Weekend Roundup: Brideshead Re-edited

Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited dominates this week’s roundup:

–Scottish novelist and journalist Allan Massie has written an article in the Catholic Herald entitled “Chapter & Verse: Brideshead re-edited”. The article begins:

Brideshead Revisited, published in 1945, was Evelyn Waugh’s first explicitly Catholic novel. It lost him, he wrote later, “such esteem” as he had enjoyed among his contemporaries. … It was possible to fall in love with the novel while ignoring its Catholic theme, or paying little attention to it. That was my experience, reading it in 1957, shortly before going up to Cambridge. I was entranced by Waugh’s evocation of 1920s Oxford, even if he assured the reader that this was now “lost as Lyonnesse”, entranced too by the beauty, charm, silliness and melancholy of Sebastian Flyte. Later I would be saddened by his descent into alcoholism as he ran away from adult life and the demands of his mother, Lady Marchmain – saintly but not a saint.

Of course I was reading it all wrong, as indeed the narrator, Charles Ryder, misunderstood Sebastian and his mother. In time he would come to see Sebastian as “the forerunner”, when a decade or so later he falls in love with Julia, Sebastian’s twin, has an affair with her, lives with her as man and wife, both being married – Charles to a bright socialite, Julia to the crass and pushing politician Rex Mottram. Julia, it should be said, is the great failure of the novel.

The remainder of the article is behind a paywall but perhaps one of our readers can report below how Massie would “re-edit” the novel.

–On the Anglophile website Anglotopia, a guest writer (Janna Wong Healy), who failed to find delight in either the novel or the 1981 TV adaptation when she was younger, has read (or listened) to the former and watched the latter, as well as the 2008 film version. She now has something good to say about each of them. After summarizing the story, she reaches this conclusion about the novel:

Brideshead Revisited has the depth and weight that are found in a writer working in his prime, in the full powers of an eager, good mind and a skilled hand, retaining the best of what he has already learned. It tells an absorbing story in imaginative terms. By indirection it summarizes and comments upon a time and a society. It has an almost romantic sense of wonder, together with the provocative, personal point of view of a writer who sees life realistically. It is, in short, a large, inclusive novel, … a novel more fully realized than any [considered on the website in] the year now ending, whatever their other virtues.

Moving on to the 1981 TV series, she admitted to having trouble sitting through the first episode, but she continues:

By the second episode, I was hooked.  The series is an extraordinarily true translation of the novel.  Every detail, every nuance of every character is depicted in the series.  In fact, I can think of no part of the book that was excised from the series.  When you watch the series, you get the full essence of the book, including (and especially) the lovely narration delivered in the dulcet tones of Jeremy Irons’ voice.

With respect to the 2008 film, she was able to watch that when it was released and then  again after reading the novel and viewing the 1981 series:

It’s a good piece of filmmaking.  It nicely depicts the friendship between Charles and Sebastian and the romance between Charles and Julia and it explores the importance of religion in the Flyte family.  But, there is no way to reduce a 432-page book that once had life as a 13-hour television series, into a 2 hour and 13 minute movie.  Too many of the subtleties of the characters and relationships are left undeveloped.  Watching the movie is a good method for becoming familiar with the main beats of the story and that’s how I appreciated it when I originally saw it in 2008.  But now that I am initiated in Mr. Waugh’s novel, I can see the movie’s shortcomings.  There was just too much from the novel that had to be excised in order to get it into the theater with a decent run time.

She concludes with a series of alternatives for combining the novel and the films in a satisfactory manner.

Brideshead along with a later novel appear on the website Clothes in Books. They are both included on a list of books recommended as good reading while on cruise:

4) The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold – Evelyn Waugh’s alter ego noisily going mad on a Mediterranean cruise. A kind reader has pointed out that while Pinfold passes through the Mediterranean, he is not on a Mediterranean cruise: he is on a ship travelling to Ceylon with cargo and passengers.

5) And Brideshead Revisited, also by Waugh, contains a memorable love affair on a transatlantic crossing…

Waugh did write a book about a Mediterranean cruise. This was Labels (1930), a travel book, not a novel.

