Brideshead Products On Offer

An internet-based marketing company called TeePublic.com has on offer several personal articles of clothing and household goods decorated with the cover art from the dust jacket of the Little, Brown/Book of the Month Club 1945 first edition of Brideshead Revisited. The products are the work of an independent designer. In the case of the Brideshead product line, the designer is identified as “buythebook86”.  As explained on the website:

TeePublic is the world’s largest marketplace for independent creators to sell their work on the highest-quality merchandise.Every TeePublic purchase supports independent artists, podcasts, streamers, and more!

The principal article is a teeshirt in various colors and sizes carrying the dust jacket design on the front. Other products such as sweat shirts, coffee mugs, phone and computer cases, tote bags, etc. are also available with the same imprint but in more limited color (and in some cases size) ranges. Other products by the same designer use dust jacket designs similar to that for Brideshead; these include Tropic of Cancer, The Maltese Falcon, Gone with the Wind and Mrs Dalloway. Oddly, the design for The Great Gatsby product line uses the title page rather than the iconic Scribner’s dust jacket. See link.

The original Little, Brown cover art was the work of Lester M Peterson, whose name appears on the front flap of the dust jacket for the Little, Brown/BOMC edition published in September 1945. A limited edition of 600 copies was sold by Little, Brown at the same time, but with a different dust jacket, probably also designed by Peterson. See link. The same artist was also the creator of other dust jackets for several of Waugh’s books published by Little, Brown in the 1940s and 1950s. In addition to Brideshead, these include the reprints of Decline and Fall (1943), Vile Bodies and A Handful of Dust (both 1944), Black Mischief (1946) and Edmund Campion (1947) as well as first editions of When the Going was Good (1947) and Tactical Excercise (1954). This list is based on an examination of the dust jackets or, where those were not available, photos or book descriptions on the internet.  Peterson may have also been responsible for the Little, Brown dust jackets of Put Out More Flags (1942) and Officers and Gentlemen (1955) based on their similarity to his other productions, but there is no name attribution on those dust jackets and they differ slightly from the others examined.

How much, if at all, Waugh may have been involved in the design of these Little, Brown dust jackets is not clear. He would unlikely have had any say in the one used for Brideshead Revisited since he was stationed in Yugoslavia or Italy during most of the period in which that would have been in preparation. The textual material included on the front and back flaps of the Little, Brown book does not appear to have been written by Waugh, unlike that on the UK edition entitled “Warning” and signed by him. The jackets on these Little, Brown books conform to a unitary, consistent design format of lettering and pictorial material and seem intended to contribute to a brand image to help promote the Waugh product in the period of popularity his works enjoyed in America during the 1940s.

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Lancing Chapel to be Completed

The Times newspaper reports, in an article by Nicola Woolcock, that the chapel at Lancing College will be completed over 150 years after it was begun:

A stunning and distinctive place of worship towering over the landscape has remained unfinished for more than a century amid wrangles over cost and design, but now the end is in sight. Not the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona but the chapel at Lancing College, a leading private school on the edge of the South Downs, that has Evelyn Waugh, Sir Tim Rice and Sir David Hare among its alumni.

Work began on the neo-gothic structure — the tallest and arguably most imposing school chapel in the world — in 1868, some 20 years after the college was founded by Nathaniel Woodard, the parish priest. It is said that he gazed out across the River Adur one day after a service and, with its clear views across the West Sussex valley, he immediately realised he had found the spot. […] 

The chapel was eventually dedicated in 1911, despite one side being finished with a sheet of corrugated metal. That was replaced with a wall featuring a vast stained glass rose window in 1978, dedicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury in a ceremony attended by the Prince of Wales. The west wall remained incomplete, however, with temporary doors and filled in arches and, until recently, it appeared that plans to finish the 27 metre (90ft) high building were a lifetime away.

Although not quoted, Waugh describes his impression of the chapel when he was taken to enroll in the school in 1917. This is from A Little Learning, his autobiography:

…We had been sent some photographs of the buildings, but they failed to prepare us for the dramatic dominance of the chapel which filled the scene before us. Mr Woodard had paid dear for his choice of site. The foundations, it was said, lay deeper below ground than the chalk groining above. He intended all his buildings to be a reaffirmation of the Anglican Faith, and Lancing Chapel was to be the culminating monument of his design, proclaiming his purpose in the clearest tones. The great building was unfinished, but the east end, which confronted us gave no evidence of the ruinlike, temporarily abandoned areas which lay behind. The glass seen from outside was greenish as though enclosing an aquarium. Visiting preachers often compared the apse to the prow of a ship. I know no more spectacular post-Reformation ecclesiastical building in the kingdom. (CWEW, v. 19, p. 80).

