Three French Aesthetes and Rex’s Tortoise

The Times newspaper chooses a new book by novelist Julian Barnes as its “Book of the Week.” This is entitled The Man in the Red Coat and is a non-fiction account of three eccentric Frenchmen travelling in late Victorian Britain. The review by Sue Prideaux introduces them as:

… a prince, a count and a celebrity gynaecologist — [who] travelled to England for some “intellectual and decorative shopping”. […] Barnes in this digressive, wandering book […] finds much to admire — in the intellectual inquisitiveness, the creativity, its Europeaness.

It is the count, Robert de Montesquiou, who will be of primary interest to our readers. According to Prideaux:

A tortoise reputedly roamed Montesquiou’s flat, its shell gilded and studded with jewels. It died pretty quickly, for beauty, an exit that many decadents of the time recommended, beauty being the only thing worth dying for, although few followed their own advice. Montesquiou’s pet, incidentally, lives on in the diamond-studded tortoise that Rex gives Julia in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and in Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger, where Jill Masterson doesn’t long survive being covered in gold paint.

Reading this book is like re-spooling Andy Warhol, or reading Nicholas Coleridge’s recently published The Glossy Years [see previous post] (Barnes was once Tatler’s restaurant critic). It’s top international tittle-tattle, awash with cantankerous snobbishness, reminding you that high society is always a pretty small fishpond whose fish sparkle as brightly as the jewelled shell of today’s tortoise — until tomorrow’s flashier reptile comes along.

It is not clear from the Times whether it is Prideaux or Barnes who makes the connections between the count’s tortoise and both Rex’s tortoise and Jill Masterson. Rex seems to be getting copious attention in the press these days, so the connection may come from the review rather than Barnes’s book. This would also seem to create a connection between Rex himself and Auric Goldfinger who share an admiration for cruelly decorated creatures.

After continuing through an account of the other two Frenchmen (especially the gynaecologist), the review closes with the conclusion that Barnes’s

sparkling and very enjoyable book has a serious subtext; no borders should be erected that hinder the flow of knowledge and ideas. Art and science are best served if we are free to travel the whole world to do our intellectual and decorative shopping.

Barnes’s book will be released in the UK on 7 November and will be published early next year in the USA.

 

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Mottramism (More)

A reader has sent a link to an article posted by The American Conservative magazine. This is written by one of its senior editors Rod Dreher who both traces the origin of the term “Mottramism” as applied in the Roman Catholic context and extends its applicability to American politics. See previous posts. The article is entitled “#MAGA Mottramism”. The source of the original term dates back to a  c. 2002 reference in an article by

 …Canadian Catholic writer Mark Cameron [using] the term “Mottramism” to describe all-in Catholics like the writer Mark Shea, who fell all over themselves to absolve John Paul II of any fault whatsoever in the Catholic abuse scandal.

The application of the term to today’s US politics hardly needs explanation, but anyone wishing to see one should read Dreher’s article. One should bear in mind in doing so that it is written by a journalist well known for his conservative political views and appears in a journal that was founded to allow the presentation of such views even where they differed from those of a prevailing administration claiming to be guided by conservative principles.

Thanks to Dave Lull for sending the link.

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Roundup

The Middle East and North African Financial News (posting as MENAFN) has a story that explains how the end of empire led to rising inequality in Britain that helped the Leave campaign to prevail in the Brexit vote. Among the many factors marshalled to support the argument, MENAFN offers this:

The fall in the fortunes of the very wealthiest had actually begun […], after the end of World War I. As the author Evelyn Waugh wrote in Brideshead Revisited, of the fictional Marchmain and Flyte families [sic]: ‘Well they are rich in the way people are who just let their money sit quiet. Everyone of that sort is poorer than they were in 1914.’

That is the parvenu businessman and politician Rex Mottram speaking. It’s hard to say which side he himself would have backed; probably both.

–Joseph Pearce, editor and journalist, had announced that the next issue of his literary journal the St Austin Review “will be on the theme of ‘Brideshead and Beyond: The Genius of Evelyn Waugh’”. This will presumably be the November/December issue of the review which is published by the St Augustine’s Press.

