Academia x 2: Pinfold’s Voices and Waugh’s Propaganda

–A recent academic article about Waugh’s postwar novel The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold has been posted on the internet. This is entitled “Hearing Voices: The Extended Mind in Evelyn Waugh’s The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold” and is by Yuexi Liu, a member of the Waugh Society and co-editor of its journal, Evelyn Waugh Studies. She teaches at XJT-Liverpool University in Shanghai. The article originally appeared in Modernist Cultures, 15.2 (2020) which has now posted it. Here’s the abstract (which also appeared in a previous post):

Waugh’s last comic novel The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (1957) takes ‘exterior modernism’ to a new height, no longer avoiding interiority – as in his interwar fiction – but exteriorising the interior through dissociation. ‘The Box’, to which the writer-protagonist attributes the source of the tormenting voices, may well be his own mind, an extended – albeit unhealthy – mind that works as a radio: he transmits his thoughts and then receives them as external signals in order to communicate with them. Pinfold’s auditory hallucinations are caused by the breakdown of communication. Interestingly, writing is also a dissociative activity. Concerned with the writer’s block, the novel reflects on the creative process and illuminates the relationship between madness and creativity. If dissociation, or the splitting of the mind, is a defence against trauma, the traumatic experience Pinfold attempts to suppress is the Second World War. The unusual state of mind accentuates the contingency of Waugh’s radio writing; his preferred medium is cinema.

A full copy of the article is now available at this link.

–Another article appears in The Review of English Studies. This is entitled “‘Conducting his own Campaigns’: Evelyn Waugh and Propaganda” and is written by Guy Woodward (Durham University). It was originally published on 23 September 2021. Here’s the abstract:

This essay examines Evelyn Waugh as practitioner and critic in the field of wartime propaganda. In 1941, Waugh produced a fictitious account of a British Commando raid on German territory in North Africa for publication in Britain and the United States, an episode which reveals his skill as a propagandist, but also prompts scrutiny of his contacts with British propaganda agencies and agents and of the effect of propaganda on his writings. Waugh’s interwar fiction exhibits a sophisticated understanding of the evolving and growing power of modern propaganda, but the novels also anticipate the public relations and psychological warfare campaigns of the Second World War, specifically those carried out by the Political Warfare Executive (PWE), a secret service established in 1941 to produce and coordinate propaganda to enemy and occupied Europe. Waugh’s proximity to the PWE is suggested by a dense network of social and professional connections, and is further indicated by a series of references to the PWE and its work which I have uncovered in his fiction. Allusions to covert propaganda in Put Out More Flags and the Sword of Honour trilogy betray Waugh’s understanding of the PWE’s operations, but also provide a critique of the corrosive and unforeseen effects of information warfare waged by the secret state and offer a productive means of re-examining his much-noted anxieties regarding modernity and mid-century political change.

A full copy is available here.

UPDATE (29 April 2022): A correction was made in the entry about Yuexi Wu’s Gilbert Pinfold article. The original entry copied the abstract from a different article. The correct abstract is now posted.  Apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused.

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BBC Radio 4 to Rebroadcast A Handful of Dust

Tne BBC will rebroadcast its two hour, two episode radio adaptation of  A Handful of Dust. This will be transmitted on BBC Radio 4 Extra on Thursday, 24 February at 1000a and will be available thereafter on BBC iPlayer. Here is the announcement:

When Brenda Last embarks on an affair that is the talk of London society it has tragic consequences for all those involved…

Evelyn Waugh’s 1934 novel starring Tara Fitzgerald and Jonathan Cullen. Dramatised in 2 parts by Bill Matthews.

The adaptation was originally broadcast in 1996 and was last rebroadcast in 2020.


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Roundup: End it with a Waugh

–An opinion article in The Times by Matthew Parris considers the actions that will be taken on the part of Tory politicians seeking to replace Boris Johnson as their leader. Their different political placements call for different tactics. But the article ends with this observation that is generally applicable to all:

They should be warned, though, that with Johnson the traditional procedure cannot be relied upon. Max Hastings reminds me that when Evelyn Waugh’s Captain Grimes was left with a revolver and a bottle of whisky, colleagues returned to find the revolver untouched, and the man — and the whisky — gone.

–The New York Times has an opinion article by a Jesuit priest (James Martin) about the proper reaction by the vaccinated on the death of an outspoken Anti-vaxxer. He explains that the German’s have a word for this dilemma: schadenfreude. After discussing several alternatives, the article ends with this:

When it comes to schadenfreude, a line from Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited” is apposite. The dotty father of Charles Ryder, the protagonist, is hosting a meal at home. The father mentions someone whose business has failed, and another guest chuckles.

