Rex Whistler Anniversary Commemorated

Next month will mark the 80th anniversary of the death of Rex Whistler on 18 July 1944. He died in France as part of the invasion force following D-Day. The Salisbury Museum has mounted a special exhibition of his work for the occasion which will continue through 29 September. Here’s a link to their announcement.

Simon Heffer in today’s Daily Telegraph also mentions the exhibit in connection with his comments on the Tate Britain controversy arising from Whistler’s wall painting in their basement restaurant:

One used to lunch in the restaurant at Tate Britain and study the remarkable 1927 mural by Rex Whistler, The ­Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats. Whistler was barely out of the Slade, and just 21, when he began this fantasy, showing people about the same age as the artist going through an imaginary ­landscape looking for food. Part of the ­mural’s delight is its sheer ­romanticism, at odds with the modernism of the time when it was painted.

However, it is now contended that to admire it is racist. In 2020, an outcry orchestrated by two women charmingly calling themselves The White Pube drew attention to a kidnapped black child being pulled along on a string by a young woman, while his mother watches from a tree, and to caricatures of Chinese people.

No one seemed – or wanted – to know about the artist’s motivations. Whistler was no racist, but was known for his mordant wit. He was acutely conscious of the shocking inequalities that stood below the mindless high society of the 1920s, and is clearly satirising them in his painting, much as Evelyn Waugh would soon do in his novels.

Whistler’s art was insulted to the point where, in 2022, the Tate closed the room so the public could not see it. The gallery is a Grade I-listed building and, whether it likes it or not, it could not remove this component of that structure. However, in March it sought to “contextualise” the mural by complementing it with a film that claims to explore “the social and political context of 1920s Britain”.

All this is typical of how creative people from the past are put in the dock of a court set in a land they do not know and tried for “offences” that at the time were nothing of the sort. It makes some today feel better, but it is entirely unhistorical. Incidentally, in reporting the making of the new film, the BBC described the mural as “offensive”, though, unlike me, it did not put that adjective in quotation marks: it had made up its own mind and discarded any shred of objectivity.

The BBC comments on the contextualization film were written by Bonnie MaLaren and are available at this link.  It is a bit unfair to say that the BBC itself adopted the epithet “offensive” as their own description of the painting. As is clearly evident from the text (if not the headline), they were clearly quoting the position of officials at the Tate Britain in that regard. Heffer’s article continues:

Next month, on July 18, falls the 80th anniversary of Whistler’s death, killed in action, in Normandy. Despite being in his mid-30s when war broke out, he was commissioned into the Guards Armoured Division, so determined was he to fight the racists who were then conquering most of Europe. He was killed having left his tank to go to the aid of other men in his unit; apparently, The Times received more letters about his death than for that of any other war casualty. That either shows the extent of support for a racist, or just what a greatly admired artist he was.

The Salisbury Museum in Wiltshire has recently opened an exhibition entitled Rex Whistler: The Artist and His Patrons, which runs until September 29. It takes a more nuanced and less hysterical view of the mural. “We should be wary of censoring or destroying art that does not fit with our twenty-first century values,” says the museum’s director, Adrian Green – and of course he is right. Others who love exhibiting only their self-righteousness should stop showing off.

The Salisbury Museum also mentions a new book about Whistler. This is by Nikki Frater and is entitled Rex Whistler: The Artist and His Patrons. It is available at from 20 July 2024 at this link. Here’s the description:

Focusing on the British virtuoso Rex Whistler (1905–44), who was linked to many of the most illustrious figures of the interwar period, this book explores an exceptional case of artistic patronage in the twentieth century. In weaving together social and art history, this beautifully illustrated volume reveals as much about the artist as it does about his patrons. It accompanies a major exhibition at the Salisbury Museum, which holds the Rex Whistler Archive.

Whistler’s cast of patrons includes the art collector and poet Edward James, avid diarist and socialite Sir Henry “Chips” Channon, Lord and Lady Louis Mountbatten, Cecil Beaton, Duff and Diana Cooper, author and poet Lady Dorothy Wellesley, and many others for whom Whistler worked on a diverse range of commissions. The exchange with his patrons, the book argues, allowed Whistler to explore a rich variety of subjects, materials, and techniques. Whistler’s commissioning circle was both diverse and privileged, with many embracing the sexual fluidity of the time, and the book deepens our understanding of how the elite were protected by their wealth and position from the strict societal mores of the 1920s and 30s.

Nikki Frater, an expert on Whistler’s work, draws on extensive archival research and newly available material to present a fresh interpretation of the relationship between the artist and his milieu. Frater’s behind-the-scenes approach illuminates Whistler’s creative methods and techniques and includes many previously unseen drawings and sketches. The book paints a nuanced portrait of his oeuvre and the artist himself as he tries to combine his challenging career with a complicated romantic life.


Posted in Anniversaries, Art, Photography & Sculpture, Exhibits, Newspapers, World War II | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Roundup: Shopping Lists, Inheritance and a Lecture

–The auction house Bonham’s has on offer an unusual example of Wavian memorabilia. Here’s their description:

Collection of 24 autograph postcards (from Piers Court), and 3 letters signed by Waugh (22 “E.W.”, 2 “Evelyn Waugh”, 3 unsigned) to Mrs. [Sylvia] Barker, of 6 St. John’s Avenue, Putney, SW15 on one occasion requesting she “get six seats front row dress circle for Peter Pan… also six seats on the previous or subsequent day for the Circus”, on 27 April 1951 asking if she could “be very kind & go, or send another Aunt” to the lost property office “I left a cigar case in a taxi between Hyde Park Hotel & Eaton Terrace. It is new pig skin, double-backed containing one cigar”, but the others almost exclusively discussing the acquisition, or merits of various pieces of furnishing (candle sticks, curtains, a side-board as a wedding gift for Randolph Churchill, a shooting stick for his wife’s birthday, etc.) the letters 1 page, 2 on “White’s” paper; the postcards (all but 3 with integral address, and date stamped), 2 with small ink illustrations of curtain rails, one with a piece of fabric attached with a pin, 8vo, Piers Court, Nr. Dursley, Glos., 17 July 1948-14 November 1951 (27)
‘I WANT A GREAT LEATHER ARM CHAIR, VERY COMFORTABLE, VERY HANDSOME, SUITABLE FOR SLEEPING IN. WHAT YOU FIND IN CLUBS… RED’ – Waugh writes to a Mrs. Barker of Putney in regards to her acquiring for him items of furniture, decorative items and curtains, displaying a keen interest on the detail. Amongst items discussed are a pair of steel dogs (‘not ornate enough’); wanting as ‘a wedding present for Randolph Churchill a side-board… Something cheap & showy. Must be in perfect condition. Not modern of course’ (4 months later noting that ‘I saw Randolph C’s sideboard for the the first time last week and I thought a good buy. He is delighted with it’); ‘I need carpets. The only man I know is in Vigo Street & madly expensive… I need a lot of electric lamps & shades. Where do i go for them?’; ‘Do you have anyone who wants a contemporary oil painting (full length but would cut down) of George III’s queen? I have one to get rid of… I was in Paris lately – hated it’; suggesting an amusing way in which to chose a chair suitable for himself, ‘get a fat little man, fill him with port, put him in the chair. If he goes to sleep and wakes up without cramp, buy it…’.

