A Visit to Madresfield

Our reader and EWS member Milena Borden has kindly sent the following report of her recent visit to Madresfield Court:

At Madresfield

A strikingly beautiful house appears a short distance after driving through Madresfield village and turning towards Madresfield Court. It is sitting at the foot of the Malvern Hills and is approached across a bridge over a moat. I arrived at noon on a balmy autumn day to see the real house of the Lygon family and get closer to their sensibilities, which inspired Waugh’s masterpiece novel Brideshead Revisited.

Inside this grand but very homely English country house, Tudor, Victorian Gothic and Arts and Crafts styles are all interwoven with a charming accumulation of Parisian, Dutch and Danish furniture, massive family and rare royal portraits, fake Holbeins, William Morrison fabrics, unusual artefacts and sculptures, marble fireplaces, valuable armoury, early-oak carved chests and antique travel trunks.

Waugh’s desk and chair have been moved from the upstairs nursery, where he stayed during his many visits to Madresfield (1931-1938), to the bay in the Long Gallery overlooking the Moat Garden. They seem to be the only uncomplicated items displayed on the otherwise highly ornamented first floor. Hugh Lygon, Waugh’s Oxford friend who famously contributed to the character of Sebastian Flyte, stares melancholically from a small modestly framed photograph tucked away in a corner of the dramatic top-lit, double-height staircase hall designed by his father, the seventh Earl Beauchamp who is the prototype of Lord Marchmain in Brideshead. Portraits of his sisters who adored Waugh and also found a place in the novel are spread across the wood panelled walls of many rooms and corridors. Waugh wrote his novel Black Mischief while staying at Madresfield in 1931 and a copy of the book dedicated to Mary and Dorothy together with other first editions are said to be kept in the Smoking Room but in the today’s Madresfield there is no public access to it. In the Library one can see shelves going all the way up to the high ceilings holding thousands of volumes including bibles, musical scores, dictionaries and albums.

The chapel seems unchanged since it was first seen by Waugh in 1931. It is decorated in the Arts and Crafts emblematic expression with idyllic pastoral scenes surrounding the portraits of the Lord and Lady Beauchamp as well as their seven children. There are beautiful murals, stained glass and candlesticks designed by Henry Payne. This is a Church of England chapel with some soft blue Italian Renaissance style colours. Although it does look a lot like the one in Brideshead, it also feels different from the strictly Catholic chapel given as a present to Lady Marchmain by her exiled husband.

In Brideshead Waugh seems to have immortalised just one episode of Madresfield’s almost one thousand years old life. But it is deeply convincing especially as shaped by his affectionately fictionalised romantic love for the Brideshead set. My two hours inside Madresfield was like stepping into an extraordinary still-life painting to meet its amazing inhabitants and to eat, drink, sleep, read, write and laugh with them.

26 September, Madresfield.

The house is open for tours on selected dates between April and September. This year’s tour season has ended, but tours will presumably be available next year during a similar period. Tours must be booked in advance. Details on open days and booking for next year will be available in due course at this site http://www.madresfieldestate.co.uk

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“The Waugh Effort” in The New Criterion

Dominic Green has written an essay reviewing Evelyn Waugh’s military career. This is entitled “The Waugh effort” and appears in the current issue of The New Criterion. As one would expect, Green relies on Waugh’s Diaries, his novel Sword of Honour and the accounts of his experiences in writings of his biographers, as well as Antony Beevor and, more recently, Donat Gallagher. The essay opens with this:

“I have been in a serious battle and have decided I abominate military life,” Evelyn Waugh wrote to Laura, his second wife, from a camp in Egypt on June 2, 1941, after his evacuation from Crete on a Royal Navy destroyer. “It was tedious & futile & fatiguing. I found I was not at all frightened; only very bored & very weary.” Waugh’s weariness became a Weltschmerz, its literary expression his obituaries of Christian civilization, Brideshead Revisited and the Sword of Honour trilogy. In a Life article of 1946 [“Fan-Fare”, EAR, p. 300] Waugh deployed a telling adjective for the war: “preposterous.” The reality of what came after (posterus) had mocked the ideals that had come before (prae). In 1939, Guy Crouchback, Sword of Honour’s protagonist, has eight years of “shame and loneliness” in self-exile at his family’s castello at Santa Dulcina delle Rocce, near Genoa. He has no heir, and his marriage has failed.

Green goes on to describe Guy Crouchback’s war and compare it to that of Waugh. This starts with Guy’s welcoming the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact so that he can now fight against what he sees as both the world’s principal evils. This section ends with Guy’s final expression of disillusionment when he parts with Mme Kanyi in Yugoslavia. What is omitted is the beginning of that disillusion when the Nazis break their pact by attacking the Soviet Union, leaving Guy and the British fighting alongside half of the evil forces he at first opposed. This occurs at the end of Officers and Gentlemen after what he sees as his own army’s disgrace in the Battle of Crete.

It is Green’s description of that battle, as seen by both Guy and Waugh, that takes up the balance of the essay. For the most part these are the same, but Green does note some points where Waugh’s account (recorded in a Memorandum reprinted with his Diaries, pp. 489 ff.) differs from that in the novel. According to Green:

The power of Waugh’s trilogy—and the Memorandum’s apparent corroboration of his tale of cowardice and betrayal—has encouraged historians and literary biographers to see Crouchback’s shame as Waugh’s reality. It is, in the sense that Waugh felt ashamed at the conduct of the British officers on Crete and unmanned and dishonorable for the manner of his escape. But new research by Donat Gallagher, an eminent Wavian, suggests that Waugh misunderstood the nature of his military position in his last hours on Crete, and afterwards too. Gallagher also strongly criticizes the standard account of the battle, Antony Beevor’s Crete: The Battle and the Resistance (1991), as well as Beevor’s literary followers, the Waugh biographers, Martin Stannard among them, who have repeated Beevor’s account of Waugh’s chaotic final night on Crete.

What follows as Green’s conclusion is a much abbreviated version of Prof Gallagher’s carefully researched account of the events. This was published as In the Picture (2014).

Posted in Brideshead Revisited, Diaries, Evelyn Waugh, Newspapers, Officers and Gentlemen, Sword of Honour, World War II | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Waugh: A Review and A Profile

In the latest issue of the Australian literary journal Quadrant, Mark McGinness reviews the first volume of Waugh’s collected journalism in v. 26 (Essays, Articles and Reviews 1922-1934) of OUP’s Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh edited by Prof Donat Gallagher. The review is entitled “Evelyn Waugh and the Fourth Estate”. It begins with a brief description of Waugh’s career and explains how his journalism fitted into it. Also noted are Prof Gallagher’s earlier collections. McGinness then samples several selections from the current volume, liberally quoting where that is helpful, from both Prof Gallagher and Waugh. He notes particularly an article from Isis where Waugh encapsulates Hamlet rather brilliantly, then moves on to his two newspaper articles on marriage and conversion to Roman Catholicism. Also noted, inter alia, are reviews of books by Vita Sackville-West, Somerset Maugham, DH Lawrence, Henry Green, Dorothy Sayers and Thomas Hardy. It might have been mentioned that of that list, slightly more than half had been included in Prof Gallagher’s 1983 collection. He does however note helpfully, as I believe so also does Prof Gallagher, that of the 170 entries in this new volume, 110 have never been reprinted. McGinness then surveys the critical response to that earlier collection, quoting grudging respect for Waugh’s journalism by critics such as Julian Barnes, Philip Toynbee and CH Sissons. But then he wisely quotes back Prof Gallagher’s own response, which applies nicely to the present collection as well.

The review concludes with an assessment of OUP’s ambitious undertaking of the Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh:

This resurgence, this tsunami of Waviana, underplayed by its own publicists as “essentially an academic project”, is reminiscent of OUP’s launch in 2004 of The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (the ODNB), the greatest feat in the history of publishing. The best studies, chambers, libraries and dens that already hold the ODNB’s sixty-one volumes of dark blue buckram should now make room over the next few years, for the forty-three tomes, in bottle-green, navy and maroon, by one of the Dictionary’s illustrious entrants, Arthur Evelyn St John Waugh. Such a tribute has been conferred on few–Shakespeare, of course; among more recent writers Oscar Wilde and Edith Wharton. And now this abiding enemy of both the Common Man and the Modern Age. Even committed Wavians may quail at the fulsomeness of it all–five done and thirty-eight to go–but the polish, the production. the quality and scholarship revealed so far deserve universal praise.

McGinness can find nothing to complain about, but then, upon reflection, neither can I. In terms of previous complete works projects, he might have mentioned those devoted to Waugh’s contemporaries DH Lawrence (Cambridge University Press) and George Orwell (Secker & Warburg), but that quibble relates to the review, not to the book itself.

The website of the magazine Anglotopia has posted a copy of a profile of Evelyn Waugh published last year in its print edition. The USA-based magazine and website are designed for people who consider themselves Anglophiles. The profile starts out quite well and goes through the early years in an entertaining, breezy style that conveys much of the detail without bogging down. It misses on a few points. Waugh did not go down from Oxford with a third-class degree. That was the grade he received on his exams but to receive the degree he needed another term in residence. (McGinness may have also got this wrong: “he went down with a low third-class.”). The Anglotopia profile also claims that Waugh was employed by the Shakespeare Head Press where his essay “The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood” was printed. It was, in fact, his friend Alastair Graham who was apprenticed to that firm at the time “PRB” was published. CWEW v.26 (EAR 1922-34), pp. 95-96.

Toward the end of the Anglotopia profile, however, the text becomes more problematic. For example. this is the total content of its description of Waugh’s war career:

With the outbreak of WWII Waugh was anxious to curb the spread of Nazi barbarism, despite his right-wing politics, and he talked his way into the Royal Marines. He proved a poor officer and was demoted from captain to intelligence officer, and in that capacity, he was involved in negotiations in Yugoslavia with General Tito. The war did, however, give him the material for some of his best work, the Sword of Honour trilogy, which was published over the next decade.

There are too many things wrong with that to warrant comment, although it might be noted briefly that Waugh was never himself engaged in negotiations with Marshall Tito. There’s nothing wrong with the concluding sentence.  It may well be the case that space constraints precluded the same depth of analysis for these later years as was devoted to the earlier period.

Posted in Academia, Complete Works, Essays, Articles & Reviews, Newspapers | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Upcoming Lectures: Lancing, Leicester and Langport

Several lectures have been announced that may be of interest to our readers in the UK:

Lancing College has announced this year’s Evelyn Waugh lecturer:

The Evelyn Waugh Lecture was started in 2008 as a means of thanking all members of the Lancing Foundation and the 1848 Society for their loyalty and generosity to the College. …For the 2018 lecture we are delighted to welcome Sir Tim Rice OBE, Second’s 1958-1962, as our guest speaker. The evening [Tuesday, 27 November 2018] will begin with a drinks reception at 6.30pm, followed by the Lecture in Great School at 7.30pm and dinner in the Dining Hall afterwards. Please book your place by 19 November or contact the Foundation Office – (click to email) for further details.

This lecture is not normally open to the public but, in the past, Lancing has offered to consider requests from Evelyn Waugh Society members who identify themselves and request permission to attend.

–The Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society has named Prof Nigel Wood to deliver this year’s Presidential Address. This will take place next Monday, 1 October 2018 at 730pm in the New Walk Museum, Leicester:

Nigel Wood, Professor of Literature at the University of Loughborough will look in detail at some of W B Yeats’ poetry and also a number of Renaissance plays with a view to testing how helpful word searching might turn out to be. Recently, the analysis of texts has had to embrace a new dimension of approach. Machine-readable versions of the books we thought we knew well need alternative methods of “reading”, where the ability to draw up patterns of repeated words and phrases has now attracted our attention. At the press of a button, these new patterns emerge – but what are we to do with them? And how does this modify ideas of authorial intention? Is this a brave new world? Or a subtle nuance of an old one?  Professor Wood is at present editing a volume in the Oxford University Press “Complete Writings of Evelyn Waugh” project, “Put Out More Flags“…

Tickets are not required and admission is free. Details available here.

The Somerset County Gazette has announced that Alexander Waugh will be giving a lecture next week on one of his favorite topics–authorship of Shakespeare’s works. According to Alexander, they were written by the Earl of Oxford:

“William Shakespeare never claimed to be a writer of any sort. And there’s no evidence during his lifetime he had any education. None of his daughters could write. The Earl of Oxford was a member of the nobility. Nobility would never publish a play and try to sell it, as plays were considered the lowest of the low. Shakespeare had a business arrangement with the Globe theatre and may have been an actor. It’s extremely likely Oxford would have been aware of him.”

The talk will be presented at The Seed Factory, Aller (near Langport) on Friday, October 5, at 7.30pm – tickets £15 on the door.

Posted in Academia, Alexander Waugh, Complete Works, Lancing, Lectures, Newspapers, Put Out More Flags | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

William Boyd, Winston Churchill and Evelyn Waugh

Simon Kuper writing in the Financial Times reports an interview with novelist William Boyd. This is on the occasion of publication of Boyd’s latest novel Love is Blind:

Boyd draws a “binary division” between two kinds of novelist: autobiographers, such as Evelyn Waugh, who mine their own lives and societies; and those such as Graham Greene, who find their material elsewhere. Boyd is in the latter camp: “I will sit down and imagine narratives and conjure up a character in my mind. Some may be loosely based on real people but basically it’s an act of invention.”… Boyd can find ideas anywhere, which autobiographical novelists cannot. He says of Philip Roth, who retired from writing at 79: “I think he’d written himself out. He did write a lot of books about Philip Roth, essentially. I think Scott Fitzgerald and Waugh did [the same] as well. Evelyn Waugh said, ‘I’ve got one book left in me and that’s my Sword of Honour trilogy,’ which is effectively what he did in the war. Then he stopped because he was a totally autobiographical writer. The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold came to him because he freaked out and went mad and said, ‘Ah, got a novel there.’ So I can see Philip Roth thinking, ‘I’m going to write another Zuckerman novel.’ ‘You’ve done 12 of them, mate,’ ” and Boyd stifles a pretend yawn.

In a review of Boyd’s new novel, The Economist describes his early books, such as A Good Man in Africa and An Ice-Cream War, as “inspired by Evelyn Waugh.” Boyd notes in the FT interview that he writes his endings first; he doesn’t mention that Waugh did that in the case of both A Handful of Dust (which the FT interviewer says Boyd had found deficient in some respects) and Sword of Honour. In Waugh’s case, he not only wrote the endings first but published them as stories (“The Man Who Liked Dickens” and “Compassion”) before incorporating them into his novels.

In the New Statesman, William Boyd reviews a new book that collects Winston Churchill’s letters to his mother. This is Darling Winston edited by David Lough. Boyd brings Evelyn Waugh into his discussion of the book:

Evelyn Waugh once said of Churchill that he was a man “always in the wrong”. These letters tend to bear that harsh judgement out – he was violently opposed to home rule for Ireland, for example – and one can see how imperial Britain’s might and sway completely shaped his attitude to “abroad”. And his single-mindedness, his sometimes overweening self-belief and conviction, can be seen as stemming from his absurdly entitled background – as the confidential, unguarded tone of these letters makes clear.

On another site promoting yet another book about Churchill (by Ashley Jackson) published a few years ago, that same quote appears at greater length:

Winston Churchill attracted far more criticism alive than he has since his death. He was, according to Evelyn Waugh, ‘always in the wrong, surrounded by crooks, a terrible father, a radio personality’.

The quote is from a letter Waugh wrote to Ann Fleming in January 1965 on the occasion of Churchill’s death (Letters, p. 630). Probably the best analysis of Waugh’s assessment of Churchill appears in an essay by John Howard Wilson collected in Waugh Without End: New Trends in Evelyn Waugh Studies (2005).

Finally, satirist P J O’Rourke writing in the Wall Street Journal chooses Waugh’s novel Black Mischief as one of his five favorite political satires (novels that “skewer the hypocricies of public life”):

The most bitter and excoriating of Waugh’s novels is also his most offensive. In just the first few pages, Waugh offends (by my count) three races, nine ethnicities, 11 religions and two sexual orientations. His language is hurtful, insensitive, privileged and exclusionary. We have progressed since Waugh’s time. All civilized people should condemn him. And being condemned by progress and civilization is what the book is about.

Other titles on the list include Anthony Trollope’s The Warden and Christopher Buckley’s Little Green Men.

Posted in A Handful of Dust, Black Mischief, Evelyn Waugh, Interviews, Letters, Newspapers, Sword of Honour, The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

More from Duncan McLaren

Duncan McLaren has recently added new postings about Waugh and his work to his website. The latest is entitled Men at War (2) and deals with the major portion of that novel that revolves around Guy Crouchback’s (and Waugh’s) early days in the Army. An earlier posting, Men at War (1), describes the very early pages of the novel where Guy is in Italy and returns to Engand at the very beginnng of the war. Those pages also describe Guy’s efforts to be accepted into the Army.

Much of the latest posting tracks the novel’s description of Guy’s military career against that of the author himself. McLaren determines that the very early Army chapters and those at the very end are heavily autobiographical, while those in the middle invovlve a  more fictional story as Apthorpe (a largely fictitious character) takes over the plot from Guy.

As in previous posts based on textual material, McLaren injects information that illustrates his discussions. This include copious photographs (both historic and present day) of the settings described in the novel as well as maps showing the locations (both factual and fictional) where the action takes place. The posting can be read (along with Men at War (1)) as an introduction to the novel or as a chapter by chapter guide to the novel’s action. I would suggest the latter or perhaps a combination of the two.

Another posting was made several weeks ago in the series McLaren has been writing on Waugh’s relationships with other artists. These have so far included Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein and painter, Charles Spencelayh. A fourth entry in this series (actually the third in order of writing and publication) is When Evelyn Met Orwell. An actual meeting did take place in this case, and this forms the focus of McLaren’s discussion.   McLaren in this instance starts with the consideration of the 2008 book by David Lebedoff entitled The Same Man: George Orwell & Evelyn Waugh in Love and War.

But he soon goes off on his own with discussions based on the correspondence between the writers that began after publication of Animal Farm in 1945.  McLaren also uses reviews and articles each of them wrote about the other, including an unfinished essay Orwell was still writing about Waugh when he died. In addition, McLaren also brings in his own imagination to describe meetings between the two writers. In this case an actual meeting did take place when Waugh visited Orwell in a sanitarium in the Cotswolds at Cranham near where Waugh was living at Dursley. Although there was no transcript or other contemporary description of that meeting, McLaren inagines what might have been said. But before that an imaginary meeting takes place where Orwell stops by to find Waugh suffering a temporary writers block. As in other articles, McLaren uses maps and photos to illustrate his points. In this case he could find no photos of Orwell in the sanitarium or hospital but substitutes stills from a David Bowie film. A good idea up to a point but there were perhaps more of these than was called for.

Since both Orwell and Waugh were admirers of PG Wodehouse and his defenders against charges of treason, McLaren also brings him into the story. In addition, he uses an essay by John Howard Wilson, American Waugh scholar and founder of the EWS, in which Wilson argued that Orwell had been influenced by Brideshead Revisited when he wrote parts of 1984. McLaren cleverly weaves that essay into his text. McLaren also draws comparison between Waugh’s description of Guy’s wartime hospital visit to Apthorpe in Men at Arms and his own visit to Orwell in the sanitarium.  The posting concludes with McLaren’s imagining of what the two writers might have discussed when Waugh made his 1949 visit (or visits) to Orwell at Cranham Sanitarium (in one case with his neighbor Frances Donaldson). As with other essays in this series, this one is both entertaining and informative. I am wondering who is next–Betjeman, Graham Greene, Cyril Connolly, Anthony Powell?

Posted in Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh, Evelyn Waugh Society, Men at Arms | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Waugh and Death

In a recent issue of The American Scholar, an article by Sudip Bose notes a connection between Evelyn Waugh and Igor Stravinsky’s Requiem Canticles. This was a late compositon that was played at Stravinsky’s own 1971 funeral in Venice. He is said to have composed it using the 12-tone principles made popular (if that’s the right word) by avant garde musicians such as Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern. He was introduced to these principles by his secretary Robert Craft who had studied under Schoenberg and Webern (or their influence) in Vienna. It was also Craft who introduced Stravinsky to Evelyn Waugh. That meeting took place during Waugh’s 1949 lecture tour of the USA and is described in Craft’s memoirs. It occurred in New York City and both their wives were present. The meeting started awkwardly (especially given Waugh’s dislike of music) but the two artists warmed to each other when Waugh discovered that both Stravinsky and his wife were keen admirers of his writng. It is not, then, so surprising (contrary to suggestions in the article) that when Stravinsky was composing the Requiem Canticles in the mid-1960s, he inserted an obituary of Waugh into a notebook he was keeping at the time:

Was Stravinsky indeed writing the piece as his own requiem, as his wife asserted, or did he have others in mind? While the composer worked, several acquaintances of his died, including Evelyn Waugh, Alberto Giacometti, and Edgard Varèse, and he pasted the various obituary notices into his notebook—an odd thing to do for a composer who did not allow the news of the day to inform his creative process. In his biography, [Stephen] Walsh addresses this contradiction:

“Waugh’s death cannot possibly have affected him in any personal sense, and this fact leaves a slightly uncomfortable feeling that the pasting-in of newspaper cuttings and the inscribing of crucifixes was a self-conscious act, a gesture to the movie cameras of posterity, rather than a spontaneous token of grief. Another, less ungenerous, explanation is that Stravinsky found the detached tone of the printed obituaries useful precisely as a corrective to any tendency to personalize his Requiem setting, particularly in view of his own age and condition. He called them a ‘practical commentary,’ presumably for his own benefit. They might suggest a poet who, before writing an epitaph, visits a graveyard to get himself into the right frame of mind.”

The article is followed by a link to a recording of the Requiem Canticles in a performance conducted by Craft. Waugh would not have enjoyed it.

Waugh himself also wrote about death in his novella The Loved One which is reviewed in an article in a recent issue of the Roman Catholic journal Crisis Magazine. The point of the book is to satirize the attitude toward death represented by the funeral industry in the USA generally and Forest Lawn Memorial Park near Los Angeles in particular. Waugh himself recognized that some might find his satire offensive and urged them not to finsh the book in that event. The reviewer (Sean Fitzpatrick) also notes that the point of the book is to amuse, not offend, but then goes back to Waugh’s warning at least five or six times in the short course of the review (if you include the title itself: “Not for the Squeamish”). In today’s literary environment, it is hard to think that many readers would likely find The Loved One particularly offensive, while its satiric humor has survived into the present day.

Peter Hitchens writing in the Mail on Sunday considers the broad Marxist influence excercized by Soviet officials and home grown leftists in Britain during the postwar years. He includes himself as one of those falling under this influence. He sees its roots in the the war itself where the Soviets were part of the alliance that defeated Nazi Germany. As an example, he offers this:

Evelyn Waugh’s autobiographical trilogy Sword Of Honour makes several mentions of brother officers and influential high officials with Communist sympathies, flourishing in the atmosphere of Stalin-worship which became common in British official circles after Hitler invaded the USSR.

Posted in Evelyn Waugh, Newspapers, Sword of Honour, The Loved One | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Wodehouse Exhibit at British Library

The British Library will host an exhibit entitled P G Wodehouse: The Man and His Work. This will open on 27 November 2018. According to a related posting on the website Plumtopia, the exhibit will include materials from the Wodehouse family’s collection of Wodehousiana, much of which has been on loan to the BL for the past few years while the exhibit was being organized. Some of the items on show may include Waugh’s letters to Wodehouse as well as “a 1961 Christmas gift from Evelyn Waugh inscribed to: ‘The head of my profession.’ “As part of the exhibit, there will be a presentation (“The Wit and Wisdom of P G Wodehouse”) by Tony Ring, founding member of the Wodehouse Society and author of several books on its namesake. This is scheduled for 1915p on 6 December 2018, at the BL. Tickets for this presentation are available here. The exhibit itself is free.

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Weekend Roundup: Brideshead to the Fore

Two bloggers have posted reviews of the new Folio Society edition of Brideshead Revisited (mentioned in a previous post):

–Adam on roofbeamreader.com was sent a review copy and expressed his gratitude accordingly:

I’m drawn in by the incredible cover art and the interior illustrations that The Folio Society are known for, and one  thing I truly appreciate about their editions is the thought and design they put into their sturdy slipcovers. This particular design is one of the more stunning from any Folio Society I’ve seen, which is saying something!…

This new edition from The Folio Society is illustrated with wood-engravings by award-winning artist Harry Brockway. His stylized scenes perfectly evoke Brideshead and its characters’ devil-may-care lives. Brockway also designed the striking binding art – a languid portrait for the front and subtle motifs of swirling cigarette smoke on the back.

In the newly commissioned introduction to this edition, award-winning novelist A. N. Wilson writes of the ache for an aesthetically purer past and how Brideshead represent the idea of a balanced, crafted and ‘above all, enjoyable’ novel.

–On the website entertainment-focus.com Greg Jameson also praises the new edition and nostalgically reviews the story:

This hardback edition from The Folio Society is sumptuously illustrated by Harry Brockway in 1920s Art Deco style woodcuts. The front cover depicts Charles and Sebastian enjoying cigarettes and Chateau Peyraguey, Brideshead nestled in the hills behind them, and there are six further full-page pictures from key moments in the text. It also features an introduction from author and columnist AN Wilson.

Both posts contain well-defined reproductions of the illustrations from this new edition which display a certain hard but Art Decoish charm.

–On the conservative website Semi-Partisan Politics, blogger Samuel Hooper deconstructs an interview by Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post of the singer Bono from the Irish group U2 who is tracked down in Kiev. The subject of the interview and the article is:

the rising backlash against years of technocratic supranational rule which favored delivering a stream of perks and opportunities to urban cognitive elites while leaving the rest of their citizens to face the vagaries of globalization, automation, outsourcing and supranationalism unsupervised, unrepresented and unprotected.

After castigating both Zakaria and Bono for their opposition to the populist political movements that form the core of this backlash, the blogger closes with a quote from Evelyn Waugh:

Fareed Zakaria will no more learn about the origins of and solutions to populism from Bono than he will learn about bioethics from Justin Bieber. That he felt no sense of shame putting his name to this execrable article in the Washington Post leaves me with a feeling of profound frustration and despair. In the words of Evelyn Waugh, “They were too old and they didn’t know and they wouldn’t learn. That’s the truth.”

The quote is from Brideshead Revisitd in the scene where Charles Ryder’s scout, Lunt, is referring to the soldiers who flocked into Oxford after WWI and destroyed traditions such as Eights Week which is at that moment being rather riotously celebrated in the quad of Charles’ college. (Revised Edition, 1960, p. 30).

–In an op-ed column in the New York Times (“A Nuclear Bomb inside the Vatican”), Jennifer Finney Boylan is reminded of Waugh during a trip to Italy with her wife:

We were in Italy to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary — 12 years as husband and wife and, after my coming out as trans in 2000, 18 as wife and wife. Over the course of two weeks, we had hiked the Cinque Terre, taken a boat to Portofino and swum in the Mediterranean off a crag in the harbor of Santa Margherita Ligure. Each day was a precious gift. I often thought of Evelyn Waugh’s description of two other lovers lost in Italy: “The fortnight in Venice passed quickly and sweetly — perhaps too sweetly; I was drowning in honey, stingless.”

The quote is from Brideshead Revisited (1960, p. 114). The article concludes in the Vatican Museum where Boylan is annoyed by being required to buy a scarf to cover her arms.

Penguin Books has conducted a poll of its readers to see which books on its current list are their favorites. How the survey was conducted is not explained, although the fact that the comments posted in support of reader choices come from Twitter and Facebook provides a clue. Two of Waugh’s novels make Penguin’s top 100 must-read list: Brideshead Revisited and Scoop.

–The Brideshead days, although not the novel itself, are evoked on the books blog, The Captive Reader, where the memoir entitled The Pebbled Shore by Elizabeth Longford is described. The reviewer came to Longford’s memoir while reading the memoirs of one of her daughters, Antonia Fraser. Longford is described as

“the Zuleika Dobson of her day, with undergraduates and even dons tumbling over one another to fall in love with her”, and it is not hard to imagine that her fresh good looks, intelligence, and enthusiasm for life would have been an irresistible combination.

Waugh knew both Elizabeth and her husband, then Frank Pakenham (who later unexpectedly inherited as the Earl of Longford), at Oxford. When they married…

Evelyn Waugh, catty and snobbish as usual, referred to them the next year as the “poor Frank Pakenham who married beneath him and the Hon. Mrs P who married above herself” but the couple, like all sensible people, ignored him.  Waugh would view them much more positively decades later once they had both converted to his beloved Catholicism.

The quote is from a gossipy 1932 letter Waugh wrote to Dorothy Lygon (Letters, 62)

Posted in Brideshead Revisited, Catholicism, Evelyn Waugh, Letters, Newspapers, Oxford, Scoop | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Decline and Fall on Public TV

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

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