of Coronavirus” and may be viewed at this link.

–Recommendations for reading and viewing during the coronavirus shut-down continue to roll in:

The Daily Telegraph provides a list of 20 “best TV box-sets for self-isolating”. Each entry has a brief summary. Here’s the only Waugh box-set that is listed:

Brideshead Revisited

For pure escapism and nostalgia, what better screen spectacle to lose oneself in than Granada’s gorgeously lavish 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel? Jeremy Irons plays Charles Ryder, the Oxford student bewitched by the dysfunctional aristocratic family of his dissolute friend Sebastian Flyte (Anthony Andrews). Castle Howard in North Yorkshire stands in for the Marchmains’ palatial country seat, while a distinguished supporting cast is led by Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and, of course, Aloysius the teddy bear.

Available on: BritBox, Amazon Prime Video or DVD (Collector’s Edition £27.99)

The Daily Mail has compiled its own streaming list that also includes Brideshead:

Brideshead Revisited BRITBOX

This 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel is perhaps the greatest costume drama of all time. Jeremy Irons is Charles Ryder, an undergraduate at Oxford who forms an intense friendship with hedonistic Sebastian Flyte (Anthony Andrews).

Flyte loathes his family but insists on taking Charles to their country estate ‘to meet mummy’, but it is Sebastian’s sister Julia (Diana Quick) who really catches his eye.

Laurence Olivier plays Lord Marchmain and John Gielgud is Charles’s snobbish, small-minded father. One series

— Michah Mattix’s “Prufrock” column, formerly in the Weekly Standard, is now in The American Conservative. Mattix:

asked readers to send me their favorite book (fiction or nonfiction, classic or contemporary) of the past five years. Boy, did you all deliver. Here’s the list, which I’ll continue to update over the next few days. Any comments that appear after the titles are from the readers who recommended the book (in some cases, slightly edited).

One of the books recommended is Waugh’s Decline and Fall.

–A webpage for marajuana lovers called leafly.com prepared “a list of 50 of our favorite stoner books. Whether you define a stoner book as a novel about the delights of cannabis, or a nonfiction work about the history of weed, we’ve got you covered.” One of those recommended is Scoop by Evelyn Waugh. How it meets the stated criteria isn’t explained, but perhaps some of the journalists managed to get stoned while on assignment. Hashish was no doubt available. Anyone recalling such an incident is invited to comment below.

 

 

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Anthropologist at the Hypocrites Club

A new book surveys the professional career of E E Evans-Pritchard, a noted anthropologist who made his reputation with studies of Sudanese cultures. This biography is entitled The Anthropological Lens: A Dandy Among the Azande and is written by Christopher Morton. It is reviewed by anthropologist Adam Kuper in a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal. According to the review, what sets Evans-Pritchard apart is his writing style. Quoting another assessment, Kuper writes:

“there has been no greater master of the ‘Oxbridge Senior Common Room’ tone, instancing his deployment as a guerrilla officer in the Sudan during World War II: ‘This was just what I wanted and what I could do, for I had made researches in the Southern Sudan and spoke with ease some of its languages.'”

Evans-Prichard was a member of the Hypocrites Club at Oxford. While Waugh, also a member, doesn’t mention him among his “roll call” of Hypocrites in his autobiography A Little Learning, Kuper explains that they would have known each other. Waugh’s friend Anthony Powell, also a member, recalls Evans-Pritchard in his memoirs as “grave, withdrawn and somewhat exotic in dress.” He was photographed wearing a Berber gown at a 1924 fancy dress party given by the Hypocrites. Evans-Pritchard had another connection at the Hypocrites through Waugh’s friend from Lancing, Tom Driberg, also a member. Driberg’s brother Jack, who “would become a district officer in the Sudan, [had] studied anthropology under Bronislaw Malinowski, and became a bosom friend of Evans-Pritichard.”

Kuper goes on to explain how several of the Hypocrites became part of the Bright Young People after they left Oxford but does not mention whether the biography places Evans-Pritchard himself in that group. Evans-Pritchard like fellow Hypocrites Waugh and Christopher Hollis and non-Hypocrite Oxford contemporary Graham Greene also became a convert to Roman Catholicism. This took place while he was serving in Libya.

