Inez Holden Book Launch

The book launch for the reissue of two of Inez Holden’s short books about WWII (published together as Blitz Writing) is being held on Friday, 31 May, 1800-2000. This is at a bookshop in London called The Second Shelf, 14 Smith’s Court W1 (just north of Piccadilly Circus). These books were not reviewed by Waugh but they contain descriptions of wartime London in the blitz that are reminiscent of those in Waugh’s fiction, diaries and letters. Waugh and Holden met when they were apprentice reporters on the Daily Express and she is frequently mentioned in his diaries for that period. Ticketing is required but a copy of the book can come with the price of a ticket. Details are available at this link.

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News from Stinchcombe

Following his appearance earlier this month at the Chipping Campden Literature Festival, Duncan McLaren paid a visit to nearby Piers Court. This his first visit since the two he made in the mid 2000s when he was researching his book Evelyn! Rhapsody for an obsessive love. Ownership has recently changed and he was lucky enough to arrive unannounced and find the new owner at home:

After five minutes a woman, smartly dressed in black, approaches, smiling a welcome. She is Helen Lawton, the new owner of Piers Court. In recent weeks she has been very excited to learn about the Evelyn Waugh associations of her new home. By coincidence, she knows Septimus Waugh, Evelyn’s son, and there is a plan to bring Septimus’s old nanny down from Northumberland to the house for a day. This is an ambitious plan, as the former nanny is in her nineties, but Helen also knows Alexander Waugh, Evelyn’s grandson, and has other plans to bring Evelyn Waugh activities to the house.

For now she is entertaining (drinking ‘bubbles’ before a late lunch) so can’t give us a tour round the house. However, she can give us a quick look round the garden in order that I can get the shots I want. Which is very good of her.

That is all very encouraging news. Duncan was also accompanied by a friend who is an accomplished photographer, and his new posting is illustrated with exteriors of the house and gardens showing them still in pretty good nick.

A travel blogger recently posted a guide to visiting  Stinchcombe, the village in which Piers Court is situated. This is by Sophie Nadeau on her website SoloSophie and opens with this:

The tiny community of under 500 residents is home to just one church, a drinking fountain, and the buttery stone houses that are so synonymous with this region of the English countryside. Once upon a time, the village would have also have had a village shop and post office, though these closed in 1956.

Before planning a visit, just be clear that this is the kind of pretty Cotswold village you simply stop through en route to somewhere else, as there is little by way of attractions to see once there! Luckily, gems such as Berkeley Castle and the Jensen Museum are less than a ten-minute drive away.

It continues with a brief description of Piers Court and Waugh’s residence there as well as the village Church of St Cyr and the view from Stinchcombe Hill (its best known tourist attraction).  There are several photos of the church and cottages but, alas, none of the hilltop view. She earns high marks for correctly identifying the novels that Waugh wrote while living at Piers Court. She avoids the common error of including Brideshead Revisited as well as Put Out More Flags but could have listed Helena and  The Loved One. Nor does she mention that Waugh and his friends nick-named the village “Stinkers”.

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Memorial Day/Late-May Bank Holiday Roundup

–In a recent two-part article on the non-denominational religious website, the morality of the nuclear bombing of Japan is reconsidered. The article is made up of a collection of the views expressed on the moral and religious issues arising over the years since 1945. Which texts are contributed by the author (Dave Armstrong) and which by other writers is not always obvious. Waugh’s contribution comes via a comment in Part II on Ronald Knox’s book God and the Atom (1945):

After the two cities were destroyed, Knox was about to propose a public declaration that the weapon would not be used again, when he heard the news of the Japanese surrender. Instead he sat down and wrote God and the Atom, an astonishing book, neglected at the time and since, but as important for sceptics as for Christians.

An outrage had been committed in human and divine terms, Knox thought. Hiroshima was an assault on faith, because the splitting of the atom itself meant “an indeterminate element in the heart of things”; on hope, because “the possibilities of evil are increased by an increase in the possibilities of destruction”; and on charity, because – this answers those who still defend the bombing of Hiroshima – “men fighting for a good case have taken, at one particular moment of decision, the easier, not the nobler path”. […]

. . . as Evelyn Waugh put it when writing about Knox’s book in 1948: “To the practical warrior the atom bomb presented no particular moral or spiritual problem. We were engaged in destroying the enemy, civilians and combatants alike. We always assumed that destruction was roughly proportionate to the labour and material expended. Whether it was more convenient to destroy a city with one bomb or a hundred thousand depended on the relative costs of production.”

Waugh’s comment is an extract from a much longer discussion about the meaning and implications of Knox’s book. These were written in the context of a longer essay by Waugh profiling Knox’s career as a writer. This was published in the May 1948 issue of the magazine Horizon and is reprinted in EAR. p. 347. Waugh revisited Knox’s book and its legacy a decade later in his biography of Knox where he remarks that the book “fell flat” and was another of Knox’s “failures” because it appeared “out of time… a moral and philosophical tract offered to a public obsessed by practical politics.” Ronald Knox (2011, p. 403)

–The British papers are full of reviews and stories about reviews that trash the recent book by Jacob Rees-Mogg, The Victorians: Twelve Titans Who Forged Britain. This one by Craig Brown in the Daily Mail considers previous classics of the “bad review” genre:

There is something about a bad review, beautifully written, that makes all but the kindest heart soar. The MP’s first book has received one of the most whole-hearted critical shreddings of recent years. A personal favourite is this, by Evelyn Waugh, on the poet Stephen Spender: ‘To see him fumbling with our rich and delicate language is to experience all the horror of seeing a Sevres vase in the hands of a chimpanzee.’

–Scottish novelist Alexander McCall Smith is interviewed in the HeraldScotland (formerly Glasgow Herald) newspaper:

Q. Book you wish you’d written?

A. I have long admired Evelyn Waugh’s trilogy about the Second World War, the Sword of Honour novels. Guy Crouchback is a wonderfully sympathetic character and there is an extraordinary, grave beauty to Waugh’s writing in these books. I would have liked to have written them. I would also like to have written Nadine Gordimer’s magnificent novel, The Conservationist.

McCall Smith’s latest novels are The Second Worst Restaurant in France and The Department of Sensitive Crimes.

–The Daily Mail in an interview of novelist Louise Candlish recently asked what novel she would take to a desert island:

Decline And Fall by Evelyn Waugh, because I would laugh and laugh. I’d take comfort in Waugh’s perfect portrait of human fallibility and pretension, seeing myself as a Paul Pennyfeather figure, hapless and abandoned.

Her latest novel Those People will be published on 27 June.

–David Platzer has reviewed the collection of Auberon Waugh’s journalism A Scribbler in Soho. The review appears in the current issue of The New Criterion and is behind a paywall but opens with this:

The true spirit of England has always been incurably flippant,” wrote Auberon Waugh in January 1992 in “From the Pulpit,” his monthly foreword to Literary Review, the magazine he edited from 1986 until his death in January 2001. No one better embodied that flippant spirit than Waugh, known to his many friends as Bron. Blessed with a playfully ferocious sense of mischief, colored with an irrepressible element of fantasy and a deft and elegant pen, reminiscent of his father, Evelyn Waugh, Bron was the most entertaining journalist of recent times, incapable of writing a dull sentence. He could be vicious not only to deserving targets like Edward “Grocer” Heath and the disgraced Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, but also to his father’s friend Anthony Powell, or to Lord Gowrie, whom he said had stolen his girlfriend at Oxford.

–In the Sunday Times, columnist Camilla Long describes what she might rename the Cannes Misogyny Festival mostly in terms of a disappointing appearance by Quentin Tarantino. She then takes up the popular children’s book “The Tiger Who Came to Tea” whose author Judith Kerr died this week:

“Much as I like the randomness of The Tiger Who Came To Tea,” sniffed a former colleague on social media, “I am not a big fan of reading it to my daughter. Helpless housewife frets about answering door then gets in a flap about lack of dinner before Daddy saves day with ‘genius’ idea of going to cafe.”

Now it’s true the book has paternalistic themes. Every time I read it to my daughter I think Sophie’s mother is a drip and Daddy’s a smug git. But if you applied current thinking to past books, you’d have nothing left to read.

Jane Austen would be out, for obsessing about marriage. You couldn’t touch Evelyn Waugh for fear of glamorising people who went to Eton. Name me a significant Victorian male novelist who isn’t a raging misogynist. And children’s books — let’s just say they don’t bear thinking about.

I’m not sure how to take the point about Waugh’s “glamorising” Old Etonians in the context of an article directed against misogyny and regretting the apparent end of the #MeToo movement, but if one conducts an Old Etonian census of Waugh’s most popular work Brideshead Revisited, there are 3 OE’s of Charles Ryder’s generation who appear as fairly important characters: one (Sebastian) is glamorised to begin with but ends up an alcoholic and the other two (Anthony Blanche and Boy Mulcaster) are satirized to the point of ridicule in some instances. There are also the three unnamed OE’s who are the other guests at Sebastian’s luncheon party in Christ Church: “mild, detached. elegant young men who […] noticed Sebastian and then myself with a polite lack of curiosity which seemed to say ‘We should not dream of being so offensive as to suggest you never met us before.'” (1960, pp. 40-41).

–Finally, the University of Warwick has included one of Waugh’s most neglected books on a required reading list. This is for the course “EN378.Disasters and the British Contemporary” offered by the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies. The course is divided into 5 sections and the required reading for section one is:

John Wyndham, The Day of the Triffids (1951)
Evelyn Waugh, Love Among the Ruins (1953)
Michael Young, The Rise of the Meritocracy (1957)
L.P. Hartley, Facial Justice (1960)

Here’s the course description:

This module looks at stories of disaster arising from the United Kingdom since the era of high consensus (the mid-1950s), and asks how the catastrophic imagination speaks to present concerns in each era. The ‘Contemporary’ in the title means a consideration of ‘present-ness’ in different eras, rather than meaning recent as a category of books or a literary period (as in ‘Brick Lane is an example of contemporary writing’). It asks how the British political situation of the time projects futures, and thinking more generally about the reading of disasters and dystopias. It touches on social history, politics, ideas of utopia and dystopia, and the constitution, but no prior knowledge of these subjects is needed.


Posted in Academia, Auberon Waugh, Decline and Fall, Love Among The Ruins, Newspapers, Ronald Knox, Sword of Honour | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Abyssinian War: Hospital Bombardment (More)

Reader Dave Lull has accessed a full copy of the State Crime Journal’s article “Between Sovereignty and Race: The Bombardment of Hospitals in the Italo-Ethiopian War and the Colonial Imprint of International Law” mentioned in a recent post. (Thanks to Dave for providing a link.) In fact the authors were not referring to Waugh’s discussion of the alleged Italian bombing of the hospital in Adowa (as assumed in the posting), but rather to an incident that took place at Dessye. As explained in the article :

Notwithstanding Italy’s use of mustard gas and the widespread bombardment of civilian sites, various foreign journalists, like the renowned novelist-turned war correspondent Evelyn Waugh, blamed Ethiopia for abusing the [Red Cross] emblem (Salwen 2001). In his memoirs, Waugh, who covered the Italian-Ethiopian war for the London-based Daily Mail, described the first Italian bombardments of an Ethiopian hospital in Dessye. Close to the town’s main hospital, he wrote, there was a Coptic church building above which “a Red Cross [was flying . . . while an Ethiopian] anti-aircraft gun was mounted on the balcony” (Waugh in Abyssinia,1936: 204). He went on to raise doubts about the way in which the Ethiopians had gathered the testimonies they had sent to the League of Nations, depicting the local population as both primitive and as deploying complex methods of perfidy: “Tricking the European was a national craft . . . Tricking the paid foreign advisors, tricking the legations, tricking the visiting international committees – these were the ways by which Abyssinia had survived and prospered” (Waugh in Abyssinia, 1936: 27). Several Italian newspapers readily adopted Waugh’s claims, publishing articles about “the Red Cross pseudo medical units” and about “what hides in Ethiopia behind the inviolable Red Cross”.

Waugh also described the situation at Dessye in a report attached by the Italian Government to its note to the League of Nations on 28 February 1936. Reprinted in EAR, p. 185:

I was in Dessye at the end of November [1935]. There were two properly constituted hospitals there: A French mission outside of the town which was untouched by the subsequent bombardment, and the Adventist mission in, but at the extremity of, the town, where a ward was destroyed by fire. This lay next to the former Italian Consulate where a detachment of the Imperial Guards was stationed with two pieces of artillery and some anti-aircraft machine guns mounted on lorries. A third building in the city flew the red cross; this was the Governor’s private residence (not the Crown Prince’s ghebbi). Two anti-aircraft guns were mounted on the verandah. An Irish transport officer quartered in this house, working for the Red Cross, protested about the presence of the guns and there was some talk of moving them. Whether it had been done before the attack on 6 December I cannot say.

The recent article in State Crime Journal goes on to describe in some detail wide-spread exaggeration in the Italian press of the Ethiopian practice of hiding behind Red Cross emblems to escape bombardment. It may well be the case that Italian newspaper reports used information from Waugh’s stories out of context to take advantage of his stature among the press corps covering the story. But whether Waugh consciously misreported or covered up Italian attacks against bona fide Red Cross facilities is not evident from the material discussed in the article.  The note in the article to the source “Salwen 2001” refers to M B Salwen, “Evelyn Waugh in Ethiopia: The Novelist as War Correspondent and Journalism Critic”,  Journalism Studies, v.2, pp. 5-25 (2001).  It may shed more light on Waugh’s coverage of the hospital bombardment issue but is unavailable from sources to which I have access.

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Queen Victoria @ 200

On Queen Victoria’s 200th birthday we should recall that Evelyn Waugh was a keen admirer of all things Victorian, if not necessarily the Queen herself. He wrote several articles dedicated to Victoriana at a time when it was not a popular taste. Another writer who shared the admiration for things Victorian was Waugh’s friend John Betjeman. The ear trumpet Waugh sported in his later years is probably the most memorable of his Victorian acquisitions. But the closest he ever got to the Queen herself may have been the 1927 party where he accompanied his Oxford friend Robert Byron who was dressed as Her Majesty (Diaries, p. 282). Anyone familiar with photographs of Byron will recognize an uncanny facial resemblance to Victoria.

There is at least one Waugh family connection to Queen Victoria. A paternal uncle, George Waugh, according to Michael Brennan “rose in the commercial world to become pharmacist to Queen Victoria.” Indeed, according to Alexander Waugh in Fathers and Sons, it was George, in partnership with his brother James Hay Waugh (Evelyn’s Great Grandfather), who successfully relieved the Queen of her gas pains. As owners of the Regent Street chemists, Waugh & Co., they invented Waugh’s Family Antibilious Pills, a mixture of cayenne pepper in soluble crystals.

Mark McGinness, writing in the Australian literary journal Quadrant comes up with another less direct connection. McGinness is mainly interested in discussing how Victoria manifested her concern for Australia through her colonial appointments, although she never made a visit there herself. One of his discussions implicates Evelyn Waugh:

Michael Davie, onetime editor of The Age and of Evelyn Waugh’s engrossing and revealing diaries, gives a lively account in his book, Anglo-Australian Attitudes (Secker & Warburg, 2000of a particularly fascinating viceroy, William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp. At the astonishing age of 29 he was appointed Governor of New South Wales. Eventually, despite being the father of seven and leader of the Liberal Party in the Lords, he was undone by his fondness for his valet and fled to the Continent in disgrace, becoming Waugh’s inspiration for Lord Marchmain. Well-born, rich and an exemplar of correct form (as a father he would address his own children as Lord Elmley, Lady Lettice, Lady Sybil), he seemed to the Colonial Secretary, that wily old imperialist Joseph Chamberlain, to possess the right stuff…

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Waugh Walk and Beaton Exhibit

The Bodleian Library in Oxford has announced a Psychogeographic Writing/Walking tour around Oxford. This will take place on Saturday, 1 June at 1000a-1300p starting from the Weston Library on Broad Street. Here’s the description:

Join poet, writer and academic R.M.Francis for this one-off Psychogeographic writing workshop and walking tour. Rob will introduce writers, both novice and established, to new creative ways of approaching space and place, on an Evelyn Waugh inspired walk of Oxford, taking in some of the significant sites to Waugh’s experiences and writings of Oxford. At each location, the group will take a writing mini-retreat and get the chance to explore cutting-edge ways of writing from place.

The session will start with a brief introduction to the key ideas Rob’s introducing. The group will the then stroll through the streets of Waugh’s Oxford, using his life and work as inspiration for new creative endeavour.

Booking is required. For details click here.

In London, the National Portrait Gallery has announced a major exhibit of the works of Waugh’s contemporary, photographer Cecil Beaton. As explained in the Guardian, the exhibit:

…will tell the stories of a dazzling cast of often beautiful and extravagant bohemians who partied their way through the 1920s and 30s. The show’s curator, Robin Muir, said he hoped to “bring to life a deliriously eccentric, glamorous and creative era” of British cultural life, one that combined “high society and the avant garde, artists and writers, socialites and partygoers, all set against the rhythms of the jazz age”. About 150 works will go on show, some of which have rarely been exhibited.[…]

The sitters include the sulky and eccentric Stephen Tennant, the brightest of the Bright Young Things, who had a four-year affair with the poet Siegfried Sassoon and whose aim in life was to do as little as possible. He helped inspire the fictional characters Sebastian Flyte in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and Cedric Hampton in Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate. There will also be portraits of the artist Rex Whistler, the composer William Walton, the stage designer Oliver Messel, the poet Iris Tree and the Anglophile actors Tallulah Bankhead and Anna May Wong.

Beaton’s own life and relationship with the circle will also be explored, showing his transformation from middle-class suburban schoolboy to glittering society figure and Vogue magazine mainstay.

The Evening Standard has also profiled the exhibit, explaining that Beaton’s photos:

…inspired Evelyn’s Waugh’s 1930 best-seller Vile Bodies which was later filmed by Stephen Fry as Bright Young Things with a cast including James McAvoy, Michael Sheen and Emily Mortimer.[…] Gallery director Dr Nicholas Cullinan said the major new exhibition, which he described as “high on art and artifice”, captured the “original and creative world of the Bright Young Things”.

The exhibit, which is entitled Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things, will be at the National Portrait Gallery from 12 March until 7 June  2020.


Posted in Academia, Art, Photography & Sculpture, Brideshead Revisited, Events, London, Newspapers, Oxford, Vile Bodies | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Waugh and

An article on Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited has recently appeared on a website called This is by Dr Joanna Bratten and is entitled “From Arcadia to Ascesis: the necessary loss of pleasure in Brideshead Revisited”. Dr Bratten also presented a paper entitled “So Much for Infidelity: Evelyn Waugh, A P Herbert and the Hotel Bill Divorce” at the 2015 Evelyn Waugh Conference at the University of Leicester. She is currently head of the English department at St Paul’s School for Girls in Hammersmith, London W6. Here is the introduction to her article:

Charles Ryder claims that his ‘theme’, and therefore the theme of the novel he is narrating, ‘is memory’ (291). I would like to propose that Waugh’s theme is not, in fact, memory but rather the redemption that comes from sacrifice and loss. In the Epilogue, Charles describes himself to Hooper, with only a tiny dollop of irony, as being ‘child-less, home-less, middle-aged, love-less’ (450). This list of negations – loss of family, home, youth, love – neatly summarises what Charles has been stripped of throughout the novel. He loses everything – and is at fault himself for many of these losses. His love of art appears to have died; he never loved his wife or his child (children, if Caroline’s patronymic is to be trusted) so has lost them; his love of Sebastian is soured by bitter regret and fades to something that seems to exist only in a past tense; his love of Julia, questionable from the start, is ultimately sacrificed on the altar of her conscience; even the pleasures of eating and drinking recede – aided, in part, by the privations of wartime. And there is a reason for all of this, rooted entirely in Waugh’s theological vision for the novel: for Charles to be drawn to love of God he must, rather like Job, lose all other loves and pleasures that might distract him from the one love that he’s been led towards all along.

Waugh’s novel – particularly the section titled ‘Et in Arcadia Ego’ – is famous for a kind of gluttonous romantic indulgence, lushly expressed in prose that was, in 1945, both praised and castigated. The New York Times admired the ‘almost romantic sense of wonder’1 that oozes from the writing, whilst Peter Quennell, writing for the Daily Mail, charged his old Oxford friend with ‘the major sin of romantic over-writing’.2 Although the ‘over-writing’ never fully recedes or gives way to a sparser, leaner style, I nevertheless I want to consider the way in which the narrative as a whole distances itself from indulgence and pleasure and moves towards ‘ascesis’ – that is, the state of one who follows an ascetic life, who practises self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons.

The same website has also posted what appears to be the full version of the paper Dr Bratten presented at Leicester retitled: “Barbarians in the Waste Land: Evelyn Waugh and the civil and spiritual repercussions of adultery”. This relates primarily to the novels A Handful of Dust and Brideshead Revisited.

These papers are both available on and may be downloaded at no charge after completing the registration process. It should be noted that this website, despite its name, is not a charitable or stated-funded educational institution providing services to the academic community. Once you register, you will be emailed several notices offering upgrades and premium services available at a fee. The papers posted are not peer reviewed or edited by anyone at There are several other papers on Evelyn Waugh that may be of interest, but since these two were posted by a recognized scholar known to the Waugh Society, they come with some additional credibility. I have read both papers and can attest that they reflect a high level of research and are well-written. Anyone with knowledge of other relevant papers that have been posted on the website or willing to review one or more and comment on them is invited to do so as provided below.

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Abyssinian Roundup

–A new study of the Italo-Ethiopian War examines charges that the Italian side systematically bombed hospitals. This is “Between Sovereignty and Race: The Bombardment of Hospitals in the Italo-Ethiopian War and the Colonial Imprint of International Law” appearing in the current edition of the State Crime Journal (2019, v. 8, issue 1, p. 104). It is written by Nicola Perugini and Neve Gordon. According to the abstract:

Italy’s war crimes during the 1935–1936 invasion of Ethiopia have been broadly documented by different historians of Italian colonialism. However, its systematic bombardment of medical facilities operated by different Red Cross Societies is much less known. Relying on archival materials, we show how the fascist regime presented these attacks as legitimate reprisal; it was, the Italians claimed, the Ethiopian forces who had violated international law, particularly the principle of distinction, when they used medical facilities to hide…

The full text of the article remained unavailable on JSTOR and two other subscription services but, according to a Google search, there is apparently a reference to Waugh’s reporting of the war. My guess would be that this refers to his discussion of the Abyssinian government reports of the bombing of the hospital at Adowa. Waugh conveyed these allegations to the Daily Mail in which they duly appeared (4 October 1935; EAR, p. 183). The Abyssinian government also asserted that a Swedish or American nurse working at the hospital had been killed in the Italian bombardment. These reports made it into the foreign press. Waugh and his chums investigated the incident further and found no hard evidence of such a casualty and considerable evidence to the contrary. Cables soon arrived from home bases imploring: “Require earliest name life story photograph nurse upblown Adowa” to which Waugh & Co replied: “Nurse unupblown.” Waugh in Abyssinia, pp. 158-61. Perhaps the new article has now established that she was indeed upblown. Waugh, however, wrote that when he later visited Adowa, that city “was completely unscarred by the war and apparently thoroughly happy” (p. 250). He is not, however, an entirely reliable source. (See update below.)

–A blogger has read Waugh’s Remote People, which was based on his earlier trip to Abyssinia, and finds some of his conclusions worth reconsidering. This is D. Dalrymple on the weblog Idlings. The post begins by recalling stories of Halie Selassie visiting Disneyland in 1967 and wonders how he reacted to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in Fantasyland with its dizzying ride on spinning teacups. That would have been about 8 years before Selassie’s death in 1975 (2 years after he was deposed) and shortly after Waugh’s in 1966.

The blogger then considers Waugh’s views on colonialism which prominently feature in that book:

By what pass for today’s standards, Waugh is defiantly unwoke. He makes no apologies. Along with his maleness and whiteness, that makes him a part of The Problem. I suppose I am too. History is full of appalling violence and the destruction of one group by another in endless rounds. But like Waugh, I consider it a misreading of human nature to hope for better, or to imagine that sin is the province of any one race or people. Waugh writes:

“There is one general principle which we may accept; that the whole of history, from the earliest times until today, has been determined by the movements of peoples about the earth’s surface; migratory tribes settled and adapted their cultures to new conditions; conquest, colonisation, commercial penetration, religious proselytizing, topographical changes, land becoming worked out, pastures disappearing, harbours silting up – have preserved a constant fluidity of population.”

He continues:

“It is useless to pretend that, suddenly, at the beginning of the Boer War, the foundation of the Third International, or at this or that time in recent history, the piano stopped and the musical chairs were over, the lava stream cooled and congealed, and the whole process was at an end, for no other reason than that the enlightened people of Northern Europe – having lost their belief in revealed religion and falling back helplessly for moral guidance on their own tender feelings – have decided that it is Wrong.”

Dalrymple concludes that, nothwithstanding the general weight of opinion, Waugh got it about right. Thanks to Dave Lull for sending this link.

–Another blogger ( on a perambulation around London ran across a memorial fountain next to St James’s, Piccadilly and wondered if it might have some connection to a character in Scoop. This is dedicated to:

Julius Salter Elias [who] rose from humble origins to be a newspaper proprietor and Labour politician. He was created Viscount Southwood and when he died in 1946 the title died with him. His ashes are buried beside the elegant fountain in the garden beside St James’s Piccadilly…

Seems a bit of a stretch.

–In another allusion to Scoop, the Spectator reposts a 2004 profile about Conrad Black on the occasion of his being pardoned by Donald Trump:

Black became the kind of newspaper proprietor whom Evelyn Waugh’s Lord Copper would have respected as a social and business equal. He had an undeniable physical presence, with hairy knuckles and paddle-like hands which he would use expressively. Conrad Black was always fond of the sound of his own voice, and with good reason: he often had interesting things to say.

I don’t think Waugh ever suggests that Lord Copper had his hand in the till but probably wouldn’t have put it past him. On the latest episode of BBC’s Have I Got News for You, panelist Ian Hislop wondered whether being pardoned by Donald Trump wasn’t the equivalent of being found guilty of the charge?

UPDATE (25 May 2019): A reader has sent a link to the full text of the academic journal article referred to in the post. In fact, it does not mention Waugh’s reporting about the bombing of the Adowa hospital but rather one at Dessye. This is discussed in a subsequent post.




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William Boyd’s A to Z of Evelyn Waugh

Lancing College has posted a report of the talk at the college’s annual Evelyn Waugh Lecture given last month by novelist William Boyd. Here’s Lancing’s description of the event:

William Boyd, the master story teller, novelist and screenwriter delighted his Lancing audience with a revealing A-Z presentation on Evelyn Waugh. William told us that the idea for this approach was prompted by a conversation with [OL] David Hare, Field’s 1960-1964 and it worked to great effect. We were led skilfully through a wealth of knowledge about the subject, which began at the age of 14 and has become, as William admits, a ‘life-long obsession’. ‘C’ stood for comedy and we discovered that William thought this was Waugh’s true literary legacy, ‘E’ was naturally for Evelyn but actually it was Evelyn Gardner, Waugh’s first wife, known as ‘She-Evelyn’, ‘O’ was for Oxford, of course, where William lived, studied and taught for 8 years during which time the TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited was screened and ‘X’ was for X-rated because Waugh didn’t write very much about sex.

There is also a photo gallery of the lecture and related events.

The text of the talk is also linked and is available here. Many of Boyd’s points are familiar, but there are several mentioned for what may be the first time. For example, Boyd says (at V is for Vile Bodies) that, because of Waugh’s depression following the break up of his first marriage, he had difficulty writing and plagiarized parts of Vile Bodies from William Gerhardie’s Jazz and Jasper (1928). He is considering developing his argument in detail but makes no promises.  As the scriptwriter of the C4 series Sword of Honour, he was also responsible for securing the role of Guy Crouchback for Daniel Craig (in his pre 007 days) and explains what a difference that made to the drama (S is for Scoop and Sword of Honour). He also offers some interesting insights (I is for Ian) about Waugh’s friendship (or lack thereof) with Ian Fleming and mentions “an amicable literary-academic spat” he had based on a letter Waugh wrote to Fleming’s wife Ann about Waugh’s participation in the withdrawal from Crete (L is for Laycock). Boyd’s exchange was with

one of Waugh’s editors [who] profoundly disagreed [with Boyd]. Articles were written and we had a to and fro of forensic letters each advancing the other side of the argument. We eventually stopped, honours-even. But I still think Waugh’s over-the-top false outrage expressed to Ann Fleming is the great giveaway. There is more evidence in his journals. Waugh was both profoundly ashamed that he’d slipped away from Crete and too honest a writer not to deal with the issue some way in his fiction.

The editor was Prof Donat Gallagher who differs from Boyd on his interpretation of Waugh’s actions during the Crete withdrawal as well as he does from several other aspects of Waugh’s military career as presented by Boyd. Here is Prof Gallagher’s response on the Crete matter:

Professor Gallagher is grateful to William Boyd for the courteous way in which he recalls their encounter and fully understands how his argument arises. On the other hand he strongly disagrees with the argument. Of course Waugh was ‘profoundly ashamed’, but it was for ‘running away,’ or more politely  surrendering, not for having acted dishonourably or for flouting orders to remain. Having read the entire NZ war historian’s archive, which embraces British and Australian records, he is conscious that ‘shame’ was the signature word written and spoken by countless common soldiers and realistic officers after Crete. It is pure fantasy to suggest that Laycock and Waugh slipped off early and contrary to orders.  Every piece of evidence shows that they were on the beach to the end and were among the last to be taken on board a warship.

Boyd clearly knows his Waugh and says he’s read everything he published. He also told Lancing that he planned to post a recording of the lecture on a podcast. If so, he may want to check at least one assertion under the letter Z is for Zeller. There he states that: “Dom Hubert van Zeller, a Catholic priest, was Ronald Knox’s confessor. Ronald Knox was the priest who had instructed Waugh when he was being received into the Catholic church.” The first part of that statement is true, but Waugh was instructed for his conversion by Fr Martin D’Arcy, not Knox. Diaries, pp. 320 ff. He was received into the church by D’Arcy on 29 September 1930.

UPDATE (18 May 2019): Professor Gallagher has kindly pointed out that William Boyd did not describe their exchange over Crete as a “row”. The posting is corrected with Boyd’s exact words, and Professor Gallagher’s response is inserted in the text.

Posted in Catholicism, Lancing, Lectures, Sword of Honour, Vile Bodies, World War II | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Scoop in Chipping Campden

Duncan McLaren has posted a report of his presentation on Waugh’s Scoop at last week’s literary festival in Chipping Campden. His talk took the lively audience through the novel with Waugh at their sides. It was supported with numerous relevant illustrations most of which are visible in Duncan’s report. As a bonus, Duncan provided insights into his own workspace, illustrated with photos of his writing shed and references to its neighboring hedgehog. Also mentioned at the festival was the expectation that there will be no new volumes of the Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh until next year when we can expect to see 6.  Here’s a link.

Scoop also features in a report posted in the weblog American Thinker by Taylor Lewis. This relates to an article in the New Republic in which a freelance journalist recites the difficulties facing his profession. According to Taylor, the journalist reflects the profession’s

contrived sense of importance, and the import of journalism, [that] gets in the way of his contentment.  The whole mewling missive is reminiscent of Corker, the journalist in Evelyn Waugh’s classic Scoop, who questions the value of hardworking hacks among the public.  “I ask myself are we known, loved and trusted and the answer comes back, ‘No, Corker, you are not.'”

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