Tourist in Africa OUP Volume Announced

The Oxford University Press has announced the publication of another new volume in its Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh project. This is A Tourist in Africa (1960) and will be volume 25 in the series. Here’s the description from the OUP’s UK website:

A Tourist in Africa was Evelyn Waugh’s final travel book, and one of his most interesting. Restless and intolerant of the English winter, Waugh boards the Pendennis Castle for East Africa by way of Italy and Suez, going on to retrace the routes of journeys he took as a much younger man through Kenya, Tanganyika, the Rhodesias, and other East African countries. He embarks on his trip at the very moment when many of these countries are beginning to assert their independence after decades of British rule. As he travels, Waugh contemplates the changing face of an Africa he has known intimately as well as his own increasingly awkward fit in the modern world. Even as he contends with his own encroaching age and the unwelcome changes to international travel, his usual zest for adventure and discovery asserts itself at every turn. A much better sailor than flyer, Waugh laments the impending eclipse of sea travel as well as the declining appetite for danger and daring he witnesses in some of his companions. This edition provides hundreds of contextual notes to illuminate the historical, cultural, and biographical details of most interest to readers of Waugh, travel writing, and African history; a complete textual history which traces every change made to the text from Waugh’s first drafts to the first published British and American editions; new and original illustrations; and a thorough but eminently readable introduction by Patrick R. Query.

The OUP announcement also provides this information about the editor of this volume:

Patrick R. Query is the author of Ritual and the Idea of Europe in Interwar Writing. He was formerly Secretary of the Evelyn Waugh Society and co-editor of Evelyn Waugh Studies. He is a Professor of English at the U. S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.

The estimated UK publication date is 25 February 2021 and the price is £85.00. Details are posted at this link.  USA publication information is not yet available. This volume will follow November’s UK publication of Waugh’s 1950 novel Helena (USA date is January 2021).

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Waugh’s Orwellian Dystopia

The Orwell Society has posted an interesting essay on the friendship of Evelyn Waugh and George Orwell with special reference to how Waugh’s 1953 novella Love Among the Ruins was intended as a response to Orwell’s 1948 novel 1984. This is entitled “Orwell in the Waugh-zone” and is written by Richard Lance Keeble who is a previous chairman of The Orwell Society and has written several books as well as articles on Orwell and his works. The essay begins with this:

Throughout his writing career, George Orwell maintained a constant critique of Roman Catholics. There was one major exception: Evelyn Waugh. This essay explores the extraordinary Orwell-Waugh relationship, the study Orwell was planning on Waugh in the months immediately before he died, their meetings and correspondence – and the much-neglected witty, dystopian novella, Love Among the Ruins which Waugh composed in the early 1950s as a sort of tribute to the author of the recently published Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The essay is well written and annotated throughout but perhaps the most interesting and original contribution is the analysis of how Waugh specifically responded to elements of 1984 in his later novella. These responses were actually outlined in a letter Waugh sent to Orwell thanking him for a copy of 1984:

In a letter to Orwell of 17 July 1949, Waugh says he has read Nineteen Eighty-Four with great admiration. But he suggests in his treatment of Winston’s soul ‘the metaphysic are wrong’ and that the novel is spurious because it fails to acknowledge the existence of the Church. Perhaps reflecting on the scenes towards the end of the novel in which Winston is tortured in Room 101 by O’Brien, Waugh’s concludes that ‘men who love a crucified God need never think of torture as all-powerful’ (ibid: 157). [Letters, p. 302]

Keeble searches the text of Love Among the Ruins to show how Waugh fleshed out these issues in his own dystopian novel, something David Lebedoff did not do in his 2008 book The Same Man: Orwell and Waugh.

Waugh’s novella is collected in his Complete Short Stories.

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Ronald Harwood (1934-2020) R I P

The Daily Telegraph has an obituary of Ronald Harwood, noted primarily as a writer of screenplays based on adaptations of novels or plays.  These adaptations include such well-received films as the Oscar-winning The Pianist (2003), One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1971) and his own screen adaptation of his stage play The Dresser (1980 stage, 1983 screen). But he also wrote several novels as well as a biography of Donald Wolfit whom he met while a student at RADA and who gave him his first break in the theatre by hiring him to perform various tasks in his touring stage company.

It is not well known today but is mentioned by the Telegraph that Harwood’s first success as a playwright had a Waugh connection:

It was at the Royal Exchange [Manchester] that he enjoyed his first major success in the theatre, adapting Evelyn Waugh’s The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (1977), before his play The Dresser, originally starring Freddie Jones as “Sir”, and Courtenay as Norman, ensured that the theatre profession far beyond Manchester took him seriously.

As mentioned in the obituary in The Times, after opening in Manchester, Pinfold moved to London. That production was performed at The Roundhouse with Michael Hordern playing Pinfold to high acclaim.  It’s to be regretted that Harwood never adapted Pinfold for the screen or TV. It should be the ideal length and content for such a production and the dialogue is already at hand in the stage adaptation. According to Wikipedia, there was a radio adaptation on the BBC in 1960 during Waugh’s lifetime but he didn’t listen in. This was by Michael Bakewell and was reportedly well received.


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National Review’s Scoop Podcast

National Review has posted a 30 minute podcast devoted to Waugh’s 1938 novel Scoop. In the podcast NR’s John J Miller interviews Christopher Scalia of the American Enterprise Institute. Both participants are familiar with the book as well as Evelyn Waugh’s other works. Even to one who has read the novel several times, the discussion was refreshing, entertaining and often quite funny.

The only small misstep is they did not reveal the complete meaning of “Laku” to which the senior journalist Hitchcock is supposed to have travelled. It actually means “I don’t know” in Ishmaelian, as I recall, and appears on local maps to denote places unknown to the mapmakers. One passage they don’t discuss is William’s attempt to preserve the secrecy of his cable messages back to The Daily Beast by transmitting them in Latin and, in general, the humor inherent in journalistic telegraphese. But otherwise, in a fairly short time, they manage to give one a good idea of what the book is about and why it should be read. The podcast is episode No 146 in NR’s  The Great Books series and is available at this link.

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Labor Day Roundup

–Sebastian Payne writing in the Financial Times describes a non-boring dinner party of his own contrivance. The venue will be Riley’s Fish Shack at Tynemouth on the northeast coast of England and the chef will be Adam Riley, apparently owner and proprietor of that establishment. While it sounds rather downmarket, Payne is confident it is the right choice. First to arrive is hostess Katherine Graham, late owner of the Washington Post, and then, Michael Heseltine, well known politician from the Thatcher era:

An unlikely duo follow. Moving creakily, sniffily ignoring the man beside him, is Evelyn Waugh. After the long car journey from Somerset, the novelist is buoyed along only by the glimpse of the drinks trolley. He has recently completed his finest work, Brideshead Revisited, yet remains utterly irascible. Accompanying him is an artist also enjoying acclaim. Miles Davis has shocked the jazz scene with his move to intense, rock-influenced music. As they approach the shack, he attempts, in his familiar rasp, to convince Waugh of the merits of his compositions. The author will have none of it, describing all jazz as “shallow”. Even when they are plied with drinks, my early attempt to bridge relations fails.

Another politcian then joins in. This is Barbara Castle, veteran member of the Labour party and “ardent socialist”.

[…] After the first round of seafood is swept away, Craster kipper wraps are delivered with bottles of dry-as-a-fishbone 2007 Haus Klosterberg Riesling. Waugh is now well into his stride, tearing into Castle for her efforts to protect lives with seatbelts and Breathalyser tests. “How is a fellow meant to get home when he is tight and the police are lurking behind the bushes?” he yells. Davis barks in agreement, but Heseltine suggests the writer might “stop being such an arse”.

After reciting the various courses and the guests’ reaction to them (and to each other), Payne concludes

With the sun rising over the North Sea, the final drops are emptied from the 20-year-old Ledaig malt and the soft notes of Davis’s horn echo around the bay. Waugh is soundly asleep and Castle has bustled back to Westminster. Heseltine, Davis, Graham and yours truly remain in intense discussion. Affirmation in each other, amid this seaside beauty, has been achieved.

–The Irish Times has an article by Donald Clarke which considers the likelihood and advisability of the announcement of new BBC director Tim Davie that he is going to seek more political balance in the network’s comedy programing. Clarke offers an analysis which seems to suggest that, if political balance is a valid goal of comedic content (a point he doesn’t necessarily concede), then Davie has a daunting task ahead of him. After reviewing the pronounced leftwing bias of TV comedy in both the UK and US media, Clarke writes:

This is not to suggest there have been no funny right-wing British artists. Evelyn Waugh, arguably the greatest comic novelist of the 20th century, once expressed his disappointment that, after receiving his vote in repeated elections, “the Conservative Party have never put the clock back a single second”. He supported hanging for a bewildering number of offences. Yet the jokes in his novels Decline and Fall and A Handful of Dust are as ruthlessly funny as any in the language. Kingsley Amis, his immediate successor as comic novelist in chief, began his career as a communist and ended it as a near-demented admirer of Margaret Thatcher. […] The Old Devils, published deep into his reactionary years, is no less amusing for its author’s apparent hatred of – to quote Waugh in The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold – “everything . . . that had happened in his own lifetime”.

–The OUPBlog has posted a notice about a new publication. This is entitled The Spirit of the Blitz: Home Intelligence and British Morale. The notice is written by one of the book’s authors, Jeremy Crang, and opens with this:

During the Second World War, the morale of the British public was clandestinely monitored by Home Intelligence, a unit of the government’s Ministry of Information that kept a close watch on the nation’s reaction to events. Intelligence from a wide range of sources and every region of the United Kingdom was collected and analysed by a small team of officials, based at the Senate House of the University of London. The team compiled regular reports on the state of popular morale. The reports covering the Blitz, which began with the mass bombing of London on 7 September 1940 and continued until May 1941, provide a unique window into the mindset of the British at a momentous time in their history.

The story of the Home Intelligence unit during this period is reminiscent of an Evelyn Waugh novel. It’s the tale of a group of unorthodox wartime civil servants, headed firstly by Mary Adams (a pre-war television producer) and then by Stephen Taylor (a neuropsychiatrist), who analysed the data and compiled the reports. One of the unit’s chief sources was the social research organization, Mass Observation, run by Tom Harrisson, a self-taught anthropologist and buccaneering self-publicist who had taken part in expeditions to the South Seas and made friends with cannibals.

The Home Intelligence group is more than “reminiscent” of an Evelyn Waugh novel. It actually appears thinly disguised in his 1942 novel of the phoney war, Put Out More Flags. This sounds very much like the department of the Ministry of Information where Ambrose Silk works for Mr Bentley in the novel. It was also located in the Senate House.

–In the final article of a series in The Tablet about the writings of Walker Percy, Fr Robert Lauder includes this:

Both Percy and Flannery O’Connor claimed when a contemporary storyteller told a story with a religious message, the author was taking a chance because society had become so secular, readers would miss the religious dimension of the story. I have seen that happen more than once. Occasionally even the critics miss the message. One of the most discouraging examples I can think of involves Evelyn Waugh’s masterpiece “Brideshead Revisited.” There was an 11-part series on television dramatizing the novel that was the best series I have ever seen on television. There was also a feature film version that played in theatres years after the television series. I once met the star of the series, Jeremy Irons, and I congratulated him on what a magnificent production it was. He asked me, “Did we get the religious part right?” I assured him that the production beautifully captured Waugh’s Catholic vision. Irons was delighted and said, “We tried very hard.” The version that played in theatres was incredibly bad. Its creators missed the religious dimension of Waugh’s novel completely.

–Finally, Durham University has posted on an internet site an audio file of the talk given by Martin Stannard last year about Evelyn Waugh’s travels in the USA. The talk is entitled: “Evelyn Waugh, Catholicism and America.” See previous post. It is available at this link.

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New Biography of Graham Greene

A new biography of Graham Greene has been published. The UK edition is entitled Russian Roulette and is written by Richard Greene (no relation but editor of a collection of Graham’s letters). The book is reviewed in the Sunday Times by John Walsh who opens with a description of how Greene in 1948 introduced a teenage Michael Korda to drink, spying and sex on a single yachting trip:

It’s easy to see why Greene’s wicked-uncle sophistication, his familiarity with both yachting film stars and hookers on shore, persuaded the awestruck Korda to become a writer. But it’s puzzling to read, eight pages later in this new biography, Evelyn Waugh’s diary entry that describes a quite different figure. “Mass at 12 at Farm Street where I met the shambling, unshaven and … penniless figure of Graham Greene. He had been suddenly moved by love of Africa and emptied the contents of his pockets into the box for African missions.”

Walsh then continues with a a discussion of the contradictions exhibited in both Greene’s life and his writings. The review concludes:

The book, elegantly sliced into 78 chapters, bounds along with fluency, clarity and wry humour. It doesn’t deliver startling revelations to eclipse Norman Sherry’s three-volume authorised life, but its agenda is clear. Greene concentrates on his namesake’s emotional involvement with victims of oppression in the world’s poorest countries and the Cold War […]  He rescues Greene from seediness and coldness. And he lets you hear an echo of the character in The Quiet American who says: “Sooner or later one has to take sides. If one is to remain human.”

The diary entry is for 11 January 1948 (Diaries, p. 694).

The Greene biography is also reviewed in the Evening Standard. This is by Ian Thomson who begins by noting the high bar set for biographer’s by Norman Sherry’s 30-year effort written during Greene’s lifetime:

Several biographers have tried but failed to topple Sherry’s monopoly. Michael Shelden, publishing his life in the mid-Nineties, sought to arraign Greene on charges of sadism, anti-Semitism and alcoholism. Anthony Mockler offered a Boy’s Own hagiography and fancifully imagined Greene on his Lake Geneva deathbed: “Graham looked out of the antiseptic room over the sterile Swiss sky. No vultures gazed back…” Thank goodness for Richard Greene, whose splendid one-volume biography offers a succinct counterbalance to Sherry’s inedible trifle and conjures the man Evelyn Waugh nicknamed “Grisjambon Vert” (French for “grey ham green”) in all his perplexing variety. Where Sherry is tactless and indecorous, Richard Greene (no relation) is respectful and considered. Crisply written, Russian Roulette takes its title from Greene’s vaunted flirtation with suicide as a teenager in Berkhamsted outside London, where his father was a school headmaster. Prone to bouts of self-loathing, he drank heavily, smoked opium and patronised brothels.

Waugh’s nickname was applied in a 1961 letter to Christopher Sykes referring to Greene’s recently published “very sorrowful” novel A Burnt-Out Case (Letters, p. 556). The new biography has already appeared in the UK and will be published in the USA early next year under the title The Unquiet Englishman.

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Graham Greene and Waugh Discuss Powell Novel

In the latest installment of imaginary encounters among Evelyn Waugh and his Oxford friends at the Castle Howard Brideshead Festival, Duncan McLaren has Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh discuss Anthony Powell’s 1971 novel Books Do Furnish a Room. This was the 10th volume of Powell’s 12-novel cycle Dance to the Music of Time. The book is set in literary London during 1945-47. The Waugh/Greene discussion begins with the funeral that opens Powell’s novel. This follows the death of the character Erridge who is based loosely on George Orwell. Greene and Waugh see some connections between Orwell’s actual funeral (described in Powell’s Memoirs) and that depicted in the novel. But most of their discussion centers on the character X Trapnel, a fictional novelist based heavily on the real life minor novelist Julian Maclaren-Ross, who was known to both Greene and Waugh. Much of the article is taken up with readings from the novel by Waugh interspersed with the two writers then discussing that bit of the text.

Perhaps the most interesting discussion centers on a connection the writers see between Powell’s scene where Kenneth Widmerpool, a central character in Powell’s novel, returns to his flat near Victoria Station to discover that X Trapnel has absconded with  his wife. This scene reminds Evelyn of the flat in Canonbury Square where he was living with his first wife in 1929 when she ran off with John Heygate. Here’s an excerpt:

Waugh: … I think Tony [Powell] had what happened to me in mind when he wrote the scene. After all, he was a close friend of mine at the time, and he heard my side of the story. Moreover, he was on holiday in Germany with John Heygate when they received a telegram from me telling Heygate to come back for She-Evelyn, because our miserable attempt at a reconciliation had failed. And Evelyn Gardner was a close associate of Tony’s too. And he remained good friends with the pair of them. Even writing of their shared life in the Canonbury Square – and easily recognisable flat – in his pre-war book, Agents and Patients. Then returning to the fiasco in volume two of his Memoirs, which is also lying on the table in front of you. Yes?”

Greene: “Yes.”

Waugh: “There are pages and pages about the breakdown of my first marriage in that book.”

Greene: “I think I see what you’re driving at. For at least a few pages in Tony’s Dance, you are Widmerpool. Or you understand yourself to be the failure and humiliation that was Widmerpool, the man who nevertheless kept going.”

There is also a discussion of the scenes set in the premises of the postwar literary magazine known as Fission, clearly based by Powell on Cyril Connolly’s Horizon magazine. In Duncan’s narrative, Greene and Powell see the editor of Fission, “Books” Bagshaw, as based on the shambolic Bobby Roberts (usually associated with a BBC connection) who was known to both Waugh and Powell and probably to Greene as well. Several Powell enthusiasts have favored Malcolm Muggeridge as the primary model for Bagshaw, although there may well be elements of Roberts in him as well. Powell (as did Waugh) usually combined features of several real life acquaintances as well as imaginary ones in creating their most memorable literary characters. Greene may have done so as well, but identifying the models for Greene’s characters never became the sort of literary parlour game that involved identfying those of Powell and Waugh.

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Nicholas Shakespeare Interviewed on ABC

The Australian network ABC has posted a podcast of its literary program The Bookshelf that Made Me. This is intended to go beyond the constraints of its broadcast version, and its first guest is Nicholas Shakespeare. He is best known in this parish as the writer-director of the BBC’s 1980s three episode Arena TV documentary series about Evelyn Waugh, now referred to as The Waugh Trilogy. But he has also written several novels as well as some nonfiction. The interviewer is the program’s usual presenter Kate Evans. Here is the network’s description of this episode on its website:

The Bookshelf that Made Me: A series of interviews in which writers reveal the books that have shaped both their latest book, and their lives and writing more broadly.

Nicholas Shakespeare is a biographer, critic, essayist and documentary maker as well as a novelist. He’s written nonfiction works on Bruce Chatwin, Winston Churchill, on an Englishwoman living in WWll France among others, and his novels include The Dancer Upstairs and Inheritance.

His latest novel, The Sandpit (Harvill Secker), was reviewed on The Bookshelf recently.

And it was with The Sandpit in mind that Kate Evans spoke to Shakespeare about the antecedents of this literary thriller, as well as the other books and writers that have shaped him.

The program extends over about 30 minutes, and Shakespeare mentions Evelyn Waugh three times. He first recalls that he actually met Graham Greene (one of his favorite authors) when he interviewed him for the Arena series on Waugh. Then in answer to a question of what books he had recently re-read, he began by saying he approached re-reading with some hesitation, because he fears seeing flaws in something he once had liked. This happened recently in the case of Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall. He had read it as a student and thought it “a tiny jewl with no word out of place.” On re-reading, he found it a bit “baggier” with several longuers he hadn’t noticed earlier. Finally, when asked which of his favorites he had failed to mention in the interview so far, he returned to Waugh. And given this second chance he mentions Brideshead Revisited and the Sword of Honour war trilogy in which he thinks Waugh cannot write a bad sentence. He is currently re-reading Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels as part of his project to write a biography of Fleming authorized by the Fleming family.


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Roundup: Agony Aunts and Metroland

–In the Daily Telegraph, Rowan Pelling muses over whether novelists would make good advice to the lovelorn “agony aunts”. Pelling has always thought Edith Wharton would be excellent and notes that Simone de Beauvoir and Anaïs Nin in fact functioned as such, inspiring letters from readers of some of their writings, but is not so sure about other writers:

In fact, most famous authors would make terrible agony aunts. As Graham Greene rightly pointed out, good writers tend to have “a splinter of ice” in their hearts, which allows them to look dispassionately at unpleasant people and happenings and turn their observations into art. Greene himself would have been rubbish at proffering advice because of all that Catholic angst. Anyone who can make God the third person in a love affair, as he does in The End of the Affair, should be barred from counselling others. […]

In fact, speculating which writers would make good agony aunts, and which would not, makes an excellent parlour game for book lovers. I ran into the academic and Scott Fitzgerald aficionada Sarah Churchwell in the course of writing this article and we spent a delicious half-hour running through various scenarios. Churchwell’s top tip was Zelda Fitzgerald, on the grounds there was no experience she hadn’t lived through, including severe mental illness. We agreed you wouldn’t want to go near a man who’d taken advice from overly macho, wife-deserting Ernest Hemingway, nor one who modelled himself on Evelyn Waugh because of the repressed homosexuality and the snobbery (you’d feel you’d need to own a rather lovely country pile before he’d take any interest in your quandaries). Yet Henry James’s fine observation of errant behaviour, his ear for subtext – let alone his incredible insight into women – would put him right up there with his friend Wharton as a counsellor.

–In The Times, Deputy Books Editor James Marriott expresses his concern that exam results have become too pervasive in the university admissions system:

The West’s modern, exam-based meritocracy is an unsatisfactory answer to the old system of advancement based on wealth and family connections. In the years before the Second World War, Yale University admitted 90 per cent of its applicants. If you had the right sort of background and attended the right sort of school, you were almost guaranteed a place.

As late as the mid-1950s, an alumnus of an elite American private school was able to report that “Every member of the class got into his first-choice college except one, who was thought to be brain-damaged.” If Evelyn Waugh’s account of the rampaging Bollinger Club in Decline and Fall bears any relation to reality, 1920s Oxford was happily admitting even the brain-damaged, provided that they boasted suitably impressive lineages.

In the postwar years, our education system was rearranged to reward intelligence, not wealth. Oxford scholarships reserved for the pupils of particular private schools were abolished. Rather than accepting the poshest candidates, universities would accept the most able. The most convenient measure of merit to hand was exam results. Places at elite British and American universities became fiercely competitive. Nowadays Yale’s acceptance rate is 6.3 per cent. At Oxford it is 17.5 per cent.

This system soon infected politics and government services. The article concludes:

Unless we revert to a system of offering university places on the basis of aristocratic rank, exams are here to stay. They are a fact of modern life. But they needn’t be so central a fact. The grades GCSE students are assigned today will be arbitrary and unjust, regardless of whether or not an algorithm has screwed them up.

–A recent book review by James Baresel in the Roman Catholic weekly The Wanderer compares the writings of Ronald Knox to those of an American theologian:

Evelyn Waugh once wrote that one of the authors whom he read most frequently was Msgr. Ronald Knox, from whose books he could, at one and the same time, receive both spiritual edification and literary pleasure. Even in an age when that combination was not uncommon, Knox was able to achieve it to a truly rare degree, surpassed in English prose only by St. John Henry Newman. Today that tradition is largely a matter of history. Largely.

There remains one Anglophone priest who has maintained it, whose works are at least the equal of those from the pens of all but its greatest exemplars and can even be spoken of in the same breath as those of his handful of superiors and who is, moreover, the greatest contributor to that genre the United States has ever produced — Fr. George Rutler.[…]

Anyone not yet familiar with his works will find an excellent introduction to his thought and style in Sophia Press’ The Wit and Wisdom of Father George Rutler. Those whose familiarity with his writing is already extensive will find many of his most incisive and penetrative insights at their most memorable, amusing, and pungent best.

–Sam Wollaston writing in the Guardian thinks that the changes to work habits brought on by the Covid-19 epidemic may destroy the “commute” as a well-established subject of English literature. He mentions for example the:

…Metropolitan line, which brings commuters in from the more affluent (and further afield) mock-Tudor suburbs that became known as Metro-land and were celebrated by Evelyn Waugh, John Betjeman and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. But, again, there are very few commuters today. The capital – normally the lungs of the country, sucking in workers in the morning and exhaling them in the late afternoon – is breathing like a hibernating bear.

The tube has never been a place for striking up friendly conversations. With masks and distancing, it is more eyes-down-make-no-contact than ever. Social media is an easier space to approach strangers. My eye was caught by a tweet from a passenger on the 8.08 from Surbiton to Waterloo, usually one of the busiest commuter trains in the country, with a video clip showing the empty carriage. Surbiton, AKA Suburbiton, is quintessential commuter belt, home to Tom and Barbara in the 70s sitcom The Good Life and likely the inspiration for the fictional Climthorpe, where the salaryman Reggie hit his midlife crisis in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.

He’s got it right about Betjeman and the classic TV series but I am not sure what work of Waugh he has in mind that makes anything much out of London commuter life. He is probably thinking of Decline and Fall where there is a character named Margot Metroland and her politician husband but they don’t commute on public transport.

–Finally, the Daily Telegraph carries a column by Simon Heffer who reminds us that the BBC4 is running the 1960 Face to Face interview of Evelyn Waugh this evening at 1105p. He recalls the innovations brought to TV broadcasting by that interview series:

For all his achievements, Freeman was no egomaniac. The programme was about his subject, not about him. He was chosen because he was a serious man who would ask serious questions, but not in a way that would cause offence. All one saw of him, if one saw anything, was the back of his head. They may have been what we would now call celebrity interviews, but the interviewer was not the celebrity.

The questions were designed to reveal, and not to goad, trap or humiliate. Freeman’s formal, gentlemanly and brisk manner, as much as the allure of some of his subjects, was why the programmes were so feted, and why they make such compelling viewing still. […]

What distinguished Face to Face from later television interviews was that the interviewees agreed to be questioned about themselves, in an almost psychiatric fashion, and not about a book, film, record or show. Freeman used the same method of interrogation with Carl Gustav Jung and Lord Hailsham as he did with Albert Finney and Adam Faith.

No one was patronised; nothing was played for laughs; there were no softballs to help bring along the audience. Above all, there was no need for soundbites, because there was so much time; no one else came in and sat on a sofa and joined in the banter.

As noted in a previous post, the interview will follow BBC4’s screening of the 2008 theatrical film of Brideshead Revisited at 9pm.

Posted in Adaptations, Brideshead Revisited, Catholicism, Decline and Fall, Film, Interviews, Newspapers, Ronald Knox, Television Programs | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Desmond Guinness (1931-2020) R.I.P.

A recent issue of The Times carries the obituary of Desmond Guinness who died on 20 August at the age of 88. He was the younger son of two of Waugh’s closest friends during the early days of his career:

Desmond Walter Guinness was born in 1931, the younger of two sons of Bryan Guinness, scion of the 18th-century brewing family who became the 2nd Lord Moyne when his own father was assassinated in Cairo in 1944. His mother, Diana, regarded as the most beautiful and controversial of the Mitford sisters, went into labour with Desmond while at the theatre but was so enjoying the play that she stayed until the end. His brother, Jonathan, is the 3rd Lord Moyne.

During the interwar years their parents were among the brightest of the “bright young things”, a group satirised in Evelyn Waugh’s novel Vile Bodies (1930), which he dedicated to Bryan and Diana. A year after her son’s birth Diana began an affair with Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists. She and Mosley were married in 1936, in the Berlin home of Joseph Goebbels, with Hitler a guest […]

In 1940 Diana was interned in Holloway prison, where she was visited by her son. Although Guinness acknowledged the postwar hostility towards her and his stepfather, he would not say a bad word against her. “She was very beautiful, very funny,” he said, keeping her portrait by Augustus John on his wall.

Much of the Times’ obituary is given over to Desmond’s dedication to the Irish Georgian Society which was devoted to saving period buildings and furnishings from destruction and in many cases restoring them. He acquired Leixlip Castle and lived in it for many years with his family.

…Guinness, described by friends as an unassuming but mischievous and flirtatious man, played the clavichord and French horn, and hated cats. He continued with his preservation work, championing not only historic buildings but also the arts. In 1970 he helped to organise a chamber music festival at Castletown House in Co Kildare, the first of what became the Great Music in Irish Houses festival, at which a young [Mick] Jagger is said to have helped to set out the chairs. John Williams, the Australian guitarist, played at the inaugural event.

Although the silver-haired Guinness stepped down as chairman of the Irish Georgian Society in 1990, Leixlip Castle and its visitors remained the centre of his life. The writer and historian Ulick O’Connor recalled venturing down one morning to find Jagger having breakfast in his dressing gown while reading Oscar Wilde’s fairytales. “Here, it always seems to be this weekend or the next,” mused Guinness philosophically.

His older brother, Jonathan, seems to have survived him, although that isn’t clearly stated. Jonathan was the recipient of the manuscript of Vile Bodies (given by Waugh to Diana and Bryan to whom, as noted in the obituary, it was also dedicated). Martin Stannard discovered its whereabouts in 1984 when he was researching his biography of Evelyn Waugh. Prof Stannard describes this in the Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh, v. 2: Vile Bodies, pp xli-xliii.

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