After his conversion Evans-Pritchard rather distanced himself from fellow anthropologists whom he dismissed as “dogmatic unbelievers, obsessed with showing that religious belief was a bundle of illusions…” He, nevertheless, held the chair of social anthropology at Oxford until 1970 and, according to Kuper, “at his peak was the equal of his teacher and rival Bronislaw Malinowski. Mr Morton offers a fresh perspective on an extraordinary career.”

From a quick survey of the table of contents and index of the book available on Amazon.com, it appears that these discussions of Evans-Pritchard’s Oxford career and religious conversion come from Kuper’s own knowledge rather than Morton’s biography. The latter appears to concentrate more on Evans-Pritchard’s photography and fieldwork than it does on his personal life.

 

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Spring Equinox Roundup

–Several publications have posted recommended binge reading and watching for the homebound during the Wuhan coronavirus shut-down. Many of these include books or adaptations of books by Waugh:

The Guardian produced a list of 50 of the “Best Binge Watches: From Buffy to Brideshead.” This was compiled from recommendations of a team of TV writers. Here’s the one for Brideshead:

49. Brideshead Revisited
Amazon Prime Video/BritBox
They don’t, in so many senses, make them like this any more. ITV’s 1981 version of Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel was, with its 11-hour running time, not far off granting the wish of those viewers who like dramatisations to include every word of the book. That meant the world Waugh conjured – fading nobility, eccentric inter-war hedonism and grassy afternoons at a perfectly proper Oxford University – could be allowed to completely envelop the viewer. In the days before the big US box-set beasts, Brideshead Revisited was routinely cited as the best TV show of all time. In part, that was due to the exquisite score, the sky-high production values and the brilliant cast. But its appeal has always been mainly as a door to a fantasy of a bygone world. That’s now perhaps more valuable than ever. Jack Seale

The Sunday Times also has a list of 50 TV serials recommended in its “Coronavirus Lockdown: Self-Isolation Special”. This was compiled by Helen Hawkins. Under the “Period” heading this one appears:

Brideshead Revisited
Even more than the sets and costumes, Evelyn Waugh’s dialogue and characters sing. How many series offer cameos by Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud?
Britbox; Amazon, from £6.99

Forbes Magazine lists 8 books to take you away from your quarantine to somewhere overseas:

When it comes to the foibles and absurdities of the upper-crust (and often under-behaved) British land-owning aristocrats, there is no writer as masterful as Evelyn Waugh. And of all his varied and accomplished writings, there is no novel more instantly absorbing (and impossible to resist) as Brideshead Revisited. His depiction of privileged boyhood is a classic, and you will find yourself rooting for its protagonist as he falls within a very dissolute, very English lifestyle. In the words of Waugh: “You never find an Englishman among the under-dogs except in England, of course.” Expect many more one-liners to follow.

At least one recommendation mentions a Waugh novel other than Brideshead. This appears in the Greater Manchester online newspaper mancunianmatters.co.uk and is entitled “Ignoring coronavirus: A cultural guide”. It is written by Emma Morgan, and this particular section starts with a Jane Austen novel:

Although a trip to the cinema is probably off the cards, Autumn de Wilde’s new adaptation of [Jane Austen’s Emma] will also be available to view at home from Friday. This film is an elegant and picturesque interpretation of the grace and wit of Austen’s prose, which is sure to have a calming effect on any viewer. The reassuring softness of Emma is echoed in the style of novelists Elaine Dundy and Evelyn Waugh. The blasé heroine of Dundy’s The Dud Avocado, Sally Jay Gorce, and the hapless Paul Pennyfeather, protagonist of Waugh’s Decline and Fall, seem to exist in some sort of comedic vacuum, where no action or decision has any real consequence on anything.

The Australian issued a list of books to read in “self-isolation”. Among these is Brideshead Revisited as well as the Book of Revelations, W G Sebald’s Austerlitz and Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room.

