Presidents Day Roundup

–Ben Dowell reviews  a new TV serial about Coco Chanel’s life in wartime Paris. The title of the review tells much about the story: “New Look Review–Nice Dresses: Coco Chanel–pity about the Nazi boyfriend”. The article in Saturday’s Times newspaper opens with thus:

‘Nazis! I hate these guys!” If we are going to imagine how we would respond to life in the Second World War, most of us would probably like to think our response would be the unimprovable one uttered by Indiana Jones. Still, what about the actual business of getting by? In the many stories about ordinary lives caught up in this epic conflict, from Olivia Manning’s Fortunes of War to Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy, the sheer random cruelties and helplessness of those years have been superbly realised on the small screen.

But what if you are the celebrated designers Christian Dior and Coco Chanel? Well, we actually know a fair bit about how they operated and that is the subject of Todd A Kessler’s The New Look, the latest lavishly funded epic drama from Apple. The first three episodes dropped this week and they’re spent in occupied Paris…

Financial Times also reviews another recent TV series with a nod to Evelyn Waugh. The review is by Jo Ellison. Here’s an excerpt:

I hate to be the one to disappoint, especially in Valentine’s week and in the fugue of romance that tends to befall us at the time of year. But we must disabuse ourselves of the cultural preoccupation that hot, dumb posh boys with crowds of buddies fall for smart, caustic, socially awkward girls. The latest manifestation of this pervasive brain/brawn romantic fiction, One Day, started streaming on Netflix last weekend. A 14-part adaptation of David Nicholls’ rabid bestseller, first published in 2009, it follows a will-they-won’t-they-ever-get-their-rocks-off friendship over decades via an annual check-in — the perfect episodic structure for a TV adaptation in this binge-drama age…

At a time when wage inequality has become a burning issue and opportunity stagnated, it’s perhaps inevitable that we might press our greasy noses to the window to perve at the super-rich. We may frown at nepo babies, but we still fawn over Succession offering a small glimpse into that world. One Day echoes the same themes of class, aspiration and opportunity best explored in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. It’s presumably no coincidence that the famous TV adaptation of that 1940s drama first aired at another time of huge inequity, and the rising tide of Thatcherism, in 1981. …

–David Slattery-Christy describes his recent biography on the website Great British Life. This is about Harry Clifton who lived in Lytham Hall, a stately house in Lancashire. Waugh is mentioned in the book’s title: Flyte or Fancy–You Decide: Evelyn Waugh meets Harry Clifton on the Road to Brideshead. Here’s an excerpt:

…[Harry Clifton] went to Oxford to study Modern History at Christ Church in 1926 at the insistence of his father. This is where he found his wings and experimented with life and sex. Although we know that Evelyn Waugh visited Lytham Hall in the 1930s, and much speculation has evolved that he became an inspiration for Waugh’s character Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited, it’s fairly certain that Harry and Waugh would have met at Oxford in the private drinking clubs that were for the time so hedonistic and sexually liberated. Interestingly, Sebastian Flyte in the novel Brideshead Revisited also had rooms at Christ Church and was, like Harry, a spoilt, petulant and rich young man.

After a visit to Lytham Hall in the 1930s, Waugh wrote to Lady Asquith to say the Cliftons were “all tearing mad” but also made some complimentary remarks about Lytham Hall, saying it was “a very beautiful house by Kent or someone like him with first-class Italian plaster work. A lap of luxury flowing with champagne and elaborate cookery. Mrs Clifton, Easter (or so she seems to be called), Orsa [Avia], Michael, a youth seven feet high with a moustache who plays with a clockwork motor car and an accordion.”

The Cliftons were Catholics, and Waugh would convert to Catholicism in the 1930s, but his opinion of the places of worship was less than complimentary: “Five hideous Catholic churches on the estate.” Waugh then went on to say: “Large park entirely surrounded by trams and villas. Adam dining room…all sitting at separate tables at meals. Two or three good pictures including a Renoir. Appalling heat. All sitting in sun with a dozen aeroplanes overhead and the gardens open to the public.”…

The quote is from a letter of 24 June 1935 (Letters, 94-95).  The book is available from Amazon.co.uk and can be shipped to America. Here’s a link.

UPDATE (20 Feb 2024): Citation to Letters added and misspelling of book title corrected.

