Waugh Event in Milan

The British Council in Milan has announced a presentation relating to Evelyn Waugh later this week.  Here are the details:

On occasion of the 2018 edition of Bookcity, the British Council Milan, in collaboration with the Department of Modern Languages of Milan University, will host the editors of Evelyn Waugh’s complete works

On occasion of the Bookcity event Martin Stannard (University of Leicester), Sharon Ouditt (Nottingham Trent University), Simon James (University of Durham), Rebecca Moore (University of Leicester) and Roger Irwin (Oxford) will discuss several aspects of Waugh’s creative achievement and his reception in Italy with Giovanni Iamartino and Sara Sullam (University of Milan), and Ottavio Fatica, author of the latest translation of Brideshead Revisited (Bompiani 2009).

During the two weeks preceding the event, the British Council will host an exhibition of materials related to Waugh’s Italian fortune.

The presentation will take place on Saturday, 17 November, 17:00-19:00pm, at the British Council in Milan, via Manzoni 38. Booking is available here. There is no charge. Thanks to Waugh Society member Milena Borden for sending a link.

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2018 John H. Wilson Jr. Evelyn Waugh Undergraduate Essay Contest

Essays by undergraduates on the life and work of Evelyn Waugh are solicited for the 2018 John H. Wilson Jr. Evelyn Waugh Undergraduate Essay Contest. The contest is sponsored by Evelyn Waugh Studies, the journal of the Evelyn Waugh Society, whose editorial board will judge the submissions.

  • Subject: Any aspect of the life or work of Evelyn Waugh
  • Prize: $500
  • Limit: 5,000 words, approximately 20 pages
  • Submission Deadline: December 31, 2018

Undergraduates in any part of the world are eligible to enter. The winning essay will be published in the journal and the author will receive a prize of $500 (US).

Entries (in English, please) should be directed by email to (click to email).

Academics are encouraged to print the contest flier and post it in their departments.

“There will be a prize of half a crown for the longest essay, irrespective of any possible merit.” — Decline and Fall (1928)

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Waugh’s Signature, Favorite Dublin Pub, Lost in Translation, Etc.

–Duncan McLaren has posted a short note on Waugh’s change in his signature at an early stage in his career. This is posted on his website under WAUGH BITES. McLaren is able to triangulate that change in the early 1930’s by comparing signatures in signed book copies of the period, examples of which are posted. I have always thought that the “E” in the new style looks suspiciously like a handwritten pound sign–if you leave off the top horizontal bar. Probably not intended, as Waugh was not exactly rolling in money at the time, but was doing well for a newly minted novelist.

–An Irish “publog” called Publin has reposted a listing of Dublin public houses visited by James Joyce and described in his novel Ulysses. These are included in an annual pubcrawl on what is called “Bloomsday” based on Joyce’s novel. Among the listed venues is this one:

The Bailey pub, formerly The Maltings, had always been a hub of literary and political activity. Prior to John Ryan’s acquiring it, it had welcomed international artists such as Evelyn Waugh, John Betjeman, and Charles Chaplin, as well as being popular with local figures like Oliver St. John Gogarty, Pádraig Colum and Thomas Kettle. […] Under John Ryan’s direction the pub again became fertile ground for artists and writers in the 1950s and 60s. Ryan maintained close relationships with all of the significant figures of this period, such as Patrick Kavanagh, Samuel Beckett, Brendan Behan, Brian O’Nolan and J. P. Donleavy, many of whom he also supported financially.

It was in this context that Bloomsday, a celebration of Joyce’s Ulysses, first emerged. Ryan arranged for two horse drawn carriages to take participants from the Martello Tower in Sandycove, where the novel begins, across the city, following in the footsteps of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Daedalus. Present were Kavanagh and O’Nolan, as well as the architect Michael Scott, critic Anthony Cronin and Joyce’s cousin Tom Joyce. As they progressed through their journey the cortege stopped frequently at pubs and by the time they reached the city centre, exhausted and inebriated, they abandoned the expedition for welcoming warmth of The Bailey.

No details of Waugh’s visit(s) to this establishment are provided. He didn’t spend a lot of time in Dublin but did stop there on his way to visit his Anglo-Irish friends in their country houses and actually shopped around the outreaches of the city looking for a place to live after the war. It seems unlikely that he would choose this pub for its Joycean associations since Joyce was not a writer Waugh admired, but it does seem to have been widely accepted by others in the trade so that might explain his visit(s).

