Two Interesting Offers: A Manuscript and a Letter

A Waugh manuscript is on offer on the ABE bookseller website. This is the three-page handwritten manuscript of the article entitled “Awake My Soul! It Is a Lord” that appeared in The Spectator on 8 July 1955. Here’s the description:

About 1200 words. This is Evelyn Waugh’s manuscript draft, signed by him, of an amusing satirical article, originally written by Waugh for Punch but rejected by its editor Malcolm Muggeridge as libellous, and then published in the Spectator (8 July 1955). After publication of the article several letters from the parties involved and their friends appeared in the Spectator. Waugh ridicules Lord Noel-Buxton over an uninvited and unwelcome visit which the noble Lord had rashly made to Waugh’s home in the company of Nancy Spain, “the leading literary critic of the Beaverbrook press”. The full story can be found online. The manuscript draft differs in numerous details from the article as published – most of the changes are small but Waugh’s closing paragraphs with his taxonomy of lords (“…lords haughty, who think that commoners all seek their acquaintance and must be kept at a distance; lords affable, who like mixing with their fellow-men of all degrees and know the conventions of good society by which introductions are effected; lords lavish and leisurely and dead-broke lords eager to earn an honest living” – in the published version) are substantially different in the draft. Neatly written with a few corrections, marks on the verso of the first leaf, one or two very minor nicks, otherwise Very Good. Waugh manuscripts are uncommon in the market.

The article is reproduced in EAR, p. 468, as well as A Little Order, p. 133, and is noteworthy because it was the opening round of a dispute between Waugh and the Beaverbrook press that resulted in £5,000 in libel damages being awarded to Waugh. It was also the final attempt by Waugh to have an article published in Punch magazine during Malcolm Muggeridge’s editorship. Muggeridge thought some edits were needed to avoid libel. Waugh then sent the text to the The Spectator in which he may or may not have incorporated Muggeridge’s suggestions. These manuscript pages may well answer that question. Waugh evened the score on Muggeridge’s rejections by later embarassing him when Waugh withdrew his ear trumpet and placed in front of him at a Foyle’s book launch for Pinfold just as Muggeridge started his adulatory introduction. The manuscript is for sale for $7573.13. That’s probably about £6,ooo. Here’s a link to the offer.

Another bookseller is offering (also on ABE) a letter of Waugh relating to his book about Mexico, Robbery Under Law. Here’s an excerpt from the bookseller’s description:

Autograph letter signed by Evelyn Waugh. Quarto, one page on Hotel Ritz, Mexico letterhead, the letter reads, “Sept 14th Dear Mr. Jones, Very many thanks for your letter which has just reached me here. I am so glad you found Scoop funny. Letters like yours are very encouraging. I am out here trying to study Mexican conditions, but finding it very hard to concentrate while things in Europe look so grave. Perhaps my next book will have to be about life in the army. Yours sincerely Evelyn Waugh.” The recipient, Richard Arnold-Jones, was a young man who had recently been awarded the 1938 Duke of Devonshire Prize Competition (offered by the British Empire League). Arnold-Jones went on to become a prominent Anglo-Catholic, poet, teacher and co- founder of the Redrice School. … In August 1938 Waugh, with Laura, made a three-month trip to Mexico after which he wrote Robbery Under Law, based on his experiences there. In the book he spelled out clearly his conservative credo; he later described the book as dealing “little with travel and much with political questions. In very good condition.

A copy of the letter is posted on the website. It appears that the price is $1600, but there is language that may refer to another item for which multiple copies are available. Contact with the seller should be made before responding. Here’s a link to the offer.

Posted in Autographs, Items for Sale, Letters, Manuscripts, Newspapers, Robbery Under Law, The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Roundup: Waugh’s Highclere Moments

Tatler magazine has a story about Lady Carnarvon, resident of the country house that has been the setting for the TV series and films of Downton Abbey. Another of these is being produced. Here are the opening paragraphs of the article:

When writer Evelyn Waugh arrived in Georgetown, British Guyana, he was probably in need of a break. The journey overland had been exhausting, and the recently divorced writer was probably still languishing in the throes of unrequited love for socialite Teresa Jungman. This 700-mile psychomachia in the Amazonian rainforest would go on to inspire A Handful of Dust, one of Waugh’s most sinister novels. Clearly, though, between scorpion-ridden mattress, soporific rum swizzles and vampire bats, Waugh found himself in suitable comfort to employ one of his most exclusive of adjectives. ‘Darling Blondy and Poll,’ he wrote in a letter to Lady Mary Lygon, the niece of the Duke of Westminster on whom Waugh would base Julia Flyte in Brideshead Revisited, ‘I am back in Georgetown and all the world is Highclere.’

So enamoured by Highclere Castle was this most caustic of high-society cartographers that Waugh would employ the name of the seat of the Earls of Carnarvon to describe any country house or weekend of partying that he deemed to be sufficiently luxurious. Almost a century later, its Jacobean towers and Capability Brown gardens attract thousands of visitors, who make the pilgrimage from climes as far flung as Tennessee to spend a day at the ‘real Downton Abbey’…

The article (linked here) might have gone on to explain that Waugh’s seeming fascination with Highclere Castle was inspired by the estate’s ownership by the family of both his wives. It’s a complicated connection, and that might be why it isn’t mentioned. He was seldom, if ever, invited to visit that estate. So there is considerable irony in his seeming adulation.

–An academic article on Waugh’s first novel has appeared in the Journal of European Studies (v. 54,  no. 2).  This is by Wukai Lin and Taohua Wang (both of Sun Yat-sen University in China) and is entitled: “‘Fruitless circularity’ or moral growth ?: Re-interpreting the circular mobility in Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall.” Here’s the abstract:

Evelyn Waugh’s novel Decline and Fall features a circular narrative structure, with the unjust expulsion of Paul from Oxford University at the beginning and his enigmatic return at the end. Existing interpretations of this circularity, typically labelled as ‘fruitless’ or ‘futile’, have largely neglected the underlying tension between capitalist ideology and Paul’s moral subjectivity, which governs his movements through various spaces in the novel. Drawing upon Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s conceptual framework of ‘territory’ and Henri Lefebvre’s notion of ‘social space’, this article proposes an alternative understanding of Paul’s three-part adventure as a process of ‘territorialization’, ‘deterritorialization’ and ‘reterritorialization’. These stages correspond to Paul’s moral development: moral decline, moral awakening and further moral growth. With his return to Oxford, Paul’s adventure constitutes, instead of an apparent ‘fruitless circularity’, a tortuous process of moral growth. Waugh thereby depicts the early twentieth-century British capitalist social space as a ‘vanity fair’ and explores the possibilities for individual growth within a territory of general moral decline.

Details of how to secure a copy of the entire article are posted here.

–The Daily Mail has a story (repeated in several other papers) ostensibly on the occasion of the marriage next month of Hugh, the 7th Duke of Westminster, godson of King Charles and close friend of Prince William. Most of the article is devoted to the sordid and unpleasant story of Hugh’s great-uncle, the 2nd Duke. It opens with this:

…Such was his sense of entitlement that [the 2nd Duke] was ready to divorce his wife at the drop of a coronet – just because she read a book.  And he conspired to have his brother-in-law, the Liberal politician Earl Beauchamp, thrown out of Britain because he was secretly gay.  The distraught Earl, who had been a key part of King George V‘s inner circle, was driven to the brink of suicide.  Beauchamp’s flight from Britain inspired Evelyn Waugh to write his iconic novel Brideshead Revisited….

The Mail correspondent may be pushing things to claim that Earl Beauchamp’s story “inspired” the novel, but he did contribute to the character of Lord Marchmain.  His family the Lygons and their country estate Madresfield contributed to other elements of the novel, as is noted later in the article. See also reference above to Mary Lygon in the Tatler article. She was a daughter of Earl Beauchamp.

–The Hoover Institution of Stanford University has reposted a 2016 notice relating to Waugh’s war trilogy Sword of Honour. This is written by Max Boot and opens with this:

Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy—comprising Men at Arms, Officers and Gentlemen, and The End of the Battle [originally published in England as Unconditional Surrender]—was published between 1952 and 1961. It deserves to be known as the finest work of fiction to come out of World War II. Certainly it is far superior to juvenile novels such as Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead or even Joseph Heller’s absurdist Catch-22

It was also posted on our website in 2016 but is worth posting again. The full notice is available here.

— BBC Radio 4 has scheduled a rebroadcast of its 2 episode, 2 hour adaptation of Decline and Fall. It was debuted in 2015. Here is their programme description:

Paul Pennyfeather, a quiet, earnest, scholarly young student at Oxford knows nothing of 1920’s high-life until one night he encounters The Bollinger Club …

Evelyn’s Waugh’s fast paced roller-coaster is set in the early jazz age, peopled by larger than life characters and a few grotesques

A real gem in the canon of British comic fiction dramatised by Jeremy Front.

The first episode will be transmitted on Tuesday, 25 June at 15:00 and the second episode the following day. More details available at this link.

Posted in A Handful of Dust, Academia, Brideshead Revisited, Decline and Fall, Newspapers, Radio Programs, Sword of Honour | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Bank Holiday/Memorial Day Roundup

–Novelist Kevin Kwan was recently interviewed in LitHub. This was on the occasion of last week’s issuance of his latest novel Lies and Weddings. Here’s the opening:

Kevin Kwan’s much anticipated new novel, Lies and Weddings, is out today [21 May 2024], so we asked him a few questions about his favorite books to read, recommend, and give as gifts.

Q. Which books do you reread?

A. Evelyn Waugh’s novels are a perennial favorite of mine, especially Brideshead Revisited and Decline and Fall. To me they just get deeper and funnier with each reading, and you really get to appreciate not only what a genius satirist he was, but also how beautiful his writing was and how he evoked a sense of place. I also love re-reading Dominick Dunne’s books. I read People Like Us when it was first released in the late 1980s, and his glamorous depictions of New York society was one of the things that lured me to move there myself…

–An article in Vogue considers the tendency of fashion trends to become repetitive. Here’s an excerpt:

…The interesting thing is that we may now actually enjoy being less individual in the way we dress. “We’ve lived through the emergence of a super granular globalisation. We’ve got used to it, and now we take comfort in the presence of sameness and even desire it,” Chayka says. His thinking is that our collective longing for a certain kind of sameness is tagged to trend fatigue, adding that you can only get so far ahead of the herd before the herd catches up, then overwhelms you, and therefore it’s easier to succumb to the tide. But isn’t social media simply amplifying behaviour that’s underpinned real-life social circles for decades, if not centuries?

New York-based British fashion curator Shonagh Marshall points to Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh’s 1930 novel about London’s bright young things. The protagonist, Adam, a columnist reporting on the scene’s hedonistic affairs, begins to invent fashion trends for his own amusement. “When he shares that the set are wearing black suede shoes with their tuxedos, fashionable young men run out to buy black suede shoes, but he’s later fired when he tries to start a fad on bottle-green bowler hats, as it’s deemed a step too far,” she says via text. “The scenario is entirely satirical, but it’s an interesting depiction of how trends caught on nearly a century ago.” …

The Spectator has an article by Alexander Larman entitled “The sad decline of Oxford.” It opens with this:

The cliché about Oxford – and as a resident of the city, I have skin in the game here – is that it’s the most beautiful city in Britain. Think of all the writers and poets who have rhapsodised about its glories, from Evelyn Waugh immortalising (some would say fossilising) it in Brideshead Revisited to Matthew Arnold’s famous description of it in his poem ‘Thyrsis’ as ‘that sweet city with her dreaming spires/She needs not June for beauty’s heightening’. It has more Grade I listed buildings in its centre than anywhere of a similar size and has innumerable architectural wonders. The incomparable Radcliffe Camera stands at its heart – often described as the most striking public building in England. So why is so much of Oxford being not merely neglected, but positively ruined?

I’m with Bill Bryson on the besmirching of Oxford. In his Notes from a Small Island, Bryson wrote despairingly:

“You tell me that it is one of the most beautiful, well-preserved cities in the world? I’m afraid not. It is a beautiful city that has been treated with gross indifference and lamentable incompetence for far too long, and every living person in Oxford should feel a little bit ashamed. The result is aesthetic impoverishment for both Oxford’s residents and visitors alike.”

Well, I don’t just feel shame, Bill – I feel a growing sense of anger. Walk round the historic centre of Oxford today, and jostling with the (admittedly wonderful) colleges and north Oxford mansions are eyesores so unpalatable, so wrong that it is hard to believe that any architect had designed them. Or indeed that any right-thinking institution or individual could ever have commissioned them in the first place…

There follows a photo of a new building on Cornmarket that is offered as example of the poor architectural design he is ashamed of.  I would have to say that it’s not as bad as he makes out unless he wants new buildings to copy the antique styles of those surrounding them, producing a sort of Disneyfication of Oxford.

Arab News En Francais has a story about the relations between Armenians and their Arab neighbors to the south. Here’s an excerpt (translation by Google):

…The Armenians were famous builders. Indeed, Sinan Pasha, the great architect of the Ottoman Empire, is said to be of Armenian origin. Many within the diaspora have carved out a niche for themselves as middlemen, translators, bankers and merchants. One of these characters, a certain Youkoumian, is the anti-hero of Evelyn Waugh’s comic novel ” Black Mischief , ” set in a fictional Ethiopia in the 1930s…

BBC Radio 4 Extra have announced the rebroadcast of their 4-episode adaptation of Brideshead Revisited from 2003 (Waugh’s centenary year). This will start on 14 June. Here are the details:

Midway through the Second World War, a disillusioned Captain Charles Ryder finds himself posted to a remote country retreat.

It’s Brideshead Castle, scene of the happiest years of his young, impressionable life and the beginnings of his friendship with Sebastian Flyte – whose presence will forever haunt him.

Starring Ben Miles and Jamie Bamber.

Evelyn Waugh’s most famous novel of life, love and a forgotten era.

Dramatised in four parts by Jeremy Front.

Charles Ryder …… Ben Miles
Sebastian Flyte …… Jamie Bamber
Julia …… Anne-Marie Duff
Cordelia …… Abby Ford
Brideshead …… Toby Jones
Boy Mulcaster …… Tom Smith
Nanny Hawkins …… Ann Beach
Jasper …… Martin Hyder
Anthony Blanche …… Geoffrey Streatfeild
Hooper …… Andrew Wincott
Collins …… Scott Brooksbank
Mr Ryder …… Benjamin Whitrow

Music by Neil Brand

Director: Marion Nancarrow

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in March 2003.



Posted in Adaptations, Black Mischief, Brideshead Revisited, Decline and Fall, Interviews, Newspapers, Oxford, Radio Programs, Vile Bodies | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Waugh’s Mexico” in the New Criterion

In the latest issue of the New Criterion, Mark Falcoff has written an updated review of Waugh’s 1939 political travel book Robbery Under Law. Falcoff opens with a discussion of the book’s history, noting Waugh’s agreement to write the book in return for a specified fee and trip to Mexico for him and his wife.  Falcoff also describes how Waugh abandoned the book after its publication and never had it reprinted in later editions or excerpts. He might have mentioned in this regard that the Catholic Book Club did issue a UK reprint in 1940, probably in view of Waugh’s extensive defense of the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico.

Falcoff (who seems to be quite conversant in Mexican history) goes on to carefully examine the book, which he thinks that Waugh underrated. Aside from the few pages devoted to the oil expropriation, which were part of the fee arrangement, he describes the book as an accurate and often sympathetic description of Mexico’s history and how it got to where is was at the time Waugh made his visit:

…The far larger part of the book, … consists of an astonishingly learned exposition on the history of Mexico, a subject that Waugh must have spent considerable time studying before his trip. He shows a firm grasp of the central themes of the country’s past, particularly the damaging aspect of its wars of independence, its long periods of civil war, the loss of half of its national territory to the United States, and above all the conflict between its Spanish heritage and what might be called the resentments of a half-caste (mestizo) middle and lower-middle class. He is also alert to the purposeful destruction of historic architecture, libraries, churches, and so forth in the attempt to purge the country of any trace of the ancien régime, at the cost of divesting itself of more than three centuries of schools, hospitals, and charitable foundations. The most dangerous aspect of this, Waugh writes, is the Mexican effort “to accept the centuries of Spanish rule as a closed incident and to look to the preconquest elements for the eventual salvation of the country.” This, of course, was the ideology of the regnant Mexican Revolutionary Party and remains so in its present-day incarnation, the Party of Revolutionary Institutions (PRI)…

What follows is a fairly detailed analysis of the book, concluding with this:

…Mexico today, of course, is a very different country than it was when Waugh visited it almost a century ago. He could not foresee the kinds of changes that gave it greater stability and even a measure of prosperity, such as the 49/51 rule, which allowed foreign investment to return by facilitating silent arrangements with local politicians. Nor did Waugh predict the coming of the Second World War, which for a time rendered even the nationalized petroleum industry profitable, nor—in the even longer term—could he see the massive future transfer of populations to the United States, acting as a generous conduit of remittances, particularly to the poorest regions of the country. Neither he nor anyone else could foresee the emergence of a new industry that put oil in the shade: the lucrative traffic in illicit drugs, produced and processed in Mexico and exported to markets in the United States and elsewhere.

What strikes the reader most about Robbery Under Law is not the harsh critical tone but rather Waugh’s underlying affection for the country, what it had been and what it could still be. Waugh harbored a deep admiration for pre-revolutionary Mexico, despite all of its faults and limitations, and could justify his attitude with a serious consideration of its achievements and possibilities. Those who know the country today can read a book written so long ago and recognize many features that have endured, all the while enjoying the precision and elegance of the prose of a true English master.

Falcoff offers what is effectively an updated and favorable review of the book. The copy he reviewed was that included in Nicholas Shakespeare’s 2003 edition in the Everyman’s Library collected travel writings entitled Waugh Abroad.  That may, indeed, have been the first reprint of the book. His literary editor may have let him down a bit here, however, as he seems to have been unaware of the OUP edition of the book issued last year as volume 24 of its Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh. (See review in Evelyn Waugh Studies 54.1.) It would be interesting to read how his own analysis of the book compares with that of OUP’s editor, Michael G Brennan, on several of the points they both discuss at some length. A copy of the New Criterion issue (June 2024) that includes this essay can be purchased at this link.

UPDATE (25 May 2024): Readers interested in the foregoing article may also have an interest in a paper to be offered at the 25th Graham Greene International Festival. This will convene 3-6 October at Berkhamsted, HERTS:

“Traveling the Lawless Roads: Anglophone Writers in Mexico, 1926-1946. Julia G. Young (Catholic University of America) will discuss how writers flocked to Mexico, and, describing the church-state conflict, provided a beautiful but distorted view of the country.”

The paper will be delivered at 0945a on Friday, 4 October 2024 at Town Hall, Berkhamsted. Details are available at this link:

Posted in Newspapers, Robbery Under Law | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Mid-May Roundup

–The Italian language newspaper Il Manifesto has posted an article (“The ivory brush and the tabernacle”) on Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited. This is written by Viola Pagetti. Here are slightly edited extracts translated (by Google) from the opening paragraphs:

Having converted to Catholicism, Evelyn Waugh abandons his brilliant satirical style for a writing that is enjoyable because it is transparent, easy because it is nostalgic, and participates in our dramatic current situation. For him the past is grafted onto the present and one can be read in the other. Thus promises the title of the novel considered his masterpiece Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder which came out in 1945, now elegantly translated by Ottavio Fatica: Ritorno a Brideshead (Feltrinelli «Comete», preface by Alessandro Piperno, pp. 424, €22.00). Charles Ryder, Protestant, bourgeois, narrator of this historical but secretly autobiographical novel, omits the background to the ancient story. November 5, 1605 was the day the first modern act of terrorism, the Gunpowder Plot, was attempted . The Catholics, immediately suspected, planned to blow up the English parliament together with King James I with a strong explosive charge.

There followed in the immediate revenge of Guy Fawkes Night the deadly hunt for the priest. Severe sanctions were issued against Protestant and Catholic dissenters who did not take the oath to the new Anglican church, which became the state church. With an Act of Uniformity, non-[conformers]  were deprived of their civil and political rights. “Roman Catholic” was [a name applied] to anyone who did not respect the obligation to abjure the timeless and the spiritual authority of the Pope, and did not deny the dogma of transubstantiation, a fundamental principle of Catholic, sacramental doctrine, linked to non-replaceable gestures.

Various legislative interventions followed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which reiterated the severe restrictions on that minority of nobles, Catholic families affected not in their wealth but in their faith, in the evangelical promise that had nourished English mysticism since the Middle Ages …  Jesuit missionaries dedicated to martyrdom arrived from Rome to fulfill their sacramental duties, and the large Gothic or Baroque villas equipped themselves to hide their priest under the trap door or behind the false wall. The hagiography of the Jesuit, poet and polemicist Edmund Campion, tortured and condemned to death as a traitor, was published by Waugh in 1935. …

From that not forgotten history of the Roman Catholics had arisen a political hatred which was also aesthetic, destined to divide perhaps forever the Church of England from that of Rome. ….

There follows a description of the novel’s story and conclusion. A full text can be viewed and translated here. Whether this is a new translation of the novel isn’t stated. An Italian version of the book has been available for many years.

–The silent film weblog called The Bioscope has reposted a 2008 article on the film The Scarlet Woman which Waugh and his Oxford friend Terrence Greenidge made in 1925. Here’s an excerpt:

The subject of the latest in our series on literary figures and silent film is unusual in that his significant engagement with film preceded his first book publication. Evelyn Waugh was twenty-one, had just come down from Oxford, and was working on a novel, The Temple of Thatch (which was never to be completed), when he became involved in films.

Waugh was both fascinated and repelled by cinema. He professed a lowly opinion of films and commercial film production, but he was a compulsive filmgoer throughout his life (as his diaries reveal), and was fascinated by the narrative qualities of the medium. Such qualities he admired when appropriated in the literary works of others (Ronald Firbank, Graham Greene), and encouraged in other would-be writers, as in this 1921 exhortation to his friend Dudley Carew:

“Try and bring home thoughts by actions and incidents. Don’t make everything said. This is the inestimable value of the Cinema to novelists (don’t scoff at this as a cheap epigram it is really very true). Make things happen. … Whatever the temptation, for God’s sake don’t bring characters on simply to draw their characters and make them talk. Fit them into a design. … It is a damn good idea. Don’t spoil it out of slackness or perversity but do MAKE THINGS HAPPEN. Have a murder in every chapter if you like but do do something. GO TO THE CINEMA and risk the headache.”

Waugh found inspiration in films not for pictorial values as such, but in what he saw films could offer in terms of narrative design and continuity, of montage, propulsion, and changing fields of vision. Moreover, Waugh the satirist was inspired by film’s propensity for exposing falsity through display. …

A full text is available at this link. The 1921 letter to Dudley Carew is reproduced in Letters 1-2. Towards the end, the article mentions the availability of copies of the film from Dr Charles Linck’s publishing venue Cow Hill Press. Alas, since the original post, Dr Linck has passed away and the Cow Hill Press source is probably no longer available. The repost apparently engendered a comment on that the film was currently available to stream free of charge from the British Film Institute (BFI) but only to viewers with a UK internet connection. This was noted in a previous post.

–The following was posted on the weblog The Homebound Symphony:

“From Evelyn Waugh’s biography of Ronald Knox:

For three days he lay in a coma, but once Lady Eldon saw a stir of consciousness and asked whether he would like her to read to him from his own New Testament. He answered very faintly, but distinctly: ‘No’; and then after a long pause in which he seemed to have lapsed again into unconsciousness, there came from the death-bed, just audibly, in the idiom of his youth: ‘Awfully jolly of you to suggest it, though.’

They were his last words.

My favorite story about Knox, about whom there are many many stories, is that when he had a private audience with Pope Pius XII the chief thing that the Holy Father wanted to talk about was the Loch Ness monster. (I guess that’s more of a Pope story than a Knox story, but anyway.)”

–To mark the 40th anniversary of John Betjeman’s death on 18 March 1984, the BBC has put together a collection of Betjeman-related television programs dating back to 1964. These were all presented on BBC Four on Sunday 19 May. They include Monitor: Betjeman and Larkin Down a Country Road (1964), Bird’s Eye View (1969), Metroland (1973), A Passion for Churches (1974), The Queen’s Realm (1977), Reputations: John Betjeman: The Last Laugh (2001), Betjeman and Me: Rick Stein’s Story (2006) and Late Flowering Lust: Comedy-Drama based on JB poems (1994). The programs can be streamed on BBC iPlayer. A UK internet connection is necessary.

Posted in Brideshead Revisited, Film: The Scarlet Woman, Internet, Newspapers, Ronald Knox, Television Programs, Translations | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Mid-May Roundup

Mothers’ Day (U.S.) Roundup

–An article in this week’s TLS (10 May 2024) marks the centenary of the 1924 novel The Green Hat by Michael Arlen. He was something of a one hit wonder, as the article by Philip Ward explains. Here are some excerpts from the article:

…Written (so the author claimed) in the space of two months at his parents’ home in Southport, The Green Hat is the story of Iris Storm, wearer of the titular headgear, who is depicted as a femme fatale with a “pagan body and a Chislehurst mind”. […] Capitalizing on his success, Arlen adapted The Green Hat as a play, which ran in London (Tallulah Bankhead took the lead role) and, with a different cast, toured the US. Both productions generated spin-off merchandise, with green millinery a must-have item of the season. The book was filmed in 1928 as a vehicle for Greta Garbo (at Garbo’s instigation), though the studio had to change the title (to A Woman of Affairs) and alter the characters’ names and some of the lurid plot details in order to satisfy Hollywood guidelines on morality. […]

Arlen writes with an absolute determination to bring his fantasy world to life. The book is wildly overwritten, but therein lay its luxuriant charm for many readers. In his own first novel, Burmese Days, George Orwell conjured up the stereotypical image: “Elizabeth lay on the sofa in the Lackersteens’ drawing-room, with her feet up and a cushion behind her head”. She is reading Arlen, “her favourite author”. […]

Several parodies appeared in the following years, with titles like The Green Mat and Keep It Under Your Green Hat, and it became a favourite satirical target for Evelyn Waugh. In Vile Bodies Adam Symes, drudging as a bored gossip columnist, invents a fashion for green bowler hats. In Brideshead Revisited Sebastian Flyte arranges a meeting with his sister on Berkeley Square–an appropriately Arlenesque location: “Julia, like most women then, wore a green hat pulled down to her eyes”.

Woolf and Waugh were only two of Arlen’s literary detractors. When Ernest Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises, appeared in 1926, the author was incensed that reviewers saw an influence of The Green Hat, particularly in his character of the aristocratic Englishwoman Brett Ashley. …

The article is well worth reading in full if you have access to it.

–The religious journal Crisis Magazine has an article by Regis Martin about Waugh’s novel Helena. It opens with this:

In an interview with the BBC, Evelyn Waugh, who detested giving them, was asked which of his many books was his favorite. Helena, he shot back. Puzzled, the reporter asked why. Because, he said in effect, it was both the best book he ever wrote, especially given its religious theme, and because it was the one book he took more pains in producing than any other. So fond in fact was he of the book that, according to one of his daughters, it was the only one he would read aloud to his family.

So, why had it failed so spectacularly to catch fire with the reading public? Or that so few of his biographers even bothered mentioning it? Not only had it fallen out of print, despite the brisk sale of nearly everything else he wrote, but it became the least read among even ardent Waugh enthusiasts. Why would that be? …

Martin does an excellent job of explaining Waugh’s favoritism and the book’s failure to achieve popularity with his readers. One point Martin might have raised is that the UK edition of the book enjoyed only one printing whereas in the US the book was published in October 1950 and then reprinted 5 times over the next four months.  This might suggest that the book did achieve a modest popular success in the US where there was a considerably larger Roman Catholic population than in the UK. The full article may be read at this link.

–The Daily Telegraph has a review of what is probably Jeremy Clarke’s last book: Low Life: The Spectator Columns: The Final Years. Clarke had succeeded Jeffrey Bernard as author of the “Low Life” column. According to the Telegraph, Bernard, “was unwell so often Keith Waterhouse wrote a very successful play called ‘Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell’; and Bernard died, very unwell, in 1997 at the age of 65.” As explained by reviewer Nicholas Lezard (who writes a similar column for the New Statesman), Clarke was also a heavy drinker and died at a similarly early age. But despite the heavy drinking Clarke produced entertaining columns and wrote them very well. The review quotes Graham Greene on Evelyn Waugh’s writing to describe Clarke’s prose: “…like the pre-war Mediterranean ‘you could see all the way to the bottom.'” The book (publication date 21 May 2024) is available at this link.



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Roundup: A Florentine Dinner Party, Some Interviews and a Pub

–The latest issue of Catholic Herald includes an article about Evelyn Waugh. This is written by Mark Roberts and is taken from his recent book noted below. In it, he describes an unpleasant dinner party in Florence that Waugh attended while on his first of several postwar visits to Harold Acton in that city. The party took place in 1950 at the Florentine house occupied by American novelist Sinclair (“Red”) Lewis on an extended visit. Acton took Waugh to a restaurant where Lewis was also present. Lewis recognized Waugh and came bounding over to their table to chat up his “his dear old pal.”  This took Waugh by surprise but then he and Acton were soon re-connected with Lewis when the latter invited them to a dinner party at his house. The dinner party did not go well at least from Waugh’s perspective. Here’s an excerpt:

The guests were offered tiny glasses of weak vermouth and a poor dinner of tepid spaghetti, veal and sweet whipped cream cake with watered wine – watered by the secretary because Lewis was apt to drink too much of it! These horrid catering arrangements evidently did not improve the mood of the guests. Their host did not touch his food and burped loudly and long several times during dinner.

Waugh’s face was a study, as he flinched and sat back in his chair. Some of the halting and awkward conversation is reproduced in Acton’s More Memoirs of an Aesthete, published in 1970:

“Evelyn flinched in his chair on the host’s right with an expression of growing alarm. ‘What is that frightful noise?’, he kept asking me. Red’s speech was incoherent but at length he noticed that Evelyn was fasting and he urged him to taste the veal, the spécialité de la maison.

“Evelyn answered severely: ‘It’s Friday.’ Diverted by this, Red prompted his companion, who had been an army captain serving in Trieste, to entertain us with the saga of his war exploits. … According to Acton’s memoirs, Lewis was provoked by what he took to be Evelyn Waugh’s standoffishness, and “delivered a panegyric upon the vigour, the splendour, the creative genius of America, which was moving in the circumstances despite its platitudes…Red’s bloodshot eyes bulged, his fingers trembled clutching the chair, as he wound up with a denunciation of contemporary English literature…Evelyn reddened more with embarrassment than resentment, but he endured it all most patiently and politely. I suspect he was aware of the pathos underlying this…defiant monologue.

“‘I can’t think what got into him,’ said Lady Troubridge when we escorted her home. ‘I’m afraid poor old Red is off colour. He doesn’t usually behave like that, I assure you.’ ‘I rather enjoyed the latter part of it,’ said Evelyn. ‘I was only afraid he might burst a blood vessel.’”

A year later Lewis was dead. The Catholic Herald’s article concludes with this:

Evelyn Waugh is one of over a hundred writers discussed in Mark Roberts’ new book ‘Florence Has Won my Heart: Literary Visitors to the Tuscan Capital, 1750-1950’.

The Catholic Herald’s article is available here. The book is on offer from at this link.

–The book about Florence is reviewed in a recent issue of the Daily Telegraph (4 May 2024). The review by Christopher Howse is entitled : “Sacred Mysteries: Florence and the worst dinner party ever.” Here are the opening paragraphs:

Have the English missed the point of Florence? “Over tea and crumpets,” observed that sharp and readable satirist Aldous Huxley, “they talk, if they are too old for love themselves, of their lascivious juniors; but they also make sketches in watercolour and read the Little Flowers of St Francis.”

It’s enjoyable to consider that question while reading Florence has won my Heart by Mark Roberts. Published this week, it gives sketches of 100 English-speaking visitors to the city between 1750 and 1950. The author has lived there for 50 years and there his five children were born, like Florence Nightingale, though she never went again.

The title is from Samuel Rogers (1763-1855), who decided that “in Florence I should wish to live, beyond all the cities of the world”. He returned at intervals, staying at its most expensive hotel amid “perpetual bustle, and never-ending odour of soup”…

The review concludes with a brief description of the Sinclair Lewis dinner party discussed above.

–This week’s “By the Book” literary interview in the New York Times has a Q&A involving Evelyn Waugh. The writer interviewed is Robert Kagan:

Q. What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?

A. That Evelyn Waugh blamed the evils of the modern industrial world on Protestantism in almost the same words as Patrick Deneen blames the evils of the modern world on liberalism. Discuss among yourselves.

Another, more extensive interview has been reprinted on the American Enterprise Institute’s website. In this one, Christopher Scalia discusses several of Waugh’s novels and notes their particular interest to Roman Catholic readers. Here’s the link.

–The TLS reviews a new novel entitled Henry, Henry. According to the opening paragraphs, there are Bridesheadian connections:

Allen Bratton’s debut novel, Henry Henry, is notionally a reimagining of Shakespeare’s Henriad, with the setting transferred to 2014. This is a world of grand houses, gilded youths and guarded secrets. There are also more than a few hat tips to Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, not least in the courtesy title given to the protagonist, Hal, the Earl of Hertford, which refers to Waugh’s Oxford college.

The novel concerns a triad of Henrys, with Hal at the centre. He is gay, in his early twenties and a classic wastrel. In contrast to him are his devout Catholic father, the repressed Henry, Duke of Lancaster, whose family has long been beset by scandals (sexual and financial), and Harry Percy, do-gooding scion of a neighbouring gentry family and the very model of a Gap Year Guardianista, who loftily informs Hal that “Jesus was an immigrant”…

Tatler has a review of a new sculpture exhibition at Castle Howard. This displays the work of Tony Cragg. Tatler’s reviewer (Harriet Kean) notes what she sees as the relevance of some of the works to Brideshead Revisited, both adaptations of which were filmed at Castle Howard., the website of the Bristol Post, has an article that provides an update on the status of a Combe Florey landmark that is “one of the best pubs in Somerset.” This is:

…the Farmers Arms, at Combe Florey… The small village down in the vale on the Taunton-to-Minehead road is where Evelyn Waugh lived in the 1950s. He regularly frequented the Farmers Arms with various members of the London literati, as did his writer son, Auberon.

The charming thatched pub dates back to the 15th century, but there have been times when it almost became a footnote in history, thanks to that thatch. The place has gone up in flames more than once – most recently in 2017 when it was almost completely destroyed. Owners Tim and Jane had the place rebuilt to a very high standard and it really is now an excellent venue for a drink or a meal. Partly thanks to fire, ironically enough. The Farmers Arms is one of the few pubs I know with a charcoal-fired Jasper oven, a fact which tends to lift anything that’s grilled into another realm.

This area, that lies between the Quantocks and the Brendon Hills to the west, is special. A famous agronomist during the Second World War described it as “Dingly Dell Land” – and it is just that. A rather mysterious, highly wooded area of tiny hamlet and myriad lanes – one that’s hardly ever visited by tourists…

The article is available here.




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Oxford Seminar of Pinfoldian Interest

Oxford University has announced a seminar that may be of interest to Waugh scholars. It is open to current members of the university and is entitled “Laura Marcus Workshop: Autobiographical Fiction and the 1950s Telepathy Wave.” It will be led by Professor Marina Mackay (St. Peter’s College) and is scheduled for 10 May 2024, 10:30 (Friday, 3rd week, Trinity 2024). Here are the details:

Britain in the 1950s saw a widespread popular interest in the possibility of psychic communication across distance: from the 20-million-strong audiences for radio telepaths ‘The Piddingtons’ at the start of the decade to the widely publicised and puzzlingly inconclusive trial at the decade’s end of George de la Warr’s pseudo-scientific radionic box. Instructively, one of the best archives of this now-forgotten cultural phenomenon is the avowedly autobiographical fiction of an and about the period. In major 1950s novels by (for example) Rebecca West, Antonia White, Muriel Spark, and Evelyn Waugh, these half-believed-in, half-disbelieved psychic technologies of remote communication are used not merely as (sometimes comic, sometimes emphatically not) features of their plots, but also as means to reflect on the problem of transmitting one’s own experience across historical distances—distances that, for us as readers now, are only accentuated by the obvious ephemerality of such cultural-historical phenomena.

Please note that this event is ONLY open to current members of the University of Oxford. Workshop places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis with priority given to members of the English Faculty. Places will be confirmed one week before the event.

Tea/coffee and cake will be served during the workshop.

This event will take place in the St Cross building on Manor Road. Attendees are advised to wear face coverings while indoors and to use an LFT prior to the event.

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May Day Roundup

–In a recent report of the results of a football match between Manchester City and Real Madrid, the Guardian’s reporter Barney Ronay brings an Evelyn Waugh character into the discussion. Here’s the opening:

It turns out Pep Guardiola was right after all. Manchester City’s pursuit of the double-treble will now remain “a hypothetical dream”.  This was Pep’s own excellent phrase before [last] Wednesday’s second leg against Real Madrid, a formulation that suggests even Guardiola’s dreams are full of theory, algebra, hypotheticals, like a footballing version of Evelyn Waugh’s professor Silenus, the modernist architect who doesn’t sleep but instead lies in the dark for eight hours with his eyes shut doing high-speed calculations, before rising at dawn to design another machine-age masterpiece…

City lost in the second round of penalty shootouts. If you need more details, here’s a link.

–The Evening Standard has an article by Mary Lussiana about a wine tour through southern France. This is entitled “A FOODIE ROAD TRIP FROM SOUTHERN PORTUGAL TO FRANCE’S JURA MOUNTAINS.” Here’s an excerpt about a stop in Bordeaux:

…Rain followed us most of the way on our nine-hour journey to our next stop in Bordeaux. But as we drove in under the stone gateway to Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, […] the sun cast its evening light onto the ancient mellow stone. Parts of the Château date back to the 13th century, and vines have been grown there since 1618. They had a cameo role in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, when Sebastian Flyte arrives to the Oxford college rooms of Charles Ryder saying, “I’ve got a motor car and a basket of strawberries and a bottle of Château Peyraguey….It’s heaven with strawberries.”…

–The film website has a published a list of the film/TV adaptations of Waugh’s novels. This is part of a series on British novel adaptations. This is fairly comprehensive and contains brief lists of characters, plot summaries and other production details. It is fairly complete and offers examples of both versions in some instances where there have been two, e.g., of Brideshead and Decline and Fall but misses in two other cases of multiple adaptations: Sword of Honour and Scoop. Oddly, no one has ever done a film/TV adaptation of Black Mischief, Put Out More Flags, Helena or The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. Or if there were attempts at adapting these novels, they seem to have disappeared without a trace.

–In another posting with a TV connection, veteran TV presenter Alan Titchmarsh is asked to name his favorite musical compositions. Here’s his number 1 choice:

Geoffrey Burgon – Theme from Brideshead Revisited
This BAFTA-nominated score from John Mortimer’s 1981 TV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel is a breathtakingly elegant piece. Wistful oboe and trumpet match with regal horns, conjuring up the pomp of Brideshead alongside the demise of Lord Marchmain and his family.

“A reminder of that dazzling original TV series, rich in mood and atmosphere,” Alan says. “I can still feel the agonies of unrequited love!”

For the complete list, see this link to the website

–Finally, the Jesuit magazine America has reposted a 2013 article by Jon M Sweeney entitled “Waugh’s Head Revisited: A writer who deserves to be remembered.” Here are the opening paragraphs:

Evelyn Waugh (1903-66) published 14 novels between 1928 and 1961. Another went unpublished and is counted among his juvenilia, and yet another was released only in a limited edition of several hundred copies. Of the 14, several were widely acclaimed bestsellers in their day, including Brideshead Revisited (1945), Scoop (1938) and A Handful of Dust (1934). He also wrote three volumes of biography (on Rossetti, Campion and Knox, all lesser figures today), eight mostly forgettable books of travel writing even by Waugh’s estimation, one volume of memoir (A Little Learning), short stories, diaries and letters and various essays and journalism, much of it written originally for the London Spectator.

Seventy-five years ago Waugh was one of the world’s most popular writers of fiction. A convert to Catholicism like his friend Graham Greene, Waugh had less aversion to the label “Catholic writer.” For Waugh, joining the church was the result of an investigation into truth; it also came immediately after his first marriage ended. For Greene, it was always more of a matter of coming to terms with evil and sin, his own and others, and originated in his desire to marry a Catholic woman as a young man. Waugh couldn’t sound less like Greene, for instance, when he writes to a friend in Sept. 1964: “Do you believe in the Incarnation & Redemption in the full historical sense in which you believe in the battle of El Alamein? That’s important. Faith is not a mood.”

Waugh’s longtime publishers on both sides of the Atlantic—including Little, Brown and Company here in the United States in December 2012—have spent the last two years rereleasing much of his oeuvre in hopes that interest in his writing will revive. Will it? I wonder. Does anyone read Evelyn Waugh anymore?

The historical books are not great history, and the travel books do not work well as travelogues. No matter, as these are not part of the reintroduction plan of Waugh’s U.S. publishers. Only the novels are still read today…

Here’s a link to the complete article.

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2023 Academic Papers

The following academic papers with Evelyn Waugh in their titles appeared during calendar 2023. Abstracts have been included where available:

–Victoria Fernandez Ruiz, “Metaphorical value in the metaphor of conversion: The sacred and profane memories of Capt. Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh,” Church, communication and culture, 2023-10, Vol.8 (2), pp.167-183:

“Ordinary language has difficulty transmitting certain spiritual experiences, such as mystical ecstasy or the process of conversion. These experiences, which cannot be expressed in words, and which involve both the spiritual and the corporeal, are called ineffable. But the literary tradition is full of examples in which these incommunicable truths are expressed linguistically: from St. Augustine to C.S. Lewis, from St. John of the Cross to John Henry Newman, many authors have expressed their mystical or conversion experiences through metaphor. Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited presents the action of divine grace on the characters, as seen through the eyes of the narrator as he undergoes his conversion. The intention of this article is to discover how the use of metaphor succeeds in expressing the action of divine grace in a conversion, providing important insights into the way poetic language can communicate the ineffable experience of the intimate encounter with divinity. To this end, the article analyses three metaphors of novel, (the twitch upon the thread, the balking horse and the hut collapsing under the avalanche) taking into consideration literary theory and what it says about metaphor.”


–Allan Kilner-Johnson, “Intermodernism and Ethics of Lateness in Evelyn Waugh and Harold Acton”, English Studies, 2023-01, v. 104 (1), pp.120-33.

“Evelyn Waugh and Harold Acton had a deeply ambivalent relationship to the narrative of modernism, and their attempts to negotiate their position within the literary milieu of their own time clearly registers the tensions inherent in much of late modernist writing. Early modernism and high modernism were concerned with the nature of the ‘firstness’, of innovation and change, but as this article argues, intermodernism is best seen as an ethical mode that saw itself as increasingly removed from the organising attitudes of literary revolution. In their mid- and late-period writing, Acton and Waugh were concerned with structures of age-old history and prestige-notably Catholicism (Waugh) and China (Acton)-that they felt outweighed the innovations of modernism and made the modern aesthetic spirit seem clumsy, if not painfully late.”

–Marina Chiselita-Bimbirica, “Erasure of the Self: Evelyn Waugh’s New Man,” Romanian journal of artistic creativity, 2023-03, Vol.11 (1), p.97-116:

“The article addresses aspects of an individual’s identity molded by the State in a dystopian society in which conformity creates absurdities such as mass sterilization and mass euthanasia advertised as entertainment or as an antidote to boredom. Like its real counterpart, the totalitarian system imagined by Evelyn Waugh in Love Among the Ruins (1953) aims at reversing a democratic and common-sensical set of values. The State imposes a New World disconnected completely from the perennial and moral old one to make room for the social mighty project of the New Man.”


–Edward Short, “Evelyn Waugh’s Displaced Persons,” The Human Life Review, 2023-01, v 49(1), pp. 72-85:

This is an essay in what appears to be a series entitled “Abortion in Literature.” It explores Waugh’s description in his novel Sword of Honour of the efforts of Guy Crouchback’s wife Virginia to secure an abortion of her child with the unpleasant character Trimmer and the results of that effort. The article considers Virginia’s experiences and Guy’s reactions to them in the context of  Waugh’s understandings of the beliefs of the Roman Catholic church as they related to these matters. There is no abstract for this article but it may be viewed at this link.

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