Provenance: Sylvia Marvell Barker (1906-1992), Great Aunt of the present owner.

The auction closes on 20 June (Thursday) at 12:00 BST. Click here for details, including copies of several examples on some of which Waugh includes drawings to explain his potential purchases.

The Times reports a complex change in inheritance procedures at Castle Howard, the setting for both film and TV adaptations of Brideshead Revisited. Here are excerpts from the story:

For eight generations the stewardship of Castle Howard the stately home recognisable from the television dramas Bridgerton and Brideshead Revisited has passed from father to son. Evelyn Waugh could not have envisaged the most remarkable plot twist in the 300-year history of the estate.

Traditional inheritance has been replaced by a formal interview. The heir has apparently been asked to resign from the estate’s board and told he will have to compete against his half-sister and their four cousins if he wants to succeed his father. George Howard, 38, had been a director since 2012 and it was assumed that he was being groomed to replace his father, Nicholas, 72. George is the only child of Nicholas with his first wife, Amanda, a daughter of the actor Derek Nimmo….

“When looking at the structures in place there was one anomaly there, which was that George, my son, was a director, which gives him an unfair advantage over his cousins,” he said. “In discussions with him he agreed he would resign so there is now a level playing field for the next generation.”

George must compete against his half-sister, Blanche, 29, his uncle Simon’s twins, Merlin and Octavia, 22, and his uncle Anthony’s daughters Arabella, 38, and Grania, 35. “I think George initially found it quite a difficult conversation, but he came to understand how important it is that there is no sense one person is simply preferred over anyone else,” Nicholas said. “There is no plot or conspiracy.”

The estate’s articles of association were amended recently by Nicholas to allow him to remove a director, but he insists that George resigned voluntarily. When Nicholas retires, all six cousins will have the opportunity to be interviewed for the job running the estate, initially for a ten-year period.

Nicholas said: “I have seen in my own lifetime places that have been in the same ownership of the same family for many, many generations passed on to the oldest son, because that is just the way they do it, and have seen those places driven into the ground.”…

The story goes on to describe the irony of the present owner’s position on the inheritance procedures, given his own reliance, at least in part, upon primogeniture to acquire the estate from his younger brother:

Nicholas initially gave up the chance of running Castle Howard to focus on an attempt to become a pop star. After the death of their father, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe, a former BBC chairman, in 1984, the estate was handed to Nicholas’s younger brother, Simon. Nicholas evicted Simon from the stately home in 2014 after his marriage to Victoria Barnsley, a former chief executive of the publishing giant Harper- Collins, who was installed as chatelaine. …

Nicholas has not set a date for his retirement. “Continuity is so important in these ownerships and there has been a bit of disruption in the past, a bit of turbulence, and it is very important to me that we settle the ship on a steady course,” he said. “I was brought up at Castle Howard. It is a wonderful place and I have increasingly felt as I have gone through my life that I would do anything to make sure it survives, not necessarily anything to ensure that the Howard family survives in it.”

The full story, entitled “Castle Howard succession battle puts family members in competition”, appears in the 15 June 2024 issue of The Times and is written by David Brown.

–Lancing College has reported the 2024 delivery of their annual Evelyn Waugh Lecture:

We were honoured to welcome Sir Gregory Doran as our guest for the 2024 Evelyn Waugh Lecture. Sir Greg, the Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre at the University of Oxford, was knighted in the 2024 New Year’s Honours for services to the Arts. An outstanding Shakespearian with an illustrious career, he was Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 2012 to 2022. He was with the RSC for 36 years, starting his career as an actor before becoming a director. He became the company’s associate director in 1996 and worked closely with the RSC’s previous artistic director, the late Sir Michael Boyd:

“Shakespeare has been a passport through my life, and I have been privileged to be able to spend so much of my career working with the very greatest company dedicated to his work, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and sharing his genius with as many as possible around the world.”

Sir Greg’s wonderfully engaging lecture took the audience behind the scenes of his challenges and successes of staging Shakespeare’s most famous plays. He also read vignettes from his new book, My Shakespeare: A Director’s Journey through the First Folio, which included stories from his 2009 stage production of Hamlet with David Tennant and Anthony and Cleopatra at The Swan with Patrick Stewart and Harriet Walker in 2006. Everyone then made their way to the beautifully illuminated Dining Hall for supper, where Sir Greg also graciously signed copies of his book.

The Evelyn Waugh Lecture and Dinner is an ‘invitation only’ annual event to thank our donors and volunteers who support the Lancing Foundationers Campaign.

Posted in Adaptations, Brideshead Revisited, Items for Sale, Lancing, Lectures, Letters | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Roundup: 80th D-Day Anniversary

–The BBC posted an article on WWII parachute training in connection with its observance last week of the 80th anniversary of the 1944 D-Day landings. Here’s an excerpt:

…All the British paratroopers who landed in the early hours [of the D-Day invasion] had one thing in common. They were all trained in Cheshire. Specifically, the men of the Sixth Airborne Division were trained in the grounds of the country house at Tatton Park, near Knutsford, and the small airport in the Ringway parish of the county – which would later become the Manchester Airport known today. The role of the stately home, and the wider east Cheshire countryside in the preparations for Operation Overlord, is not widely known…The [Tatton Park training] jumps were made from barrage balloons whose mooring points can still be seen in the park to this day, and then later from Whitley bombers and Dakota transport planes. In total, 46 men were killed during the training, and many others were injured.

Evelyn Waugh, who was a captain in the Special Operations Executive (SOE), broke his leg on his second jump, which rendered him unfit for active duty. He spent much of the rest of the war at a desk, during which he penned the novel Brideshead Revisited. Tatton Hall is said to have been an inspiration for descriptions of the fictional stately home that gives that book its name…

Waugh was probably still technically unfit for active duty on D-Day, but by then he had arranged with the Army to have an extended leave that would enable him to write the novel that became Brideshead Revisited. Given Waugh’s general inability to adjust himself to the discipline of military life, his superior officers were only too happy to oblige.  After his leave ran out, he was assigned to Randolph Churchill’s liaison mission to Yugoslavia which departed a few weeks after D-Day. This was shortly after he had handed in the manuscript of the novel. He was “behind a desk” only for the first months of 1944, although the desk was not in the Army but in one of his writing venues. The stately home in his novel was inspired mainly by Madresfield Court in Worcestershire, not Tatton Hall, which I don’t think he ever mentions. Here’s a link to the article.