According to The Times, the building schedule ambitiously calls for completion in 2020:

The west wall remained incomplete, […] with temporary doors and filled in arches and, until recently, it appeared that plans to finish the 27 metre (90ft) high building were a lifetime away. Now an ambitious £3.5 million plan to attach the chapel to the independent boarding school has been scaled down with a different vision — a £1.2 million project to create a new porch offering a more fitting entrance. Only £350,000 is left to raise, thanks to donations and legacies, and the building is due to be completed at the end of 2020 and rededicated in early 2021. […] The chapel is made from Horsham stone, a local sandstone susceptible to erosion, especially given its lofty position only miles from the sea. […] The new porch will be built in Somerset stone, which is more durable.

To make donations to the completion fund and see renderings of the new west end of the chapel, go to this link.

The other incomplete ecclesiastical structure mentioned prominently in the article is the Church of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Waugh also wrote a detailed description of that project in his early travel book Labels (Chapter VII). Although not mentioned, another notable example of an unfinished church is the Cathedral of St John the Divine on Morningside Heights in New York City. It was begun in 1888 (20 years after Lancing Chapel) and several portions remain unfininshed, the most noticeable being the north tower of the west front. And as for musical examples, how could they have overlooked Schubert’s Symphony No. 8, nearly always referred to as the Unvollendete (“Unfinished”)?

 

 

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Columbus Day Roundup

–The Financial Times recently conducted an extensive interview of the new editor of the Daily Mail, Geordie Greig. Here’s the opening:

There is one thing that a journalist can count on, said a character in Evelyn Waugh’s 1938 novel Scoop: “popularity”. The public always has “a smile and the best of everything for the gentlemen of the press”. How times changed, particularly for the Daily Mail. At the turn of the century, the tabloid became the most influential newspaper in Britain, but also the most divisive — thanks to angry headlines such as “Crush the Saboteurs”, “Over 1m Illegals are in Britain” and “Is this a case of bias against men?” […] Then last year, after a quarter-century in charge, the Mail’s fearsome Brexiter editor Paul Dacre was shoved upstairs — replaced by Geordie Greig, a debonair Remainer famed for his literary contacts. It was as if the Brexit party had chosen Amber Rudd as leader.

After a lengthy discussion of how and why Greig is taking the Daily Mail news coverage and editorial policy in a different direction from his predecessor, the article concludes: “Geordie Greig wants popularity and profit. Even in Scoop, they didn’t aspire to that.”

–Last week’s Sunday Times printed an interview of comedian and writer Alexei Sayle. As he has explained in previous interviews, Evelyn Waugh is his favorite author:

I’m a big fan of Evelyn Waugh, especially the Sword of Honour trilogy. My parents were communists and in terms of arts they only liked voices that confirmed their own world view. So I’ve always really liked authors who were diametrically opposed to that. Someone like Waugh really hates the working class, but I think he really understands human beings. It’s more interesting to read an author who comes from a really different place to you.

In answer to another question about what book Sayle wished he’d written, he returned to Waugh:

I’d love to have written Waugh’s early satires. In terms of satirical fiction he touched on a lot of things nobody had written about before, especially incest and homosexuality. He’s got a cynical attitude towards government and power structures.

–Several papers published stories commemorating the 70th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s novel 1984. The website LuxuryLondon discusses what bits of the city that Orwell fictionalized in his novel are still standing:

… there are still traces in existence of the London that Orwell knew and which figured in his imaginings for the future of the city should a totalitarian system ever manifest itself. Looking like one of Moscow’s Stalin-era skyscrapers, the imposing high-rise Senate House, which stands in the heart of Bloomsbury, was described by Evelyn Waugh in Put Out More Flags as ‘the vast bulk of London University insulting the autumnal sky’. Still the administrative centre of the University of London, the building was commandeered during the Second World War by the government as the HQ of the Ministry of Information.[…] Although the physical immensity of the building is perfectly captured by Orwell in his fictionalised Ministry of Truth version, there is little to suggest that the writer found his dealings with the real life Senate House as tedious and manipulative as Smith did with its fictional counterpart.

KipperCentral.com, a website sponsored by the UKIP party, asks how 1984 might read if it were written today. They take a particular interest in issues such as immigration as the likely source of concern in a rewritten text rather than the totalitarian regimes which Orwell saw as a threat:

Orwell failed to foresee that religious belief would prove such a strong force in the future — an oversight recognised by Evelyn Waugh, who lived near Orwell’s sanatorium and who visited him in 1949. ‘What makes your version of the future spurious to me is the disappearance of the church,’ Waugh wrote to him after reading Nineteen Eighty-Four. ‘Disregard all the supernatural implications if you like, but you must admit its unique character as a social and historical institution. I believe it is inextinguishable’. Although the Anglican Church has since lost much of its cultural prominence, another faith is taking its place as an inextinguishable force in contemporary Britain with the projected Muslim population expected to increase from 4.6% of the UK population in 2010 to 8.2 % by 2030.