“You find his misfortune the subject of mirth?” Charles’s father retorts.

It’s a lighthearted scene, probably not meant to carry as much weight as other scenes in Waugh’s novel about moral choices. But it has always stuck with me. Don’t find another person’s misery the subject of mirth, glee or satisfaction. Doing so is mean. It’s immoral. And one day you may be the unfortunate one.

–Johanna Lane writes in the Daily Beast about novels in which the large house or castle in which the action takes place is as important as the characters. After several examples, including Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Elizabeth Bowen’s Danielstown in The Last September, she closes with this:

I chose this because it’s the novel from which I took the epigraph for my book: Charles Ryder, the narrator of Brideshead Revisited, says “I regarded men as something much less than the buildings they made and inhabited, as mere lodgers and short-term sub-lessees of small importance in the long, fruitful life of their homes.” I love this sentiment because it articulates how ironic it is that families create these great houses to demonstrate their own importance, but their houses almost always outlive them—and their family line.

Her book that she refers to is probably her first novel Black Lake which she cites at the beginning of the article.

–Novelist Susan Hill marks her own 80th birthday in this week’s issue of The Spectator. One of the things she finds herself enjoying is rereading her favorite books: Dickens (Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Great Expectations) leads the list: “I am also having an Elizabeth Bowen jag this year and finding Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse even better than I remembered. That’s also the case for the trilogies by Olivia Manning and Evelyn Waugh set during the second world war…” Diary of a Nobody, Three Men in a Boat and Pursuit of Love close out the discussion.

The Times has another article citing Waugh’s writing. This is about a school in North London called City of London Academy Highgate Hill. Although it is a state comprehensive school, it has over the 17 years of its existence managed to become “nakedly selective” and a target for admission of  a “pupil premium”. The headmaster explains his:

… conviction that without great teaching in lessons, you might as well let children run riot.

In Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall, the hapless Paul Pennyfeather, landed with his first class, asks in panic, “But what am I to teach them?” He is told, “Oh, I shouldn’t try to teach them anything, not just yet anyway, just keep them quiet.”

This is anathema to [Headmaster] Gennuh. “The lesson has to be good,” he says. “With students behaving themselves in the classroom, teachers have to teach. If you’re not teaching good lessons you may as well let the students run around in the classroom and babysit them.”

–Finally, in The Imaginative Conservative, religious commentator Joseph Pearce considers two examples of TV adaptations of novels where the success of one doomed the effort of a remake. The two adaptations are Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1995/2006) and Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited (1981/2007). While not mentioned, another story in the Irish Times confirms that the plans for a third attempt at a Brideshead adaptation have not yet quite jelled. This is in an interview of actor Andrew Garfield:

Garfield confirms that, as has been reported, he hopes to play Charles Ryder in a new TV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited for Luca Guadagnino. “It’s a matter of time and schedule, and financing and all that stuff,” he says.


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Academic Roundup: 2020-2021

The following articles and reviews have appeared in academic journals for the period 2020-21 (2019 in one case) and have not been previously posted. The summaries of articles come (except as noted) from an academic library search service and those of reviews are quoted from text:

–Lara Ehrenfried, “‘There’s a Song There, Really’: Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, the Musical Revue, and Early Sound Film”, Modern fiction studies, 2020-10-01, Vol.66 (3), p.423

This essay examines the relationship between Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, the musical revue, and early sound film in Britain. By attending to the soundscapes of Waugh’s novel and connecting them with the history of revue, early sound film productions of revue shows, and contemporary reviews of the novel as a “revue between covers,” this analysis demonstrates the text’s critical interaction with both emerging sound film and stage entertainment of its time. The essay argues that Vile Bodies is Waugh’s attempt to assert the place of the novel in a rapidly expanding media system.