–Writer Frederic Raphael is also in the news thanks to the BBC. This undated report of an interview in The Jewish Chronicle explains why:

…[In Raphael’s] books The Glittering Prizes, and its sequel, Fame and Fortune, the semi-autobiographical protagonist, Adam Morris, morphed from Cambridge graduate to successful middle-aged writer. But success in Thatcher’s Britain did not dampen Morris’s suspicion that “Jewboy” cracks were being bandied just out of earshot, and at 78 Raphael still rails about the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment of the Britsh media…

Morris, now a pensioner, reappears in the last book of the trilogy, Final Demands. Not that a trilogy was conceived when he wrote The Glittering Prizes, explains Raphael, who is still furious that the hit TV adaptation of 1976 which won him a Royal Television Society Writer of the Year award has never been repeated by the BBC. “At least not on TV — it was done for radio a few years ago. That’s when I was asked by the producer if I thought I could revisit those same characters 30 years on,” he says.

“I could, because I had taken on board what Evelyn Waugh said: ‘Never kill people off in your books, because you never know when you might need them again’.”

This week [sic] sees the simultaneous publication and BBC radio serialisation (with Tom Conti) of Final Demands. But it is almost certainly these particular Glitteratis’ last hurrah: “With Adam Morris past 70, I can’t see a fourth book set in a nursing home!”

I can still recall The Glittering Prizes and its sequel as an outstanding example of TV adaptations. It is a pity BBC has not rebroadcast it in connection with the new adaptation, even if that is relegated to radio. The schedule of the radio serial seems to be unavailable but the episode guide is posted. It is possible that the BBC’s adaptation was broadcast earlier in connection with the book publication of the same title in 2010 and that the Jewish Chronicle has chosen to repost it.

The American Conservative has a review of a new history of the Jesuit order. This was written by Markus Friedrich and published in German. It has now been translated into English. Here is the opening section of the review by Michael Warren Davis:

In Evelyn Waugh’s masterpiece Brideshead Revisited, a Canadian bounder named Rex Mottram converts to Catholicism in order to marry the novel’s leading lady, Julia Flyte. As part of his conversion, Rex is catechized by the Flyte family’s priest, Father Mackey. In one oft-quoted scene, Father Mackey recounts the previous day’s lesson to Julia:

“Yesterday I asked him whether Our Lord had more than one nature. He said: ‘Just as many as you say, Father.’ Then again I asked him: ‘Supposing the Pope looked up and saw a cloud and said ‘It’s going to rain,’ would that be bound to happen?’ ‘Oh, yes, Father’ ‘But supposing it didn’t?’ He thought a moment and said, ‘I suppose it would be sort of raining spiritually, only we were too sinful to see it.’”

Waugh himself was a convert to Catholicism. He used Rex as a mouthpiece for the Anglo-American stereotype of Catholics. Rex doesn’t care about religion one way or the other. He’s only interested in the beautiful Julia—and her family’s fortune. The Flytes are a family of recusants: English Catholics who refused to convert to Anglicanism during the Reformation. The Flytes themselves represent Waugh’s preferred brand of Catholicism. Unlike Rex, they have culture and breeding. They were all educated by Jesuits, the brainiest religious order in the Catholic Church.

What’s funny is that the Jesuits—the Society of Jesus—were founded on solid Mottramist principles. In his book Spiritual Exercises, the order’s founder, St. Ignatius Loyola, declares: “To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it.”,,,

–A brief review of Sword of Honour appears on the website of the Online Library of Liberty (OLL). This is by Nathaniel Birzer and is entitled “Crouchbackus Contritus: Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honor Trilogy as a Chivalric Romance.” Here’s the opening:

Several far-better known and experienced reviewers than I have written on Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honor Trilogy, noting the resemblance of its major romantic sub-plot to the prophet Hosea while at the same time generally consigning the majority of the military misadventures, the bulk of the story, to the waste bin as, at most, an amusing distraction from the Hosea plot and, at worst, a frustrating slog of boredom. However, these reviewers are overlooking a key aspect of the novel, and an often overlooked yet once vital genre of the Western Literary tradition. They see the story in terms of “THE CATHOLIC NOVEL,” a sanctified version of the many early twentieth century works, such as The Sun also Rises or The Great Gatsby, revolving around bitterness and disaster in love. In this they are making the grave error of assuming this is just another Brideshead Revisited, but set more directly in the Second World War. In fact, the story is accomplishing something completely different. It is attempting to be not a novel but a Chivalric Romance…

The full article is available here.

–The Daily Telegraph has a story by Christopher Wilson which misattributes a quote to Evelyn Waugh. The article (dateline 10 June 2024) relates to the recent release of several love letters of Prince George, Duke of Kent. In identifying some of those mentioned in the letters, the name of Myrtle Farquharson is noted. Waugh is quoted as commenting, “People one knew [socially] were never killed in raids–except Myrtle.” She was indeed killed in an air raid (1941), but the mention of that fact was in a letter written by Nancy Mitford to Waugh (22 October 1961) with respect to his description of the death of Virginia Troy in his novel Unconditional Surrender. So the quote should have been attributed to Mitford, not to Waugh. Letters, p. 577; NMEW, p. 440.


Posted in Adaptations, Anniversaries, Brideshead Revisited, Internet, Newspapers, Sword of Honour, World War II | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two Interesting Offers: A Manuscript and a Letter

A Waugh manuscript is on offer on the ABE bookseller website. This is the three-page handwritten manuscript of the article entitled “Awake My Soul! It Is a Lord” that appeared in The Spectator on 8 July 1955. Here’s the description:

About 1200 words. This is Evelyn Waugh’s manuscript draft, signed by him, of an amusing satirical article, originally written by Waugh for Punch but rejected by its editor Malcolm Muggeridge as libellous, and then published in the Spectator (8 July 1955). After publication of the article several letters from the parties involved and their friends appeared in the Spectator. Waugh ridicules Lord Noel-Buxton over an uninvited and unwelcome visit which the noble Lord had rashly made to Waugh’s home in the company of Nancy Spain, “the leading literary critic of the Beaverbrook press”. The full story can be found online. The manuscript draft differs in numerous details from the article as published – most of the changes are small but Waugh’s closing paragraphs with his taxonomy of lords (“…lords haughty, who think that commoners all seek their acquaintance and must be kept at a distance; lords affable, who like mixing with their fellow-men of all degrees and know the conventions of good society by which introductions are effected; lords lavish and leisurely and dead-broke lords eager to earn an honest living” – in the published version) are substantially different in the draft. Neatly written with a few corrections, marks on the verso of the first leaf, one or two very minor nicks, otherwise Very Good. Waugh manuscripts are uncommon in the market.