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OUP Announces New Waugh Volume

The Oxford University Press has announced a new volume in its ongoing Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh series. This will be CWEW Volume 10: The Loved One: An Anglo- American Tragedy. Its tentative UK release date is 23 April 2024 and the price is £130 (although a reduced price is also listed). Here’s the description:

‘A wicked book’, one reviewer called it. Evelyn Waugh’s eighth novel, The Loved One (1948), represents a return to the pungent satirical manner from which its predecessor Brideshead Revisited, three years earlier, had deviated. The prospect of Brideshead being turned into a film took its author to Los Angeles, where he became more interested in Forest Lawn Memorial-Park and its funeral rites than in Hollywood and its dreams of immortality. Or rather, ‘obsessed’ (his word) about the relations between them. Around these twin industries he spun a macabre fiction about an English poet and failed scriptwriter, an ingenuous young American beautician, and the master mortician for whom she works. A strong supporting cast features the English ex-patriate community and the Hollywood Cricket Club, the movie moguls and their henchmen, and the devotees serving the fictional ‘Whispering Glades’. The resulting story is one of Waugh’s funniest, yet it harbours an underlying gravity about the way the world (or the West) was going in the aftermath of global war. The Loved One is deeply coloured by memories of war. It may be concerned with the world of appearances to which Hollywood and Forest Lawn were dedicated, but this does not make it superficial. On the contrary. Waugh subtitled it ‘An Anglo-American Tragedy’, but it can be just as well understood as the most mordant of comedies, closer to the world of Samuel Beckett than of P. G. Wodehouse. Or better, an improbable combination of the two.

The book was edited by Prof. Adrian Poole who also wrote the introduction. Here’s his biography from the OUP posting:

Adrian Poole is Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Trinity College. He has strong interests in the traditions of tragedy from the Greeks to the present day and in the afterlives of Shakespeare. His books include Tragedy: A Very Short Introduction and Shakespeare and the Victorians. He has also written extensively on nineteenth-century novelists including Dickens, Eliot, Hardy, Stevenson, and James. He is one of the General Editors of the Complete Fiction of Henry James; his edition of The Princess Casamassima won the 2020 MLA Prize for a Scholarly Edition.

Here is a link to the OUP announcement with full ordering details.

 

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Valentines Day Roundup

–The BBC has reposted a 2022 episode of its art series Fake or Fortune. This involves a drawing said to be by the painter Modigliani that was owned by Waugh’s friend Sacheverell Sitwell (brother of Edith and Osbert). Here’s an excerpt from the BBC’s summary:

Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould investigate a delicate sketch depicting a mother and child, purported to be by one of the modern art world’s most famous names, Amedeo Modigliani. Its owner, Henrietta Sitwell, inherited the work and always believed it to be genuine. However, a leading auction house recently cast doubt on its authenticity. If the work is genuine, it could be worth up to £100,000. If not, just a few hundred.

Henrietta inherited the sketch from her father, who had inherited it from his father, the writer and art collector Sacheverell Sitwell. Sacheverell was, along with his two siblings Osbert and Edith, a central member of the Bright Young Things of the 1920s and a key figure in the world of British art. A direct connection to such an established and respected name might normally be enough to guarantee the authenticity of a work but, with an artist as regularly forged as Modigliani, it’s not so simple…

Fiona [Bruce, co-presenter] delves deep into the extensive Sitwell family archives to find any hard evidence for the picture’s provenance. The family story is that Sacheverell bought this work sometime after the First World War. Can we find any written proof of this? The picture is dedicated to ‘Zborowski’ – the name of Modigliani’s friend and art dealer Leopold Zborowski. Why would Sacheverell have owned a picture dedicated to someone else? Travelling to the Montmartre streets where Modigliani lived and worked, Fiona outlines the connections between the artist, his dealer and Henrietta’s grandfather.

Back in London, we recreate the 1919 exhibition Sacheverell, his brother and Leopold Zborowski held of modern French artists at Heal’s, the famous department store – an exhibition where dozens of Modigliani sketches were on sale for a few pennies each. Could this have been the moment when a Modigliani sketch, dedicated to his art dealer, found its way into the hands of the Sitwell family?

The program can be viewed on BBC iPlayer,  A UK internet connection is required.

