Decline and Fall on Public TV

The recent BBC TV adaptation of Waugh’s comic novel Decline and Fall is now being shown on some Public TV channels in the USA. This seems to be a matter of local rather than national coverage.  The three-episode series starts tonight at 9pm on WETA in Washington. This is on their UK TV outlet (Channel 26.2). It does not appear to be available, however, on the local Pubic TV station in Austin, TX. So check your local listings to determine availability.

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Waugh Welcomes Students

Several student-oriented papers have quoted Evelyn Waugh in their greetings to students arriving or returning to university studies:

The Times Higher Education Supplement invited advisory Twitter messages to be posted in an effort to make first year students feel welcome. One of them offers this quote from Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited in a Twitter post from Nick Hillman:

Mine: Snakebite and black is not actually very nice.
Evelyn Waugh: ‘it was normal to spend one’s second year shaking off the friends of one’s first’.

Not sure what first part means. But the Waugh message was delivered to Charles Ryder by his older cousin and upperclassman Jasper.

–The Oxford student paper Cherwell offered an article explaining how the experiences described in the same novel should be applied in today’s Oxford:

Brideshead Revisited is not a book about Oxford: it is a book about aristocracy, religion, and death. Yet somehow, almost 75 years after it was first written, it continues to be one of the most famous fictional portrayals of life at our university. Our enduring fascination with Waugh’s portrait of university life, peppered with the drunken antics of rebellious upperclassmen, anecdotes of the eccentric and fashion forward Anthony Blanche, and the dramatic sending down of the troubled young Lord Sebastian Flyte, says something about how we see Oxford today. A clash is emerging between this traditional image of the university, and what a modern Oxford would like to be….The Oxford of Brideshead Revisited is from the 1940s. The university was definitely more exclusive in decades gone by, and it was almost certainly closer to the world that Waugh describes. But the fact that our cultural imprint is still drawing on an Oxford that no longer exists is revealing in itself. In recent times, Oxford has undergone a drive towards accessibility and diversification that has, in many ways, caused our university to change beyond recognition. There has been a vigorous emphasis on making university seem accessible to all and showing potential students that there is a place at Oxford for people of all backgrounds.

The Oxford described in Brideshead was actually from the 1920s when Waugh was a student, not the 1940s when it was written. It would already have been becoming more accessible in the 1940s as the arrival of ex-soldiers in large numbers would have had a levelling influence. That was one of the phenomena Waugh was arguing against in the novel’s wartime scenes.

–At the University of Massachusetts, new students are urged in the Daily Collegian to read two essays by George Orwell to help them acclimate themselves to the pressures of their new environment: “Such, Such Were the Joys” and “Inside the Whale”. The former describes rather vividly Orwell’s unhappy experience at his prep school where poorer students such as him were treated more harshly. In the latter he addresses the pressures on young people of the 1930s to abandon their traditional values which were seen to have resulted in the Depression and Fascism. Some turned to Communism and others, such as Evelyn Waugh and Christopher Hollis to Roman Catholicism. These converts

…went to the church with a world-wide organization, the one with a rigid discipline, the one with power and prestige behind it…It was simply something to believe in.

The article describes Orwell’s essay as:

…a history of British literature during the first half of the 20th century. More precisely, it is a series of Orwell’s opinions on the matter. He calls poet A.E. Housman’s poems “hard cheese” and implies that novelist Evelyn Waugh converted to Catholicism for the “prestige.” He also manages to chart the troubling development of the British communist movement, as you do. Here, readers may recognize his critiques from his novella, “Animal Farm”… But do not think for a moment that there is nothing new here. If anything, since he is writing expository prose rather than fiction, he offers a fuller and more nuanced presentation of those same themes and tracking them as they appear here proves pleasurable.

Posted in Academia, Brideshead Revisited, Catholicism, Evelyn Waugh, Newspapers, Oxford, Twitter | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Waugh on Sunday

This week’s Sunday Times contains an adulatory interview of novelist William Boyd. After describing his career at Gordonstoun School as happier than that of Prince Charles, the interview turns to his writing. His first book, published in 1983,  was

A Good Man in Africa, which won two big awards and universal acclaim. He became one of the “class of ’83”, a set of promising young writers that included Salman Rushdie, Kazuo Ishiguro and Martin Amis. [A] “huge indifference of the universe” was always at the heart of his work. He is not a political or moralising writer, he has no message to deliver, except perhaps one:” there’s no big meaning or pattern to life, it’s all dumb luck, good and bad. “You look back on your own life and you see the forking paths, the role that good luck or bad plays. As someone without faith — I respect anyone who has, whatever gets you through the night — I think it’s all a matter of happenstance. You may think you can make your own luck, but you can’t. ”

The interview also explores his debt to other writers:

…Boyd calls on fellow fiction writers as evidence for his arguments and observations. In fact, here there may be demons. He does not so much read writers he admires as absorb them, finding out everything they did and wrote. Evelyn Waugh is the obvious example. “I’m sure if I ever met him I wouldn’t like him at all, but I am obsessed with him. I think I’ve read everything he has written and I’ve written about him a great deal. I’ve adapted Scoop as a film and the Sword of Honour trilogy as a mini-series. I am steeped in Waugh. He’s a very interesting type of Englishman, a fascinating case study of the self-loathing, deeply unhappy man who was hugely successful, like Ian Fleming or Henry Green or Cyril Connolly.”

After discussing his latest novel Love is Blind, the John Le Carré associations of his house in Chelsea and his farmhouse in France, the interview concludes:

The truth is Boyd’s life is now neatly planned in three-year cycles, the time it takes him to write his novels. He allows carefully calibrated distractions — short stories, screenplays, plays and journalism — but it’s the three-year long haul that really interests him. He spends two years travelling, researching and planning, and he doesn’t start a book until he knows the ending. He says one great virtue of this is that, unlike most writers, he has never abandoned a novel… I ask Boyd, who is now 66, if he has planned his own last words? “Tricky,” he says. “How about, ‘Hello Oblivion.’ ”

The interviewer is Bryan Appleyard. It does not go unmentioned that Boyd will appear on Friday, October 5 at the Cheltenham Literature Festival sponsored  by The Times and The Sunday

Waugh also gets a mention in another Sunday Times article. This is in an opinion column by Sarah Baxter in which she discusses socialist politician Michael Foot’s alleged career as a part-time paid informant of the Soviet Union. Foot met regularly at a Soho restaurant where he was allegedly paid for information on which left-wing members of his party might be useful to the Soviets. Foot’s code name was “Boot”. Get it?

…the alleged cash was spent on propping up the broke left-wing magazine Tribune, although we can’t know for sure. Perhaps a Kremlin wag also named Foot after Evelyn Waugh’s naive journalist William Boot of the Daily Beast, in affectionate tribute. Clearly the money didn’t go on expensive tailoring for the donkey-jacketed Foot. So where’s the harm — it was just gossip, some might say (if an appalling betrayal of Tribune’s greatest writer, George Orwell).

The story by Sarah Baxter is based on the new book by Ben Macintyre (The Spy and the Traitor) about Soviet turncoat Oleg Gordievsky who spied for the West. The article goes on to ponder whether Foot’s acolyte Jeremy Corbyn may have found some way to have been of use to the Soviets, but that’s another story and doesn’t seem to involve a colorful code name.

Posted in Adaptations, Evelyn Waugh, Festivals, Interviews, Newspapers, Scoop, Sword of Honour | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Mid-Month Roundup: Schoolroom Confusion

Our latest roundup starts with references to Waugh’s school days and ends with the 1970s Penguin reprints:

The Independent newspaper has published a list of what it considers the Top 10 examples of celebrities overlapping at the same school. Private schools are excluded, although the overlapping of Winston Churchill and Clement Atlee through the services of the same nanny are among the Top 10 listed. One would not have expected the nanny, a Mrs Hutchinson, to have been on the government payroll. At the end of the article, there is a brief list of unranked overlaps in private schools:

The private school rule excluded Tony Blair and Rowan Atkinson, Durham Chorister School (nominated by Peter Hutchinson); George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh and Henry Green, St Cyprian’s School, Eastbourne (John McTernan), etc…

Waugh did not attend St Cyprian’s but went to the Heath Mount school in Hampstead where he overlapped with (and bullied) photographer Cecil Beaton (of whom more below). Henry Green (aka Henry Yorke) attended the New Beacon School in Kent where he overlapped with fellow novelist Anthony Powell. St Cyprian’s was the alma mater of Cyril Connolly, who did ovelap there with George Orwell (then known as Eric Bair), and Orwell, Connolly, Green, and Powell all overlapped at the same Public School–Eton College.

–The British Journal of Photography announces a new exhibit of the photographs of Cecil Beaton and other noted photographers of the 1930s. It is Beaton’s work:

… from the 1930s that stars in The Fashion and Textile Museum, where a display titled Cecil Beaton: Thirty from the 1930s – Fashion, Film, Fantasy will show off the work that helped define an era.

The article also contains a brief biographical sketch of Beaton that begins with this:

Born in London’s prosperous Hampstead in 1904, Cecil Beaton went to school with Evelyn Waugh (who bullied him), and Cyril Connolly (who admired the beauty of his singing). Taught photography by his nanny, Beaton found work assisting cutting-edge young photographer Paul Tanqueray, and became famous for his portraits of the Bright Young Things – the decadent young socialites of the 1920s and 30s, whose hedonistic lives were captured in Waugh’s glittering, somewhat fatalistic novel Vile Bodies.

Where Beaton may have overlapped with Connolly is not explained but it may have been at St Cyprian’s to which (according to his Wikipedia entry), he was transferred from Heath Mount. He went on to Harrow School and St John’s, Cambridge. The exhibit will open on 12 October and continue through 20 January 2019 in the museum at 83 Bermondsey Street SE1.

The Spectator reviews a book by Lalage Snow entitled War Gardens. It includes discussions of gardens she has visited in Afghanistan, Gaza and Ukraine, inter alia. Waugh enters into it at one point:

Unsurprisingly, she’s conscious of light (‘candescent’) and colour (‘glaucous blue’), and scenes often feel like a photograph magicked to life. Her language is detailed and evocative: you can smell the honeysuckle exacerbated by the morning heat. In Ukraine in 2014, some berk in a bar mocks her by suggesting she is like the hapless William Boot, the nature columnist in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, who gets dragooned into covering a war in East Africa, but there are no plashy fens here.

–The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, has announced a talk by Alexa Alice Joubin in which she will discuss East Asian cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. According to the notice on the college’s website:

This illustrated presentation explores Chinese cinematic adaptations of one of the most canonical and widely translated Western dramatic works. There has always been a perceived affinity between Ophelia and East Asian women. In May 1930, British writer Evelyn Waugh entertained the prospect of Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong playing Ophelia: “I should like to see Miss Wong playing Shakespeare. Why not a Chinese Ophelia? It seems to me that Miss Wong has exactly those attributes which one most requires of Shakespearean heroines.”

The quote comes from Waugh’s article in the Daily Mail (“My Favorite Film Star”) dated 24 May 1930, EAR, pp. 68-70. The talk will be presented at 330pm on Monday, 17 September in Washington Hall at William & Mary.

–Finally, the Ironbridge Bookstore in Shropshire has posted on Instagram a photo displaying several Penguin paperback covers for its edition of Waugh’s books sold in the 1970s. These are described as the “most distinctive designs in Penguin’s history”. In addition, this bit of background is provided:

Designed by the trio Bentley/Farrell/Burnett who were only together for a few years, but managed to make a big splash in British graphic history. Penguin Art Director David Pelham’s decision to use a cream coloured background was based on there being a substantial amount of used paper stock that would have been expensive to waste. His initial design brief was: ‘the covers were to have Art Deco architectural features in soft pastel colours’.  Happily, Bentley/Farrell/Burnett ignored him and instead produced these, their marvellous psychedelically induced illustrations!

Posted in Academia, Art, Photography & Sculpture, Bibliophilia, Essays, Articles & Reviews, Heath Mount, Lectures, Newspapers, Scoop | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

AFI Posts Details of The Loved One

The American Film Institute has posted detailed production information relating to the 1965 film adaptation of Waugh’s novel The Loved One. Much of this is familiar but there are some previously unseen (or rarely repeated) elements included in their research material from contemporary reports in the trade press and national newspapers. This is part of AFI’s efforts to compile “the AFI Catalog of Feature Films to preserve the legacy of America’s film heritage for future generations, … compiling an authoritative record of the first 100 years of American film.” AFI’s description, for example, includes a mention of several notable actors of the period who were approached about roles (including cameos) in the film:

[Once] in full artistic control, [Tony] Richardson proceeded with casting. A 14 Oct 1963 DV news brief indicated that both Shirley MacLaine and Zero Mostel were eager to work with the director following the success of Tom Jones (1963), while an LAT article published eleven days later indicated that Richardson would likely team with Tom Jones star Albert Finney. Earlier items in the 9 Aug 1963 and 5 Sep 1963 DV stated that Carroll Baker and Peter Sellerswere in consideration to star before Robert Morse landed the leading role later that year.

Meanwhile, DV and Var reported that May’s script went through revisions by Arthur Ross, Charles Eastman, Christopher Isherwood, and Terry Southern. An article in the 19 Jul 1964 NYT alleged that there were “at least seven” versions to date, all intended to “update and expand” the satire of Waugh’s novel to comment on other elements of Southern California lifestyles beyond the Hollywood industry. This also allowed several opportunities for cameo roles, with DV items throughout the late summer and fall of 1964 naming Viven Leigh, Julie Harris, Laurence Olivier, Kim Stanley, Claire Bloom, Peter Finch, Diane Cilento, Alain Delon, Jeanne Moreau, Jerry Lewis, Mickey Rooney, Phil Silvers, and Simone Signoret among those who were in talks to participate. The 3 Sep 1964 and 27 Nov 1964 DV referred to appearances by Gail Gilmore and Jayne Mansfield, while the 29 Jul 1964 DV stated that [Martin] Ransohoff also made his onscreen debut as a studio art director in a scene opposite John Gielgud. Casting announcements included Keenan Wynn, Nina Shipman, Joy Harmon, Todd Mason, Barbara Latell, and Renee Paulin the cast, but their involvement could not be confirmed.

The entry also includes detailed identifications of locations around Los Angeles where portions of the film were shot:

According to a 23 Jul 1964 DV news story, scenes of the fictional “Metropolitan Studios” were shot at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) studios in Culver City, CA. A 25 Sep 1964 DV story indicated that area locations included the Beverly Hills Health Club, Greystone mansion, Pet Haven Pet Cemetery in Gardena, a private home on West 20th Street in Los Angeles, the Fish Shanty restaurant, Gaslight Club, and the Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. studio commissary. The 24 Nov 1964 DV stated that James Coburn’s scenes were shot at the Pan American and Trans World Airlines satellite offices at Los Angeles International Airport. Problems arose at the Greystone mansion, as a 24 Sep 1964 LAT news story reported vandalism on the property, and the 23 Oct 1964 DV indicated that the city of Beverly Hills rejected the unit’s plans to film a helicopter landing on the premises.

Some financial details are also included. The “negative cost” of production ballooned from a budget of $1.9 million to “around” $4 million. “A 4 Jan 1967 Var list of “Big Rental Pictures of 1966” calculated total domestic rentals at $1.9 million, with $2 million of anticipated revenue.” It was not a blockbuster.

The sources abbreviated in the text are DV (Daily Variety), LAT (Los Angeles Times), NYT (New York Times) and Var (Variety). Page references and dates are provided at the end of the article.

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Battle of the Oxfords

The regional UK paper Frome Times has announced an upcoming event that may be of interest to our readers:

Lutyens’ Mells Park is the venue for a hot debate on Who Was Shakespeare? between biographer and critic Alexander Waugh, grandson of Evelyn Waugh and advocate of the Oxfordian theory that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, wrote the works of William Shakespeare, and Shakespeare scholar Clare Asquith (Countess of Oxford & Asquith) who will argue that Shakespeare was indeed the author of these works.This ‘Battle of the Oxfords’ will take place at 6.30pm for 7.00pm on Saturday 15th September at Mells Park and will be chaired by Professor Gerard Kilroy.

Clare Asquith, according to her Wikipedia entry “is a British independent scholar and author of Shadowplay: the Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare, which has posited that Shakespeare was a covert Catholic whose works contain coded language which was used by the Catholic underground, particularly the Jesuits, in Reformation-era England, but also appealed to the monarchy in a plea for toleration.” She is the wife of Raymond Asquith (3rd Earl of Oxford and Asquith) who is the grandson of Waugh’s close friend Katharine Asquith. Waugh was his godfather and a frequent visitor to Katharine’s residence in Mells where Ronald Knox spent his last years. Raymond Asquith kindly hosted the 2011 conference of the Evelyn Waugh Society on a visit to Mells from their conference venue at nearby Downside Abbey. He is not related to the 17th Earl of Oxford. Prof Kilroy is co-editor of the Edmund Campion volume in the Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh.

Dinner is included in the ticket price. The following day there will be a performance of The Merchant of Venice in a nearby purpose-built Elizabethan theatre. Booking information is available from Claire da Costa, 01373 832113, claire@theelizabethanplay house,com.

Acorn TV has meanwhile announced the availability for streaming in the USA of the 2001 TV adaptation of Waugh’s novel Sword of Honour. This was adapted by novelist William Boyd for Channel 4 and features Daniel Craig as Guy Crouchback. The adaptation consists of two feature-length episodes with a total running time of 191 minutes. It will be available for streaming from 15 October.

Posted in Adaptations, Alexander Waugh, Complete Works, Edmund Campion, Evelyn Waugh Society, Events, Newspapers, Sword of Honour, Television | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Early September Roundup

There is a diverse field of material covered in this latest roundup gathered from the last two weeks:

Quadrant Magazine, an Australian cultural journal, carries on its website a droll pleading (tongue lodged in cheek) from Tony Thomas that Decline and Fall be restricted by the Human Rights Commission for its unfair and racist treatment of the Welsh. Thomas claims Welsh ancestry. Here’s his plea:

By current standards of ethnicity and lineage my ancestor’s leek-infested origins in some misty valley populated by sheep-botherers and not enough vowels makes me as Welsh as they come. So I’m hurting, really hurting, that Evelyn Waugh’s racist abuse remains on library shelves. The priority of Prime Minister Morrison should be to protect Welsh-Australians from insult and ridicule. I identify as Welsh via my great-grandmother, Cymreigis Thomas. …

I thought civic libraries were safe spaces but in my Moonee Valley Library last week, while leafing through Evelyn Waugh’s novel Decline and Fall, I was newly offended, insulted and intimidated as a Welshperson. I disagree with book burnings but each library should have a naughty corner for works like Decline and Fall, Conrad’s book about that person of colour aboard the Narcissus, Neville Shute’s A Town Like Alice, Guy Gibson VC’s Enemy Coast Ahead (because of the name of the squadron’s black Labrador), Biggles in Australia, and a shelf-load of other books literally beyond the pale.

The article continues with quotes from the novel of examples of the racial abuse suffered by his kinsmen from Waugh’s pen. He also gives other examples of racism in the novel warranting the HRC’s condemnation, such as Waugh’s descriptions of the character “Chokey”. Even in this mock-somber context, they remain hilarious. The article concludes:

You might think Scott Morrison has bigger fish to fry than my hurt Welsh feelings. Well OK. Let him fix energy and immigration policy and restore the budget to surplus. But look you, bod yn barchus I bobl Cymru – don’t mess with us Welsh. It’s the land of my fathers, or at least, great-grandmothers.

–Anti-immigrant crusader Steve Sailer has posted a story on his website, reposted in the Unz Review, about the crisis of Venezuelan refugees in the remote city of Boa Vista, Brazil. He notes the linkage, discussed in previous posts, between this crisis and Waugh’s visits to the city described in Ninety-Two Days:

Life in Venezuela has to be pretty awful these days if people are fleeing to Boa Vista. Boa Vista was the destination of an expedition that writer Evelyn Waugh mounted in 1933 in which he crossed the savannah from British Guiana by foot, as recounted in his travel book Ninety-Two Days. During the weary journey of several weeks, he looked forward to the civilized luxuries of Boa Vista, from which he hoped to get river passage to the even more opulent Amazonian city of Manaus, with its famous opera house. But, like Rick in Casablanca, he was misinformed…

The story continues with quotes from Waugh’s travel book as well as a clip from the ending of the film adaptation of A Handful of Dust depicting the conclusion in which Tony Last ends up reading Dickens in an area of Guyana north of Boa Vista.

–The website posts a brief article on the source of Waugh’s title and epigraphs for his 1941 novel Put Out More Flags. After quoting the epigraphs, the article explains:

Waugh’s Put Out More Flags was published in 1942 and is a satire on the English in the first years of the war. Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living was published in 1937, quickly became a bestseller (and indeed may still hold the record for the largest number of copies sold of a China book, though Lin’s charming and sophisticated books, notably My Country and My People, are little remembered today. Lin’s tips are still worth reading though – ‘If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live’ – indeed. Sadly, though it is clear Waugh read Lin, I can find no reference to the two ever meeting…..

The Scotsman in a review of the BBC TV drama series Press which debuted last week on BBC One cites Waugh’s novel Scoop. The story is built around two fictional London papers, one a tabloid (The Post) and the other a quality (The Herald) and the respective staff members of each:

There may … have been concerns that Press (BBC1) was coming from the histrionically flaming pen of Mike Bartlett …. But, this news just in: journos are not too snottery here. They don’t spend lunch-hours which turn into whole weeks down the pub. They’re diligent, dogged and decent. Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. “Up to a point, Lord Copper” was how everyone in Evelyn Waugh’s newspaper satire Scoop! would avoid contradicting the fearsome proprietor. If everyone was the three D’s in Press it would be worthy but dull, so we have Duncan Allen (Ben Chaplin), a tabloid tyrant who sacks on the spot, brings down politicians and is impervious to grief. To paraphrase Carly Simon, he walks into the newsroom like he’s walking on to a yacht. Well, slithers rather than walks.

Oddly, the review fails to mention the role played by David Suchet (Dr Fagan in the recent adaptation of Decline and Fall) who appears at the very end of episode one, in what seems likely to become the Lord Copper role, as owner of the fictional tabloid who is attempting to rein in his editor. How successful he may be will no doubt be revealed in the next episode.

–Finally, a reader has sent a link to another essay by David Pryce-Jones that has been reposted by The New Criterion on its webpage. This is entitled “The Pen is Mightier” and was written in 2013 on the occasion of the Little, Brown republication of Waugh’s fictional work in a uniform edition. It opens with this:

Evelyn Waugh was one of those characters that English literature throws up now and again, who put a special stamp on the times, like Dean Swift or Dr. Johnson. About the best that most writers can expect from posterity is cultural embalming, probably in the form of a monograph written by some academic paid to read books nobody else is reading. Almost fifty years after his death, Waugh remains a presence because the spirit of comedy in his books is pure and irrepressible. A reissue of his fiction by Little, Brown and Company attests to the lasting nature of his works. Indeed, Captain Grimes, the Emperor Seth of Azania, Basil Seal, Mr. Todd, William Boot, Mr. Joyboy and Aimée Thanatogenos, and Apthorpe command their place in the British psyche along with Mr. Pickwick and Jeeves. (Footnote omitted)

The essay goes on to discuss interesting aspects of various Waugh novels, with particular reference to Brideshead Revisited and Sword of Honor. Pryce-Jones also includes discussions of Waugh’s relations with several of his fellow writers, including Cyril Connolly and his own father Alan Pryce-Jones:

My father, Alan Pryce-Jones, had almost certainly stayed at Madresfield and put on his white tie and tails for the same occasions as Waugh. He, too, aspired to write a great novel, and meanwhile invited Waugh to contribute to Little Innocents, an anthology of childhood reminiscences that he edited in 1932. Ten years later, in the review that Alan wrote of Put Out More Flags, he spoke for quite a number of readers when he wondered, “Doesn’t Mr. Waugh overdo it a little?” Waugh then referred to “the man Jones,” until Alan converted to Catholicism and was rewarded with an inscribed copy of Helena.

Among David Pryce-Jones’ own recollections of personal meetings with Waugh is the one described in this  anecdote:

…I was invited to the wedding reception in the House of Lords of Waugh’s eldest son, Auberon, always known as Bron. Waugh was standing by himself in an inner courtyard, a compact overweight figure with a tailcoat and top hat. Fury and the wish to be elsewhere were visible in his features. “My name’s Waugh, Evelyn Waugh, father of the bridegroom,” he said. “Who are you?” I explained that we had met before, and he started back: “I used to know your poor dear father” (who still had another forty years to live).

This an interesting and informative article and The New Criterion is to be congratulated for reposting it, as well as the other recent David Pryce-Jones piece mentioned in a previous post. Thanks to reader David Lull for passing along this link.


Posted in A Handful of Dust, Brideshead Revisited, Decline and Fall, Humo(u)r, Newspapers, Ninety-Two Days, Put Out More Flags, Scoop, Sword of Honour, Television Programs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Waugh, The Royal Academy and Charles Spencelayh

Duncan McLaren has posted a new article on his website addressing Evelyn Waugh’s admiration of the works of the painter Charles Spencelayh (1865-1958). The paintings of Spencelayh were regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy, and the artist was an active Academy member and a participant in the Academy’s work. McLaren tracks Waugh’s visits to the Academy’s annual exhibitions in the late 1940s and the discussions of Spencelayh’s paintings in Waugh’s correspondence with his friends. Illustrations of the paintings discussed are also posted with the article along with excerpts from relevant Royal Academy catalogues. The article opens with this identification of Waugh’s interest in this painter:

From 1946-48, Spencelayh showed two or three paintings each year at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition which ran from early May to the beginning of August. That was a regular date in Waugh’s calendar. I don’t suppose he missed a year from 1945 to 1956, though I can’t say so for sure. The Royal Academy was – and still is – located at Burlington House on Piccadilly. A stroll from White’s Club or the Hyde Park Hotel. In other words, smack in the middle of Waugh’s London.

After some interesting observations of the several paintings and how they may have contributed to some of Waugh’s writings (in particular The Loved One), McLaren concludes the article with this:

…Did Evelyn Waugh see himself as turning into one of the old men that Spencelayh lavished so much time and attention on? I think so. Spencelayh gave them such gravitas that it must have seemed a most natural and somewhat desirable fate. But Evelyn wasn’t ready yet to go gently into that good night. After all, he was only 45, for heaven’s sake. Waugh took the bull by the horns and arranged to go to America for the back end of [1948]. At Life‘s expense (the magazine paid for all Evelyn’s transatlantic travel, luxury accommodation and considerable food and drink) he toured the country with a view to writing a long article about Catholicism in the United States, a piece that would eventually appear about a year later.

The full article is available here  and is highly recommended. It provides an insight into a little known aspect of Waugh’s art appreciation.

Posted in Art, Photography & Sculpture, Evelyn Waugh, Letters, The Loved One | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Folio Society Issues New Brideshead Edition

The Folio Society has issued a new illustrated edition of Brideshead Revisited in its Autumn collection. This is a 344-page hardback book in a slipcase, with an introduction by novelist and critic A N Wilson. According to the Society’s online announcement:

To illustrate one of the greatest literary masterpieces of the 20th century, we worked with woodcut specialist Harry Brockway. His work will be well known to Folio readers, with recent commissions including the Maigret collection. Here, he has created stylised scenes that take us straight back to Brideshead and its characters’ devil-may-care lives. Brockway also designed the striking binding art – an evocative portrait for the front and subtle motifs of swirling cigarette smoke on the back. Award-winning novelist A. N. Wilson writes of Waugh’s skill for crafting memorable characters in the newly commissioned introduction to this edition.

The book is priced at £34.95 and is available at the link above. Other Folio Society editions available from its backlist include Vile Bodies, introduced by David Lodge (President of the EWS) and illustrated by Kay Baylay; The Loved One, illustrated by Beryl Cook and introduced by Christopher Sykes; and Black Mischief, illustrated by Quentin Blake.

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Labor Day Roundup

Spy writer Ben Macintyre was recently interviewed by the New York Times. To the question which book by another author do you wish you had written, he answered:

I would love to have written “Scoop,” by Evelyn Waugh, that vicious but affectionate satire of journalism, exposing our trade in all its insane competitiveness, bravery, inefficiency and strange nobility. I must have read it a dozen times, and it still makes me snort. I would give anything to have written his parody of overstrained journalistic writing: “Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole.”

In an article about Boris Johnson’s ambition to take over the Tory party leadership, Chronicles, a conservative American magazine, cited the same passage:

…Boris, who is out of Government and is ungovernable, can say what he likes. Last week, to general surprise, he chose to write on otters, who have been seen on the increase after years of falling numbers. Was Boris taking his cue from Evelyn Waugh? In Scoop comes this great spoof line: “Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole.”

Australian sports journalist and author Rupert Guinness interviewed in the Sydney Morning Herald also cited Scoop:

I read this in my second-last year at school. A satirical portal into journalism, Scoop gave me a romantic sense of adventure that I believed a foreign correspondent experienced. In Scoop, William Boot is sent by the Daily Beast (albeit, under a mistaken identity) to the fictional state of “Ishmaelia” in East Africa. It helped firm my belief that anything can happen when in the right place and time – or, wrong place and time.

Surf Europe magazine asked surf writer Chas Smith to discuss his favorite books. Among them, he named this one by Evelyn Waugh:

“The funniest book I’ve ever read has to be Black Mischief by old Evelyn Waugh. I imagine someone writing something like that today, something that plays on racial stereotypes and tropes… Evelyn Waugh wrote with such a wonderful light touch that it feels like he could almost write anything, even grossly inappropriate things — obviously as parody — and get away with it. He was such a good writer that even in the era of social outrage he could write something like Black Mischief — I mean, he could write about NFL players taking the knee before football games — and probably still get away with it.

Tim Congdon, writing in Standpoint magazine about trade deficits and trade wars, and Donald Trump’s responses, was reminded of a Waugh character:

In 2017 the US had a deficit on trade in goods of $568.4 billion (about 3 per cent of output) and a deficit on current account transactions of $449.1 billion. In Trump’s view, both numbers are bad and something must be done. As Brigadier Ritchie-Hook explained in Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy, foreigners are there to be biffed. Tariff increases constitute the weapons in the “war” Trump is now conducting. Their purpose is to make foreign goods more expensive in the US, so that higher prices reduce the amount that Americans buy, payments to foreigners fall and the deficits become surpluses. Victory can be declared when the US’s surpluses on its international payments are well-established and consistent.

Congdon goes on to explain that this will not be the likely outcome of the Trump tariffs.

Finally, Kathleen Burk in the Guardian considers books in which the British and Americans try to understand one another:

The British have always been fascinated by the US, and over the centuries have written countless novels, stories, reflections and books of reportage on America. In the 19th century at least 200 travellers’ tales were published, a notable example being Frances Trollope’s Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832). A bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic, it confirmed suspicions in Britain of the awfulness of some Americans…In the 20th century, there was plenty of evidence of cynicism and dislike. Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy (1948), set in Los Angeles, displays contempt for both self-deluding English expats and the even more bizarre Americans. David Lodge’s Changing Places (1975), in which academics from Birmingham and Berkeley exchange jobs, is more understanding, as well as funny.



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