The article is reproduced in EAR, p. 468, as well as A Little Order, p. 133, and is noteworthy because it was the opening round of a dispute between Waugh and the Beaverbrook press that resulted in £5,000 in libel damages being awarded to Waugh. It was also the final attempt by Waugh to have an article published in Punch magazine during Malcolm Muggeridge’s editorship. Muggeridge thought some edits were needed to avoid libel. Waugh then sent the text to the The Spectator in which he may or may not have incorporated Muggeridge’s suggestions. These manuscript pages may well answer that question. Waugh evened the score on Muggeridge’s rejections by later embarassing him when Waugh withdrew his ear trumpet and placed in front of him at a Foyle’s book launch for Pinfold just as Muggeridge started his adulatory introduction. The manuscript is for sale for $7573.13. That’s probably about £6,ooo. Here’s a link to the offer.

Another bookseller is offering (also on ABE) a letter of Waugh relating to his book about Mexico, Robbery Under Law. Here’s an excerpt from the bookseller’s description:

Autograph letter signed by Evelyn Waugh. Quarto, one page on Hotel Ritz, Mexico letterhead, the letter reads, “Sept 14th Dear Mr. Jones, Very many thanks for your letter which has just reached me here. I am so glad you found Scoop funny. Letters like yours are very encouraging. I am out here trying to study Mexican conditions, but finding it very hard to concentrate while things in Europe look so grave. Perhaps my next book will have to be about life in the army. Yours sincerely Evelyn Waugh.” The recipient, Richard Arnold-Jones, was a young man who had recently been awarded the 1938 Duke of Devonshire Prize Competition (offered by the British Empire League). Arnold-Jones went on to become a prominent Anglo-Catholic, poet, teacher and co- founder of the Redrice School. … In August 1938 Waugh, with Laura, made a three-month trip to Mexico after which he wrote Robbery Under Law, based on his experiences there. In the book he spelled out clearly his conservative credo; he later described the book as dealing “little with travel and much with political questions. In very good condition.

A copy of the letter is posted on the website. It appears that the price is $1600, but there is language that may refer to another item for which multiple copies are available. Contact with the seller should be made before responding. Here’s a link to the offer.

Posted in Autographs, Items for Sale, Letters, Manuscripts, Newspapers, Robbery Under Law, The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Roundup: Waugh’s Highclere Moments

Tatler magazine has a story about Lady Carnarvon, resident of the country house that has been the setting for the TV series and films of Downton Abbey. Another of these is being produced. Here are the opening paragraphs of the article:

When writer Evelyn Waugh arrived in Georgetown, British Guyana, he was probably in need of a break. The journey overland had been exhausting, and the recently divorced writer was probably still languishing in the throes of unrequited love for socialite Teresa Jungman. This 700-mile psychomachia in the Amazonian rainforest would go on to inspire A Handful of Dust, one of Waugh’s most sinister novels. Clearly, though, between scorpion-ridden mattress, soporific rum swizzles and vampire bats, Waugh found himself in suitable comfort to employ one of his most exclusive of adjectives. ‘Darling Blondy and Poll,’ he wrote in a letter to Lady Mary Lygon, the niece of the Duke of Westminster on whom Waugh would base Julia Flyte in Brideshead Revisited, ‘I am back in Georgetown and all the world is Highclere.’

So enamoured by Highclere Castle was this most caustic of high-society cartographers that Waugh would employ the name of the seat of the Earls of Carnarvon to describe any country house or weekend of partying that he deemed to be sufficiently luxurious. Almost a century later, its Jacobean towers and Capability Brown gardens attract thousands of visitors, who make the pilgrimage from climes as far flung as Tennessee to spend a day at the ‘real Downton Abbey’…

The article (linked here) might have gone on to explain that Waugh’s seeming fascination with Highclere Castle was inspired by the estate’s ownership by the family of both his wives. It’s a complicated connection, and that might be why it isn’t mentioned. He was seldom, if ever, invited to visit that estate. So there is considerable irony in his seeming adulation.

–An academic article on Waugh’s first novel has appeared in the Journal of European Studies (v. 54,  no. 2).  This is by Wukai Lin and Taohua Wang (both of Sun Yat-sen University in China) and is entitled: “‘Fruitless circularity’ or moral growth ?: Re-interpreting the circular mobility in Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall.” Here’s the abstract:

Evelyn Waugh’s novel Decline and Fall features a circular narrative structure, with the unjust expulsion of Paul from Oxford University at the beginning and his enigmatic return at the end. Existing interpretations of this circularity, typically labelled as ‘fruitless’ or ‘futile’, have largely neglected the underlying tension between capitalist ideology and Paul’s moral subjectivity, which governs his movements through various spaces in the novel. Drawing upon Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s conceptual framework of ‘territory’ and Henri Lefebvre’s notion of ‘social space’, this article proposes an alternative understanding of Paul’s three-part adventure as a process of ‘territorialization’, ‘deterritorialization’ and ‘reterritorialization’. These stages correspond to Paul’s moral development: moral decline, moral awakening and further moral growth. With his return to Oxford, Paul’s adventure constitutes, instead of an apparent ‘fruitless circularity’, a tortuous process of moral growth. Waugh thereby depicts the early twentieth-century British capitalist social space as a ‘vanity fair’ and explores the possibilities for individual growth within a territory of general moral decline.

Details of how to secure a copy of the entire article are posted here.

–The Daily Mail has a story (repeated in several other papers) ostensibly on the occasion of the marriage next month of Hugh, the 7th Duke of Westminster, godson of King Charles and close friend of Prince William. Most of the article is devoted to the sordid and unpleasant story of Hugh’s great-uncle, the 2nd Duke. It opens with this:

…Such was his sense of entitlement that [the 2nd Duke] was ready to divorce his wife at the drop of a coronet – just because she read a book.  And he conspired to have his brother-in-law, the Liberal politician Earl Beauchamp, thrown out of Britain because he was secretly gay.  The distraught Earl, who had been a key part of King George V‘s inner circle, was driven to the brink of suicide.  Beauchamp’s flight from Britain inspired Evelyn Waugh to write his iconic novel Brideshead Revisited….

The Mail correspondent may be pushing things to claim that Earl Beauchamp’s story “inspired” the novel, but he did contribute to the character of Lord Marchmain.  His family the Lygons and their country estate Madresfield contributed to other elements of the novel, as is noted later in the article. See also reference above to Mary Lygon in the Tatler article. She was a daughter of Earl Beauchamp.

–The Hoover Institution of Stanford University has reposted a 2016 notice relating to Waugh’s war trilogy Sword of Honour. This is written by Max Boot and opens with this:

Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy—comprising Men at Arms, Officers and Gentlemen, and The End of the Battle [originally published in England as Unconditional Surrender]—was published between 1952 and 1961. It deserves to be known as the finest work of fiction to come out of World War II. Certainly it is far superior to juvenile novels such as Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead or even Joseph Heller’s absurdist Catch-22

It was also posted on our website in 2016 but is worth posting again. The full notice is available here.