Country House magazine has posted an article by John Goodall entitled “Inside Madresfield Court, the house that inspired Evelyn Waugh’s novel ‘Brideshead Revisited'”. Here are the opening paragraphs:

Hanging just inside the front door of Madresfield Court is a framed notice in the form of an exquisitely illuminated manuscript page  It presents erstwhile visitors with a summary of all they needed to know during their stay. The times of prayers and meals take pride of place and, beneath them, are the telegram address and telephone exchange number of the house. Across the top of the intricate foliage border are the figures of saints and the name of the nearest railway station, Malvern Link; at the bottom the arms of Earl Beauchamp. To the sides are four vignettes — a view of the moat, gardens, dining hall and chapel — and portraits of a dog and cat.

The notice is a relic of Madresfield’s busy social round in the years leading up to the First World War, when it was the home of the Liberal politician and discerning patron William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp, who had inherited this ancient family seat in 1891 aged 18. The story of his remarkable life and fall from grace, as well as the links between the house, his children and the novelist Evelyn Waugh, are central to Jane Mulvagh’s acclaimed history Madresfield: The Real Brideshead (2008)…

The article is accompanied with several detailed and relevant photographs. These include some of the chapel which was the part of the house that Waugh had particularly chosen to describe in his novel.

–Bridgeman Images has posted a 1959 photo of Waugh and his wife outside their then relatively new home Combe Florey. This is from a photo shoot of the couple and their children that is widely circulated, but this one has less often been reproduced.

The Oldie  has posted a review by Geoffrey Wheatcroft of two new biographies of Winston Churchill, a man not admired by Evelyn Waugh. Here’s an excerpt:

…examples of Churchill’s judgement were seen in his choice of friends and advisers, notably Lord Beaverbrook and Brendan Bracken. They were what Evelyn Waugh had in mind with his brisk phrase just after Churchill’s death, ‘always in the wrong, always surrounded by crooks’.

Bracken was a man of most unlikely origin who attached himself to Churchill and made himself very useful as his financial factotum, a role he performed even while holding government office. And Beaverbrook was bully, a liar and altogether a scoundrel, to whom Churchill was strangely addicted even when ‘Max’ was betraying him…

The Sunday Times has posted an article containing what two of its book critics consider the best “boozy books”. These are defined as “… literary adventures brimming with piss-ups and lonely bar stools with moments of elation and dreadful hangovers.” Here’s one by Evelyn Waugh nominated by Laura Hacket:

Evelyn Waugh wrote Decline and Fall, his first novel, at 24. Disgusting. But it’s fantastic — small, simple and perfectly formed. We begin in Scone College, where the Junior Dean and Domestic Bursar are sheltering from the wild excesses of the annual Bollinger dinner (no prizes for guessing the drinking society Waugh is gesturing towards here). Less successful in hiding from the evening, in which “a fox had been brought in in a cage and stoned to death with champagne bottles”, is poor Paul Pennyfeather, a scholarship student reading for the Church. Thanks to a school tie that unfortunately resembles the Boller tie, he is captured and forced to run away in his pants — an incident so “flagrantly indecent” that he is sent down and forced into employment at Llanabba school, where the story proper begins.

The Observer asked novelists to choose their favorite love songs. Here is Alice Winn’s selection:

Music gives me a headache. Evelyn Waugh once called music “physical torment” and I agree with him, although possibly Waugh was only pretending to hate music in order to hurt Stravinsky’s feelings at a dinner party. Still, I’m very grateful to the sparse selection of music that doesn’t make me want to shut myself in a quiet, darkened room: I think Rachmaninoff is the most wildly romantic composer, and I love him with my whole heart. As to outright love songs – I’m very fond of Wouldn’t It Be Nice by the Beach Boys. I distinctly remember, as a teenager, wondering how married people could behave so normally when they got to live with the person they loved, when they could sleep every night in the same bed! What bliss it seemed! To have the exquisite privilege of privacy and a person to share it with – nothing could be more wonderful. Wouldn’t It Be Nice reminds me of that feeling, and makes me appreciate what I have, and how badly I wanted it.

I don’t think Waugh was pretending to dislike music when he turned down Stravinsky’s invitation to attend a debut of a new composition. Waugh genuinely found it painful to listen to music and, to be fair, even normal music lovers will find some of Stravinsky’s work at least a wee bit pain inducing.

 

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Groundhog Day Roundup

The American Spectator has posted a story that analogizes an American political phenomenon to an Evelyn Waugh novel. Here are the opening paragraphs of the story entitled “The Heartbreak of the Brideshead Republicans” by Karl Pfefferkorn:

If you are a novelist, you may abandon inconvenient reality for richly imagined fiction. Consider Evelyn Waugh, who converted to Roman Catholicism in 1930. Rather than embrace the low-born majority of his new fellow congregants, he wove the richly tragic Flyte family and their Brideshead Castle out of the thin threads of the surviving Catholic aristocracy in England. It must have been a great comfort to Waugh to spend his spiritual life among his creations rather than what Anthony Burgess called  “Maynooth priests with brogues.”

Unfortunately, political hacks cannot conjure up their preferred adherents with the ease of a great writer. When Donald Trump won the 2016 election and delivered to the Republicans the working class in the industrial heartlands, the response of the Republican brain trust in DC was abject panic. Rather than celebrate the fact that the GOP had seized the traditional core constituency of the Democratic Party, self-anointed party intellectuals like Bill Kristol and Max Boot, along with the entire staff of National Review recoiled in horror at the boorishness of the new champion of rust belt voters…

The story goes on to describe how the hopes of these so-called “neocons” to convert the Republican party into something more appealing to their Washington-dwelling colleagues have been thwarted:

…The decades of intellectual labor devoted to the transformation of the Republican Party into something one could claim open allegiance to at the Sidwell Friends PTA turned to dust in the hands of the neoconservatives. Their fondest dream, that the tax-paying Babbits of middle America would be led by conservative elites as brilliant and charming as any Democrat simply collapsed, trampled by an electoral stampede of Walmart shoppers.

Rather than continue the hard polemical graft of their predecessors, and attempt to tutor these recent arrivals on GOP shores in the ways of Washington and the importance of American leadership, the likes of Kristol and Boot indulged in an epic hissy fit that rendered their criticisms of the Trump Administration indistinguishable from a Rachel Maddow opening monologue. They were now stuck in a party with the American equivalent of the Irish laborers and Maynooth priests disdained by Evelyn Waugh but unlike him, they couldn’t simply invent an alternative…

To be fair, I think the author may overstate the importance his “neocons” had ever achieved within the pre-Trump Republican establishment or the likelihood of its ever remaking the party into something more acceptable to the Washington elite. To the same extent, it seems unlikely that Waugh’s description of the miserable lives of the Flyte family (or at least most of them) ever converted large numbers of his readers into Roman Catholics. Although unlike the neocons, such conversions may well have not been Waugh’s intent.

The Economist has posted its list of eight of the funniest novels ever written (not necessarily the eight funniest). Here’s is the top of their list:

The Loved One. By Evelyn Waugh. Back Bay Books; 176 pages; $16.99. Penguin; £9.99

The greatest comic novelist in English is Evelyn Waugh. But which is his funniest book? Many people favour his first, “Decline and Fall”; others tout “Scoop”, a satire of mid-20th-century journalism. But for sustained comic brilliance our vote goes to “The Loved One”, published in 1948. During the previous year Waugh had visited California, at the invitation of Hollywood studios. Tiring of agents and producers, he became fascinated by the local mortuary and embalming business. “The Loved One”, set in the Whispering Glades Memorial Park, was the result. The story concerns a doomed love affair between a failed poet, Dennis Barlow, and a prim funerary cosmetician, Aimée Thanatogenos. It’s a hilarious dissection of the English in Hollywood, of American business ethics and of Hollywood itself.

Snippet. The first description of Aimée:

“Her full face was oval, her profile pure and classical and light. Her eyes greenish and remote, with a rich glint of lunacy.”

–The website of St Edmunds Hall Oxford has posted a profile of one of its “Old Aularians” as its alumni are known. This is John Theodore Waterman Greenidge. After a discussion of his career, the author of the article comes around to this:

Contact with the University Archives drew my attention to John’s brother, Terence Lucy Greenidge; one of the Assistant Keepers there suggested that I google him, and I found that he was a friend of Evelyn Waugh from their time together at Hertford College. The brothers, Waugh and a Rugby friend called John Sutro made a silent film called The Scarlet Woman: an ecclesiastical melodrama, in which a scheming Cardinal tries to use the Dean of Balliol to convert Britain back to Roman Catholicism by seducing the Prince of Wales, who is saved by falling in love with a stoutly Protestant cabaret actress. The real-life Dean of Balliol was the man who closed down the Hypocrites Club of which Waugh and Terence Greenidge were members. (Waugh seems to have been fond of this sort of literary revenge. He fell out with his Dean at Hertford, Charles Cruttwell, and his novels are peppered with appalling men with the surname Cruttwell. One of Waugh’s biographers felt that this bullying caused Cruttwell’s mental health to break down, and he died in a neurological hospital in Bristol).

In The Scarlet Woman our man John Greenidge played the Prince and Elsa Lanchester played the actress. She went on later to find fame in Hollywood as The Bride of Frankenstein. The Waugh film is perhaps not top quality, splicing in what looks like tourist footage from Rome (which John had visited as an architectural student) with scenes shot in Hampstead. If you are interested in British silent films with slightly amateurish production values and performances of a naïve (aka hammy) nature, the film can be found on the BFI Player from the British Film Institute. (Thanks to the staff of the BFI Player for their help in accessing this). [UK internet connection required]

I am not sure which is the bigger surprise, the fact that the film has survived or the fact that John Sutro went on to a successful career in films as a producer and production manager. And I wonder what did Waugh, who converted to Catholicism in 1930, make of his youthful, very anti-Catholic folly?

Waugh prominently mentioned the Greenidge film in his autobiography, A Little Learning (London, 1964, pp. 209-10) and included a full page of stills from the film (facing p. 214). Thanks to Dave Lull for sending a link.

–A 30 minute podcast discussion of Evelyn Waugh’s life and work has been posted by Roman Catholic convert and journalist Joseph Pearce. Here is a description:

Delve into the life of 20th century novelist Evelyn Waugh, his loss and rediscovery of faith, and the profound influence of Catholicism on his greatest work, Brideshead Revisited. This episode weaves through Waugh’s tumultuous experiences, his conversion, and concludes with his poignant death on Easter Sunday after a traditional Latin Mass, mirroring the themes of divine grace prevalent in his novels.

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End of January Roundup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bloomsbury Announces Two New Waugh-Related Books

Bloomsbury Books in London has announced the upcoming issuance of two new books with substantive Waugh content. The first is entitled the Bloomsbury Handbook of Modernist Archives.  This has the following article relating to the archives of Evelyn Waugh:

 ‘Will Future Editor Kindly Omit…’: Evelyn Waugh in Conversation with his Archives, Barbara Cooke (Loughborough University, UK) and Naomi Milthorpe (University of Tasmania, Australia)

Both authors are well known to the EWS community and have presented several papers and articles as well as books relating to Waugh’s works. Here is Bloomsbury’s description of the book:

Archival work in modernist studies has revolutionised the discipline in the past two decades, fuelled by innovative and ambitious scholarly editing projects and a growing interest in fresh types of archival sources and evidence that can re-contextualise modernist writing. Several theoretical trends have prompted this development, including the focus on compositional process within genetic manuscript studies, the emphasis on book history, little magazines, and wider publishing contexts, and the emphasis on new material evidence and global and ‘non-canonical’ authors and networks within the ‘New Modernist Studies’.

This book provides a guide to the variety of new archival research that will point to fresh avenues and connect the methodologies and resources being developed across modernist studies. Offering a variety of single-author case studies on recent archival developments and editing projects, including Samuel Beckett, Hart Crane, H.D., James Joyce, Dorothy Richardson, May Sinclair and Virginia Woolf, it also offers a range of thematic essays that examine an array of underused sources as well as the challenges facing archival researchers of modernism.

The Handbook will be published in July and will appear in digital format only: Ebook (PDF).

The second book will follow in August and is written by James A W Heffernan. It is entitled Politics and Literature at the Dawn of World War II.  This book will appear in hardback, paperback and digital formats. Here’s the description and Table of Contents (emphasis added):

Mining the borderlands where history meets literature in Britain and Europe as well as America, this book shows how the imminence and outbreak of World War II ignited the imaginations of writers ranging from Ernest Hemingway, W.H. Auden, and James Joyce to Bertolt Brecht, Evelyn Waugh, Henry Green, and Irène Némirovsky.

Taking its cue from Percy Shelley’s dictum that great writers are to some extent created by the age in which they live, this book shows how much the politics and warfare of the years from 1939 to 1941 drove the literature of this period. Its novels, poems, and plays differ radically from histories of World War II because-besides being works of imagination– they are largely products of a particular stage in the author’s life as well as of a time at which no one knew how the war would end.

This is the first comprehensive study of the impact of the outbreak of the Second World War on the literary work of American, English, and European writers during its first years.

Table of Contents

Prologue: History and Literature

1. Hitler, FDR, and the Partisan Review in 1939

2. The Spanish Civil War and Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls

3. Prague after Munich: The Plight of Refugees in Martha Gellhorn’s A Stricken Field

4. Jan Karski, Patrick Hamilton, and W.H. Auden: Variations on September 1, 1939:

5. Bertolt Brecht, The Svendborg Poems-with a Side Glance at

James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake

6. The Invasion of Poland and Brecht’s Mother Courage

7. The Phony War and Evelyn Waugh’s Put Out More Flags

8. Exodus and Occupation in Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française

9. War, Fire, and Sex: The London Blitz in Henry Green’s Caught

Epilogue

 

 

 

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MLK Weekend Roundup

–The independent book publisher Sutherland House has posted a brief article entitled “Why Waugh Drank”. This is by Kenneth Whyte and begins with a quote from Waugh’s diary (8 Dec 1924, pp. 189-90) about a drink-fueled Oxford day spent in and out of the Hypocrites and New Reform Clubs, from the latter of which he was barred twice. The article then discusses Waugh’s difficult childhood as described in Alexander Waugh’s biography Fathers and Sons and concludes with this:

…Evelyn responded to his circumstances in a clever and self-protective fashion, defining himself against his brother and father. By adolescence, he had an inkling that he was smarter and funnier than both. They could keep their mawkish outpourings of emotion toward one another; he would be hard of head and sharp of tongue. By his early teen years, he was confiding to his diary that Arthur was a fat and “ineffably silly” Victorian sentimentalist. He considered both Alec and Arthur philistines. “Terrible man, my father,” Evelyn said to a schoolmaster. “He likes Kipling.”

To the extent that his parents thought about Evelyn, they were disturbed by his dark moods and lassitude, and intimidated by his cynical wit. Both Alec and Arthur were threatened by Evelyn as a potential literary rival. When Evelyn, in what was becoming a typical act of rebellion, ran up an expensive restaurant tab and had it sent to an outraged Arthur, Alec said: “You know father, if Evelyn turns out to be a genius, you and I might be made to look very foolish by making a fuss over ten pounds, seventeen and ninepence.”

So you can perhaps see how young Evelyn Waugh developed an enthusiasm for drink remarkable even in an undergrad, and why the rare characters killed in gruesome fashion in his fiction tended to be fathers…

The article closes with a quote from a recent essay in the New Statesman discussed in an earlier post which Whyte thinks may evidence some renewed interest in Waugh and his writing. Thanks to David Lull for sending a link.

–Several Spanish-language book sites are listing what looks like the upcoming publication of a Spanish or Castilian translation of Waugh’s 1935 biography to be entitled Edmun Campion jesuita y matir. There is no information about the translator or publication date, but the price will be €16, and the publisher is apparently to be Editorial Didaskalos.  According to Amazon.es, Waugh’s Edmund Campion is currently available to its customers only in English language editions.

The Spectator has an article by John Oxley in its current edition entitled “The Tory Party’s Empty Legacy.” The article opens with this:

It was Evelyn Waugh who dismissed the Tories as having ‘never put the clock back a single second’. Now, even the party’s own MPs seem similarly sceptical, with Danny Kruger lamenting the last 14 years of power as leaving the country ‘sadder, less united and less conservative’. It’s one thing for a parliamentarian to bemoan the party for dropping in the polls, but unusual for one to be so scathing of an entire period of government. In fairness to the Conservatives, their record is not as hopeless as current polling might suggest…

YouTube has posted a reading by Tobias Menzies of a letter of Evelyn Waugh to Nancy Mitford about his fans. This was dated 27 July 1952 and appears in Letters pp 376-77. It is presented in a series called Letters Live. It’s worth a look-in even if you are familiar with its contents. Here’s a link.

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Roundup: Podcast, Public Domain and Plas Dulas

–The London Review of Books has announced its annual program of monthly literary podcasts for the coming year. This is called Close Readings. One of these wil focus on satire and will discuss, inter alia, Evelyn Waugh’s early novel A Handful of Dust which many critics consider his best book. Here’s the text for this particular series:

Close Readings, the LRB’s acclaimed programme of year-long literary courses, returns with three new series. Subscribe to the podcast to listen to them all (as well as all past series) next year, or sign up for a full Close Readings Plus course: you’ll still get podcast access to everything but also a host of other features to transform your reading in 2024.

In which Clare Bucknell and Colin Burrow attempt, over twelve episodes, to chart a stable course through some of the most unruly, vulgar, incoherent, savage and outright hilarious works in all of English literature. What is satire, what is it for, and why do we seem to like it so much?

Other books to be considered in that series include Muriel Spark’s A Far Cry from Kensington and Jane Austen’s Emma. Here’s a link to the announcement which includes sign up details of this and other series.

–In what may be the first announcement of a publication of Waugh’s work issued under the public domain now effective in the United States, a website called Standard Ebooks is offering a free copy of Waugh’s first novel Decline and Fall. See this link. After describing the story, the website provides this explanation:

Waugh issued a new edition of Decline and Fall in 1960 that contained restored text that was removed by his publisher from the first edition. This Standard Ebooks edition follows the first edition.

READ FREE

This ebook is thought to be free of copyright restrictions in the United States. It may still be under copyright in other countries. If you’re not located in the United States, you must check your local laws to verify that this ebook is free of copyright restrictions in the country you’re located in before accessing, downloading, or using it.

Here is some background information on Standard Ebooks:

Standard Ebooks is a volunteer-driven effort to produce a collection of high quality, carefully formatted, accessible, open source, and free public domain ebooks that meet or exceed the quality of commercially produced ebooks. The text and cover art in our ebooks is already believed to be in the U.S. public domain, and Standard Ebooks dedicates its own work to the public domain, thus releasing the entirety of each ebook file into the public domain. All the ebooks we produce are distributed free of cost and free of U.S. copyright restrictions.

Standard Ebooks is organized as a “low-profit L.L.C.,” or “L3C,” a kind of legal entity that blends the charitable focus of a traditional not-for-profit with the ease of organization and maintenance of a regular L.L.C. Our only source of income is donations from readers like you.

–Several Welsh papers announce that the long-planned but delayed demolition of a notable Waugh landmark is about to commence. Here is an excerpt from the news website  NorthWales Live:

The demolition of an historic mansion look set to move ahead shortly. Plas Dulas mansion on Pencoed Road, Llanddulas, was built in the 1840s as a summer retreat. Its famous guests included writer Charles Dickens, playwright Noel Coward and novelist Evelyn Waugh, with the grand house said to have been the inspiration for the boy’s school Llanabba in his 1928 novel Decline and Fall.

Despite planning being in place the building has remained standing – keeping alive the slim hope it could be saved. But the developer Alex Davies Construction has just submitted a construction method statement detailing how the building will be demolished and the site cleared ahead of the new development.

They state that the demolition process for the “old stone building at Plas Dulas will be planned with a focus on sustainability, safety and compliance with regulatory requirements”. They outlined how they would protect any bats that may be roosting at the site and also how they would minimise noise and disruption for local residents.

Mark Baker, architectural historian and Chair of Gwrych Trust, had campaigned against the demolition decision.

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New Issue of Evelyn Waugh Studies Posted

A new issue of Evelyn Waugh Studies, the Society’s journal, has been posted. This is vol 54.2 (Autumn 2023). Here is the summary by the Society’s Secretary Jamie Collinson:

I write to provide you with Evelyn Waugh Studies 54.2 which I can honestly say is my favourite edition to date. That’s due not least to a very readable and brilliantly insightful essay on A Handful of Dust, by Martin Stead. Stead makes a convincing case for religious symbolism in the novel, which I for one hadn’t picked up, and an equally compelling case that Tony Last isn’t quite as innocent as he might seem. I hope you’ll enjoy the essay as much as I did. For my money, the ending of A Handful of Dust is one of Waugh’s most breathtaking achievements, and new light is shed here.Also included is a review of the latest edition in The Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh: Edmund Campion, edited by Gerard Kilroy and reviewed for EWS by D. Marcel DeCoste. DeCoste examines Kilroy’s thesis that writing Campion inspired a fruitful new creative direction for Waugh.Finally, our own Jeffrey Manley reviews Thoroughly Modern: The Pioneering Life of Barbara Ker-Seymer, Photographer, and Her Brilliant, Bohemian Friends, by Sarah Knights. This book has been picking up coverage for its detailing of a very interesting life, and one that intersected with Waugh’s and the Bright Young Things.

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New Years Roundup

–The website LibraryThing.com has posted a review of the Folio Society editions of Black Mischief of which there have been three. Here’s the text:

[Black Mischief] is a quite politically incorrect farce set in 1930 in the mythical country of Azania which occupies a large island in the Indian ocean off the coast of Somalia and Kenya. Waugh portrays this African kingdom as being run by incompetent and corrupt Negro natives, the European residents are depicted as being arrogant and inept, the Indians are incorrigible traders in stolen goods and the Arabs watch on while smoking their hookahs in a hashish haze. Every characteristic of these races is exaggerated to make everyone look ridiculous and you can just imagine some individuals at the extremes of their depiction actually acting in these ways.

It is an amusing 206 page book that has 19 pen and ink sketches by Quentin Blake integrated into the text. It has a rather long (for a small book) nine page introduction by William Deedes. The book is bound in black cloth with a double medallion design of an Azanian medal in gold by Blake on the cover while the gilt spine title runs from bottom to top. The yellow endleaves are printed in black with a map of Azania, the page tops are stained yellow and the pale brown textured slipcase measures 23.1×14.5cm.

The Folio Society published two subsequent editions of this book. In 1999 it was one of a set of six comedies by Waugh, and in 2016 another edition was published in a different binding as one of the short-lived Folio Society Collectable editions. Both these editions had the same content as the 1980 edition reviewed here.

Attached to the post are photos of all three editions followed by photo copies of several pages from the 2008 edition showing the drawings of Quentin Blake, who also drew the covers for the original Penguin Modern Classics editions from the 1960s. Here is a link to the posting.

–The film Saltburn (discussed in several recent posts) is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime. I watched it on Amazon.com and assume it is available to subscribers in the UK and other English-speaking countries on their various Amazon websites. The film’s reviewers may have oversold the film’s connections to Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited. The early scenes in Oxford certainly do seem to have been inspired by Waugh’s novel. There is obviously some connection between the novel’s  characters Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte and the film’s Oliver and Felix. There is also a character in the film called Fairleigh who seems to share some elements with the novel’s Anthony Blanche, in my opinion one of Waugh’s finest creations.

In case you may miss it, that debt to Waugh’s novel is explicitly mentioned by the film’s characters near the end of the Oxford segment. But one shouldn’t expect many more Brideshead themes to crop up once the film moves to the country house of Felix’s family. One that I did notice was a fleeting mention of the teddy bear that had belonged to Felix’s father. But the relationships between Oliver, on the one hand, and Felix and his family, on the other, as well as those between the family members themselves and between them and the house bear little or no resemblance to Waugh’s novel.

–Max Hastings in Saturday’s issue of The Times recalls the political career of William Joynson-Hicks (“Jix” for short) who had a habit of making himself the most conservative voice in the room:

…In 1924, when reactionaries were stricken with disgust at the perceived extravagance of the Roaring Twenties, postwar immorality and the jazz age, Stanley Baldwin made the preposterous Joynson-Hicks home secretary. Jix (the nickname by which much of Britain mocked him) was thrilled. He had been presented with a truncheon; a chance to wind back the clock and reassert decent morality.

He embarked on a war against foreigners– “undesirable aliens”. He denounced perceived pornography and modern art; secured the banning of Radclyffe Hall’s lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness. Evelyn Waugh satirised him in Vile Bodies. When a customs officer at Dover confiscates the manuscript of aspiring author Adam Fenwick-Symes, he says: “Particularly against books the home secretary is. If we can’t stamp out literature in this country, we can at least stop its being brought in from outside.” …

–A recent issue of The Guardian has an article about the continuing success of “cosy crime” writings as a British literary genre. Here’s an excerpt:

…[Agatha Christie] wrote laughs aplenty, especially when it came to Poirot; her contemporary and fellow queen of crime, Ngaio Marsh, excelled at badinage. GK Chesterton’s Father Brown stories, written in the early 20th century, have a profound and gentle humour – or not so gentle in the barbed parody The Absence of Mr Glass, which pokes fun at Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle also made space for jokes amid the pea-soupers and arch villainy, not just in surreal escapades such as The Red-Headed League, but in the everyday interactions of Holmes and Watson. And there are links between the generations: as a producer on Radio 4’s classic adaptation of Dorothy L Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey series, Brett revisited the pinnacle of comic crime from the 1920s and 30s.

In Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel Brideshead Revisited, the aristocratic Catholic family at its centre turns in times of crisis, not to sermons, but to Father Brown stories. Read aloud by the matriarch, the scene is at once absurd, touching and completely understandable. Part of the solace stems from the benign humour of the tales, and that explains why comic crime is resurgent today – amid planetary and economic crises, that promise of escapism is more beguiling than ever. Especially at this time of year. From Hercule Poirot’s Christmas to PD James’s Mistletoe Murders, authors as well as readers have been drawn to fatal festivities…

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