–The BBC has announced that next year’s edition of its series Countryfile Live will be broadcast from Castle Howard in North Yorkshire. The program will air from 15-18 August 2019:

Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, Sir Gary Verity DL says: “…Castle Howard is a beautiful location and the perfect setting to host this family favourite.” Castle Howard, widely recognised as ‘Brideshead’ in adaptions of the Evelyn Waugh novel, will host many of the much-loved Countryfile Live attractions on its 1000 acre site including Passion for British Livestock, the Wildlife Zone and most importantly, The Craven Arms.

This year’s series of live broadcasts comes from Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire 1-4 August.

–In the magazine Humanities (published by the US-based National Endowment for the Humanities) Danny Heitmen has written a retrospective essay entitled: “The Messy Genius of  W H Auden”. In describing Auden’s wartime career, the article first quotes his biographer as explaining that he left England “to escape the temptations to fame.” According to Heitman:

That’s perhaps the most charitable explanation for Auden’s move to America in 1939. Others couldn’t help noticing that his departure coincided with the start of Britain’s ordeal in World War II. Novelist Evelyn Waugh would later claim that Auden had left “at the first squeak of an air-raid warning.” His absence from England even came up in the British Parliament, although the government took no action against him. 

Auden and his companion on his trip to America, Christopher Isherwood, were depicted in Put Out More Flags as Parsnip and Pimpernell who made a similar trip. The quote comes from that novel. See previous post.

–Meanwhile, on the conservative website Counter-Currents Publishing: Books Against Time, Ash Donaldson has posted an article entitled “Sword of Dishonor: The Reasons for the Decline of America’s Military”. While alluding to Waugh’s WWII trilogy for his title, in his text he relies on a character from Brideshead Revisited to explain one facet of the American military decline. This is in a section titled “An Army of Hoopers”:

By the Second World War, officers like Hooper in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited were as common as hobbits in the shire:

“Hooper had no illusions about the Army – or rather no special illusions distinguishable from the general, enveloping fog from which he observed the universe. . . . Hooper was no romantic. He had not as a child ridden with Rupert’s horse or sat among the camp fires at Xanthus-side; at the age when my eyes were dry to all save poetry . . . Hooper had wept often, but never for Henry’s speech on St. Crispin’s day, nor for the epitaph at Thermopylae. The history they taught him had few battles in it but, instead, a profusion of detail about humane legislation and recent industrial change. Gallipoli, Balaclava, Quebec, Lepanto, Bannockburn, Roncevales and Marathon – these, and the Battle in the West where Arthur fell, and a hundred such names whose trumpet-notes, even now in my sere and lawless state, called to me irresistibly across the intervening years with all the clarity and strength of boyhood, sounded in vain to Hooper…

–Finally, on the website of the Dublin-based popular music magazine Hot Press. a recent performance of the band calling itself Flyte is reviewed:

They’ve got that four part harmony thing down too, on opener ‘Victoria Falls’ from last year’s debut album, The Loved Ones, and ‘Closer Together’, which attempts to mix it up with some quasi 80s keyboards. … they’re at least heading in the right direction, although some of it sounded a bit samey, they could take it easy with the shiny keyboards, and they need to learn how to work an audience a bit more. The bass player has lovely hair though.

The performance was at The Iveagh Gardens in Dublin. See previous post.

Posted in Adaptations, Brideshead Revisited, Newspapers, Put Out More Flags, Sword of Honour, Television Programs, The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Waugh’s Oxford (more)

The TLS has a review by Miranda Seymour of Barbara’s Cooke’s book Evelyn Waugh’s Oxford. It opens with a discussion of Waugh’s drawing of Harold Acton on the back flap of the dustwrapper (also p. 25) and continues:

Barbara Cooke’s emphasis here on Waugh’s graphic art – of which the Bodleian owns a splendid little collection – provides a useful corrective to our knowledge of a literary life that has been more sparklingly analysed by Selina Hastings, Paula Byrne and, most recently, Philip Eade. (Christopher Sykes’s engrossing biography of Waugh, published in 1975, remains endearingly tainted by his inability to write with sufficient detachment about one of his oldest friends.) Cooke may fail to sparkle, but she is tenacious in her determination not to mask Waugh’s manifold flaws.The first and better half of her book – it later descends into a historic trail guide (one beguilingly illustrated by Amy Dodd) to the famous and infamous locations of Waugh’s years at Oxford – potters across familiar ground.