— BBC Radio 4 has scheduled a rebroadcast of its 2 episode, 2 hour adaptation of Decline and Fall. It was debuted in 2015. Here is their programme description:

Paul Pennyfeather, a quiet, earnest, scholarly young student at Oxford knows nothing of 1920’s high-life until one night he encounters The Bollinger Club …

Evelyn’s Waugh’s fast paced roller-coaster is set in the early jazz age, peopled by larger than life characters and a few grotesques

A real gem in the canon of British comic fiction dramatised by Jeremy Front.

The first episode will be transmitted on Tuesday, 25 June at 15:00 and the second episode the following day. More details available at this link.

Posted in A Handful of Dust, Academia, Brideshead Revisited, Decline and Fall, Newspapers, Radio Programs, Sword of Honour | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Bank Holiday/Memorial Day Roundup

–Novelist Kevin Kwan was recently interviewed in LitHub. This was on the occasion of last week’s issuance of his latest novel Lies and Weddings. Here’s the opening:

Kevin Kwan’s much anticipated new novel, Lies and Weddings, is out today [21 May 2024], so we asked him a few questions about his favorite books to read, recommend, and give as gifts.

Q. Which books do you reread?

A. Evelyn Waugh’s novels are a perennial favorite of mine, especially Brideshead Revisited and Decline and Fall. To me they just get deeper and funnier with each reading, and you really get to appreciate not only what a genius satirist he was, but also how beautiful his writing was and how he evoked a sense of place. I also love re-reading Dominick Dunne’s books. I read People Like Us when it was first released in the late 1980s, and his glamorous depictions of New York society was one of the things that lured me to move there myself…

–An article in Vogue considers the tendency of fashion trends to become repetitive. Here’s an excerpt:

…The interesting thing is that we may now actually enjoy being less individual in the way we dress. “We’ve lived through the emergence of a super granular globalisation. We’ve got used to it, and now we take comfort in the presence of sameness and even desire it,” Chayka says. His thinking is that our collective longing for a certain kind of sameness is tagged to trend fatigue, adding that you can only get so far ahead of the herd before the herd catches up, then overwhelms you, and therefore it’s easier to succumb to the tide. But isn’t social media simply amplifying behaviour that’s underpinned real-life social circles for decades, if not centuries?

New York-based British fashion curator Shonagh Marshall points to Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh’s 1930 novel about London’s bright young things. The protagonist, Adam, a columnist reporting on the scene’s hedonistic affairs, begins to invent fashion trends for his own amusement. “When he shares that the set are wearing black suede shoes with their tuxedos, fashionable young men run out to buy black suede shoes, but he’s later fired when he tries to start a fad on bottle-green bowler hats, as it’s deemed a step too far,” she says via text. “The scenario is entirely satirical, but it’s an interesting depiction of how trends caught on nearly a century ago.” …

The Spectator has an article by Alexander Larman entitled “The sad decline of Oxford.” It opens with this:

The cliché about Oxford – and as a resident of the city, I have skin in the game here – is that it’s the most beautiful city in Britain. Think of all the writers and poets who have rhapsodised about its glories, from Evelyn Waugh immortalising (some would say fossilising) it in Brideshead Revisited to Matthew Arnold’s famous description of it in his poem ‘Thyrsis’ as ‘that sweet city with her dreaming spires/She needs not June for beauty’s heightening’. It has more Grade I listed buildings in its centre than anywhere of a similar size and has innumerable architectural wonders. The incomparable Radcliffe Camera stands at its heart – often described as the most striking public building in England. So why is so much of Oxford being not merely neglected, but positively ruined?

I’m with Bill Bryson on the besmirching of Oxford. In his Notes from a Small Island, Bryson wrote despairingly:

“You tell me that it is one of the most beautiful, well-preserved cities in the world? I’m afraid not. It is a beautiful city that has been treated with gross indifference and lamentable incompetence for far too long, and every living person in Oxford should feel a little bit ashamed. The result is aesthetic impoverishment for both Oxford’s residents and visitors alike.”

Well, I don’t just feel shame, Bill – I feel a growing sense of anger. Walk round the historic centre of Oxford today, and jostling with the (admittedly wonderful) colleges and north Oxford mansions are eyesores so unpalatable, so wrong that it is hard to believe that any architect had designed them. Or indeed that any right-thinking institution or individual could ever have commissioned them in the first place…

There follows a photo of a new building on Cornmarket that is offered as example of the poor architectural design he is ashamed of.  I would have to say that it’s not as bad as he makes out unless he wants new buildings to copy the antique styles of those surrounding them, producing a sort of Disneyfication of Oxford.

Arab News En Francais has a story about the relations between Armenians and their Arab neighbors to the south. Here’s an excerpt (translation by Google):

…The Armenians were famous builders. Indeed, Sinan Pasha, the great architect of the Ottoman Empire, is said to be of Armenian origin. Many within the diaspora have carved out a niche for themselves as middlemen, translators, bankers and merchants. One of these characters, a certain Youkoumian, is the anti-hero of Evelyn Waugh’s comic novel ” Black Mischief , ” set in a fictional Ethiopia in the 1930s…

BBC Radio 4 Extra have announced the rebroadcast of their 4-episode adaptation of Brideshead Revisited from 2003 (Waugh’s centenary year). This will start on 14 June. Here are the details:

Midway through the Second World War, a disillusioned Captain Charles Ryder finds himself posted to a remote country retreat.

It’s Brideshead Castle, scene of the happiest years of his young, impressionable life and the beginnings of his friendship with Sebastian Flyte – whose presence will forever haunt him.

Starring Ben Miles and Jamie Bamber.

Evelyn Waugh’s most famous novel of life, love and a forgotten era.

Dramatised in four parts by Jeremy Front.

Charles Ryder …… Ben Miles
Sebastian Flyte …… Jamie Bamber
Julia …… Anne-Marie Duff
Cordelia …… Abby Ford
Brideshead …… Toby Jones
Boy Mulcaster …… Tom Smith
Nanny Hawkins …… Ann Beach
Jasper …… Martin Hyder
Anthony Blanche …… Geoffrey Streatfeild
Hooper …… Andrew Wincott
Collins …… Scott Brooksbank
Mr Ryder …… Benjamin Whitrow

Music by Neil Brand

Director: Marion Nancarrow

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in March 2003.



Posted in Adaptations, Black Mischief, Brideshead Revisited, Decline and Fall, Interviews, Newspapers, Oxford, Radio Programs, Vile Bodies | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Waugh’s Mexico” in the New Criterion

In the latest issue of the New Criterion, Mark Falcoff has written an updated review of Waugh’s 1939 political travel book Robbery Under Law. Falcoff opens with a discussion of the book’s history, noting Waugh’s agreement to write the book in return for a specified fee and trip to Mexico for him and his wife.  Falcoff also describes how Waugh abandoned the book after its publication and never had it reprinted in later editions or excerpts. He might have mentioned in this regard that the Catholic Book Club did issue a UK reprint in 1940, probably in view of Waugh’s extensive defense of the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico.