BBC Radio 4 has reposted a 2007 broadcast of its books interview program A Good Read. The panel includes poet/critic Andrew Motion and investigative journalist Roger Cook and is presented by Sue MacGregor. The Waugh novel discussed is Scoop and that discussion comes at the beginning of the 30-minute program.  It is available on the internet via BBC iPlayer.

–A review of Brideshead Revisited is posted in Crisis Magazine, a digital religious journal maintained by Roman Catholic lay people. The review, entitled Stubborn Roots,  warns, inter alia,  that Brideshead is not an easy read and is not recommended for children. Among its many challenges is this:

A common way to misunderstand Brideshead Revisited is as an implicit condemnation of the Catholic faith, of the Catholic life, or at least the Catholic belief in the reality of evil and original sin. It may seem that every single Catholic character is unfulfilled directly because of a faith that thwarts love and happiness at every turn […] Almost everyone ends up being unhappy, from Rex Mottram to Hooper, and Catholic to non-Catholic. It is not Catholicism that is to blame, but aristocratic England, plebian England, individual vice, family pride, you, me, and fallen human nature. […]

–A blogger and fan of the film Lost in Translation, written and directed by Sofia Coppola, has posted an essay discussing why she still finds the film fascinating 15 years after its original release. The blogger, Mairead Small Staid, now age 30, makes several literary references, especially to JD Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, but also recalls this very funny line from the film:

“And the worst part was,” Franny tells her brother Zooey, “I knew what a bore I was being, I knew how I was depressing people, or even hurting their feelings—but I just couldn’t stop! I just could not stop picking.” Charlotte [the young female lead character played  by Scarlett Johannsen], too, can’t stop picking, but when she tries to find an ally in her clueless husband, to make light of her ill-tempered state—“Evelyn Waugh was a man,” she confides as if sharing a gleeful secret—she’s met with admonishment. “Not everybody went to Yale,” her husband scolds.

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Martin Stannard to Lecture at Durham

Durham University has announced that Martin Stannard, Evelyn Waugh’s biographer and co-executive editor of the Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh, will lecture there early next year. His topic will be “Evelyn Waugh, America and Catholicism”. This will probably touch on Waugh’s 1949 article in Life Magazine entitled “The American Epoch in the Catholic Church” (EAR, pp. 377-88) as well his 1948 and 1949 trips to North America researching that article. The lecture will be delivered at Ushaw College, Durham University at 17:30p on Tuesday, 12 February 2019. This is part of the Ushaw Lecture Series sponsored by the university’s Department of Theology and Religion.

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Post-Election Roundup

Having recovered from the news deluge of the USA midterm elections, we can now return to coverage of matters Wavian:

–The big story in British journalism earlier this week was Paul Dacre’s valedictory address as editor of the Daily Mail, as he moves over to a corporate managerial position in the paper’s owner, Associated Newspapers. Most coverage of his speech focused on his perceived need to regulate digital news sources such as Facebook, Google and Apple instead of picking on print media such as the Daily Mail. The unregulated online news coverage is seen by him as full of fake news and biased political stories. He seems to offer this in contrast to the “regulated” and, presumably, unbiased coverage that appears in the print media, such as the Daily Mail. (I must have missed that unbiased edition of the Mail, but then I don’t read it every day.) He also takes the opportunity to criticize the occasional rogue journalist that may be employed by one of his fellow like-minded newspapers, bringing Evelyn Waugh into that discussion:

One-time Maxwell henchman, Roy Greenslade, Editor of the Mirror during the “Spot the Ball” game scam, has reinvented himself as a Professor of Journalism. That such a mountebank teaches ethics is a satirical commentary on academia that the combined talents of Jonathan Swift and Evelyn Waugh would struggle to do justice to.

The Greenslade reference is explained in Wikipedia:

While editor of the Daily Mirror, Greenslade was at the centre of a controversy after he rigged a competition in the paper to make sure it was unwinnable. He admitted his behaviour in October 2011 at a seminar at the Leveson Inquiry: ″On behalf of my proprietor Robert Maxwell I fixed a game offering a million pounds to anyone who could spot the ball and ensured that no-one won. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa.″

Greenslade has gone over to what Dacre perceives to be the other side; he now writes for the Guardian (target of Dacre’s sharpest criticism among the print media) and teaches journalism at the City University. One wonders how Dacre himself would fare if examined by such as Swift or Waugh.

–An art movie venue in Amsterdam (Filmhuis Cavia) offered this description of the Hollywood film adaptation of The Loved One in its announcment of a screening of the film that took place last Tuesday:

This is a perfect example of loads of movies that once existed: films that satirized the American way of life and lambasted the entire patriotic, pro-war, pro-business landscape of America. It is the kind of biting satire that has been suspiciously missing from Hollywood cinema for the last 40 years. The closest thing I can think of is John Waters, but his films miss the edgy social criticism.

It is perhaps the amazing cast that helps make this insane, out-of-control movie so special… Rod Steiger as Mr.Joyboy, one of the creepiest morticians you will ever hope to see. His performance is sheer brilliance. But we also have Sir John Gielgud, Tab Hunter, Roddy McDowall, James Colburn – and the one and only, gay icon Liberace. The entire film explodes in a great climax, both poetic and sharply critical at the same time.  Expect a wild runaway horse, the kind of film that bolts and bucks, and you have to just hold on as tight as you fucking can.

–An article (“It’s not ‘Just a pet'”) in the suburban Chicago paper, the Daily Herald, discusses how its readers should cope with grieving for a deceased pet. In the context of her article, the reporter mentions Waugh’s 1948 novel:

Evelyn Waugh, the infamous British humorist, wrote a novel about pet cemeteries called The Loved One, many years ago. It was poking fun at the great lengths people will go to memorialize their pets, and about all the expense involved in pet care, pet cemeteries, etc. When I was much younger and didn’t understand, I thought it was funny indeed. And we used to marvel at the two huge aisles in the grocery store devoted to pet supplies, pet food, pet toys. But of course, now I do understand — we take care of them, love them, and the death of a pet is very sad to their humans. And I don’t bat an eyelash paying a vet for medical care. And I would buy a gravestone or other memorial.

–The magazine History Today offers an article on kedgeree that provides an explanation of the source, recipes for and importance of that smoked-fish dish to British cuisine. This appears in the magazine’s “Historian’s Cookbook” column:

By the early 20th century, [kedgeree had become] associated not only with aristocratic tastes, but also with extravagance, even decadence. In Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited (1945), for example, Charles Ryder orders salmon kedgeree after beginning an adulterous affair on board an ocean-liner. Similarly, in his memoirs, Anthony Powell shares the amazement of a Sheffield fishmonger when Edith Sitwell attempted to buy a salmon ‘for making kedgeree’ at the height of the Second World War (‘Had the days of the Bourbons returned?’).

–The Irish fashion and design magazine Image carries on its website a selection of the 40 books one should read before reaching the age of 40. The selection criteria are briefly described by writer Sophie White before she launches the list:

Initially I tried to limit the inclusions by utilising sub headings. I opted for Heavy Hitters, Thinkers and Bangers as my categories. Heavy Hitters being the big ‘uns, the Dickens, Dostoevskys and De Beauvoirs, the Thinkers being the ones that ain’t pretty necessarily, but leave you changed none the less. … The Bangers are what it says on the tin – books you’ll return to again and again. The Joy-givers, the comfort-reads and the day makers – basically anything by Marian Keyes, Donna Tartt and Evelyn Waugh.

Here’s the description of her Waugh selection:

Brideshead Revisited. A tale of nostalgia, faded glamour and unrequited love. Waugh’s classic made Jeremy Irons an unlikely sex symbol and solidified our obsession with the doomed Marchmain family.

It should be noted that Waugh’s book is the only one from a writer of his interwar generation to make the list.

–The Italian language religious website Radio Spada is offering a series of translations into Italian of Waugh’s writings on the Second Vatican Council. Here’s a translation of an excerpt from the article announcing this project:

…until the end of his days…Waugh and a few others  fought with articles, armed only with a typewriter, [waging] a daily battle against rampant heterodoxy. Also in his powerful collection of letters – published in 1980 and edited by Mark Amory – several letters can be found that deal more or less directly with the issues debated at the Council. In 1996 these letters were assembled by Alcuin Reid in a small volume, A Bitter Trial, subsequently expanded and republished in second edition in 2011 by Ignatius Press. This column, which debuts with this article, wants to present for the first time to the Italian public the more significant excerpts from Waugh’s epistles on the Second Vatican Council. What will emerge is a scathing portrait, never banal, with viriolic opinions, crossed by the same satirical vein that is the characteristic feature of the novels of the English writer. On the other hand, it is well known that in the face of misfortune it is sometimes better to laugh than to cry.

The translation into English is by Google with minor edits.

Posted in Adaptations, Brideshead Revisited, Catholicism, Letters, Newspapers, The Loved One | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And Yet More Letters

Literary biographer Zachary Leader is interviewed on the Book Marks page of the Literary Hub website. The second volume of his biography of Saul Bellow is published this week, and he has written the biography and edited the letters of Kingsley Amis. Leader was asked to discuss five other literary “lives” and includes Evelyn Waugh’s Letters as one of his selections:

Evelyn Waugh’s letters are better than his diaries because they were written in the morning, before he began drinking. The diaries were written in the afternoon. Waugh was neither a pleasant drunk nor a pleasant man. A self-confessed bigot, bully, reactionary, and philistine, he was also very funny, very clever, and a brilliant writer. To his wife, during the war: “I know you lead a dull life now… But that is no reason to make your letters as dull as your life. I simply am not interested in Bridget’s children.” Of William F. Buckley, Jr.: “Has he been supernaturally ‘guided’ to bore me? It would explain him.” Beneath the rudeness and the pomposity (“almost always an absolutely private joke against the world”) lies despair.

Leader also gets a word in about one of his own biographical subjects when he is asked about letters relating to Waugh’s novels:

“My favourite Waugh letter about Brideshead was written on 19 May 1945 to his wife, Laura, and though it doesn’t mention the novel, clearly derives from its enormous success. It begins: “I think I have just bought a castle. I hope you will approve.” As a bonus, here’s Kingsley Amis to Philip Larkin on Brideshead. Amis writes from Oxford in 1946, where he and Larkin were undergraduates at the same college. Larkin has just written to disparage the novel. Amis, too, dislikes it, singling out “this sort of thing”:

“Over the Knobworthy mantelpiece was a supurb Schleimikunt of the Klapstruk period, flanked by Pederasti engravings. I took a Zebbraterd cigarette from the walnut Piscipant box on the Kokopessari table, on which also stood a red sandstone head of Borl Sung Lo, dating from the mid-D’ung dynasty, and went across the rich Pewbicke hair carpet to admire the hand-printed edition of the works of Uterus Menstruensis. On the bookcase lay an autographed score of Cloaca’s “Il Fluido della Testiculo” given to the composer by my friend at the first performance at the Twathaus in Randenburg.”

Amis’s letter to Larkin was dated 15 October 1946 (Brideshead was published in book form on 28 May of that year). Larkin’s letter relating to Waugh’s novel is not included in his 1992 Selected Letters nor does Leader describe its contents in his 2000 collection of Amis’s letters. There also exists a recording, first released in 2002 by BBC Radio and called “Dear Philip, Dear Kingsley”, in which Alan Bennett and Robert Hardy read the novelists’ letters to each other. But whether both these letters relating to Brideshead are among the ones recorded I couldn’t say.  Any one reading this who has that recording is invited to comment below.

Other “literary lives” discussed by Leader are Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, Dorothy Wordsworth’s Journals and Saul Bellow’s Ravelstein (a memoir in the form of a novel) as well as the standard two-volume biography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge by Richard Holmes.

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More Letters

Bonhams the auction house has announced another batch of letters that will be of interest to Waugh enthusiasts. See yesterday’s post. These are letters written to Waugh by Ronald Knox in the period 1944-57.  They are not in the BL’s collection of Waugh’s correspondence because they were apparently in the possession of the estate of Christopher Sykes (who died in 1986) when the BL collection was acquired from the Waugh Estate, as is explained on Bonham’s website:

Series of nearly sixty autograph and typed letters signed (“Ronnie”), to Evelyn Waugh, some to Waugh’s wife Laura, comprising some 48 autograph and 10 typed letters; plus a self-addressed postcard by Waugh soliciting comments (“Elegant/ Good/ Bad/ Outrageous”) on which Knox has written comments (“…There is a Mr Samgrass standing for Parliament…”); several letters to Waugh by Henry Hope and others, concerning efforts to secure for Knox a cardinal’s hat (“…Laymen must walk very delicately where matters of ecclesiastical promotion are concerned…”); and forwarded copies of letters by Knox to the press, protesting at the Tablet’s review of Helena and Cyril Connolly’s of Men at Arms; the collection contained in a wooden cigar box (Montecristo: Dunhill Selection Supreme No. 1), with a label pasted on the lid inscribed by Waugh: “Letters from R.A.K to E. Waugh/ 1940-1957”; with the year of each letter added in Waugh’s hand, some 120 pages, one letter seemingly incomplete, 4to and 8vo, Mells and elsewhere, 1944-1957.


‘BRIDESHEAD… WAS BETTER THAN EVER. GOSH IT’S GOOD’ – RONALD KNOX TO HIS BIOGRAPHER EVELYN WAUGH. Knox appointed Waugh his literary executor in 1950, telling him that his solicitor was “rather keen that I should have a real literary executor” and that he had informed him that “the only person whose literary judgement I trusted, outside my own immediate generation, was you” (in another letter Knox is even more unstinting in his praise, telling Waugh that “I am so much an ultra-Realist, that I hold it the true business of the author to wonder ‘Does God find my prose good?’ In the absence of any assurance from that Quarter, I can think of no arbiter whose opinion I would rather go by, than yours”). This resulted in Waugh’s posthumous biography of his friend, published in 1959; and it was clearly with this in mind that the dying Knox wrote his last note, dated by Waugh 17 June 1957, in which he is at pains to set the record straight over his failure to enlist after his conversion to Rome in 1917 and an accusation levelled against him by Cardinal Bourne.

During Knox’s lifetime Waugh edited A Selection from the Occasional Sermons of the Right Reverend Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox (1948), and received the dedication of Knox’s Enthusiasm (1950). In response to Waugh’s letter of thanks (published by Amory, 18 November 1950), Knox demurred: “No, I’m afraid the dedication was really (like all one’s actions) self-regarding in part. I wanted people to notice that the book was (if it is) well written, that it was dished up for the most delicate prose-palate. And I don’t know Max Beerbohm, so there was nothing for it. But I did, also, hope that you’d like having it dedicated to you”.

As Waugh himself wrote in the preface to his biography, he knew Knox ‘primarily as a man of letters rather than as a priest’ (p.x). Knox’s admiration of Waugh’s work, especially Brideshead and Helena, was unstinting, telling him in 1949 that “I finished last night rereading Brideshead as a bed-book, and it was better than ever. Gosh it’s good” and in 1950 that “I think if I were ballooning, and were forced to lighten ship by making so regrettable a choice, Helena would just go before Brideshead. But then (i) I am almost unbalanced about Brideshead and (ii) I admit that as a performance – because so difficult to do – Helena has it”.

Of his own status as priest and author Knox writes: “I am desperately afraid that I’ve left a false impression… The impression, I mean, that I am (or think I am) a creative artist spoiled by having to run in harness instead of roaming the prairie… I suspect that I’m really too unadventurous by nature to have collected or digested much experience. Indeed (since we are mixing the metaphors) I think it’s quite likely the priesthood has made me all the author I am; it’s a dashed good wicket to play on”; much of his efforts, as recorded in these letters, being expended on his translation of the Bible (“….The only false perspective I find in your article is one which non-Catholics would have read into it anyway; I mean the suggestion that I took to Bible translation out of loyal obedience to intransigent superiors. Really it was my own baby all through…”).

Their contemporaries also put in the occasional appearance, including Osbert Lancaster and Cecil Beaton (in a letter misquoted by Waugh in the biography, pp.424-5), and Graham Greene, whose The Power and the Glory had been censured by the Vatican in 1954, sparking the protest from Knox: “It’s shattering about Graham Greene; if I knew him better I’d write to him. As you say, why that book? It makes me despair of the Italian mind”.

The British Library acquired Evelyn Waugh’s incoming correspondence from the Waugh family in 1990. The present group, previously with Waugh’s biographer, Christopher Sykes, has only recently resurfaced.

The auction is scheduled for 27 November 2018 at Bonhams premises in Knightsbridge. The estimated price is $10-16,000. The sale also includes several presentation copies of Waugh’s books to Patrick Balfour, his friend since Oxford days.  Here is a link to the catalogue.


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Waugh Letters on Offer

Jonkers Books of Henley-on-Thames has posted an offering of Waugh items. In addition to first editions and signed copies, there are several letters for sale. The first is a batch of 7 (4 short letters and 3 postcards) to Christopher Sykes in the period 1961-63. These are described as follows:

(i) January 1961. An unpublished letter written in self-consciously absurd, heavily Anglicised French. One side of Combe Florey House letter paper (single foolscap sheet, approx. 200 words in total), addressed “Cher Beau Laird”, signed with the soubriquet “Welenski”, and dated 1961 in Sykes’s hand in pencil.
(ii) “11 Jan 1961”. An unpublished card from Evelyn Waugh to Christopher Sykes. One side of a Combe Florey House postcard, addressed and stamped on the reverse, signed “E. Waugh (late Pinfold)”.
(iii) “20 Jan 1961”. An unpublished card from Evelyn Waugh to Christopher Sykes. One side of a Combe Florey House postcard, addressed and stamped on the reverse.
(iv) “22nd June 1961”. A jovial, unpublished letter from Evelyn Waugh to Christopher Sykes, discussing his recent stay in London to record his BBC programme ‘An Act of Homage and Reparation to P.G. Wodehouse’ on 20 June 1961, produced by Sykes. One side of Combe Florey House letter paper (single foolscap sheet, approx. 200 words in total), signed “E. Waugh”.
(v) [October 1962]. A jovial, unpublished letter from Evelyn Waugh to Christopher Sykes, asking if he and Sykes can spend a weekend in London together. One side of Combe Florey House letter paper (single foolscap sheet, approx. 250 words in total), signed with the soubriquet “Soblen”.
(vi) [1963]. An unpublished, gossipy, card from Evelyn Waugh to Christopher Sykes. One side of a Combe Florey House postcard.
(vii) “7th August 63”. An unpublished letter from Evelyn Waugh to Christopher Sykes, discussing the Profumo affair, as well as literary and social matters. One side of Combe Florey House letter paper (single foolscap sheet, approx. 260 words in total), addressed “Dear Canon Ward”, signed with the soubriquet “Profumo Keeler Waldorf Astor”, and dated “7th August 63, Sir Algar Howard’s 83rd birthday”.
The letters, which begin with discussions about the P. G. Wodehouse broadcast by Waugh that Sykes produced for the BBC, show Waugh on song and quintessentially acerbic.

One of these letters is in an envelope marked “Letters not given to Mr Amory”. That would of course have been Mark Amory who edited Waugh’s letters in the 1980 edition and explains why they were not in that collection. An interesting question not addressed is why these letters were not among those sold to Georgetown University with Sykes’ other papers which included several letters from Waugh?

Another letter from 1957 is addressed to Basil Bennett, an Army colleague and manager of the Hyde Park Hotel where Waugh frequently stayed when in London:

One page of folded headed letter-paper, written on both sides, to Basil Bennett (though the salutation is “Dear Wallis”), requesting information on military protocol as research for Men at Arms, the first of the Sword of Honour trilogy. “It is vy hard for a failing memory to recall what happened twelve years ago. Could you be vy kind and supply a further pieces of information. I make an officer of the Rifle Brigade go to dinner in another mess for a quiet night… Is this correct for Dec 1939? Are your patrols as I think dark green with black patent leather pouches on the back? Have these pouches a special name?…”

Finally, there is an earlier letter to author SPB Mais dated 1936 on the stationery of the St James’ Club:

One page of club notepaper, to S.P.B. Mais, author and journalist, thanking Mais for his congratulations on receiving the Hawthornden Prize of Edmund Campion, “I made no bones about my delight…”, commenting on Mais connection to the Petres, “Of course I know their history well + have met several of them”, and agreeing to sign Mais’s copies of Campion and Handful of Dust.

S.P.B. Mais had been Alec Waugh’s influential English master at Sherborne. It is believed that Mais encouraged Alec to publish his controversial novel The Loom of Youth, in which the character of Ferrers is based on Mais. Two years later Mais’s own novel, Interlude, also published by Chapman & Hall, so closely detailed life at Sherborne, that Mais was forced to resign as a master.

Mais was also a close friend of novelist Henry Williamson who won the Hawthornden Prize in 1928 for Tarka the Otter. Waugh records a visit from Williamson on 1928 while Waugh was living in Canonbury Square (Diaries, p. 301). Williamson went on to create the  character of Anthony Cruft based on Waugh in The Power of the Dead, a novel in his Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight series.

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Guy Fawkes Night Roundup

As we approach Guy Fawkes Night in the UK, here is a miscellaneous gathering of Evelyn Waugh news items:

–A new book by Antonia Fraser may have some relevance to Guy Fawkes Night (at least in exploring the “aggressive” roots of Catholic persecution in Britain). This is THE KING AND THE CATHOLICS: England, Ireland, and the Fight for Religious Freedom, 1780-1829. The review of the book in the New York Times opens with this:

When Amazon Prime finally starts delivering to heaven, Evelyn Waugh should order a copy of Antonia Fraser’s new book, “The King and the Catholics: England, Ireland, and the Fight for Religious Freedom, 1780-1829.” Fraser’s latest considers a topic close to Waugh’s tart heart: bleak Roman Catholic prospects in aggressively Anglican England.

–US religion journalist and novelist Eve Tushnet has recently published a survey of 5 novels she considers to be related:

For a series of reactionary novels, published in the 1930s through the 1960s, the collapse of the previous order was not merely an economic and political transformation but an existential cataclysm which shattered men’s understanding of their place in the world. For these novels the death rattle of premodernity meant not merely revolution, but apocalypse. Four of these novels are classics of revolt against the times: Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard, Joseph Roth’s The Radetzky March, Mikhail Bulgakov’s Russian Civil War novel White Guard, and Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy. The fifth, Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game, is an experimental science-fiction collage novel which at first seems to sit oddly among works otherwise set in some version of a real, historical world. Yet to read these books not in order of publication but in the order I’ve just named them—slotting Hesse in right before Waugh—is to watch the apocalypse in slow motion. The post-apocalyptic world is recognizably our own, as the vanished world is recognizably alien. By exploring these novels’ common ground, we can see what we’ve lost—and what we’ve forgotten.

Her essay is spread over several postings on the ecumenical religious weblog Patheos.com. The final installment discusses Waugh’s Sword of Honour and opens with this:

Like The Leopard, Sword of Honour has its one iconic line, which sums up the book to people who misremember it: Hitler allies with the Soviet Union, and our hero Guy Crouchback rejoices, “But now, splendidly, everything had become clear. The enemy at last was plain in view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off. It was the Modern Age in arms.” This is so ringing and almost-right that everyone forgets that it’s exposed as a mistake. Sword of Honour’s title is bitterly ironic: a premodern weapon, a premodern ideal, and a novel whose characters are all so permeated with modernity that they can’t even imagine the lost world correctly. The central symbol is an actual sword—made for “the steel-hearted people of Stalingrad,” to honor the British-Soviet alliance.

The earlier installments are all linked in this last one, so if one wants to read the entire essay it is perhaps best to start here to have all the links available.

–In a review of another recent book with a religious theme, Waugh also gets a mention. This is Haunted by Christ written by the former Anglican Bishop of Oxford Richard Harries. The review in Church Times describes the book as:

an attractive introduction to 20 novelists and poets, both believers and unbelievers, “who have meant a great deal to me over the years”. In all cases, “the pull of religion has been fundamental.” They are all, as Samuel Beckett was described, “haunted by Christ”.

Among the 20 writers discussed is Evelyn Waugh who appears in a chapter entitled “Grace in Failure: Four Catholic Novelists”. The other three are Graham Greene, Flannery O’Connor and Shusaku Endo.

–The Financial Times has an essay entitled “How comedy conquered the world of travel writing”. This is by contemporary travel writer Tim Moore who starts with Lord Dufferin’s classic Letters From High Latitudes and moves via Eric Newby and Bill Bryson to Moore’s own writing. Waugh’s contribution to the genre receives only oblique attention in this reference to one of Newby’s best known books:

Published in 1958, Eric Newby’s laconically titled A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush was a pomposity-pricking parody of all those stiff-upper-lipped expeditionary travelogues. […] A Short Walk begins with a glowing introduction by Evelyn Waugh, who astutely identifies “the essential amateurism of the English” as the bedrock of all native travel writing. And it ends with an encounter that seems to signal the changing of the guard, when Newby’s party bumps into the doyen of old-school gentleman explorers in a remote gorge,Wilfred Thesiger […]

The article concludes with a description of Moore’s latest book Another Fine Mess about his trip across America in a vintage Model-T Ford.

–Finally, The Independent newspaper has a list compiled by its literary critics of the 40 novels you need to read before you die. Among these is:

Brideshead RevisitedEvelyn Waugh bottles the intoxicating vapour of a vanished era in this novel about middle-class Charles Ryder, who meets upper-class Sebastian Flyte at Oxford University in the 1920s. Scrap the wartime prologue, and Charles’s entire relationship with Sebastian’s sister Julia (Dear Evelyn, thank you for your latest manuscript, a few suggested cuts…) and you’re looking at one of the most affecting love affairs in the English language. Chris Harvey

Another reference to Waugh’s novel appears in an interview of Stephanie Mann, author of a history of the English Reformation entitled Supremacy and Survival. Her book recently appeared in a paperback edition and does indeed carry a description of the events and consequences of Guy Fawkes Night (Chapter 6 includes “Catholic Disappointment: The Gunpowder Plot”). In anwer to a question in the interview about her favorite “imaginary” characters, she includes:

Cordelia in Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, the one member of the Flyte family who understands everyone and yet loves them, in spite of (or because of) their faults.


Posted in Brideshead Revisited, Catholicism, Evelyn Waugh, Interviews, Newspapers, Sword of Honour | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kelmscott Manor, Rossetti and Waugh

The following article was sent by Waugh Society member Milena Borden:

Kelmscott Manor built around 1600 was the Cotswolds home of William Morris – writer, designer and craftsman – from 1871 until his death in 1896. It was also the retreat of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the Pre-Raphaelite painter, who was a close family friend and the subject of Evelyn Waugh’s first biography Rossetti His Life and Works (1928). Waugh gave a detailed description of the Kelmscott house in Chapter VII, ‘Kelmscott, 1872-1874’ in the first edition. There is also an entry in his Diaries for Thursday, 6 October 1927, about his visit to Kelmscott, which is closely reflected in the biography. In Morris’s words it was ‘a heaven on earth’ but Waugh wrote that the house was ‘much smaller than expected…the rooms very low and dark and the whole effect rather cramped and constricted.’

Nowadays Kelmscott Manor is a Grade I listed building owned by the Society of Antiquaries of London which attracts many visitors. The two floors and the attics are nicely restored with original Morris fabrics on display. At Kelmscott, Rossetti occupied the Tapestry Room, turned into a studio, and complained that it was claustrophobic. Waugh noted that the tapestries which ‘worried Rossetti’ were in the house before the Morris family moved in and have a heavy feel. Today there is an easel on display, which presumably was used by Rossetti or other of the Kelmscott artists, a stylish oak table designed by Philip Webb and a Chaucer book with woodcut illustrations by Morris. Rossetti’s presence is also marked by the two crayon portraits of the Morris’s young daughters, mentioned by Waugh in his diary entry, and his oil painting “Mrs. Morris” also known as the “The Blue Silk Dress” (1866-67). He referred to her in the book as being ‘in the full maturity of her profound and lustrous beauty’. Waugh met May Morris (daughter of William Morris’s wife Jane) and described her in his diary as ‘a singularly forbidding woman  – very awkward and disagreeable dressed in a slipshod ramshackle way in hand-woven stuffs’. For details about a current exhibit dealing with May Morris’s life and work, see earlier post.

Waugh was twenty four years old when he gave his verdict about Rossetti’s art and the Pre-Raphaelites, underlining that he was stating the problem of subjective aesthetics ‘fatally lacking essential rectitude that underlines the serenity of all really great art.’ This seems still to be a point made by critics of the Pre-Raphaelites. But equally there is an agreement that Rossetti’s mystically romantic style was followed by many artists in the various forms of the Arts and Crafts movement and laid a stone in the foundations of  European Symbolism and Art Nouveau. Perhaps Waugh’s biography should be read by everyone interested in connecting Rossetti (the artist) to Waugh (the biographer), with Kelmscott Manor being a nice place to do this.

Waugh’s  biography was recently republished in the Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh: Rossetti His Life and Works, volume 16, edited by Michael G. Brennan, published: 14 September 2017. Deposited at the British Library but not yet available to readers. Kelmscott Manor is open to the public from April to October (most recently on Wednesday and Saturday). For details see this link. Thanks to Milena for sending her report.

Posted in Art, Photography & Sculpture, Complete Works, Rossetti: His Life and Works | Tagged , | Leave a comment