–The University of Colorado has posted the details of its graduate level course ENGL 5059: British Literature and Culture after 1800. Section 002 of the course is devoted to “Modernism in Britain” and the syllabus includes several 20th Century novels. That one of them included is a novel by Waugh is not in itself surprising, but that the one selected is Black Mischief is rather out of the ordinary. The reading list includes several other relatively neglected works:  Rebecca West (The Return of the Soldier); Elizabeth Bowen (The Heat of the Day); Elspeth Huxley (Red Strangers), and Mulk Raj Anand (Coolie) as well as several familiar ones. The course is taught by Dr Janice Ho.

–A blogger on the website site denominated HoleOusia.com has posted an illustrated article devoted to the life of Evelyn Waugh’s friend Alastair Graham. This is entitled Love Among the Ruins although it has nothing to do with that novella. Most of the quotes and photographs will be familiar to readers of Waugh’s biographies and Duncan Fallowell’s How to Disappear: A: Memoir for Misfits (2011) as well as viewers of Duncan McLaren’s website. There is a photo of Graham’s house in New Quay that I did not recall seeing before. The blogger (Peter J Gordon) also makes the interesting point that Graham was depicted in the works of both Waugh and Dylan Thomas and quotes liberally from both versions. At the end of the posting, there is a video entitled “Quomodo sedet solo civitas” (“How lonely sits the city”) accompanied by music, photos and text. The biblical quotation is repeated several times in Brideshead Revisited in different contexts. See related post.

In a previous post (“A Life Revisited”) on the same site, there are several extracts from and references to Philip Eade’s biography. There is also a page from an unidentified magazine article (apparently entitled “Waugh and peace”) displaying a Waugh family photo by Mark Gerson not previously seen by me.

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Harold Bloom (1930-2019) R.I.P.

The American literary critic and Yale Professor of the Humanities Harold Bloom died earlier this week at the age of 89. There are several notices but perhaps the best are those in the New York Times. One is by Dinitia Smith and is a standard but fairly detailed obituary. The other is “An Appreciation” by Dwight Garner who also frequently reviews books for the Times and writes on literary matters. If you choose to consult only one, read that written by Garner.

Bloom wrote widely but clearly was happiest writing about poetry. He did write at least one full length book devoted to novels. This was Novels and Novelists (2007). Waugh is mentioned but there is no chapter devoted to his writing. One mention comes in connection with Bloom’s discussion of Tobias Smolett:

Sometimes, when I am reading Smolett, I wish he had been able to read the Evelyn Waugh of Decline and Fall, Vile Bodies, A Handful of Dust, because I think Waugh would have been a good influence on him.

Waugh is also listed in an appendix to what may be Bloom’s best known book, The Western Canon: the Books and School of the Ages (1994). The short list of 20 some “canonical” authors does not include Waugh. The listed authors who might be deemed Waugh’s contemporaries are Proust, Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Kafka. Waugh is, however, included in Appendix D: The Chaotic Age: A Canonical Prophecy.  The books listed under Waugh’s name in the prophetic appendix are A Handful of Dust, Scoop, Vile Bodies and Put Out More Flags. Other contemporaries of Waugh among the British prose writers named in this appendix include Elizabeth Bowen, Henry Green, Graham Greene, George Orwell, and David Jones.

Bloom was also engaged as editor for several years from 1989 in an ambitious project involving several hundred critical works published by the Chelsea House Press (later acquired by or merged with Facts on File). One of these is entitled “Evelyn Waugh” and is said by both Google Books and Amazon to have been published on 1 May 1994. It even has an ISBN number: 978-1555463533 and is described as appearing in “Modern Critical Views, Series 2”. Harold Bloom is listed as author but might have been the intended editor. Neither the Library of Congress nor the New York Public Library has in its catalogue a book by that title and author/editor combination nor that ISBN. Nor does it appear in a search on WorldCat.org. Anyone knowing anything about the circumstances of this “publication” is invited to comment below. It may be the case of a book project that was assigned an author, title and completion date but never got written or approved for publication.

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Brideshead Products On Offer

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE (18 October 2019): TeePublic is now promoting additional Evelyn Waugh designs on its products. One of these is a colorized photo of Waugh based on a 1930 black and white original attributed to Howard Coster on the National Portrait Gallery website. This is by the designer EsotericaArt. Another consists of the name “Evelyn Waugh” displayed in large letters styled in what may be an original design by KubikoBakhar.

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Lancing Chapel to be Completed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Columbus Day Roundup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See previous post.

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

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

Translation is by Google with some edits.

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Cardinal Newman’s Canonization

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Profile of Fr Martin D’Arcy on Italian Website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Early October Roundup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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