Falcoff (who seems to be quite conversant in Mexican history) goes on to carefully examine the book, which he thinks that Waugh underrated. Aside from the few pages devoted to the oil expropriation, which were part of the fee arrangement, he describes the book as an accurate and often sympathetic description of Mexico’s history and how it got to where is was at the time Waugh made his visit:

…The far larger part of the book, … consists of an astonishingly learned exposition on the history of Mexico, a subject that Waugh must have spent considerable time studying before his trip. He shows a firm grasp of the central themes of the country’s past, particularly the damaging aspect of its wars of independence, its long periods of civil war, the loss of half of its national territory to the United States, and above all the conflict between its Spanish heritage and what might be called the resentments of a half-caste (mestizo) middle and lower-middle class. He is also alert to the purposeful destruction of historic architecture, libraries, churches, and so forth in the attempt to purge the country of any trace of the ancien régime, at the cost of divesting itself of more than three centuries of schools, hospitals, and charitable foundations. The most dangerous aspect of this, Waugh writes, is the Mexican effort “to accept the centuries of Spanish rule as a closed incident and to look to the preconquest elements for the eventual salvation of the country.” This, of course, was the ideology of the regnant Mexican Revolutionary Party and remains so in its present-day incarnation, the Party of Revolutionary Institutions (PRI)…

What follows is a fairly detailed analysis of the book, concluding with this:

…Mexico today, of course, is a very different country than it was when Waugh visited it almost a century ago. He could not foresee the kinds of changes that gave it greater stability and even a measure of prosperity, such as the 49/51 rule, which allowed foreign investment to return by facilitating silent arrangements with local politicians. Nor did Waugh predict the coming of the Second World War, which for a time rendered even the nationalized petroleum industry profitable, nor—in the even longer term—could he see the massive future transfer of populations to the United States, acting as a generous conduit of remittances, particularly to the poorest regions of the country. Neither he nor anyone else could foresee the emergence of a new industry that put oil in the shade: the lucrative traffic in illicit drugs, produced and processed in Mexico and exported to markets in the United States and elsewhere.

What strikes the reader most about Robbery Under Law is not the harsh critical tone but rather Waugh’s underlying affection for the country, what it had been and what it could still be. Waugh harbored a deep admiration for pre-revolutionary Mexico, despite all of its faults and limitations, and could justify his attitude with a serious consideration of its achievements and possibilities. Those who know the country today can read a book written so long ago and recognize many features that have endured, all the while enjoying the precision and elegance of the prose of a true English master.

Falcoff offers what is effectively an updated and favorable review of the book. The copy he reviewed was that included in Nicholas Shakespeare’s 2003 edition in the Everyman’s Library collected travel writings entitled Waugh Abroad.  That may, indeed, have been the first reprint of the book. His literary editor may have let him down a bit here, however, as he seems to have been unaware of the OUP edition of the book issued last year as volume 24 of its Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh. (See review in Evelyn Waugh Studies 54.1.) It would be interesting to read how his own analysis of the book compares with that of OUP’s editor, Michael G Brennan, on several of the points they both discuss at some length. A copy of the New Criterion issue (June 2024) that includes this essay can be purchased at this link.

UPDATE (25 May 2024): Readers interested in the foregoing article may also have an interest in a paper to be offered at the 25th Graham Greene International Festival. This will convene 3-6 October at Berkhamsted, HERTS:

“Traveling the Lawless Roads: Anglophone Writers in Mexico, 1926-1946. Julia G. Young (Catholic University of America) will discuss how writers flocked to Mexico, and, describing the church-state conflict, provided a beautiful but distorted view of the country.”

The paper will be delivered at 0945a on Friday, 4 October 2024 at Town Hall, Berkhamsted. Details are available at this link:

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Mid-May Roundup

–The Italian language newspaper Il Manifesto has posted an article (“The ivory brush and the tabernacle”) on Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited. This is written by Viola Pagetti. Here are slightly edited extracts translated (by Google) from the opening paragraphs:

Having converted to Catholicism, Evelyn Waugh abandons his brilliant satirical style for a writing that is enjoyable because it is transparent, easy because it is nostalgic, and participates in our dramatic current situation. For him the past is grafted onto the present and one can be read in the other. Thus promises the title of the novel considered his masterpiece Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder which came out in 1945, now elegantly translated by Ottavio Fatica: Ritorno a Brideshead (Feltrinelli «Comete», preface by Alessandro Piperno, pp. 424, €22.00). Charles Ryder, Protestant, bourgeois, narrator of this historical but secretly autobiographical novel, omits the background to the ancient story. November 5, 1605 was the day the first modern act of terrorism, the Gunpowder Plot, was attempted . The Catholics, immediately suspected, planned to blow up the English parliament together with King James I with a strong explosive charge.

There followed in the immediate revenge of Guy Fawkes Night the deadly hunt for the priest. Severe sanctions were issued against Protestant and Catholic dissenters who did not take the oath to the new Anglican church, which became the state church. With an Act of Uniformity, non-[conformers]  were deprived of their civil and political rights. “Roman Catholic” was [a name applied] to anyone who did not respect the obligation to abjure the timeless and the spiritual authority of the Pope, and did not deny the dogma of transubstantiation, a fundamental principle of Catholic, sacramental doctrine, linked to non-replaceable gestures.

Various legislative interventions followed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which reiterated the severe restrictions on that minority of nobles, Catholic families affected not in their wealth but in their faith, in the evangelical promise that had nourished English mysticism since the Middle Ages …  Jesuit missionaries dedicated to martyrdom arrived from Rome to fulfill their sacramental duties, and the large Gothic or Baroque villas equipped themselves to hide their priest under the trap door or behind the false wall. The hagiography of the Jesuit, poet and polemicist Edmund Campion, tortured and condemned to death as a traitor, was published by Waugh in 1935. …

From that not forgotten history of the Roman Catholics had arisen a political hatred which was also aesthetic, destined to divide perhaps forever the Church of England from that of Rome. ….

There follows a description of the novel’s story and conclusion. A full text can be viewed and translated here. Whether this is a new translation of the novel isn’t stated. An Italian version of the book has been available for many years.

–The silent film weblog called The Bioscope has reposted a 2008 article on the film The Scarlet Woman which Waugh and his Oxford friend Terrence Greenidge made in 1925. Here’s an excerpt:

The subject of the latest in our series on literary figures and silent film is unusual in that his significant engagement with film preceded his first book publication. Evelyn Waugh was twenty-one, had just come down from Oxford, and was working on a novel, The Temple of Thatch (which was never to be completed), when he became involved in films.