See previous post.

–The Italian religious website Radio Spada has an article about the conversion to Roman Catholicism of the 20th Century poet Edith Sitwell. It also mentions Evelyn Waugh’s role in that event:

In 20th century British Catholic literature we witnessed a strange phenomenon, namely that of avant-garde authors, incorrigible iconoclasts, capable, however, of revealing the force of tradition with exceptional vigor, writing pages full of contrasting sensations that result in a fascinating and unusual “dynamism of Truth” (the definition is by the scholar Joseph Pearce). An excellent example of this trend, in addition to Evelyn Waugh, the unsurpassed author of Brideshead Revisited, is his friend Edith Sitwell (1887-1964), a key figure in the evolution of English poetry – religious and otherwise – during the twentieth century. […] Edith Sitwell was finally welcomed into the Church of Rome in August 1955, a year after she was awarded […] the Order of the British Empire by the Queen. Her godfather was Evelyn Waugh – who described her that day “wrapped in black as an infant of the sixteenth century” – while among the guests the actor Alec Guinness stood out, also destined a few months later to be converted to a “papist ” (as Catholics were pejoratively called by the Anglicans).

Translation is by Google with some edits.

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Cardinal Newman’s Canonization

Several papers carry stories commemorating Cardinal John Henry Newman on the occasion of his canonization. This will take place tomorrow in Rome. One story, from the religious website Aleteia, mentions the first Newman Center for university students at Oxford that was founded:

… with the intention of supporting Catholic students attending the non-Catholic university […] Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins was a founding member of the Newman Society. In the years that followed, nearly all of the Catholic literary giants of the 19th and 20th centuries would be involved with the Newman Society and gave lectures to the Catholic students at Oxford. This would include such prolific writers as J.R.R. Tolkien, Evelyn Waugh, Hilaire Belloc, G. K. Chesterton, and Robert Hugh Benson. [Emphasis in original.]

According to the Newman Society’s website, they even were mentioned by Evelyn Waugh in his highly celebrated novel Brideshead Revisted.

“In 1945 the Newman was sufficiently established to merit two mentions in Waugh’s ‘Oxford novel,’ Brideshead Revisited. The first reference comes in the course of Lady Marchmain’s comments to Charles Ryder about her son, Sebastian: ‘I want Sebastian to have all sorts of friends, not just one. Monsignor Bell tells me he never mixes with the other Catholics, never goes to the Newman, very rarely goes to Mass even. Heaven forbid that he should only know Catholics, but he must know some.'”  [Penguin, p. 138]

The second Newman Society reference is not quoted on the website but comes a few paragraphs later in Sebastian’s response to his mother’s plans:

‘I shan’t come up. can you imagine me–serving mass twice a week, helping at tea parties for shy freshmen, dining with the visiting lecturer at the Newman, drinking a glass of port when we have guests, with Mgr Bell’s eye on me to see I don’t get too much…’ [Penguin, p. 139]

Waugh also put in another reference in the novel to the Cardinal himself. This is on the opening page of Chapter One:

..in those days Oxford was a city of acquatint. In her spacious and quiet streets men walked and spoke as they had in Newman’s day…’ [Penguin, p. 23]

Whether Waugh ever wrote any extended consideration of Newman’s career is harder to say. The only reference in the Bibliography is to a 1961 review in the Sunday Times. In this, he considered a book by Ronald Chapman about Fr F W Faber, another High Anglican clergyman who who migrated to the Roman Church, following Newman. Faber was the founder of the Brompton Oratory and was, according to Waugh, a “more humanely heroic man” than Newman. The review continues,

…almost everything that [Newman] attempted failed while Faber almost always succeeded…[Faber] imposed the baroque on a generation of English Catholics who either traditionally shrank from all ostentation or regarded the pointed arch as a distinguishing mark of their faith. His emotional appeal in the pulpit is comparable to Wesley’s with the same concomitant of frenzied penitents. He found and formed countless souls. [“An Heroic Churchman: In the Shadow of Newman”, Sunday Times, 29 January 1961, p. 27.

Waugh offers no examples of what he deems to have been Newman’s failures.

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Profile of Fr Martin D’Arcy on Italian Website

The life and career of Fr Martin D’Arcy are profiled in a recent issue of the Italian-language religious website Radio Spada. Fr D’Arcy was Waugh’s friend and Roman Catholic mentor from the time of his conversion to that faith.  He was in fact Waugh’s instructor for his conversion. The profile is written by Luca Fumagalli who frequently writes on English subjects. See previous posts

After explaining how Fr D’Arcy was educated in Roman Catholic schools and at Oxford and then joined the Society of Jesus (i.e., the Jesuits), the article continues:

…D’Arcy was able to get to know and associate with almost all the most illustrious exponents of the so-called English Catholic Revival in the artistic and literary field: among others GK Chesterton , Hilaire Belloc, Maurice Baring, Eric Gill, David Jones, Edith Sitwell, Graham Greene, Shane Leslie and Roy Campbell. However, the deepest link was with Evelyn Waugh, one of his many illustrious converts. D’Arcy presided at his [second] marriage and was his spiritual advisor for decades; the depth of the relationship between the two is also evidenced by their voluminous correspondence. Waugh, who donated large sums of money to the Jesuits, including the proceeds from his essay dedicated to Edmund Campion – the famous 16th-century martyr – had D’Arcy read a draft of Brideshead Revisited: he wanted feedback from a friend about the theological orthodoxy of the novel that would later become one of the greatest masterpieces of twentieth-century English Catholic fiction.

The article goes on to recount how Fr D’Arcy supervised the construction of Campion Hall at Oxford, which, as previously noted, Waugh supported:

D’Arcy was also mainly responsible for the re-establishment of Campion Hall, in 1936, collecting the necessary funds for the construction of the new building, more beautiful and larger than the previous one, with a magnificent chapel, able to better meet the needs of the growing number of students residing there. In addition to procuring liturgical vestments and quality furniture, D’Arcy went out of his way to find works of art that contributed to the interior decoration. In the thirties, with D’Arcy at Campion Hall and Msgr. Ronald Knox in the Catholic chaplaincy of the university, the “papism” in Oxford knew one of its periods of maximum splendor. D’Arcy was much loved by both Catholic and Protestant students. His affable character and his well-known speaking ability made him an ideal host for the meetings organized by the many university circles to which he was a member.

The article then describes Fr D’Arcy’s important role in the revival of interest in the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, his appointment as Jesuit Superior for the order’s English Province and his part in re-establishing the Jesuit publication The Month. He also travelled frequently to the USA and became close friends with many leading American Catholics. But he shared Waugh’s disappointment with the Second Vatican Council and his last years were shadowed by its results. The article concludes:

…when D’Arcy died in 1976, the English faithful to the Church of Rome were aware that they had lost one of their most important priests, a man who with his acumen and his charm had decisively contributed to extending the fame of the Church of Rome throughout the country, far beyond the fences of parishes and seminaries. With his departure, the long wave of the “papist” rebirth in the United Kingdom came to an end in a land that since then would never know a Catholic intellectual of equal value.

The translation is by Google with some minor editing. On the whole, the Google translation is quite readable and can be used by those wishing to review the entire text. Here’s the link to the original.

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Early October Roundup

–In the current issue of TLS, writer Henry Hitchins reviews the two recent collections of the writings of Auberon Waugh. The review, entitled “Like a fine whine”, opens with this:

Looking back over my career to date, and at all the people I have insulted, I am mildly surprised that I am still allowed to exist”, wrote Auberon Waugh in 1980. For the remaining twenty-one years of his life he took pleasure in adding to his list of victims. […] Waugh was born in the same year as John Cleese and Margaret Drabble; he was younger than Jilly Cooper and Vanessa Redgrave, John Prescott and David Dimbleby. Were he still alive, he would not yet be eighty.

Having published his first novel, The Foxglove Saga, at twenty, Waugh continued for more than a decade to dabble in writing fiction, but found his métier in journalism, practising what he called “the vituperative arts”. The objects of his savage riffs included cant, political rhetoric and parliamentarians, as well as other kinds of bossy legislator whose exercise of power was a means to “compensate for their personal inadequacies”. At the same time he stood up for free speech, along with causes with which one wouldn’t immediately link someone of his stripe (the magazine Viz, the European Union, Martin Amis) and several less defensible groups, such as adulterers and drunk drivers. As the child of Evelyn Waugh, he inherited vendettas, mainly among what he considered the literary world’s “great armies of militant atheists, leftists and modernists”, and he was pleased to keep up old antagonisms.

The review concludes that the collected journalism (A Scribbler in Soho) is somewhat narrow in scope but the collected wine articles (Waugh on Wine) are still enjoyable despite their inevitable datedness. See also earlier posts.

–Waugh’s French publisher Robert Laffont is issuing a new edition of the French translation of Black Mischief. The French title is Diablerie. The announcement of the book’s issuance later this month describes it as follows:

“Waugh is a great master of humor, a bit cynical, who deserves to be better known in France.” Benoit Duteurtre.

In this novel we see Basil Seal (probably Waugh’s favorite creation) help his friend Seth, emperor of the island of Azania, establish a new order in this fictional country of Africa where the savagery competes with corruption […] Caricature of the efforts of Haile Selassie I to modernize Abyssinia, Diablerie is the novel which, in 1932, elevated Evelyn Waugh to the rank of master of the satire.

The above link is to the 1994 edition. The new edition will be for sale on 17 October. Translation by Google with edits.

–In his latest Mail on Sunday column, Peter Hitchens reviews the first episode of a new BBC drama series that is set in the beginning days of WWII (marking its 80th anniversary) as experienced by an assortment of characters. This is called World on Fire and started last Sunday, 29 September. Hitchen’s review begins with a complaint:

We have for many years had other soap operas or situation comedies set in this era, which can exploit the simple ‘good versus evil’ contest which WW2 reliably provides. Or they can explore the pleasure and satisfaction to be found in adversity. Or they can exploit the supposedly sexy fashions and music of the time which, I suspect, were a good deal less glamorous and funky than what we tend to see portrayed. And there must have been other tunes apart from Glenn Miller’s’ ‘In the Mood’, surely? Or was it played continuously throughout the later stages of the war, by every band? And we have a number of memoirs and novels, from Evelyn Waugh to Olivia Manning, about the Second World War which could be the basis for heavyweight drama. But it’s all getting a bit tired, as far as I’m concerned. I’m in my late 60s and even I am too young to remember the war, which ended 74 years ago. Is there really no other background for drama?

The war novels of both Waugh and Manning were indeed made into memorable TV series. In Waugh’s case there have been two adaptations of Sword of Honour and the most recent from Channel 4 is available on DVD or streaming. The earlier, and longer BBC version from the 1960s is locked out of TV distribution, probably due to rights restrictions. It is available only at a few BFI venues. Manning’s novels adapted for TV as Fortunes of War are also available. Hitchens’ review continues with some interesting discussions on Oswald Mosley and Danzig (now Gdansk) and their relevance to the events in the drama. .

HBO has announced the broadcast of the 1988 two-hour film adaptation of Waugh’s prewar novel A Handful of Dust. This will be available for streaming in the USA from 27 October. It was produced and directed by the same partnership that resulted n the successful 1981 series Brideshead Revisited: Derek Granger and Charles Sturridge. Those who haven’t seen it should take this opportunity to do so. It is also available on DVD.

–Finally, writing for The Spectator from Australia, Rebecca Weisser reports on the recent Chinese Communist Party’s celebration of the 75th anniversary of its victory over its rivals. She is reminded of a Waugh novel:

And there was a sea of flags. ‘A man getting drunk at a farewell party should strike a musical tone, in order to strengthen his spirit … and a drunk military man should order gallons (of alcohol) and put out more flags in order to increase his military splendour,’ a Chinese sage was quoted as saying by Evelyn Waugh in his brilliant novel about the phony war at the start of the second world war.

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Mottramism: Another Wavian Neologism?

The religious website Where Peter Is has posted an article defending Pope Francis against charges of “Mottramism” by his critics. The posting is by Nathan Turowsky and opens with this:

Critics of Pope Francis on social media use many terms to describe his defenders, including “papolator,” “ultramontanist,” “pope-worshipper,” and “bergoglian.” A more clever but less-frequently used name is “Mottramist.” Mottramism is a reference to Rex Mottram, an extremely unsympathetic character from Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel Brideshead Revisited. It’s an intriguing allusion; however, the way the term is used betrays a serious misunderstanding of the point of the character and of Waugh’s novel as a whole.

After describing the portrayal of the character in Waugh’s novel, Turowsky focuses on Rex’s  response to the question posed by Father Mowbray, the priest in the novel who is instructing him, about whether Christ had more than one nature. From this, Turowsky proceeds to identify the basis for the term being applied to Pope Francis by his critics:

I count three different types of mangling of Catholic belief. The first is [Rex’s] willingness to blindly accept anything asserted by a Church authority, regardless of whether it’s true. The second is his inability or unwillingness to understand what it is he is accepting; he does not say, for example, that Jesus must have two natures because it is what the Church teaches, but that Jesus must have however many natures the priest thinks He has. The third is his willingness to deny not only theological truths (many of which are revealed and thus by definition non-obvious) but manifest empirical reality in the interest of believing whatever he thinks he is being told to believe. “Mottramism” in the sense that Pope Francis’s critics use the word is for the most part limited to the first of these problems.

Turowsky attached an addendum to his post offering some links illustrating examples of how the term Mottramism has been used:

…the term goes back much further than I thought and didn’t always have factional or ideological connotations. It appears to date from late in the papacy of St. John Paul II; however, I personally never saw it before about 2015. Here is a Twitter personality using the word as a hashtag to describe people who believe Pope Francis’s account of his actions on the abuse crisis over Archbishop Viganò’s. Here, a blogger describes Mottramism as a “Fake Catholicism” along with Ancient Faith Radio (which doesn’t even claim to be Catholic; it’s an Eastern Orthodox media outlet). Here, somebody going by the username Dante Alighieri compares Rex’s “spiritual rain” to readers of Laudato Si’ accepting Pope Francis’s acceptance of scientific consensus on the existence of anthropogenic climate change. On the other hand, here is Rod Dreher using the term to describe a tweet by Father Antonio Spadaro that, in all honesty, raised red flags for me too. Dreher has also used the term to describe uncritical confidence in US President Donald Trump.

He concludes his own defense of the Pope as follows:

In the end, the problem with Mottram is his lack of intellectual curiosity and refusal to consider any possible truths beyond shopworn conventional wisdom, received decrees from authority figures, and thought-terminating clichés. To describe defenders of Pope Francis as adherents of Mottramism is to badly misunderstand both the loathsome qualities of Rex and the nuanced positions of serious Catholics who support and defend the Holy Father.

This is not the place to debate these religious points. The website linked above offers an opportunity for comments. But it is interesting to note the source in Waugh’s writings for what may have become a name for a new theological concept.

UPDATE (30 September 2019): The above posting was amended to incorporate some additional information attached to original article.

UPDATE (12 October 2019): A similar discussion was posted on 29 August by a Nashville blogger on the website sameandother.com.

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Waugh Appears in Danish Trilogy

The current issue of The Spectator contains a review of  translations of a Danish writer who describes a meeting with Waugh in Copenhagen in the 1940s. This is Tove Ditlevsen and the books are entitled The Copenhagen Trilogy: Childhood, Youth, Dependency. The Spectator review by Boyd Tonkin opens with this:

Pick up a Penguin Classic from a cult Danish author who ‘struggled with alcohol and drug abuse’ and took her own life aged 58, and you may have one or two prior expectations. They will probably not include a flirtatious dinner with an enthralled Evelyn Waugh (‘so attentive and kind’) in a Copenhagen restaurant so quiet that ‘we could hear the thumping of ships’ motors far out on the water’. Tove Ditlevsen and the ‘vibrant, youthful’ Waugh have their evening spoiled when her third husband — a crazy, drug-pushing medic — turns up in his motorcycle leathers to drag Tove away for her bedtime injection, plus a bout of rougher than usual sex that leaves her spaced-out, ‘limp and blissful’.The author of Vile Bodies himself might have composed this scene from the late 1940s, when Ditlevsen (born 1917) had already published several acclaimed volumes of poetry and fiction.

The books were previously reviewed by John Self in the New Statesman:

Naming an autobiographical trilogy is a telling business. Tolstoy went straight down the line with Childhood; Boyhood; Youth. JM Coetzee started with Boyhood and Youth, but finished with Summertime, a pastoral title savagely ironic for its unflattering portrayal of the author’s late middle age. Tove Ditlevsen, one of Denmark’s most celebrated writers, was more subversive still. After Childhood and Youth, her final memoir was titled Gift, which in Danish means both married and poison. In English this has been rendered as Dependency; either way we have a title to make the reader wonder what lies beneath. The trilogy is now publish-ed in English in full for the first time, translated by Tiina Nunnally and Michael Favala Goldman.

To get it out of the way: they are the best books I have read this year. These very slim volumes slip in like a stiletto and do their work once inside. Each has its own distinct tone, which just about justifies Penguin’s money-chasing decision to issue the trilogy (around 350 pages in total) as three separate books.

In a review that appeared in the Daily Telegraph, Lucy Scholes declared that:

Dependency is the tour de force of the trilogy, not to mention the only book that could satisfyingly be read as a stand-alone volume, just about vindicating Penguin’s decision to print them separately rather than as a collected work. It’s also worth noting that the translator changes here too, Tiina Nunnally’s excellent work swapped for the less declarative but no less nimble prose of Michael Favala Goldman. As a sign of the author’s transition from immaturity to adulthood, this slight shift in tone works well. The episodic feel of the early volumes – like memories that bloom then burst – is replaced by a narrative, the cumulative power of which relies on a stricter chronological approach.

The Waugh reference probably appears in the third volume and likely relates to his visit to Copenhagen in 1947 described in a recent article in Evelyn Waugh Studies no 50.1. Meetings with several Danish writers were arranged during that visit. An earlier memoir in EWS 38.1 (Spring 2007) by Godfred Hartman, Waugh’s Danish publisher, mentions Tove Ditlevsen as having been present at a meeting of the local PEN club which Waugh attended.

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Autumnal Equinox Round-up

–A N Wilson writing in the Times newspaper reviews a new book by Dominic Sandbrook. This is number 5 in a series Sandbrook is writing about the cultural and social history of England in the post Suez period. It covers 1979-82, the opening years of the Thatcher Government which include the Falkland Islands War. According to Wilson:

Who Dares Wins, the fifth volume in Sandbrook’s sequence, covers the time of Diana Spencer’s marriage to Prince Charles, of John Lennon’s assassination in New York, and the prodigiously popular television dramatisation of Brideshead Revisited. Was that nostalgia for a British past that had never, exactly, been as Evelyn Waugh depicted, or a sign that the Old Britain was not as dead as progressives might have hoped?

If the past is any indication, Sandbrook will also work up a TV documentary based on this book (or may have already done so–The 80s with Dominic Sandbrook was broadcast in three one-hour episodes by BBC2 in 2016). While Wilson does not comment on that feature of Sandbrook’s presentation, he does recommend the books:

The tomes — starting with Never Had It So Good — are huge, the pace is leisurely, but your reviewer, who has read them all with growing admiration, can testify that they are never dull. If anyone wants to know what has been happening to Britain since the 1950s, it is difficult to imagine a more informative, or better-humoured guide. 

–Charles Moore, politician, journalist and author, reports in The Spectator on a recent trip to Poland. While in Gdansk he visited the:

… Museum of the Second World War, only a few miles from where it began when the German battleship the Schleswig-Holstein bombarded the Westerplatte in September 1939. The first notice you see reminds you that this war was the result of the Nazi-Soviet Pact the previous month, and that Poland was the first and greatest victim. As Evelyn Waugh puts it at the beginning of the Sword of Honour trilogy: ‘The enemy at last was plain in view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off. It was the Modern Age in arms.’ Eighty years on from the month in which Germans from the West and Russians from the East crushed Poland, it is sobering for an Englishman to see how marginal — although we declared war for the sake of Poland — Britain was. The deep tunnels of the museum exhibit distressingly the utter, yet unutterable destruction. We were, by comparison, bystanders.

–Charles Moore also gets noticed in the Daily Mail’s excerpt from the memoirs of  journalist and publishing executive Nicholas Coleridge entitled The Glossy Years. It was Moore who, while they were both at Eton, advised Coleridge to apply to Cambridge to read Theology since the only subject he excelled in at Eton was Scriptures. “According to Charles, there were at least five Theology dons at Trinity, all with endowed sinecures, crying out for pupils, it being vaguely embarrassing to have nobody to teach.” Coleridge was admitted and, after Cambridge, decided to try journalism:

I’d read somewhere, probably in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, that the best route into journalism was to start as a tea boy on a national newspaper. So as my gap-year began, I posted off a letter to the first newspaper editor I could think of: John Junor, Editor of the Sunday Express. At the time, he was the towering laird of Fleet Street: Scottish, trenchant, cranky and famous for proclaiming that only homosexuals drank white wine. It was to Junor I addressed my job application to push the tea-trolley…’I’ve read your letter, sonny, but you can never be a tea boy here. The unions won’t wear it. You have to be the son of a tea boy to be considered, or a nephew. If I so much as suggest it, they’ll down tools . . .But I’ll tell you what,’ he went on. ‘I can send you to the Falmouth Packet as a trainee reporter. It’s a local rag down in Cornwall, one of ours. We can pay you £14 a week.’

Coleridge went on from the Packet to work for Tatler, Harpers & Queen and ultimately chairman of magazine publishers Condé Nast. Coleridge may well have remembered reading the story about Fleet Street and tea boys, but I don’t think it was in Scoop. Waugh worked briefly for the Daily Express in 1927 as a trainee but wasn’t hired so he may have borne a grudge. But I couldn’t find the “tea boy” story in Scoop.

–Coleridge’s book is reviewed in the Times. The review, by John Walsh, opens and closes with references to Evelyn Waugh, starting with another allusion to Scoop:

Fans of Evelyn Waugh might recall a story in which a posh but clueless young journalist called Nick is sent to cover the civil war in a former British colony, despite knowing nothing of the conflict between the warring tribes. Nick and his friends rent a car and drive north to the rebel stronghold, but are arrested by government troops and banged up in a grim prison. Luckily, a jailor tells the local newspaper about the jailbirds, the Evening Standard prints the story, and Nick’s mother reads it in her Chelsea hairdresser’s. His father phones the prison, Nick is released and the police chief tells him: “You must come back soon for a holiday.”

If you don’t remember it, don’t worry, it’s not by Waugh and it’s not even fiction. It’s exactly what happened to the journalist Nicholas Coleridge, aged 26, when he was sent by Lord Cranborne to make a documentary about the Sri Lankan civil war in 1983. But like much else in The Glossy Years — a scintillating memoir of Coleridge’s life in fashion magazines, meeting every glamorous human being that flourished in the late 20th century — it reads like something from a comic novel by Waugh, PG Wodehouse or Nancy Mitford.

After a breezy discussion of the book’s contents and Coleridge’s career, the review closes with this:

If the book’s later accounts of dealings with committees and rich patrons at the V&A suggest a distinguished old boy handing out prizes on speech day, one can forgive Coleridge, after he’s crammed so much life, gossip and larks, so many tales from the crazy end of fashion, money, glitz and celebrity into the preceding 300 pages. This must be the most entertaining book of the year. As the characters in Vile Bodies might say, it’s utter bliss.

–Finally, the Wall Street Journal reviews a new novel by Ann Patchett. Here’s the opening paragraph in the review by Anna Mundow:

The dominant figure in Ann Patchett ’s new novel, “The Dutch House,” is in many ways the house itself, a captivating childhood home that later becomes, as one character puts it, “the hero of every story, our lost and beloved country.” Like the Flyte family’s castle in Evelyn Waugh ’s “Brideshead Revisited,” this grandiose mansion holds the past entombed and its inhabitants enthralled. But the Dutch House is also unmistakably American. Built with tobacco money in an era when “ready-made cigarettes lined up in their cartons were a luxury for the rich, as were acres never walked on by the people who owned them,” this 1920s Pennsylvania residence seems constructed of glass and light. “Not only could you see into the Dutch House,” the narrator explains of its vast windows, “from the driveway you could let your eye go up the front steps . . . across the long marble floor of the foyer, through the observatory, and catch sight of the lilacs waving obliviously in the garden behind the house.”

The review goes on to describe how the family splinters into dysfunction, but all members including those who are exiled remain tied to the house. Brideshead in the novel is not in fact a “castle” although that is its name. It is a large Baroque country house built from the ruins of a former castle on the site.

 

 

 

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Wodehouse Memorial Dedicated in Westminster Abbey

Several papers carry the story of the dedication yesterday of a memorial plaque to P G Wodehouse in Westminster Abbey. This is from the Financial Times:

Nestled above playwright Noël Coward and to the right of broadcaster Richard Dimbleby, a memorial plaque to author and humorist PG Wodehouse was dedicated in London’s Westminster Abbey on Friday. Wodehouse admirers hope that the commemoration, only the fifth of its kind for an author in the last decade in the church where Britain’s monarchs are crowned, will complete his rehabilitation after controversy over broadcasts he made while detained in Nazi Germany clouded his later life. […]  Though he was cleared of wrongdoing by MI5, the domestic intelligence service, and defended by literary heavyweights such as Evelyn Waugh and George Orwell, Wodehouse never returned to Britain. He only received a long-blocked knighthood six weeks before his death in 1975. […] His memorial is in the south quire aisle of the abbey. A commemoration in the church is one of the highest honours for cultural figures in the UK. Physicist Stephen Hawking’s ashes were interred there last year, and poet Philip Larkin received a floor stone in 2016…

Similar stories appear in the Times and Daily Telegraph. Additional details of the ceremony were posted by the P G Wodehouse Society:

The stone will be dedicated by The Dean of Westminster. HRH The Duke of Kent, on behalf of The PG Wodehouse Society of which he is a Patron, will invite the Dean to receive the memorial into the safe custody of the Dean and Chapter. The Address will be given by the Society’s President, the TV personality, Alexander Armstrong. Hal and Lara Cazalet, son and daughter of Sir Edward, will sing, accompanied by Stephen Higgins. Lucy Tregear, Martin Jarvis and Alexander Armstrong will read extracts from Wodehouse’s works.

Waugh and Wodehouse corresponded with each other after the war, and Waugh also wrote several articles defending Wodehouse and praising his work. In 1961, Waugh appeared on the BBC Home Service and broadcast a talk later published in the Sunday Times and entitled “An Homage and Reparation to P. G. Wodehouse.” EAR, pp. 561-68.

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