–In another of its “Top 10 Books” columns, the Guardian lists books about boarding schools. This was compiled by James Scudamore whose new novel, English Monsters, “is about a group of friends who meet at a boarding preparatory school at the age of 10, and whose experiences there resound inescapably in their lives over the next 30 years. […] Everyone at boarding school craves superpowers, because it’s the most obvious response to the powerlessness. But you don’t have them.” One of those on Scudamore’s “Top 10” list is Waugh’s Decline and Fall:

4. Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh
Sent down from Scone College, Oxford for indecent behaviour after his trousers are stolen by a drunken member of the Bollinger Club, Paul Pennyfeather is exiled to teach at a purgatorial boarding school in Wales. On sports day, the hurdles have been burned for firewood and are replaced by five-foot-high spiked railings, and the starting pistol is Philbrick the butler’s service revolver, which ends up being discharged into the heel of Lady Circumference’s son, Lord Tangent. Among its many delights is the novel’s acknowledgement of the fact that teachers at boarding school often seem as perplexed as the pupils as to how they came to be in such a place.

Others included are George Orwell’s “Such, Such Were the Days”, The Compleet Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

–The global fashion and travel magazine Lucire has posted on its website an article from issue #41 entitled “The Land of the Giants” by guest contributor George Rush. He writes about his recent trip to Guyana in advance of changes likely to be wrought in that country by revenues from the oil exploitation that is just beginning. As part of his equipage he

…brought along a copy of Ninety-Two Days, Evelyn Waugh’s amusing diary of his 1933 trek into this country’s wilderness (and a template for his novel, A Handful of Dust). Before embarking on his ‘journey of the greatest misery,’ Waugh had strolled around Georgetown, finding that its ‘main streets were very broad, with grass and trees down the centre.’ And so they still were—plaited with canals, to drain a city that lies three feet below sea level at high tide. (One more incentive to pay attention to climate change!) Georgetown was bigger now—population: about 200,500—and probably tattier, due to a chronically depressed economy. But much of what Waugh saw remained.

The web post is accompanied by photography, some of which is quite stunning.

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Sword of Honour Re-examined

The current issue of the literary magazine Raritan Quarterly (Winter 2020, v. 39, #3) includes an article by Andrew J Bacevich about Waugh’s war trilogy. This is entitled “My Guy”, giving some indication that Bacevich finds himself in agreement with Waugh’s (and Guy Crouchback’s) views of the conduct and results of WWII. Bacevich is a graduate of West Point, retired army officer and Professor Emeritus of International Relations and History at Boston University. He is noted for his outspoken criticism of the second Iraq War, which may explain to some extent his identification with Evelyn Waugh’s position on WWII as reflected in his trilogy.

In the absence of an abstract of the article, here is an excerpt from the opening paragraphs in which Bacevich explains what he sets out to do:

The first volume of Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy appeared in 1952 and the last in 1961. In the United States, this was the Eisenhower decade, a moment defined by three seemingly unimpeachable convictions: first, that the recently concluded Second World War had been a righteous struggle pitting good against evil; second, that the ongoing Cold War was a replay of the conflict that had ended in 1945 in decisive victory; and third, that God had remained throughout firmly on our side. Eisenhower endorsed all three of these propositions. So too did the great majority of his fellow citizens. Or at least they pretended to, aware that overt dissent could be perilous. […]

Today, several decades after they first appeared, Men at Arms (1952), Officers and. Gentlemen (1955), and The End of the Battle (1961) retain their place among the very best novels of World War II. They are vividly written, savagely funny, and teeming with the sublimely absurd characters that are a trademark of Waugh’s fiction. Yet underlying the comedy is serious purpose. The trilogy is above all a sober reflection on cultural and civilizational decline, which, in Waugh’s view, the conflict soon to be enshrined as the Good War had served to accelerate.

In an act of anticipatory demolition, Sword of Honour takes aim at the yet-to-be-fully-promulgated Good War/Greatest Generation myth and proceeds to dismantle it. For Waugh, the war that Europeans date from 1939 does not qualify as good, in considerable part because Great Britain chose to wage it by following a morally disreputable course. Nor does he deem those who fought or endured the war particularly great. They are merely human: flawed, frivolous, and mostly preoccupied with minimizing the annoyances and discomfort that number among war’s byproducts.

The article is available on academic subscription services EBSCOhost Web and ProQuest..

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