Waugh was both fascinated and repelled by cinema. He professed a lowly opinion of films and commercial film production, but he was a compulsive filmgoer throughout his life (as his diaries reveal), and was fascinated by the narrative qualities of the medium. Such qualities he admired when appropriated in the literary works of others (Ronald Firbank, Graham Greene), and encouraged in other would-be writers, as in this 1921 exhortation to his friend Dudley Carew:

“Try and bring home thoughts by actions and incidents. Don’t make everything said. This is the inestimable value of the Cinema to novelists (don’t scoff at this as a cheap epigram it is really very true). Make things happen. … Whatever the temptation, for God’s sake don’t bring characters on simply to draw their characters and make them talk. Fit them into a design. … It is a damn good idea. Don’t spoil it out of slackness or perversity but do MAKE THINGS HAPPEN. Have a murder in every chapter if you like but do do something. GO TO THE CINEMA and risk the headache.”

Waugh found inspiration in films not for pictorial values as such, but in what he saw films could offer in terms of narrative design and continuity, of montage, propulsion, and changing fields of vision. Moreover, Waugh the satirist was inspired by film’s propensity for exposing falsity through display. …

A full text is available at this link. The 1921 letter to Dudley Carew is reproduced in Letters 1-2. Towards the end, the article mentions the availability of copies of the film from Dr Charles Linck’s publishing venue Cow Hill Press. Alas, since the original post, Dr Linck has passed away and the Cow Hill Press source is probably no longer available. The repost apparently engendered a comment on that the film was currently available to stream free of charge from the British Film Institute (BFI) but only to viewers with a UK internet connection. This was noted in a previous post.

–The following was posted on the weblog The Homebound Symphony:

“From Evelyn Waugh’s biography of Ronald Knox:

For three days he lay in a coma, but once Lady Eldon saw a stir of consciousness and asked whether he would like her to read to him from his own New Testament. He answered very faintly, but distinctly: ‘No’; and then after a long pause in which he seemed to have lapsed again into unconsciousness, there came from the death-bed, just audibly, in the idiom of his youth: ‘Awfully jolly of you to suggest it, though.’

They were his last words.

My favorite story about Knox, about whom there are many many stories, is that when he had a private audience with Pope Pius XII the chief thing that the Holy Father wanted to talk about was the Loch Ness monster. (I guess that’s more of a Pope story than a Knox story, but anyway.)”

–To mark the 40th anniversary of John Betjeman’s death on 18 March 1984, the BBC has put together a collection of Betjeman-related television programs dating back to 1964. These were all presented on BBC Four on Sunday 19 May. They include Monitor: Betjeman and Larkin Down a Country Road (1964), Bird’s Eye View (1969), Metroland (1973), A Passion for Churches (1974), The Queen’s Realm (1977), Reputations: John Betjeman: The Last Laugh (2001), Betjeman and Me: Rick Stein’s Story (2006) and Late Flowering Lust: Comedy-Drama based on JB poems (1994). The programs can be streamed on BBC iPlayer. A UK internet connection is necessary.

Posted in Brideshead Revisited, Film: The Scarlet Woman, Internet, Newspapers, Ronald Knox, Television Programs, Translations | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Mothers’ Day (U.S.) Roundup

–An article in this week’s TLS (10 May 2024) marks the centenary of the 1924 novel The Green Hat by Michael Arlen. He was something of a one hit wonder, as the article by Philip Ward explains. Here are some excerpts from the article:

…Written (so the author claimed) in the space of two months at his parents’ home in Southport, The Green Hat is the story of Iris Storm, wearer of the titular headgear, who is depicted as a femme fatale with a “pagan body and a Chislehurst mind”. […] Capitalizing on his success, Arlen adapted The Green Hat as a play, which ran in London (Tallulah Bankhead took the lead role) and, with a different cast, toured the US. Both productions generated spin-off merchandise, with green millinery a must-have item of the season. The book was filmed in 1928 as a vehicle for Greta Garbo (at Garbo’s instigation), though the studio had to change the title (to A Woman of Affairs) and alter the characters’ names and some of the lurid plot details in order to satisfy Hollywood guidelines on morality. […]

Arlen writes with an absolute determination to bring his fantasy world to life. The book is wildly overwritten, but therein lay its luxuriant charm for many readers. In his own first novel, Burmese Days, George Orwell conjured up the stereotypical image: “Elizabeth lay on the sofa in the Lackersteens’ drawing-room, with her feet up and a cushion behind her head”. She is reading Arlen, “her favourite author”. […]

Several parodies appeared in the following years, with titles like The Green Mat and Keep It Under Your Green Hat, and it became a favourite satirical target for Evelyn Waugh. In Vile Bodies Adam Symes, drudging as a bored gossip columnist, invents a fashion for green bowler hats. In Brideshead Revisited Sebastian Flyte arranges a meeting with his sister on Berkeley Square–an appropriately Arlenesque location: “Julia, like most women then, wore a green hat pulled down to her eyes”.

Woolf and Waugh were only two of Arlen’s literary detractors. When Ernest Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises, appeared in 1926, the author was incensed that reviewers saw an influence of The Green Hat, particularly in his character of the aristocratic Englishwoman Brett Ashley. …

The article is well worth reading in full if you have access to it.

–The religious journal Crisis Magazine has an article by Regis Martin about Waugh’s novel Helena. It opens with this:

In an interview with the BBC, Evelyn Waugh, who detested giving them, was asked which of his many books was his favorite. Helena, he shot back. Puzzled, the reporter asked why. Because, he said in effect, it was both the best book he ever wrote, especially given its religious theme, and because it was the one book he took more pains in producing than any other. So fond in fact was he of the book that, according to one of his daughters, it was the only one he would read aloud to his family.

So, why had it failed so spectacularly to catch fire with the reading public? Or that so few of his biographers even bothered mentioning it? Not only had it fallen out of print, despite the brisk sale of nearly everything else he wrote, but it became the least read among even ardent Waugh enthusiasts. Why would that be? …

Martin does an excellent job of explaining Waugh’s favoritism and the book’s failure to achieve popularity with his readers. One point Martin might have raised is that the UK edition of the book enjoyed only one printing whereas in the US the book was published in October 1950 and then reprinted 5 times over the next four months.  This might suggest that the book did achieve a modest popular success in the US where there was a considerably larger Roman Catholic population than in the UK. The full article may be read at this link.

–The Daily Telegraph has a review of what is probably Jeremy Clarke’s last book: Low Life: The Spectator Columns: The Final Years. Clarke had succeeded Jeffrey Bernard as author of the “Low Life” column. According to the Telegraph, Bernard, “was unwell so often Keith Waterhouse wrote a very successful play called ‘Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell’; and Bernard died, very unwell, in 1997 at the age of 65.” As explained by reviewer Nicholas Lezard (who writes a similar column for the New Statesman), Clarke was also a heavy drinker and died at a similarly early age. But despite the heavy drinking Clarke produced entertaining columns and wrote them very well. The review quotes Graham Greene on Evelyn Waugh’s writing to describe Clarke’s prose: “…like the pre-war Mediterranean ‘you could see all the way to the bottom.'” The book (publication date 21 May 2024) is available at this link.



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Roundup: A Florentine Dinner Party, Some Interviews and a Pub

–The latest issue of Catholic Herald includes an article about Evelyn Waugh. This is written by Mark Roberts and is taken from his recent book noted below. In it, he describes an unpleasant dinner party in Florence that Waugh attended while on his first of several postwar visits to Harold Acton in that city. The party took place in 1950 at the Florentine house occupied by American novelist Sinclair (“Red”) Lewis on an extended visit. Acton took Waugh to a restaurant where Lewis was also present. Lewis recognized Waugh and came bounding over to their table to chat up his “his dear old pal.”  This took Waugh by surprise but then he and Acton were soon re-connected with Lewis when the latter invited them to a dinner party at his house. The dinner party did not go well at least from Waugh’s perspective. Here’s an excerpt:

The guests were offered tiny glasses of weak vermouth and a poor dinner of tepid spaghetti, veal and sweet whipped cream cake with watered wine – watered by the secretary because Lewis was apt to drink too much of it! These horrid catering arrangements evidently did not improve the mood of the guests. Their host did not touch his food and burped loudly and long several times during dinner.

Waugh’s face was a study, as he flinched and sat back in his chair. Some of the halting and awkward conversation is reproduced in Acton’s More Memoirs of an Aesthete, published in 1970:

“Evelyn flinched in his chair on the host’s right with an expression of growing alarm. ‘What is that frightful noise?’, he kept asking me. Red’s speech was incoherent but at length he noticed that Evelyn was fasting and he urged him to taste the veal, the spécialité de la maison.

“Evelyn answered severely: ‘It’s Friday.’ Diverted by this, Red prompted his companion, who had been an army captain serving in Trieste, to entertain us with the saga of his war exploits. … According to Acton’s memoirs, Lewis was provoked by what he took to be Evelyn Waugh’s standoffishness, and “delivered a panegyric upon the vigour, the splendour, the creative genius of America, which was moving in the circumstances despite its platitudes…Red’s bloodshot eyes bulged, his fingers trembled clutching the chair, as he wound up with a denunciation of contemporary English literature…Evelyn reddened more with embarrassment than resentment, but he endured it all most patiently and politely. I suspect he was aware of the pathos underlying this…defiant monologue.

“‘I can’t think what got into him,’ said Lady Troubridge when we escorted her home. ‘I’m afraid poor old Red is off colour. He doesn’t usually behave like that, I assure you.’ ‘I rather enjoyed the latter part of it,’ said Evelyn. ‘I was only afraid he might burst a blood vessel.’”

A year later Lewis was dead. The Catholic Herald’s article concludes with this:

Evelyn Waugh is one of over a hundred writers discussed in Mark Roberts’ new book ‘Florence Has Won my Heart: Literary Visitors to the Tuscan Capital, 1750-1950’.

The Catholic Herald’s article is available here. The book is on offer from at this link.

–The book about Florence is reviewed in a recent issue of the Daily Telegraph (4 May 2024). The review by Christopher Howse is entitled : “Sacred Mysteries: Florence and the worst dinner party ever.” Here are the opening paragraphs:

Have the English missed the point of Florence? “Over tea and crumpets,” observed that sharp and readable satirist Aldous Huxley, “they talk, if they are too old for love themselves, of their lascivious juniors; but they also make sketches in watercolour and read the Little Flowers of St Francis.”

It’s enjoyable to consider that question while reading Florence has won my Heart by Mark Roberts. Published this week, it gives sketches of 100 English-speaking visitors to the city between 1750 and 1950. The author has lived there for 50 years and there his five children were born, like Florence Nightingale, though she never went again.

The title is from Samuel Rogers (1763-1855), who decided that “in Florence I should wish to live, beyond all the cities of the world”. He returned at intervals, staying at its most expensive hotel amid “perpetual bustle, and never-ending odour of soup”…

The review concludes with a brief description of the Sinclair Lewis dinner party discussed above.

–This week’s “By the Book” literary interview in the New York Times has a Q&A involving Evelyn Waugh. The writer interviewed is Robert Kagan:

Q. What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?

A. That Evelyn Waugh blamed the evils of the modern industrial world on Protestantism in almost the same words as Patrick Deneen blames the evils of the modern world on liberalism. Discuss among yourselves.

Another, more extensive interview has been reprinted on the American Enterprise Institute’s website. In this one, Christopher Scalia discusses several of Waugh’s novels and notes their particular interest to Roman Catholic readers. Here’s the link.

–The TLS reviews a new novel entitled Henry, Henry. According to the opening paragraphs, there are Bridesheadian connections:

Allen Bratton’s debut novel, Henry Henry, is notionally a reimagining of Shakespeare’s Henriad, with the setting transferred to 2014. This is a world of grand houses, gilded youths and guarded secrets. There are also more than a few hat tips to Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, not least in the courtesy title given to the protagonist, Hal, the Earl of Hertford, which refers to Waugh’s Oxford college.

The novel concerns a triad of Henrys, with Hal at the centre. He is gay, in his early twenties and a classic wastrel. In contrast to him are his devout Catholic father, the repressed Henry, Duke of Lancaster, whose family has long been beset by scandals (sexual and financial), and Harry Percy, do-gooding scion of a neighbouring gentry family and the very model of a Gap Year Guardianista, who loftily informs Hal that “Jesus was an immigrant”…

Tatler has a review of a new sculpture exhibition at Castle Howard. This displays the work of Tony Cragg. Tatler’s reviewer (Harriet Kean) notes what she sees as the relevance of some of the works to Brideshead Revisited, both adaptations of which were filmed at Castle Howard., the website of the Bristol Post, has an article that provides an update on the status of a Combe Florey landmark that is “one of the best pubs in Somerset.” This is:

…the Farmers Arms, at Combe Florey… The small village down in the vale on the Taunton-to-Minehead road is where Evelyn Waugh lived in the 1950s. He regularly frequented the Farmers Arms with various members of the London literati, as did his writer son, Auberon.

The charming thatched pub dates back to the 15th century, but there have been times when it almost became a footnote in history, thanks to that thatch. The place has gone up in flames more than once – most recently in 2017 when it was almost completely destroyed. Owners Tim and Jane had the place rebuilt to a very high standard and it really is now an excellent venue for a drink or a meal. Partly thanks to fire, ironically enough. The Farmers Arms is one of the few pubs I know with a charcoal-fired Jasper oven, a fact which tends to lift anything that’s grilled into another realm.

This area, that lies between the Quantocks and the Brendon Hills to the west, is special. A famous agronomist during the Second World War described it as “Dingly Dell Land” – and it is just that. A rather mysterious, highly wooded area of tiny hamlet and myriad lanes – one that’s hardly ever visited by tourists…

The article is available here.




Posted in Brideshead Revisited, Combe Florey, Interviews, Newspapers | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment