New Year’s Roundup

–On his weblog Anecdotal Evidence, Patrick Kurp has a posting that quotes and summarizes Waugh’s New Year’s article for Harper’s Bazaar, dated 9 January 1934. Here’s an excerpt:

[…] Waugh shifts between the personal and national. He had spent the first four months of 1933 in South America. On his return to England he detects “a vastly more agreeable spirit.” He observes that “everyone seemed younger and more frivolous; there had been a stimulating reshuffle of wives, friends and husbands.” […] The unemployment rate in the U.S. peaked at 25.2 percent. Evidence of sanity appeared late in the year when Prohibition was repealed and a U.S. federal judge ruled that Ulysses was not obscene. Waugh writes:

“It is less cheerful to look back on the past year in search of any interesting achievement in painting or writing. . . . Except for Mr Anthony Powell, whose From a View to Death delighted me, I cannot name any novelist who seems really worth watching.”

Waugh saw King Kong, which he describes as the “most ambitious film, technically, of the year,” but dismisses as “contemptible as a dramatic work.” […]

In an earlier post, Patrick observed his pleasure when cruising around Houston through streets with names having literary associations:

Sunday morning, while driving my youngest son to a friend’s house, we passed through the grid of streets named for poets – Shakespeare, Swift, Addison, Goldsmith, Chaucer, Dryden, Wordsworth, Lanier. The neighborhood is just to the west of Rice University, which may account for the high-toned allusions. A little further north and west is Auden Street and to the northeast, Waugh Drive and Hawthorne and Kipling streets.

Waugh Drive is, alas, not named for the novelist but for a WWI veteran from Houston (see previous post), but it doesn’t really matter. The surname itself is sufficient to create an allusion to anyone bearing the same name as the street.

–The Italian language online religious newspaper Radio Spada has an article profiling the life and works of Ronald Knox. It is written by Luca Fumagalli who proclaims Knox to be the 20th Century Newman. He provides a summary of Knox’s early life and conversion to Roman Catholicism as well as a brief description of several of his works and his clerical career after his conversion. He says that only a couple (“un paio”, literally a pair) of his books have been translated into Italian. That may be a bit understated, as I found 8-10 on WorldCat.

Fumagalli may rely on Waugh’s biography of Knox for much of his research, although the book has not apparently been translated into Italian. He quotes it at least once:

Evelyn Waugh, author of the first biography of the monsignor, The Life of Right Reverend Ronald Knox (1959) comments: “He became a Catholic in contrast with his tastes and human sympathies, obeying his reason and what he recognized as the will of God. ” [This is retranslated from the Italian. There is no page cite.]

The article concludes its discussion of Knox’s career with this:

Without a doubt, Knox’s most brilliant undertaking was the “Knox Bible”, or the translation into modern English of the vulgate, a long and laborious work – especially if entrusted to one person – that Knox was able to complete despite numerous differences of opinion with the same bishops who commissioned it. The New Testament was born in 1945, while the Old Testament had to wait until 1949. […]

With the disappearance of Ronald Knox, whose talent was perhaps never fully understood and valued by his superiors, the last great phase of that revival of English Catholicism that had started more than a century before, at the time of Newman’s conversion and ended [with?] the restoration of the “papist” hierarchy in the country. Only a few friends would survive him, including Waugh, unfortunately destined to witness the inexorable collapse of the Church, a phase of decline that would have had its symbolic beginning only a few years after the death of the monsignor with the opening of Vatican Council II .

The translation is by Google with a few edits.

–The Oxford journal Cherwell includes a Waugh novel among its list of recommended politically inspired readings for 2020:

3.  Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh (1928)

Waugh wrote in the preface to the novel: “Please bear in mind throughout that IT IS MEANT TO BE FUNNY.” Set in the 1920s, the novel caricatures various elements of British society at the time: Oxford and its ‘Bollinger’ Club (no prizes for guessing that one), the public school system, the aristocracy – Waugh manages to satirically critique the society he grew up in, with little moralistic superiority.

Others on the list include Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities and Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections.

 

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Castle Howard on Channel 4

The UK’s Channel 4 has rebroadcast the episode of Phil Spencer’s Stately Homes that covers the visit to Castle Howard. This was first broadcast as the second episode of the program’s first series on 16 August 2016. Spencer makes only a passing reference to the use of the estate as a setting for the film versions of Brideshead Revisited (and in that brief segment refers only to one) but does provide some interesting  information about the history of the house.