–Matt Phillips, “First Miles Philips, and Then Tony Last: The Noble Savage Myth in Hakluyt and in Waugh’s A Handful of Dust”, The Comparatist, 2021-10-01, Vol.45 (1), p.287-299

Opening paragraph: In his 1582 “A discourse written by one Miles Philips Englishman, put on shore in the West Indies by Mr John Hawkins,” Miles Philips delivers a tale of shipwreck and captivity that ends with his heroic return to England. In 1934, Evelyn Waugh publishes the novel A Handful of Dust, another narrative of captivity, though one that leaves the reader with the tacit knowledge that protagonist Tony Last will live out the rest of his days imprisoned, reading Charles Dickens to his illiterate captor, Mr. Todd. Although separated by nearly four centuries, what links these two narratives is how each intersects with the myth of the noble savage. Both Philips and Last find themselves in the role of the subjugated, finding themselves in a position to empathize with native peoples historically thought of by some as savages. Along with this subjugation comes the potential to experience the type of conversion expected of the legendary noble savage. Philips, the former invader and slave trader, undergoes what we might call a mock-conversion during his captivity. His attitude about the natives is reformed, as he develops a “great familiarity with many of them, whom [he] found to be a courteous and loving kind of people …” (Hakluyt 150). Such a change, I argue, ultimately leads to Philips’s deliverance. Last does not undergo such liberation. Waugh’s own religious conversion alongside his complex affinity with the writings of Dickens alter his view of the noble savage myth. Waugh biographer David Wykes writes that Last “is an alter ego of the naïve Evelyn Waugh in the blindness of irreligion” (106). On September 29, 1930, Waugh joined the Catholic Church, four years prior to the publication of A Handful of Dust (Wykes 74). If Last were successful in his discovery of the imagined lost city in the novel, he would perpetuate those very humanist ideals, alongside the type of unchecked conquest—the “glory” of Hetton—that Waugh satirizes (Waugh 308). By comparing Philips’s and Waugh’s distinctive viewpoints regarding the myth of the noble savage, I will show how Waugh—in the shadow of Dickens—ultimately rejects the redemptive power that Philips experiences.

–Peter J Comerford, “Redeeming the Times: Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour as Sacramental Epic”, Christianity & literature, 2021, Vol.70 (1), p.28-51

Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy is a sacramental epic that derives its theology from the thinkers of the ressourcement, the theologians seeking a renewal of Catholic thinking by rediscovering the works of the early church fathers. Waugh shows grace operating both through the seven sacraments as well as the sacramentality of creation. He portrays a notion of specific vocation, whereby every person has a unique role to play in God’s plan. He uses the narrative device of eucatastrophe, which depicts that within God’s plan, good can come out of evil.

–Amanda K Greene, “The Passing Hour: 1930s Real-Time, Vile Bodies, and the Ethics of Reading”, Configurations (Baltimore, Md.), 2021, Vol.29 (2), p.119-154

Understanding real-time as an orientation toward the present and its documentation as opposed to a concrete (digitally determined) technological affordance, this article locates real-time in the burgeoning photographic tabloid culture of 1930s Britain. It traces how technical innovations in information transmission and circulation during the interwar years impacted the circuits between readers and their “real life” environment. Moreover, by engaging with Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies (1930), a text strung between novel and tabloid supplement, it suggests how real-time’s newly habituated, melancholic modes of reading might push individuals to stand by in the face of individual pain and mass violence.

–Jonathan Greenberg, “A Double-Edged Sword”, Papers on language & literature, 2020-04-01, Vol.56 (2), pagination unavailable.

Greenberg reviews Evelyn Waugh’s Satire: Texts and Contexts by Naomi Milthorpe. [This is concluding paragraph: “Synthesizing established views while also revising or overturning them is a challenging task, especially in a concise volume such as this. In the end, the Waugh who emerges is as elusive as ever, and that is probably as it should be. In some chapters–such as the readings of Decline and Fall and Love Among the Ruins–he appears as a cultural reactionary, valuing tradition, religion, and restraint rather than the chaos and energy embodied by figures like Decline and Fall ‘s Grimes. In others, such as the reading of Put Out More Flags, the pervasive understanding of Waugh as a conservative is successfully challenged. And of course however dour Waugh’s pessimism, it cannot erase the glee he takes in skewering modernity and inflicting bitter fates on his hapless and helpless characters. Ultimately, we probably have to concede that Waugh is neither one thing nor the other. To be sure, his reputation hardened over time into that of a curmudgeon, and at times he appears merely “a grumpy middle-aged man in a bad mood with Attlee” (138). But, as Milthorpe contends in Chapter 7, on The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, Waugh always maintained a “self-conscious and self-mocking awareness” (147) of his own public image and never shied from numbering himself among the targets of his satire. She thus makes a welcome break from reading the novel autobiographically, viewing Pinfold as a kind of self-parody and self-disguise. Waugh here, as elsewhere, remains one step ahead of his critics.]