The familiar ground is summarized as Waugh’s early life leading up to Oxford. Seymour thinks Cooke might have been more forthcoming about some of the more louche details of Waugh’s undergraduate years but…

Her interest revives when she turns to the novelist’s precocious gift for drawing and his early interest in film-making. Waugh shared Virginia Woolf’s fascination with silent film, and made many of his student friendships through Terence Greenidge, a fellow film enthusiast. Together they produced The Scarlet Woman, which was partly shot at Underhill, and featured, alongside Evelyn and Alec, Elsa Lanchester, who later starred in Bride of Frankenstein (1935).

Both Cooke and her publisher do full justice to Waugh’s early career as a graphic artist. It’s good to be reminded that woodcuts preceded Waugh’s work as a novelist – and to be shown in detail just how good his work was. The five Oxford types that Waugh drew as a frontispiece for Cherwell in 1923 were still being used by that magazine as late as 1940. When his comic novel Decline and Fall was published by Waugh Senior’s publishing firm in 1928, he provided his own illustrations. Clearly inspired by both Eric Gill and Aubrey Beardsley, Waugh’s darkly mischievous caricatures prefigure the exuberant wit of his early novels.

Our readers are reminded that an important phase of Waugh’s Oxford years will be commemorated next weekend on Saturday, 28 July at 6pm when a memorial plaque will be unveiled at one of his favorite pubs, the Abingdon Arms. This is just a few minutes cab ride north of Oxford in Beckley. For details and Waugh-themed menu of the feast planned after the event, see here.

Posted in Art, Photography & Sculpture, Books about Evelyn Waugh, Events, Newspapers, Oxford | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Score Settling Time

In the 12 July 2018 issue of the New York Review of Books, Max Hastings, former editor of the Daily Telegraph, reviews Hilary Spurling’s biography of Anthony Powell. This is not scheduled to be published in the USA until the Fall, but Hastings seems more determined to settle old scores with Powell than to review the book. He was editor of the Telegraph in the 1980s when Powell was still the chief book reviewer after over 30 years. Powell resigned after Auberon Waugh in 1990 wrote a strongly negative review in the Sunday Telegraph of a collection of Powell’s Telegraph articles. (See previous post.) Hastings hasn’t forgotten that Powell made no secret of the fact that he thought Hastings bore responsibility for the publication of Auberon’s review and, more importantly, had taken the Telegraph downmarket under his stewardship.

The review opens with this:

Some decades ago, Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Powell were widely regarded as Britain’s foremost novelists of the modern era. Today, Waugh reigns triumphant in the literary pantheon, one of the few twentieth-century British writers enthusiastically devoured by the young. Meanwhile Powell, if not forgotten, is scarcely read by people under sixty. His reputation, chiefly based upon his twelve-novel sequence A Dance to the Music of Time, published between 1951 and 1975, has slumped.

Hastings continues in the same vein, including several other references to his judgement that Waugh’s work is now universally deemed superior to that of Powell. He seems to suggest that Powell was engaged in some sort of underhand plot to secure the “top” position for himself but makes no comment on Spurling’s extensive argument that Powell in the late 1960s and 1970s was a lone voice from his generation speaking out in defence of Waugh’s stature as a writer. This was during a period that much of Waugh’s work had fallen out of print. Hastings also bears a grudge against Spurling for having undertaken to have the Telegraph commission a bust of Powell to display in their offices in recognition for his years of service and in atonement for Auberon’s review. Although he concludes in the end that Powell’s major work is still worth reading and that Spurling’s biography is well written, by that time he has already vented his spleen over three pages of invective.

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Take in One Flag, Put Out More

A political dispute in Kansas inspired a reader of the Lawrence Journal-World to submit this letter citing Evelyn Waugh:

The governor’s response to the flag controversy — to put more flags on display around the Statehouse in Topeka — brings to mind Evelyn Waugh’s early novel of World War II, “Put Out More Flags.” Rich young men, seeing opportunities in government employment on the home front (certainly not on the battlefield), acquire a newfound spirit of patriotism. The governor has certainly done his bit, volunteering as a plastic surgeon in combat zones, but he is also a politician facing a tough election soon. Waugh’s title is from a proverb quoted by the Chinese writer Lin Yutang: “A drunk military man should order gallons [of alcohol] and put out more flags in order to increase his military splendor.”​

Richard Hardin

The letter refers to a report from earlier this month about remarks made by the Governor  with respect to flag displays at the University of Kansas which is located in Lawrence. According to the Journal (12 July 2018), this started with the outdoor display of an American flag on which an artist had painted black blotches and a striped stocking. This was one part of a larger display of objects from the collection of the university’s art museum. The Governor demanded, inter alia, the altered flag’s removal and destruction but at one point, he also suggested this:

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer has ordered additional American flags flown outside the Statehouse in response to a university’s now-relocated public art display featuring an altered flag. Colyer spokesman Kendall Marr said the Republican governor ordered the 19 additional flags to go up Wednesday afternoon on the north and south sides of the Statehouse grounds.

There were apparently already a sufficient number of flagpoles installed around the statehouse to afford compliance with the Governor’s demand.

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Bastille Day Roundup

With the French celebrating their National Day and their World Cup victory this past weekend, our latest roundup is dedicated to them. Appropriately enough, our first entry relates to France.

–In the weblog Literary Hub, Emily Temple admits that most writers admire the work of Marcel Proust. To keep things in perspective, she collects several opinions that differ. One of these is Evelyn Waugh who wrote in 1948 to Nancy Mitford (who lived in France at the time and loved it there):

I am reading Proust for the first time—in English of course—and am surprised to find him a mental defective. No one warned me of that. He has absolutely no sense of time. He can’t remember anyone’s age. In the same summer as Gilberte gives him a marble & Francoise takes him to the public lavatory in the Champs-Elysees, Bloch takes him to a brothel. And as for the jokes—the boredom of Bloch and Cottard. [NMEW, p. 92]

Other anti-Proust writers in the LitHub’s collection include James Joyce, D H Lawrence and Anatole France who is supposed (apocryphally) to have said: “Life is too short and Proust is too long.”

–On his weblog Anecdotal Evidence, Patrick Kurp has reported that he is reading Helena, one of Waugh’s more negelcted books:

… I came across sentences spoken by Lactantius, the Christian convert who helps bring the title character to the true faith, that seem to express Waugh’s writerly credo:

“He delighted in writing, in the joinery and embellishment of his sentences, in the consciousness of high rare virtue when every word had been used in its purest and most precise sense, in the kitten games of syntax and rhetoric. Words could do anything except generate their own meaning.”

…Waugh judged it his best book, which it is not, but Helena embodies his interest in “joinery,” “the construction of wooden furniture, fittings, etc.” (OED). Before Waugh resolved to be a writer, he considered devoting his life to painting, and then contemplated carpentry and printing. Writing, for him, is a species of making, not an emotional pressure valve. His books are usually funny, yes, but always exactingly crafted. In a 1953 interview with the BBC, when asked if he was conveying a “message” in his work, Waugh replied:

“No, I wish to make a pleasant object, I think any work of art is something exterior to oneself, it is the making of something, whether it’s a bed table or a book.”

–BBC Radio 3 on yesterday’s broadcast featured excerpts from the works of Evelyn Waugh in a special episode of Words and Music, which is subtitled “The News”. According to the BBC’s description, the program started with:

… the 19th century, when newspapers were seen as noble messengers, [and continued] to the 21st, with 24-hour rolling news on every screen. Comical newshounds in novels by Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Trollope, populate the first half of the programme … Music, poetry and archive clips reflect key moments in history…We hear themes used for news programmes by Malcolm Arnold, John Williams and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and incidental music for plays and films, such as Samuel Barber’s School for Scandal and Bernard Herrmann’s score for Citizen Kane. Newsreader Kathy Clugston and Miles Jupp, host of BBC Radio 4’s The News Quiz, are the readers for a special edition of Words and Music exploring the evolution of how we get our new.

The program can he heard on the internet over BBC iPlayer for approximately 4 weeks.

–The Countess of Carnarvon on her website discusses the past success of the TV series Downton Abbey that was filmed on Highclere estate in Berkshire where she lives with her family. She is posting in connection with last week’s announcement of a new production that will be a full length film based on the earlier story. As she ruminates over the past successes, her somewhat random thoughts turn to this:

Researching my book “Catherine” about the 6thcountess, I found [the 1920s] a fascinating time in British politics where the rise of the Labour party knocked against the hard edged glamour of Evelyn Waugh’s world of decadent aristocrats.  In fact, Evelyn Waugh married, in turn, two nieces of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and I have to admit that “Brideshead Revisited” is one of my favourite books.

I wonder if she has in mind the introduction of a new character: a lately successful and upwardly mobile (if somewhat gauche) young novelist who falls in with one or more of the family’s younger female members. I can’t recall which of them remains unattached after the last episode but that doesn’t matter. It’s probably too much to hope for but maybe the Countess will have a word with Julian Fellowes.

–Finally, on the weblog Nigeness, the blogger “Nige” announces that he is undertaking a rereading of the novels of Auberon Waugh. This was inspired by his recent enjoyment of Auberon’s Private Eye Diaries. He mostly liked Auberon’s first novel The Foxglove Saga but was disappointed by the ending:

Again and again, Waugh sets up and executes brilliant comic set pieces involving these three and various authority figures and walk-on characters. Misunderstandings, confusion and crossed signals abound, and there are many laugh-aloud scenes and moments (which is a great deal more than you can say about many supposedly comic novels).  Up to somewhere near the end, The Foxglove Saga is a joy to read. Then, I think, something goes wrong with the tone, and the latent cruelty in Waugh’s (both Waughs’) comedy comes too near the surface…So, a novel full of promise, which for much of its length is brilliantly achieved and very funny, fails to carry through to the end. Never mind – the best bits are truly comparable to Waugh pere at his funniest, and suggest a great comic novelist in the making.  Bron, incredibly, was only twenty when he wrote this one. What happened next? Well, three years later, he published a second novel, Path of Dalliance. I have a copy, and am going to read it. I’ll be reporting back…

Thanks once again to Dave Lull for sending links to some of the stories reported above.

UPDATE (22 July 2018): The Sunday Times for today recommends the BBC Radio 3 programe described above:

This is a sequence without a presenter, beautifully, wittily, creatively crafted. Nobody tells you what you’ve heard. Part of the joy is guessing what you’re hearing. Last week’s theme was The News. The words came variously from Alvar Lidell, Anthony Trollope, Evelyn Waugh, Carol Ann Duffy and others. The music included Leroy Anderson, John Adams, Scott Joplin and a rainbow of news signature tunes. The readers were Miles Jupp (who presents Radio 4’s The News Quiz) and the Radio 4 newsreader Kathy Clugston; the producer was Helen Garrison. The result was intense pleasure.


Posted in Auberon Waugh, Brideshead Revisited, Helena, Letters, Newspapers, Radio Programs | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Tale of Two Anthonys

The current issue of the London Review of Books has an essay by Prof Perry Anderson on Anthony Powell.  This considers the recent biography of Powell by Hilary Spurling and morphs into a longer critical consideration of Powell’s works. It is Part 1 of what will be a two-part essay. Anderson notes at the beginning that Spurling’s supposedly official biography of Powell is considerably shorter than Martin Stannard’s work on Waugh as well as some of Spurling’s own biographies of other subjects; he also wonders about:

her relationship with the subject, a close friend whom for many years she knew and admired – Christopher Sykes on Waugh is the nearest parallel? In such cases, affection can shape the compass of a biography, personal knowledge lighting up but also limiting what can be said. Perhaps there are traces of that here; but, on the whole, in the warmth and grace of Spurling’s account there is a natural tact but little sign of inhibition. … Aesthetically speaking, at all events, the economy of her study is not out of keeping with its subject: Powell, a disciplined writer with a laconic streak of his own, would have appreciated it.

In the end, Anderson thinks Spurling gets it just about right. After an extended comparison of Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time with Marcel Proust’s Search for Lost Time, Anderson compares Powell’s works with those of his English-language conetmporaries. This includes a comparison of Powell’s prewar novels with those of Evelyn Waugh:

The verdicts of Koyama Taichi, in The Novels of Anthony Powell: A Critical Study (2006), comparing them with Waugh’s output in the same [prewar] period, are brisk. Similarities abound – Decline and Fall: Afternoon Men (’the merry-go-round of manners’); Black Mischief: Venusberg (‘topsy-turvy in a foreign land’); Vile Bodies: Agents and Patients (‘satire of the fast set’); A Handful of Dust: From a View to a Death (‘the country house is falling down’); Scoop: What’s Become of Waring? (‘the dinginess of hacks’) – but Powell lacks the gusto of Waugh’s ‘wild, grotesque flights of the imagination’, his energy-saving variants yielding no more than a ‘light, prosperous disdain for the sordid affairs of the world’. That could be thought too harsh. But Koyama is perfectly correct in pointing out the most striking feature of the early novels. They contain, virtually without exception, only flat characters.

In an article in the Jesuit magazine America, the religious position of novelist Anthony Burgess is reconsidered by Christopher Sandford. The article provides this comparison with the approaches to religion of Burgess and Waugh :

Although [Burgess] proudly identified himself as an “unbeliever” from the age of 16, he continually returned to spiritual themes, whether in his novels, his poems or his screenwriting of the acclaimed 1977 miniseries “Jesus of Nazareth.” Burgess told me in 1987 that this aspect of his life was “an endlessly scratched itch.” Not that he ever for a moment identified with other prominent Roman Catholic authors of his generation (again shunning the lure of the club), telling The Paris Review in 1973 that he felt himself to be “quite alone…the novels I’ve written are really medieval Catholic in their thinking, and people don’t want that today.” Unlike him, Burgess continued, even the greatest of English Catholic writers “tend to be bemused by the Church’s glamour, and even look for more glamour than is actually there—like [Evelyn] Waugh, dreaming of an old English Catholic aristocracy, or [Graham] Greene, fascinated by sin in a very cold-blooded way…. I try to forget that Greene is a Catholic when I read him. Crouchback’s Catholicism weakens [Waugh’s] Sword of Honour in the sense that it sentimentalises the book. We need something that lies beneath religion.”

Posted in A Handful of Dust, Academia, Black Mischief, Catholicism, Decline and Fall, Newspapers, Scoop, Sword of Honour, Vile Bodies | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Waugh and Brexit (more)

Waugh gets several mentions in the weeklies in connection with the Brexit debate. Two of these relate to Tory politician Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leading proponent of Brexit. These are based on Dominic Green’s interview of Rees-Mogg for The Weekly Standard on which he also comments in The Spectator. In The Weekly Standard, Green reports:

There is much of P.G. Wodehouse in Rees-Mogg. When he canvassed door to door in his first, unsuccessful attempt to win a seat in parliament, nanny came too. When the papers reported that he was driving around in a Bentley, he objected that it was only a Mercedes. A contemporary of Rees-Mogg’s at Eton recalls how the pupils wagged him by humming the national anthem during class, so that young Jacob would jump out of his seat and stand to attention. But there is more of the serious comedy of Evelyn Waugh. Rees-Mogg’s anachronistic, almost theatrical overdressing; his posh, staunch, and fecund Catholicism, and his conviction that the old days and old ways were better all recall later Waugh. His constituency, North East Somerset, is in Waugh country.

He may mean that last phrase literally since the family of Arthur Waugh lived in Midsomer Norton (which is, indeed, in Rees-Mogg’s constituency), and Evelyn visited his aunts there many times as a child. In summarizing the interview for The Spectator, Green closes with this:

As I leave, I ask Rees-Mogg, a Catholic MP for a Somerset constituency, to name his favorite Evelyn Waugh novel. ‘Scoop,’ he says. ‘It’s such fun.’

American conservative journalist Roger Kimball, whose day job is publisher of The New Criterion magazine, also reports in The Spectator on Brexit in connection with this week’s visit of Donald Trump to Britain. He thinks Trump sees Brexit as a matter of sovereignity and closes his article with this quote from Evelyn Waugh:

The beautiful people who titter over the Baby Blimp and denounce President Trump’s policy of “America First” might take a page from Evelyn Waugh. “I believe in nationality,” he wrote in 1938 [sic], “not in terms of race or of divine commissions for world conquest, but simply this: mankind inevitably organises itself into communities according to it geographical distribution; these communities by sharing a common history common characteristics and inspire a local loyalty; the individual family develops most happily and fully when it accepts these limits. I do not think that British prosperity must necessarily be inimical to anyone else, but if, on occasions, it is, I want Britain to prosper and not her rivals.”

The quote is from Waugh’s book Robbery Under Law (1939) pp. 20-21 (Penguin, 2011 ed.).

UPDATE: Quote is from book published in 1939. Text is changed accordingly.

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Waugh: Letter and Portrait

A letter from Evelyn Waugh to Hugh Heckstall-Smith was auctioned earlier this week. A copy is still posted on the internet. The year is missing from the date but it is sent from Combe Florey so would have been sent in the last decade of Waugh’s life. Here’s the excerpt:

ALS signed “E. Waugh,” one page, 6 x 8, Combe Florey House letterhead, September 11. Letter to Hugh Heckstall-Smith. In part: “Yes Spencer was my informant…His suicide, I now remember, was autumn 1941 at Hayling Island. I knew him only as a Marine but saw quite a lot of him. He was a keen officer but full of frustrated ambitions (I thought). As far as I know he was in no disciplinary trouble & his death came as a surprise to all in the Corps. I suspected him of Communist sympathies, perhaps quite wrongly.” Continuing, Waugh refers to J. F. Roxburgh, adding: “Did J. F. not appoint his own Masters? At Lancing they were chosen from the most suitable of the assistant Masters. J. F. never had any sexual or romantic interest in me…Looking back I see J. F. as a show-man in the best sense. Great style, but a dangerous model for the young. I hear his trusty tones in many voices.” In fine condition, with a few rusty staple holes to the upper left corner.

“Spencer” refers to a Capt Spencer mentioned by Waugh in letters to his wife. He was serving with Waugh in the Marines. Letters dated 22 January 1940 and [October] 1941. His suicide was reported in the latter (Letters, p. 156). Of what he was Waugh’s “informant” is unclear. J F Roxburgh taught at Lancing College. Hugh Heckstall-Smith was a school teacher and taught for a time at Gordonstoun. He is probably the author of A Doubtful School Master (1962). The British Library holdings of Waugh’s archives show a fairly active correspondence for a two-year period:

ff. 20-42v Evelyn Arthur St John Waugh, novelist: Hugh Heckstall-Smith: Letters to Evelyn Arthur St John Waugh from Hugh Heckstall-Smith: 1962-1964.

That would be 22 pages of incoming correspondence. If any of our readers has a copy of his book or knows more about Heckstall-Smith or the aforesaid correspondence, comments are invited below.

The Salisbury Museum is holding an exhibit of the paintings of Henry Lamb. This includes Lamb’s portrait of Waugh which was the cover illustration for Evelyn Waugh and His World. Here’s a description from the Persephone Post:

Henry Lamb’s famous portrait of Evelyn Waugh is in the Salisbury Museum exhibition. It’s 1930, Waugh was 27, and the painting is rather poignant because Waugh became such a grumpy old man, here all is before him.

The exhibit continues through September after which a smilar exhibit will be mounted in the Poole Museum. Details here.

UPDATE: According to BL files, the correspondence with Heckstall-Smith began in 1962, the year his book was published. The above text has been modified accordingly.

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Vile Parties

The website Londonist has published an artcle on “6 Debauched Parties We Wish We’d Been Invited To”. These are all from the Bright Young People days that were described in Waugh’s novel Vile Bodies. There is one which involved Waugh directly:

4. The Bruno Hat exhibition party (23rd July 1929, Buckingham Street)

A mysterious art exhibition in July 1929 brought guests ranging from Lytton Strachey to Winston Churchill to a house in Buckingham Street, where the work of emerging artist Bruno Hat was celebrated at a cocktail party. Evelyn Waugh had written the catalogue for the exhibition and many guests spoke admiringly of the work on display. However, the next day revealed the truth: ‘Bruno Hat’ was a hoax dreamed up by Brian Howard, an ambitious member of the Bright Young Things who longed to throw his own legendary party. Waugh, Strachey and a number of other people were well aware of the charade. The event was described by the Daily Express as an “amazing hoax on art experts”, with the ‘artist’ at the party actually being Tom Mitford in disguise. We’ll level with you — we think some of the hoax art’s pretty good.

The story includes an interesting set of photos from The Graphic which illustrate some of the paintings as well as Mr Hat himself. Among others included in the Londonist’s selection are a Circus Party and Bath and Bottle Party. Both of these are among those listed by Waugh in the well known party paragraph of his novel which was published in January 1930 (CWEW, v2, p. 82).

Posted in Art, Photography & Sculpture, Humo(u)r, Newspapers, Vile Bodies | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Unsung Waughs

A posting by Ralph Berry on the weblog of the “paleoconservative” journal Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture cites one of Waugh’s least read novels:

I was lately in Exeter, hoping to see something of the Islamic Centre at the University. As it was a Sunday when I visited, I thought they might have been open for business. But the doors were locked and no access was possible. I did however read a massive plaque outside, which read in its entirety:


I was put in mind of Evelyn Waugh’s Black Mischief, which opens with the Emperor Seth, ruler of Azania, and his titles. They include “TERROR OF THE SEAS” and “BACHELOR OF ARTS, OXFORD UNIVERSITY.” The ruler of Sharjah follows in the same tradition. But Evelyn Waugh is not mocked. There has never been a film or TV drama of Black Mischief, unlike Waugh’s other major novels. I expect the authorities found the title too incendiary.

Another neglected Waugh novel comes up in another post. This is by Sara Haslam, editor of the Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh edition of Helena. Waugh thought it his best novel and was probably the one to which he devoted the most time relative to its size. Dr Haslam, who is a Senior Lecturer of English Literature at the Open University, recently conducted some research on her edition in the Waugh Archives of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. She reports the results of her visit on the website of the University of Leicester. Here’s an excerpt:

Searches of the [A.D.] Peters papers turned up many useful documents and letters; for example, Waugh’s ‘Notes on Translating Helena’ that was thought lost. Waugh’s instructions for translators were on two sides of the same notepaper used and bound to make the Helena MS. One reason they may have been thought lost is that they seem to have been mis-filed. … Finally, on those kinds of discoveries that justify archive-fever, the collection holds an advance proof copy of Helena, which I hadn’t been able to tell from the catalogue. It’s this proof (and probably this copy of this proof) that Waugh (or someone) copied and then stuck into the back of the AMS for him to annotate, creating UK1’s version of the final lines of the novel.

I returned to the UK with a clearer and near-final version of the MDATV [Manuscript Development and Textual Variants], as well as many pointers for the Introduction. Taking images of covers was the one thing I struggled with. The lights in the HRC have, apparently, foxed many folk trying to do the same thing.

Finally, the death of a somewhat neglected actor is in the news. This is Tab Hunter whose death at the age of 86 was announced earlier this month. According to his obituary in the Guardian, his film career peaked in the 1950s when he played clean cut “beefcake” roles in several popular films. He was already past his peak when he appeared briefly as a guide at Whispering Glades in the 1965 film of The Loved One. He was one of several actors who landed cameo roles in that film. Others included Milton Berle, Liberace, and James Coburn. Although the Guardian describes something of a comeback linked to the John Waters’ film Polyester in 1981, he never returned to the level of popularity he achieved at the beginning of his career.

Posted in Academia, Adaptations, Black Mischief, Complete Works, Film, Helena, Newspapers, The Loved One | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment