Decline and Fall: Two Editions on Offer

Oxford University Press has posted promotional material for a special edition of Decline and Fall, Evelyn Waugh’s first novel. This is in the Oxford Bookworms Library and is rewritten for Level 6 English language learners (secondary and adult students) by Clare West. It is part of the Oxford Bookworms Library, that has seven reading levels. Here’s a description of the book from OUP’s website:

After a wild, drunken party, Paul Pennyfeather is forced to leave Oxford and begin a new life out in the wide world. His experiences take him from a boys’ private school in Wales, where he meets some rather strange people, to a life of luxury in a grand country house and the Ritz Hotel, and then to seven years’ hard labour in prison. Where will it all end? The black humour of this story about English society in the 1920s is as fresh today as it was when the novel was first written.

The book was originally published in 2008 and is in a paperback format. The website offers sample pages showing the page design and illustrations which seem to be unique to this production. Here’s a link.

Meanwhile, Oxfam has on offer a first edition of this same novel. It is ex-library and has the usual characteristics of that progeny but is priced accordingly. It is identified as a genuine first edition by reference to “Martin Gaythorne-Brodie” on page 168 that was changed in later editions because of its similarity to Edward Gathorne-Hardy. On following page “Kevin Saunderson” was also changed because of similarity to Gavin Henderson. In later editions they appear as Miles Malpractice and Lord Parakeet, respectively. The Oxfam offering includes several photographs showing the state of the text. The price is £399.99. Here’s their description:

Two-tone red and black ‘snakeskin’ cloth lettered in gold at spine. With a frontispiece and five illustrations by the author. Has some wear to corners, damage to top and bottom of spine and no dust jacket. Ex library book which is internally good apart from first few pages which have damage from library markings/ticket pocket and tears, also library stamp and a signature. Please see extensive pictures taken.

 

 

 

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Summer Solstice Roundup

–A new biography has been written of Lord Beaverbrook, primary model for Lord Copper in Waugh’s novel Scoop. This is reviewed by Richard Davenport-Hines in the current TLS. The review opens with this:

There have been previous biographies of the newspaper mogul Lord Beaverbrook, but none has been so timely as the most recent one by the international banker and Labour politician Lord Williams of Elvel. As a study of an arbitrary and lawless spirit, of ill-gotten gains and mischief-making, of the frivolous irresponsibility of newspapermen who reach the Cabinet and above all of Anglo-Saxon chauvinism, Max Beaverbrook provides a parable for our times. “I am no authority on European politics”, Lord Beaverbrook told his Sunday Express readers in the early 1930s when he was running his Empire Free Trade crusade. “I cannot speak their languages. I don’t want to. I don’t know their politicians. I don’t like them. I don’t want alliances with European states.” Beaverbrook died in 1964, but if cryogenics had preserved him for reanimation in 2016, he would have been an arch-Brexiteer.

Although Waugh started his career in professional journalism at Beaverbrook’s Daily Express, he never showed any gratitude. Indeed, he filed multiple libel suits against the paper after the war, successful for the most part.

–Waugh’s biographer and friend Christopher Sykes is profiled in a weblog called “Tweedland and the Gentlemen’s Club.” The posting is by Tom Sykes who is, I believe, Christopher Syke’s grandson. Here’s an excerpt:

Nowadays Sykes is especially remembered for his biography of his friend Evelyn Waugh, whom he met after the success of Waugh’s Vile Bodies. He introduced Waugh to the socialite Diana Cooper, aka Lady Stitch. He praised Brideshead, Waugh’s Catholic epic (the two were both Catholics, but with the notable difference—mentioned by Waugh’s son Auberon when reviewing Sykes’s book in the November 1975 issue of Books and Bookmen – that whereas Waugh converted to Roman Catholicism in his twenties, Sykes was a cradle Catholic) though admitting to his dislike of the character Julia Flyte. Sykes makes some interesting comparisons between scenes in Waugh’s books and those of William M Thackeray – the fox hunting scene in a Handful of Dust is compared to that in Barry Lyndon.

[…] He also wrote [a life] of Orde Wingate (published 1959 – Sykes drew attention to Wingate as the possible basis for Waugh’s character Brigadier Ritchie Hook in The Sword of Honour trilogy, in his biography of Waugh) the general sometimes known as the “Lawrence of Judea” (a phrase that Wingate deplored) […]

After 1945 Sykes worked for many years in BBC Radio, where he helped to get Waugh’s broadcast on P G Wodehouse, who was captured in Le Touquet by the Germnas, on air, as well as writing for several British and American periodicals…

–Here’s a posting from what looks like a Berkeley-based weblog called “Mallory’s Camera”:

Also watching Brideshead Revisted for the 20th time. Love, loss and redemption never get old! The 1981 mini-series is an excellent adaptation of a novel I deeply love. Evelyn Waugh was a right old warthog, a truly obnoxious individual, but he could write!

Many people think this is the greatest line in 20th century English-language literature: So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. They’re wrong.

This is the greatest line in 20th century English-language literature: But I was in search of love in those days, and I went full of curiosity and the faint, unrecognized apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others, I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city.

–The Amherst College website posts a biographical article about a long-serving and outspoken Professor of English named Theodore Baird. That article is based on Baird’s diaries:

William H. Pritchard ’53, the Henry Clay Folger Professor of English, Emeritus, edited two volumes of posthumously published Baird essays. “He was a man of very strong taste, and he really was pretty much of no two minds about anything,” Pritchard recalls. “He liked it or he didn’t like it. He admired it or he didn’t admire it.”

It’s a trait evident in the diaries. In one entry, for example, Baird dismisses an author’s work before describing a trip to the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair: “July 13, 1933: Read Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall, a low dull book. Quite exciting however, to be going to Chi and the Fair. … We walked the 3 miles to the end of the Fair, buying a few souvenirs, going to see Rumba. Remember the smell of the Fair.”

–Finally, conservative journalist and editor of New Criterion, Roger Kimball, has posted an article on the weblog American Greatness on the occasion of the death earlier this month of author and academic Charles Reich at the age of 91. This is not so much an appreciation of Reich’s life as it is a revisit to Reich’s only notable book The Greening of America (1970). The book was a major bestseller when it was first published but is now extremely dated, out of print and best forgotten (although a Kindle edition is available). It seems hardly worth Kimball’s time, but he apparently wants to drive the final nail into the coffin, which he does quite effectively, albeit at greater length (not the nail) than necessary. His conclusion brings Waugh into the story:

…The path to enlightenment that Reich extolled was a path to nowhere —to “utopia” in its etymological sense. That did not prevent it from becoming a major highway “for the long march through American life.” The unhappy example of Charles Reich—his silly book, his 15 minutes of celebrity—should not distract us from the malevolence of the message he helped promulgate. He himself was rather like the unfortunate Seth, emperor of Azania, whom Evelyn Waugh described in his novel Black Mischief:

“The earnest and rather puzzled young man became suddenly capricious and volatile; ideas bubbled up within him, bearing to the surface a confused sediment of phrase and theory, scraps of learning half understood and fantastically translated.”

Although Reich managed pretty well to destroy his own life, he was too fuzzy-headed and inept to find many real disciples. In this respect, he was more a symptom than a cause. In the hands of people like Timothy Leary, however, the nonsense that made up Reich’s pseudomystical “philosophy” damaged countless lives and insinuated itself into the inner fabric of American life. Requiescat in pace.

 

 

 

 

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Report of Recent Waugh Event

A local Oxfordshire news weblog has posted this report of a recent evening of Waugh-related presentations at the Abingdon Arms in Beckley, a village near Oxford:

On June 3rd the pub hosted three emerging talents as the grand finale of the David Bradshaw Creative Writing Residency, a collaboration between the Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh, Worcester College and the Bodleian Library. Dr Barbara Cooke, current co-executive editor of the Complete Works, introduced the project and read from her new book, a fascinating study of Waugh seen through the lens of locations in Oxford that were important to him, from the railway station, where he helped to organise drunken dinners on steam trains, to his tailors, where he ran up large debts.

            Rob Francis then read a series of energetic, visceral poems inspired by Barbara’s research, some composed as he walked around the city in Waugh’s footsteps. A highly polished and engaging performer, even the unfamiliar black country idioms with which he peppered his verses held the audience spellbound.

            Rob was followed by a rehearsed reading of Sophie Swithinbank’s Even in Arcadia, a modern retelling of Brideshead Revisited with female protagonists. An engrossing and tightly-paced story of sexual fluidity, alcoholism and addiction, by turns moving and funny, it was enhanced by the electrifying performances of Amelia Holt as Sabrina, Matthew Staite as Joseph and Abby McCann as Charley.

            As Dr Cooke said, Beckley has always welcomed writers with open arms – open Abingdon Arms, that is – so our special thanks go to Aimee for keeping the pub open late for this memorable evening.

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Father’s Day Roundup

–In response to the feverish political activity in London, The Independent newspaper has composed a list of the Top 10 fictional Prime Ministers. While no Waugh character makes the top 10, he is awarded an Honourable Mention:

Honourable mentions for Philip Downer and Matt Wheeldon, who nominated James Brown, in Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, who has to resign after the Bright Young Things run wild at No 10, and his successor Walter Outrage, who is baffled about the conversations at cabinet meetings which he doesn’t understand.

Among the Top 10 are Jim Hacker from the BBC series Yes, Prime Minister, Plantagenet Palliser from Trollope’s novels, and Francis Urquhart from another TV series, Andrew Davies’ House of Cards.

–In another reference to the Prime Ministerial selection process, The Spectator has a story by Nick Cohen entitled “Everything about Boris Johnson is phony.” After discussing and dismissing Johnson’s attempts to compare himself favorably to Winston Churchill, Cohen writes:

As I have said before, Johnson bears few resemblances to Churchill, and far too many to Winston’s shifty sidekick Brendan Bracken, who became propaganda minister during the war. Bracken too was careless with the facts. He invented stories about his childhood to con his way into high society. He was an energetic manipulator of the press in both Churchill’s interest and his own. (Whenever he gave dinner parties he instructed his butler to make up a story that the prime minister was on the phone and announce the news loudly to his guests). Evelyn Waugh couldn’t stand him, and in Brideshead turned Bracken into Rex Motram, who marries the wealthy but naive Julia because ‘he wanted a woman; he wanted the best on the market, and he wanted her cheap; that was what it amounted to’. Inevitably, he betrays her, within in months of the honeymoon. ‘Rex isn’t anybody at all,’ Julia concludes of Mottram/Bracken. ‘He just doesn’t exist.’

–Another Spectator story, this one by Dominic Green, also mentions Prime Ministerial candidates with reference to a current film based on the British class system:

…you can get away with a lot in Britain if you have the right accent and manners. The Souvenir, directed by Joanna Hogg, is a coming-of-age romance about class and heroin, set in London in the early Eighties, when Britain was awash in smack and class war.

After the characters in the film have been dealt with, the article continues:

Poshness is the grift that keeps giving. The romance of Charles Ryder and doomed Sebastian Flyte wouldn’t be quite as fascinating if it had been conducted on a council estate, instead of a country estate. The beautiful surroundings and balmy memories of Brideshead Revisited tend to obscure the sorry fact that Charles is Sebastian’s enabler, just as Julie is to Anthony [in the film]. The same could be said about The Go-Between, where the past is a different country, distant enough for us to enjoy the pipe dream of paradise recovered, even as [L P] Hartley admits his part in a moral disaster. The Souvenir takes its title from Fragonard’s painting of that name, in which a pre-revolutionary aristocrat carves her lover’s initials into a tree.

Esquire magazine has posted on its website a full copy of Waugh’s 1953 article “ST. FRANCIS XAVIER’S BONES: A festival in Old Goa honors the farthest-flung of travelers”. The article was also published about the same time in The Tablet but under a different title: “Goa: The Home of a Saint”. That is the version collected in EAR, p. 444. An earlier, shorter version also appeared in Picture Post (24 January 1953).

–The lastest issue of Harvard Magazine has an article in its “Brief Lives” series devoted to Ellen Newbold La Motte (1873-1961). She is described as a “bold activist…who challenged societal norms as a trained nurse, public-health administrator, suffragist, socialist, self-proclaimed anarchist, lesbian, anti-opium activist, and more.” In the course of her travels, she encountered Evelyn Waugh:

In summer 1916, she had left Europe to tour Asia with Emily Crane Chadbourne, a divorced American heiress and art collector who had been living in Paris. They had become a couple during the first winter of the war and remained together until La Motte’s death, their relationship occupying a liminal social space: recognized by some, considered a close friendship by others. (The acerbic English novelist Evelyn Waugh, who met them in Ethiopia in 1930, called them “two formidable ladies” whom “long companionship had made…almost indistinguishable.”)

Waugh met the two ladies at the coronation of Haile Selassie and mentions them in his book Remote People. This reference appears at p. 50 of the US edition which is entitled They Still Were Dancing; see also Penguin, 2011, p. 48.

 

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Letters to Maro

An auction house has on offer 5 letters and a post card from Evelyn Waugh to Maro Stathatos (nee Vatimbella, 1919-1989) and her son John. These were written in the period February 1962-October 1963 and are in the nature of arranging for visits and meals as well as expressions of thanks. In the post card dated 1 August 1963 advising her son how to recognize him on the platform at Taunton Station, Waugh describes himself as “short, corpulent and elderly”.

Maro is identified in the auctioneer’s material as an Egyptian-born Greek artist. Her maiden name is frequently associated with descriptions of her paintings. She was also a friend of Lawrence Durrell and one of his letters to her is on offer as well. Patrick Leigh Fermor was a friend of three generations of her husband’s family. He was named Constantine and was apparently a son of Peter Stathatos who features in Leigh Fermor’s biography as the source of the horse he “borrowed” to join the royalist uprising against the Venizelos government in the 1930s.

The auction house International Autograph Auctions has the 5 letters on sale for £200 each and the post card for £150.  Here’s a link via invaluable.com. The Waugh correspondence is Lots 140-45. The live auction will be held on Thursday, 20 June 2019 at 1pm, BST. How Waugh came to know Maro is not explained in the notes but it may come indirectly through her connections with Leigh Fermor who was a close friend of both Diana Cooper and Nancy Mitford. It may also have involved an acquaintanceship with his daughter Margaret who is mentioned by Waugh in the letters and whose presence or absence seems to be relevant to the arrangements.

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Weedon Grossmith (d. 14 June 1919)

Weedon Grossmith, best known as the co-author of The Diary of a Nobody (1892) died 100 years ago today. His collaborator was his brother George Grossmith who died in 1912. They were both also successful stage performers and wrote scripts as well as music for the theatre, but Diary was their masterpiece. Weedon also created the illustrations for later editions of the book. William Cook has written an article in the current issue of The Oldie commemorating Weedon’s death and career:

…suburbia has inspired some of our greatest comic works of art – and the first, and finest, is George and Weedon Grossmith’s The Diary of a Nobody. It’s the diary of Charles Pooter, a middle-aged clerk in an obscure City firm and the proud inhabitant (with his wife Carrie and their wayward son, Lupin) of The Laurels, Brickfield Terrace, Holloway, London N19.

Waugh once described the Diary in a 1930 Daily Mail article as the “funniest book in the world” and explained:

If only people would really keep journals like that. Nobody wants to read other people’s reflections on life and religion and politics, but the routine of their day, properly recorded, is always interesting, and will become more so as conditions change with the years.

Waugh’s article (“One Way to Immortality”) is collected in EAR, p. 84 and CWEW, v. 26, p. 287.

According to an article in a 2005 issue of Evelyn Waugh Newsletter & Studies by Peter Morton, Waugh found several similarities between the middle class suburban lives of the Pooter family described in the Diary and his own (“‘The Funniest Book in the World’ : Waugh and ‘The Diary of a Nobody'”, EWNS No. 36.1, Spring 2005, p. 1). His brother Alec saw many features of Lupin Pooter (hapless son of the fictional diarist) and Evelyn. Morton also describes how Waugh was cheered up in the rather depressing atmosphere of Christmas 1946 by receiving a present of the book from his mother. He went off with the book and made a concordance of his edition with the shorter version of the story as it had originally been serialized in Punch. That 1946 gift copy with Waugh’s marginal notations remains in his surviving library at the Harry Ransom Center in the University of Texas–one of the relatively few marked-up books in the collection.

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New Betjeman Collection

The Sunday Times has previewed a new collection of previously unpublished poems by Waugh’s friend John Betjeman, some of which have fairly explicit homosexual themes. The collection is entitled Harvest Bells and will be published later this month:

A newly discovered Betjeman poem entitled Sweets and Cake includes “the sturdy little arse of Teddy Sale” in a graphic and passionate encounter between a pair of schoolboys.The comic but increasingly explicit account of a heated fumble between Teddy, believed to be Betjeman’s alter ego, and another schoolboy named Neville is thought to have been written during the poet’s undergraduate days at Oxford in the mid-1920s.It was unearthed much later in a college archive and appears in a new collection of previously unpublished Betjeman poems called Harvest Bells. The most startling addition to Betjeman’s literary canon is undoubtedly Sweets and Cake, which takes a lurid turn after a memorable couplet: “I say, you’re awfully decent, Ted / Let’s find a place and go to bed.” […]

It was among Tom Driberg’s papers at Christ Church, Oxford, that researchers found clues that Betjeman may have gone far beyond schoolboy crushes. In addition to Sweets and Cake, they found a scatological poem believed to have been written to entertain his friends. In Summoned by Bells, his blank verse autobiography, Betjeman wrote of a youthful love that proved “too deep for words or touch”. But there is plenty of touching, not to mention messy mutual orgasms, in Sweets and Cake. Kevin Gardner, editor of Harvest Bells, said: “If in Summoned by Bells Betjeman dared not speak this love’s name, the two poems in the Driberg papers . . . fairly shout it out. In place of pastoral myth and innocent fantasy we encounter cheap, practical sex.”

Waugh was a friend of both Betjeman and his wife Penelope (who is thought by many to have been a model for certain traits of St Helena in Waugh’s 1950 novel). Waugh rather bullied Betjeman about his Anglicanism after Penelope converted to Roman Catholicism. Waugh’s friendship with both of them seemed to have rather cooled after that, although it continued at some level. For example, Betjeman gave Waugh a Victorian wash hand stand for his 50th birthday (1953) which provided the basis for one of Gilbert Pinfold’s hallucinations in Waugh’s late novel.

 

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Roundup: Wavian Influences

–A long-neglected British artist named Frank Bowling is enjoying a renewal of interest in his work. This is led by a retrospective at the Tate Britain which opened on 31 May and continues through 26 August. Another smaller exhibit includes a 1980s work that was influenced by Evelyn Waugh. This is explained in an article by Javier Pes in ArtNet News:
“It would be tragic for Frank to just become a commodity before he is given his rightful place in the canon,” art dealer Paul Hedge tells artnet News. He reveals that he and his colleagues have also been kept busy reading Evelyn Waugh’s tragic-comic novel A Handful of Dust ahead of Art Basel this week because of Bowling.Why get up to speed with Waugh’s satire of the English upper classes, which was published the year Bowling was born, in what was then British Guyana? “Frank’s reaction was all about the way Waugh described the Guyanese jungle,” Hedges says. “He really took exception to that.” As a result, Bowling painted a series of “Cathedral” paintings in 1987 that Hales is presenting in its solo booth at Art Basel.
The Art Basel event is also mentioned in Apollo magazine:
Hales Gallery brings six of Bowling’s previously unshown Cathedral Paintings from the 1980s, inspired by Evelyn Waugh’s novel A Handful of Dust (1934) and built up with materials and objects through a process Bowling refers to as ‘cooking’ ($200,000–$400,000).
The Apollo article by Melanie Gerlis also includes a reproduction of one of the work’s in Bowling’s Art Basel exhibit: According to Waugh (1986). The Art Basil exhibitions and other events are open in that city from 13-16 June.
–Waugh’s work has also influenced art in another genre. This is popular music where a rock group known as Vampire Weekend, made up of former Columbia University students, had been profiled in the American Conservative magazine:
Vampire Weekend’s first three albums are heavily indebted to Evelyn Waugh. The band’s song “Arrows” is explicitly about Brideshead Revisited. The lyrics directly reference the book, while the arrows in the title and chorus are a reference to Saint Sebastian, and the music borrows elements from the Brideshead BBC series soundtrack. The band’s second album is titled “Contra,” which is, at least in part, inspired by the line in Brideshead where Charles says he’s with Sebastian “contra mundum.” Ezra Koenig, the frontman of the band, repeatedly mentioned Waugh in early interviews, and has recounted how he once dressed up as Sebastian Flyte for Halloween. While Koenig compared the band’s first three albums to Brideshead, their trilogy is closer in structure to Waugh’s Vile Bodies, in that the first two acts burst with quirky exuberance but build to a dark and bleak third act.

 

The Guardian reviews the broadcast of the latest installment of ITV’s SevenUp series. This follows the lives of several British children of various class backgrounds from the 1960s to today, There us an update every seven years and the latest is called 63Up. Among those interviewed over the years with increasing interest is Neil Hughes. From a middle class background as the son of two schoolteachers, he seemed at first to have a promising future. According to the Guardian:

He adored literature and, after reading Brideshead Revisited, dreamed of going to Oxford. He got the required grades but flunked the admission exam. “I think I misquoted someone,” he sighs. It haunted him for years. He spent six months hitchhiking to toughen himself up. “When I think of the risks I took, the places I stayed, the people I associated with, I swallow hard.” He ended up at Aberdeen university, studying languages and law when Scottish nationalist students mounted what he calls a “soviet-style takeover” of student halls. “If you were not Scots, then woe betide you. Nobody threatened me, but it was a horrible atmosphere.”

Over the years, after dropping out of university, he was found living in a squat and working as a labourer and a grouse beater but later he seemed to settle down and was serving as a Liberal Democrat member of a town council and also as a lay reader in the Church of England. Although he says he stopped watching the series several years ago, he agreed to be interviewed for the latest series. This in episode 3 of the new series and is available on itvPlayer.

–A trace of Waugh’s influence is found by a reviewer of a new novel Red Line Blues by Scott Seward Smith.  This is about a Washington, DC romance between a conservative “foreign policy wonk” Owen Cassel and  Audrey, a liberal librarian. According to the Washington Times reviewer:

There are moments reading “Red Line Blues” when the hero and heroine reminded me of two Evelyn Waugh characters: Owen as an older, wearier version of Paul Pennyfeather, the hapless hero of “Decline and Fall,” and Audrey as a deeper, more intelligent Aimee Thanatogenos, the beautiful, innocent apprentice mortician in “The Loved One.” Unlike Waugh, who reveled in inflicting pain on his most sympathetic characters, Mr. Smith treats his with an engaging affection and compassion.

 

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Brideshead at 75

It was 75 years today that Evelyn Waugh completed his draft of Brideshead Revisited and sent it off to the typist. According to Robert Murray Davis (Evelyn Waugh, Writer, Chapter 6), Waugh had first mentioned writing another novel in October 1942 (Diaries, p. 529). Since his return from Crete, he had been moving around from one inconsequential army position to another. This continued in 1943 during which his father died in January and in September he again comments that “I want to get to work again” (p. 548). The story began to come together when he visited his friend Hubert Duggan at his deathbed in October. He helped arrange Duggan’s reconciliation with the Roman Catholic Church and after that, began to think in earnest about writing the novel. In November during parachute training he cracked his fibula, requiring rest and recuperation. In January 1944 he formally applied for leave based on a “plan for a new novel which will take about 3 months to write” (p. 557, n. 1).

He set up his writing venue at the Easton Park Hotel in Chagford, Devon, and spent most of his time there writing the book. In the end it took a bit longer than he expected but the army extended his leave to accommodate him. His wife joined him at Chagford after he had finished drafting on 8 June  (Corpus Christi Day, 1944),* and they spent the next week correcting the typescript as it was returned to them (p. 568). On 16 June he left for London where he delivered the typescript to his publisher, sending another copy to a reader in Oxford to be vetted for religious howlers. On 20 June, he instructed his agent to send that copy to the US publishers.

Waugh rejoined his army unit a few days later with not much expectation of any meaningful activity. But then fate intervened when Randolph Churchill requested him on 28 June to join his mission to Marshall Tito’s forces in Yugoslavia. He was on an airplane in that direction by 4 July 1944 (p. 568-69), leaving behind, for the time being, the text of Brideshead to be seen through preparation by his agents and publishers.

*NOTE: Prof Gerard Kilroy says that Waugh “dated the ‘End’ of his manuscript of Brideshead: ‘[Eve of Corpus Christi, 1944]’.” See previous post. That would be 7 June in 1944. In his diary, Waugh wrote on 24 June 1944: “On Corpus Christi Day 1944, having been to communion at Gidleigh, I finished the last version of Brideshead Revisited and sent it to be typed.” (p. 568). It was probably the case that when he finished writing the day before, he considered the manuscript was completed but on returning from communion some additional changes occurred to him. Corpus Christi Day falls on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday (which  is, in turn the Sunday after Whitsun). In 1944, Whitsun was 28 May, Trinity Sunday was 4 June and Corpus Christi Day was 8 June.

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Edmund Campion, Father Pro and Brideshead Revsited

Gerard Kilroy has written an interesting essay appearing this week in the Tablet. Prof Kilroy is the co-editor of the Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh volume of Waugh’s biography of Edmund Campion. The essay begins with a discussion of Campion’s dying words where he refers, inter alia, to the prayers of “the household of the faith”. Waugh chose as his working title for Brideshead Revisited, which he wrote 10 years after the biography: “A Household of the Faith: A Theological Novel”. Prof Kilroy explains several other connections between those two books as well as between the Campion biography and Waugh’s book on Mexico, Robbery Under Law. In the latter case the connection comes via Graham Greene’s contemporary books on Mexico where he describes the martyrdom of the Mexican priest Fr Miguel Pro which bears marked similarities to that of Edmund Campion.

The essay concludes with this:

Campion and Brideshead were closely linked in Waugh’s mind. In 1945, when sales of Brideshead Revisited in the United States soared past half a million, Waugh asked his agent to “cash in” on its success by publishing the first US edition of Edmund Campion. In a new Preface, Waugh portrays Campion as “amongst us”, the victim not of a moribund Elizabethan regime but of the secular state: “We have seen the Church driven underground in one country after another. The martyrdom of Father Pro in Mexico re-enacted Campion’s. In fragments and whispers we get news of other saints in the prison camps of Eastern and South-eastern Europe, of cruelty and degradation more frightful than anything in Tudor England, of the same, pure light shining in the darkness, uncomprehended. The hunted, trapped, murdered priest is amongst us again, and the voice of Campion’s comes to us across the centuries as though he were walking at our side.” […]

Waugh dated the “End” of his manuscript of Brideshead: “[Eve of Corpus Christi, 1944]”. “A Theological Novel” has to be read as an eschatological assertion: all earthly power will turn to dust while “A Household of the Faith”, the Church, will be crowned in glory. The eve of Corpus Christi occurred on 7 June 1944.

There was a US edition of Edmund Campion published by Sheed and Ward in 1935, but it consisted of sheets printed in England. The 1946 US edition contains a new preface written by Waugh and may reflect other revisions. It was issued by Little, Brown and was the first edition both printed and published in the USA. Prof Kilroy’s essay is highly recommended and may be viewed at this link. A subscription is required but the Tablet will give limited access with a simple registration.

UPDATE (22 June 2019): In a comment received today, Prof Kilroy corrected the last sentence in the above quote and this has been incorporated into the post.

 

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