Spencer interviews the present owner Nick Howard for background and accompanies him on visits to outbuildings, such as the Temple of the Four Winds, the pyramid and the mausoleum, not generally open to the public. He also interviews conservation architect Liz Smith who says that the house was the first baroque structure in England and that one of its innovative features was corridors between the rooms. She also explains that while John Vanbrugh designed the house, architect Nicholas Hawksmoor was brought in to provide professional advice since Vanbrugh lacked architectural training and experience.  Christopher Ridgway who is the Curator of the estate points out that Hawksmoor had worked for Christopher Wren and was involved in the construction of the dome of St Paul’s cathedral. The Castle Howard dome which took 3 years to construct is unique among the country houses of England.

Spencer also works in factoids from the estate’s records as he travels around its rooms and grounds. For example, it took over 100 years to design and build and cost over £100,000 (£1.8 billion in today’s money). The frescoes by the Italian artist Pelligrini cost £892 (today £1.7 million). He also provides some interesting insights into the building and working of the Victorian fountain which played a prominent role in the adaptations of the novel, where it is described by Charles Ryder as “baroque” (London, 1960, p. 320). And he explains how the chapel came to have 19th century Arts and Crafts fittings and decorations.

The program is now available on Channel 4’s streaming service 4oD. It can be streamed on the internet at this link with a UK internet connection. The program is well presented, researched and edited and is recommended as a tutorial for anyone planning to attend the Brideshead Festival this summer at Castle Howard.

 

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Reading Dickens in the Jungle, et al.

–An article has been posted on Academia.edu entitled “Reading Dickens in the Jungle: A Handful of Dust and Mr Pip.” This is by Alessandro Vescovi, professor of English at the Università degli Studi di Milano (University of Milan). It previously appeared in Jadavpur University Essays and Studies XXVIII-XXIX: The Dickens World: Post Imperial Readings (2014-15). The opening paragraph serves as an introduction:

Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust (1934) and Lloyd Jones’s Mister Pip (2008), either stylistically or thematically, have nothing in common. Indeed, we can hardly imagine two more antipodean novels: one a modernist satire set in the UK in the 1930s, the other a postcolonial political Bildungsroman set on Bougainville–the largest of the Solomon Islands–in the early 1990s. The former deals with the moral decadence of the Interbellum, the latter denounces the atrocities of postcolonial exploitation. Still these novels are particularly interesting for our discussion in that both stage an actual reading of Dickens that takes place in the jungle. This displacement of the Dickensian text is on the one hand paradoxical, but on the other hand it calls for a reflection on the traditional ways of reading Dickens.

–In the Journal of Modern Literature (v. 43, no. 1, Fall 2019) Ashley Maher who is an assistant professor at Groningen University, describes how John Betjeman used his role at an editor of the Architectural Review to encourage novelists to include descriptions of modern architecture in their work and in turn promoted modernist literature in the pages of the magazine. One example was his review of Waugh’s novel A Handful of Dust:

,,,Betjeman’s “Architecture in Fiction” promoted Waugh’s A Handful of Dust, which features a chromium-loving interior designer: “Architecture has only recently “come in for a mention in modern fiction,” Betjeman contends; while Victorian authors largely ignored architecture, Betjeman identifes “re-birth of architectural consciousness in fiction writers” like Huxley and Waugh, who brought “a real understanding of architectural style” (174). “Decline and Fall put jazz-modern [Art Deco] in its right place” (174), and Betjeman hopes others follow Waugh in condemning “benighted architects” and “the extravagances of jazz-modernistic decoration” (175). Literature itself, for Betjeman, represented an avenue for implicit architectural criticism.

The article also emphasizes how Betjeman encouraged Cyril Connolly to include architectural writing in Horizon magazine. The article is entitled: “’Three-Dimensional’ Modernism’: The Language of Architecture and British Literary Periodicals.”  She might also have cited Waugh’s own contribution to the Architectural Review (June 1930) of his article on Gaudi’s architecture in Barcelona, most of which was also incorporated into the text of his travel book Labels.

–In the journal Texas Studies in Literature and Language (v. 56, no. 1, Spring 2014), Marius Hentea, Professor of English at the University of Gothenburg contributes an article entitled “The End of the Party: The Bright Young People in Vile Bodies, Afternoon Men, and Party Going“. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction (footnotes omitted):

…These novels question the sensationalistic legacy of the Bright Young People, this anecdotal retelling of parties and personalities that the recent work by Frears and Taylor reinforces. Yet critics have read these novels as timeless tracts, disconnected from their subject matter: Michael Gorra states that Vile Bodies presents “mere soulless things” and Martin Stannard calls it “a manifesto of disillusionment”; Neil Brennan sees Afternoon Men’s great theme as “the apparent lack of meaning in life,” and John Russell considers Party Going a “living death.” There is even doubt that they are centered on the Bright Young People, with Humphrey Carpenter arguing that Vile Bodies was interested in them “only as yet another helpless group of people tossed in the modern storm.” Carpenter overlooks the fact that while Waugh was composing it he refused to attend a party thrown by Bryan and Diana Guinness (to whom the novel was eventually dedicated) because he doubted that “there would be anyone who wouldn’t be too much like the characters in my new book.” For most Green critics, the starting assumption is that his fiction is “autonomous, non-representational”; he sought, it is stated, “to create a prose so pure as to be abstracted from history itself.” In the most recent book-length study of Green, for instance, Patrick MacDermott recognizes the “specific [Mayfair] sub-culture” depicted in Party Going but does not explain further.

The latter two articles are available on JSTOR and Project Muse that can be accessed through many public and university libraries.

 

 

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Waugh’s New Year’s Eve 1947

The Herald (Glasgow) has a story about Scottish New Year celebrations (known as Hogmanay) that starts with this reference to an Evelyn Waugh novel.

THERE’S a wonderful line about Hogmanay in Evelyn Waugh’s classic 1948 novel, The Loved One. Dennis Barlow, a young Englishman in Los Angeles, is talking to a young woman, Aimée Thanatogenos, whom he would like to get to know rather better. In a conversation he refers, casually, to Hogmanay.

“What is that?” she asks, intrigued.

“People being sick on the pavement in Glasgow”, Barlow tells her.

There were probably some such incidents on the last day of 1947 [in the photo heading the story] even if revellers seemed to forego the traditional bottle of whisky, at 3s 10d, in favour of sherry and port.

Although not mentioned in the Herald, Waugh embarked on 25 January 1947 from Southampton accompanied by  his wife on their trip to Los Angeles where he gathered the material used for The Loved One. This was first published about a year later in Horizon magazine for February 1948. The Herald story goes on to explain that more recently the venue for the primary Hogmanay celebration has shifted from Glasgow to Edinburgh from whence it is celebrated today.

 

 

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Year End Roundup

The Australian has a story headed by a photo of Evelyn Waugh.  The story is by Greg Harrison and is entitled “Our prime ministers need a holiday–and time to read a novel for pleasure.” After noting his disagreement with those who criticized the decision of Scott Morrison to take a holiday in Hawaii that coincided with brush fires in eastern Australia, Harrison discusses the importance of reading matter during Morrison’s well earned holiday:

The best reading is novels chosen for pleasure. Reading a novel integrates the mind and invites the soul in a way that nothing else quite does…Let me suggest the novels that should top the PM’s reading list…One of literature’s greatest themes is the dilemma of the decent man or woman faced with an environment of chaos, corruption and dishonesty, the civilised person among savages. Evelyn Waugh wrote several novels on this theme. The best is his Sword of Honour trilogy…

After a brief summary of the novel, Harrison concludes his discussion with this:

 The three novels’ titles grow in irony and consequence: Men at Arms, Officers and Gentlemen, Unconditional Surrender…[They] are alive with Waugh’s rapier wit, his talent for believable but sublimely comic characters–the redoubtable Apthorpe, a scene stealer who grows and grows until he must be killed off for the sake of the rest of the novel–an acute feeling for the politics of bureaucracies, a healthy disgust for both Nazis and communists, and also a sense of religious consequence and spiritual effort.

The other two novels Harrison recommends are John P Marquand’s H M Pulham Esq and Willa Cather’s My Antonia.

–Food and housekeeping expert Martha Stewart offers her version of the Champagne cocktail, with a nod to Evelyn Waugh (and, indirectly, to Labels):

The Champagne cocktail, an instant mood lightener, was the official drink of the “bright young things” who flitted through the novels of Evelyn Waugh. In this version, a scoop of sorbet takes the place of the traditional sugar and bitters and turns this classic into a delicious holiday slush.

Not sure Waugh would approve of this version, unless a rather spicier sorbet than Martha’s recommended flavor of raspberry is used. Here’s his recipe as described in Labels:

…I commend [this drink] to anyone in need of a wholesome and easily accessible pick-me-up. [Alistair] took a large tablet of beet sugar (an equivalent quantity of ordinary lump sugar does equally well) and soaked it in Angostura Bitters and then rolled it in Cayenne pepper. This he put unto [sic] a large glass which he filled with champagne. The sugar and Angostura enrich the wine and take away the slight acidity which renders even the best champagne slightly repugnant in the early morning. Each bubble as it rises to the surface carries with it a red grain of pepper, so that as one drinks one’s appetite is at once stimulated and gratified, heat and cold, fire and liquid, contending on one’s palate and alternating in the mastery of one’s sensations.

–The National Catholic Register has a review of a recently opened play with the unpromising title of Catholic Young Adults: The Musical. According to the NCR review it is, in fact, a musical comedy! It finds humor in such unlikely subjects as natural fertility methods, parish closings and vocational discernment which challenge young Catholics. The words and music are written by Catholic clergy and the production is staged by the Missed the Boat Theatre company at the auditorium of the St Agnes School in St Paul, MN. They also manage to enlist the participation of Evelyn Waugh:

Being Catholic makes us examine every aspect of our lives. Director Mary Schaffer, in her “Director’s Note” in the playbill, quoted from Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh when the Catholic Sebastian Flyte explains to his friend Charles Ryder that Catholics are not just like other people. Sebastian explains, “Everything they think important is different from other people. They try to hide it as much as they can, but it comes out all the time.”

Since one of the characters has a problem making friends because of his enthusiasm for the Latin liturgy, Waugh would probably have loved it.

–The Sunday Telegraph has published a letter (“On the Waugh path”) relating to last week’s article about the connections between Brideshead Castle and Castle Howard, venue for this summer’s Brideshead Festival. See previous post. In his letter, James Bishop of the Isle of Lewis takes issue with festival organizer Victoria Barnsley’s view that:

…Evelyn Waugh drew upon this stately home when creating the novel’s country house. In fact. the setting and background was always Madresfield Court in rural Worcestershire. Waugh also took inspiration from the family of that house and badly abused the hospitality of that family by his indiscretions in assigning behaviour to the characters. Many years ago, The Spectator carried a delicious article by one of the daughters of the house, concluding with the sale of the family’s London residence to the Ghanaian embassy.

Madresfield Court certainly made a contribution to the chapel at Brideshead Castle as described by Waugh, but the exterior and surroundings of the moated, Neo-Gothic and Tudor Madresfield Court contributed little if anything to Waugh’s description of the Baroque structure with its fountain and obelisk that he imagined. As to the connections between the Howards of Castle Howard and Flytes of Brideshead, that is another matter, and I don’t think Mrs Barnsley made any claims in that direction.

–Benjamin Riley writing in The Spectator takes issue with a new law passed in New York City banning the sale of foie gras effective in 2022. The law was introduced by Councilwoman Carlina Rivera who said it was based not only on animal rights but was intended to punish the rich. Riley goes on to write that the animal rights argument is no longer valid given new more humane methods for feeding the birds that are the source of the product. In dealing with the idea that foie gras benefits only the rich, he notes:

Clearly the image Councilwoman Rivera has in her mind is of Julia Stitch, in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, ‘in the Duke’s dressing-room, sitting on a bed, eating foie gras with an ivory shoe-horn’. This assumes Rivera has ever read Waugh, which I think unlikely given her joylessness. All the same, I’d like to correct her misconception. Foie gras might not be cheap (nothing so rare and labor intensive is), but it isn’t only for the Sauternes set. She can come over whenever she likes to try some foie gras chez moi. We can stand around the kitchen (there is no dining room, or formal table in my one-bedroom apartment; what chairs there are fold) and spread foie gras on Ritz crackers. It will be heaven, save for the company.

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Evelyn Waugh Studies (Autumn 2019) Now Available

The latest edition of the society’s journal Evelyn Waugh Studies (Autumn 2019, No. 50.2) is now available. It can be accessed at this link. The contents are set out below:

CONTENTS

Brideshead Serialized: 75th Anniversary of Publication in Town & Country Magazine, p. 2, by Jeffrey Manley

Introduction: November 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of the first publication of Brideshead Revisited. This was in a serial version published in New York-based Town & Country magazine starting in November 1944 and continuing for the next three months, concluding in the February 1945 issue. The opening installment was published while Waugh was still in Yugoslavia serving in Randolph Churchill’s special mission to Tito’s Partisans. There was no counterpart of this serial publication in the UK, not for want of a potential publisher but because of the singular set of circumstances under which the novel came to be published in an abbreviated American version in the first place. Not much attention has been paid by Waugh scholars to the serial version of the book. This is understandable since, as explained below, Waugh played no part in its editing, and it contributed nothing to future versions of the novel. The only detailed study of the serial version that I have found is the essay published in 1969 by Robert Murray Davis: “The Serial Version of Brideshead Revisited” that is discussed in greater detail below.

“Something that May Not Matter:” A Response to “Brideshead Serialized: 75th Anniversary of Publication in Town & Country Magazine”,  p. 28, by Robert Murray Davis

Caged Ferrets: Evelyn Waugh and Randolph Churchill in Wartime Yugoslavia,  p.30, by Jeffrey Meyers

Introduction: Evelyn Waugh and Randolph Churchill served on a military mission to Marshal Tito’s Partisans in Yugoslavia from July 1944 to February 1945. Earlier in the war, Waugh had been insubordinate and unable to adjust to regimental life; Randolph, as always, had been notoriously drunk, belligerent and offensive. Like fierce ferrets confined in a cage, two of the most difficult and disagreeable officers in the British army acted out a disastrous vendetta. Their caustic clash alienated Tito and damaged the relations between Britain and its crucial ally during the German occupation of Yugoslavia.

One hundred and twenty pages of unpublished material from the National Archives and the Public Record Office in Kew, England, and from Churchill College, Cambridge University, cast new light on British policy in Yugoslavia, its military contacts with Tito, and the contrast between his communist Partisans and the pro-Nazi Ustashe; on Randolph’s work, constant complaints and offensive behavior as well as his courage under fire; on Waugh and Randolph’s near-fatal air crash, their English comrade Stephen Clissold and Waugh’s support of the Catholic Ustashe in opposition to official policy. This archival material explains why these tragicomic adventurers wound up in wartime Croatia, why they quarreled bitterly in an isolated village and why their important mission was doomed to failure.

Addendum to “Huxley’s Ape”,  p. 48, by Jeffrey Manley

REVIEWS

“The Ghosts of Ghosts”–  Gatsby’s Oxford: Scott, Zelda, and the Jazz Age Invasion of Britain 1904-1929, by Christopher A. Snyder,  p, 51, reviewed by Jeffrey Manley

NEWS

 

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Waugh’s Christmas in Yugoslavia: 1944

Waugh spent Christmas in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, where he was sent after Belgrade fell to the Russians and Partisans. This is the 75th anniversary of that holiday celebration. He had to travel via Bari in Italy and arrived a few days before the holiday. He reports the event in his diary (pp. 602-03):

Mass in the Franciscan church at 8 and communion: a bright cold day. […] Cocktails with a group of proletarian officers at HQ. Luncheon alone. After luncheon Rolf Elwes’s son called on me. [Jeremy Elwes, nephew of Simon. Farmer, director and patron of the arts.]  Sleep. Dinner alone. A letter from Nancy and a dubious looking cheque from Randolph for the Bible bet. Nothing from home. Dinner alone and bed.

He answered Nancy’s letter (dated 12 December) the same day it arrived and elaborated somewhat on his situation (Mitford /Waugh Letters, pp. 8-13):

I have escaped from your cousin Randolph and am now on my own in the Pearl of the Adriatic which looks a little less pearlish with the renaissance facades daubed with communist slogans in red paint. I have spent a solitary Christmas which next to having Laura’s company or the few friends I can count on the toes of one foot, is just as I like it. I dined alone sitting opposite a looking glass & reflecting sadly that the years instead of transforming me into a personable man of middle age, have made me into a very ugly youth. […] I went to a cocktail party of officers and there was not one who was not purely proletarian. It does not make me any more sympathetic to the partisans though. The partisans are celebrating Xmas by firing off all their ammunition under my window. My nerves are not nearly as steady as they were before my harrowing life with R S Churchill…

He also expresses his disappointment that she has not mentioned his Christmas present of the advance copy of Brideshead Revisited. He commented: “…although I know it will shock you in parts on account of its piety, there are a few architectural bits you might like.” His anguish is soon addressed when her next letter (written on 22 December) offers her fairly detailed and mostly positive comments on the novel.

 

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The Oxford Novel (more)

In a recent post, we considered a discussion of novelist William Boyd about “the Oxford novel” (as well as well as other novels associated with particular cities). More recently, a new literary periodical–the Oxford Review of Books–has taken up the subject. This is on the occasion of a new edition of one of the classic Oxford novels–Max Beerbohm’s Zuleika Dobson. The article by John Phipp also considers other works in this genre, starting with Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, deemed to be the quintessential story of the Oxford outsider.

There is also discussion of two novels about Oxford that appeared just after the war: Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and Philip Larkin’s less read Jill. Larkin’s novel also describes the story of an outsider (or an “excluded insider” to be more precise) whereas that of Waugh views things from the other perspective. According to Phipp:

…Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and Philip Larkin’s Jill, published in 1945 and 1946 respectively, give radically different perspectives on the University. Jill is a picture of an excluded insider: John Kemp, a fiercely intelligent boy from a poor northern town, wins a scholarship to Oxford. There he finds himself sharing a room with Christopher Warner, a bully from a minor boarding school, who is prone to florid, sporadic acts of violence. Kemp’s one desire is to be accepted by Warner’s privileged southern set, who spend freely, doss off their work and drink every night.[…]

Brideshead is more phenomenon than book, a novel that was consumed by its own reputation until the title became an epithet. I never read Brideshead Revisited as an undergraduate because I was petrified I might be caught reading Brideshead Revisited as an undergraduate.

In Jill, John Kemp attends something that is recognisable as a university. He takes an entrance exam, gets lost upon arrival, attends tutorials and writes essays. In Brideshead there’s no mention of the entrance process, the rituals of college life, the academic labour. For John Kemp, Oxford is an event. For Waugh’s protagonist, Charles Ryder, it is just what happens: school breaks up for summer holidays, and by mid-September there you are at Christ Church.

[…]

In Brideshead, the portal that opens into an exalted world of privilege is not the college door (as for Jude), or an invitation to tea (as for John Kemp), but the ground floor window of the narrator’s room, through which Flyte is one day violently sick. It is a startlingly similar entrance to one made by Charles Warner, the private-school mastiff in Jill, who stumbles into a bedroom and throws up in the bin. Both Warner and Flyte are drunk, privileged and utterly indifferent. They are the same thing viewed from different angles, their creators both subject to the parallax displacements of class. Larkin sees in Charles Warner that the privileged are careless, and that this unconcern permits their acts of violence. But Waugh was able to paint the allure of that same carelessness more vividly, so he got the TV show.

Before returning to the subject of Zuleika Dobson, the article considers the most recent entry to the genre, Alan Hollinghurst’s The Sparsholt Affair (2017). Not mentioned however are the novels of J I M Stewart in his Staircase in Surrey series or Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels (although the latter were more town than gown). And even though women students were thinner on the ground in the pre 1960s, there were novels about the Oxford experience by writers such as Dorothy Sayers and Barbara Pym. The article is on the whole quite a good survey of the genre and bodes well for the success of this new publication.

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Brideshead Festival: Two Interviews

Victoria Barnsley, who is organizing this summer’s Brideshead Festival at Castle Howard, is interviewed about the event by two newspapers. David Behrens files the report of his interview in the Yorkshire Post. Here are some excerpts:

…“I’d been thinking of having a literary festival here for some time,” said Ms Barnsley, a publisher by profession, who used to be chief executive of HarperCollins. Jeremy Irons, who played Charles in the TV series, will return for the weekend event in late June, along with Waugh’s grandson, Alexander – but the romantic seclusion of the original scene will be disturbed by the presence of paying guests camping in the grounds.

“Sacred and profane” was how Waugh had characterised Ryder’s infatuation with the Flyte family, and the recreation will attempt to summon up the same spirit, with punting on the lake, weather permitting, and a 1920s themed jazz party on the Saturday night, as well as the return of wine tasting to the temple.[…] “There will be a lot of authors and novelists here as well as TV and film people,” Ms Barnsley said. “Literary festivals don’t usually focus just on one book and one author, but we want to put a contemporary slant on it by looking at the legacy of Evelyn Waugh and the influence he’s had on writers today.”

The idea for the event came from the Granada producer Derek Granger, who returned with his cast to Castle Howard a few years ago to pose for pictures in the magazine Vanity Fair. He will be back again for the festival, by which time he will be in his 100th year. Claire Bloom, who played Lady Marchmain in the series, and its director, Charles Sturridge, are also expected to attend.

Some of those associated with the 2008 cinema remake, which starred Matthew Goode, Ben Whishaw, Michael Gambon and Emma Thompson, and which was again filmed at Castle Howard, will also be there.

If demand dictates, the estate will open its walled gardens to glamping – short for glamorous camping – for the first time, but Ms Barnsley thinks most guests who come for the weekend will stay in York or the nearby village of Hovingham. Bookings have already come in from Ireland, Paris and the USA.

Ms Barnsley was also interviewed by Eleanor Doughty for the Sunday Telegraph where her story is entitled: “Was Castle Howard the inspiration for Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead?” This opens with a quote from Waugh:

‘It was impossible to foresee, in the spring of 1944, the present cult of the English country house.” So wrote Evelyn Waugh, in a 1959 preface to a new edition of his novel Brideshead Revisited. “It seemed then that the ancestral seats which were our chief national artistic achievement were doomed to decay like the monasteries in the 16th century. So I piled it on rather.”

What would Waugh make of the modern country house? And how would he assess the fortunes of Castle Howard? The house, thanks to an Eighties television adaptation filmed there, is closely associated with the book he called his magnum opus.

After a discussion of recent events (including Christmas plans) at Castle Howard, which Ms Barnsley runs with her husband Nicholas Howard, they arrive at the subject of the upcoming festival. According to Doughty:

[…] The television series has given the impression that Castle Howard was the inspiration for the novel’s Brideshead, a subject that [Ms Barnsley] and I, Waugh fans, debate. “Maybe I’m biased,” she says with a laugh, but “Brideshead is Castle Howard! It’s baroque, it has a dome and a fountain.” Waugh describes the Brideshead fountain as “frightful…all rocks and sort of carved animals…such as one might expect to find in a piazza in southern Italy.”; the fictional pile is where Waugh’s protagonist, Charles Ryder, has his “conversion to the baroque.”

Still, no one is quite sure. There is only one record of Waugh visiting the house, as he recorded in his diary on Feb 4 1937, it was a “pleasant unrestful Holy Week, visiting Castle Howard and entertaining dumb little boys and monks” [at nearby Ampleforth.] “We are convinced he did know the house,” says [Ms Barnsley]. I can’t see otherwise where the dome, the fountain and the baroque came from.”

Doughty then concludes with a discussion of the history of the house and recent renovations, with some additional background supplied by Ms Barnsley

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General Election Roundup

Waugh is cited recently in news reports relating to the Conservative Party’s victory in last week’s general election:

–In the Sunday Times, Andrew Gimson, author of the book Boris, The Making of a Prime Minister, writes of Johnson’s ability to find the funny side of potentially troublesome political situations and to turn them to his advantage. One of the early examples involves a novel by Waugh::

… as a schoolboy at Eton, while reciting the first page of Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh, which begins: “Mr Sniggs, the junior dean, and Mr Postlethwaite, the domestic bursar . . . ”, Johnson said “Sniggs” in such a way as to make people laugh, and then turned to the prompter and said: “What’s his name again?” This brought the house down, with even the provost of Eton, Lord Charteris of Amisfield, who liked things done properly, roaring with laughter.

For the past 40 years Johnson has been one of the most entertaining figures of his generation. He sprang to fame by performing with a kind of dazed ineptitude on Have I Got News for You, which the audience found much funnier than if he had rehearsed his lines. […] Those who think politics has at all times to be conducted in a solemn tone of voice underestimated this joker’s chances of reaching Downing Street, let alone of enjoying an electoral triumph once he got there. They thought, and in most cases still think, he is a disgraceful figure. These puritans cannot bear the theatre of politics, and whenever they find it doing a roaring trade, their instinct is to shut it down.

–In the Economist’s Bagehot column, a similar analysis is offered, also with some help from Waugh:

Evelyn Waugh once complained that the Tories had never succeeded in turning the clock back for a single minute. But this is exactly why they have been so successful. The party has demonstrated a genius for anticipating what Harold Macmillan once called “the winds of change”, and harnessing those winds to its own purposes.

There are three other weapons in their electoral armory. In addition to the willingness “to dump people or principles when they become obstacles to the successful pursuit of power” and to rely where need be on patriotism, the third weapon is, harking back to Gimson’s analysis, the party’s

…  jollity. The Conservatives have always been the party of “champagne and women and bridge”, to borrow a phrase from Hilaire Belloc, whereas the Liberals and Labour have been the parties of vegetarianism, book clubs and meetings. Conservatives are never happier than when mocking the left for its earnestness.

–While not directly relating to the election, Waugh is quoted, in the context of food politics, on margarine’s decline in popularity as people increasingly prefer butter. This is in an article posted by the Middle East and North Africa Financial News Service (MENAFN,com):

In a column penned by Evelyn Waugh for The Spectator in 1929 , margarine represents a general post-war lack of good taste. During the war, writes Waugh, ‘[e]verything was a ‘substitute’ for something else’, the upshot being ‘a generation of whom nine hundred and fifty in every thousand are totally lacking in any sense of qualitative value’ as a consequence of ‘being nurtured on margarine and ‘honey sugar’.’ Such a diet, according to Waugh, makes them ‘turn instinctively to the second rate in art and life’.

The quote is from Waugh’s 13 April 1929 article “The War and the Younger Generation.” CWEW, v26, p. 184. See previous post.

–Finally, as we approach the year’s end, publications are posting their “best of year” choices on various topics from their contributors. Our own frequent contributor Dave Lull has sent these extracts from Catholic World Report relating to readings for the year. Thanks to Dave once again for his latest offering:

[. . .]

Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh. I have read Brideshead three times, and continue to extract more of its beauty and truth each time I read it. Interestingly, I have struggled to extract more of the third transcendental, goodness. Brideshead is a book about the goodness of God, and his ability to sanctify those who will at least open themselves up a smidgeon to His grace. But it is not really about characters who themselves exemplify goodness. The novel examines the narrow victories of grace in the lives of those who, generally, have not been good, but who at some decisive moment allow their hearts to be invaded by the goodness of God, having been enticed to this moment of surrender by beauty and truth.

Father Charles Fox is an assistant professor of theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.

[. . .]

Timothy D. Lusch:
 
[. . .]A reduced ego is not something detectable in Auberon Waugh’s journalism. But his crisp, cutting commentary in Brideshead Benighted never grows stale, even if the underlying details have gotten moldy.
[. . .]

Joseph Martin:

Five books about journalists and journalism:

The Same Man: George Orwell & Evelyn Waugh in Love and War by David Lebedoff

Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
[. . .]
Tracey Rowland:
 
[. . .]

The Operation of Grace: Further Essays on Art, Faith, and Mystery, Gregory Wolfe, The Lutterworth Press, 2016.

This is a collection of short literary essays that would make a great “stocking-filler” for a liberal arts student. Throughout the collection there are references to Walker Percy and Flannery O’Connor, C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot, Tolkien and Evelyn Waugh, and the founder of the movement Communio e liberazione, Luigi Giussani. There are also charming and most uncommon juxtapositions of writers like Trollope and theologians like Romano Guardini.
[. . .]
Piers Shepherd:

[. . .]

A more modern literary classic which, amazingly, I had never read before this year is Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. This novel vividly captures the life of one of the old Catholic recusant families living in an estate house in the west of England, trying desperately to hang on to a vanishing way of life. But what I really love about Waugh is his humour.

Of the various non-fiction works I read in the course of the year, one of my favourites was The Conservative Bookshelf: Essential Works that Impact Today’s Conservative Thinkers by Chilton Williamson. This is a guide to 50 books that every traditional-minded person should read. Beginning with religious works like the Bible and Augustine’s City of God, the book goes on to recommend works of politics, economics, fiction, and social commentary. From classical works like Cicero’s The Republic, to C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man, to fictional works by T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Evelyn Waugh, and William Faulkner, to latter-day polemical works like Pat Buchanan’s The Death of the West, this book is a definitive guide to conservative thought.

[. . .]
Father Thomas G. Weinandy, OFM., Cap.:
[. . .]

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.

I read Waugh’s work when I was a college student many years ago, but, coming back to it, I gained a new appreciation of it. What struck me is the importance of Catholic culture in the midst of sinful and weak Catholics. All of the flawed main characters are in many ways struggling with their faith or, for all intents and purposes, have abandoned it. Yet, in the end, the Catholic culture that made up their lives supported their weak faith and so carried them back to the Faith. It is a lesson of where sin abounds, grace abounds even more.

[. . .]

 

 

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