–Anna Faktorovich, “Over Quoting, Contradiction and other Amoralities in Waugh Scholarship”, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, 2019-07-10, v 11(2), pp. 112-114.


[Review of Evelyn Waugh’s Satire: Texts and Contexts by Naomi Milthorpe.] Since there have been many other studies on Waugh, the summary then promises that this book “renews scholarly debates central to Waugh’s work: the forms of his satire, his attitudes towards modernity and modernism, his place in the literary culture of the interwar period, and his pugnacious (mis)reading of literary and other texts. While Waugh denied he was a satirist and has a different moral tone to his critiques, in part because unlike most satirists he uses third person narrators, Milthorpe argues that he retains a subversive satiric style under a veil of disregard: “readers are meant to see these” moral “standards lurking behind the arras, and Waugh’s verbal strategy enables an implicit criticism of that narrative world, in which civility might retain some vestigial power, but brutality is allowed to proceed unchecked by authority” (2-5). Readers who come to this book without this type of knowledge might be turned away from studying satires due to all these confusing critical contradictions. […]those new to Waugh or to satire, should not read this book.



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75th Anniversary of Waugh’s Trip to Hollywood

On 31 January 1947, Evelyn Waugh and his wife Laura arrived in New York on board the SS America. They were enroute to Los Angeles in a trip arranged by Waugh’s agent A D Peters. This was planned to facilitate Waugh’s meeting with MGM studios about the filming of Brideshead Revisited. It is apparent from the book about that trip by Robert Murray Davis (Mischief in the Sun, Troy, NY: 1999) that Waugh was more interested in finding relief from the restraints of austerity in Britain than in securing a contract for the filming of his novel. He had been urging Peters to organize the American expedition for the past year. Most of what follows is based on Davis’s book.

This was not the Waughs’ first visit to New York. They had stopped there in 1938 on the way to and from Mexico. However, Waugh made little effort to describe the portions of that trip that took place in the United States except to mention how hot New York was in July. There are brief references to a side trip to Washington but little else. Since Laura was with him, there were no letters home. The outbound trip continued by ship to Veracruz. They returned by train via Texas and New York, but Waugh had even less to say about that journey.

On the 1947 trip Waugh was keeping a diary, probably with the thought of using the experience for future writings. While Waugh never wrote a travel book describing the trip, he did use his experiences to write The Loved One, several articles on the film industry and its practitioners, as well as an article about American burial customs. Bob Davis uses those sources as well as Waugh’s correspondence about the trip to his friends and professional contacts such as Peters. In addition, memoirs of others who met with Waugh  in America are cited.

On the outbound journey, Waugh allowed 3 days in New York before proceeding by train to California. From Davis’s description, this stop was more to facilitate Laura’s shopping than to enable Waugh to improve his publishing contacts. He did visit with some representatives of various Hearst magazines that had previously published his work. These produced nothing concrete but a $3500 payment from Hearst, partly for previous publications but mostly as an advance on unspecified future works. An additional $2000 was set aside to finance a station wagon to be delivered in Ireland. The cash was mostly used to fund Laura’s shopping. Accommodations and travel were covered by MGM. There were future repercussions with Hearst about this substantial advance but, without knowing it, Waugh was about to find another even more lucrative outlet for his American journalism: Life Magazine.

The Waughs were put up at the Waldorf Astoria, at that time the most “luxe” of New York’s hostelries. Waugh was not altogether satisfied with that establishment and on future trips stayed at The Plaza. An MGM representative Carol Brandt was assigned to facilitate the Waughs’ entertainment, shopping and meals. Brandt arranged for dinner parties in her own home as well at those of two of her friends. She also got them theatre tickets to a Broadway show that Waugh described as a “comedy shot through and through with socialist propaganda.” Bob Davis thinks this was probably Gordon Kanin’s Born Yesterday. According to Davis, Waugh seemed generally pleased with Brandt’s efforts.

After their three days in New York, the Waughs were put aboard the New York Central’s first class Twentieth Century Limited for the overnight trip to Chicago where they were scheduled to connect to the Santa Fe Chief for the onward trip to California. The railroads in America never managed to arrange for thru single train service between the East and West Coast, but the Waughs’ connection was relatively seamless. As Bob Davis describes it, their New York- Chicago NY Central coach was shunted from one Chicago station to another where it was attached to the Santa Fe train. This process took about 4 hours but the passengers could remain aboard the coach. Waugh knew from his Mexico trip that long-distance American trains  “are the most comfortable means of getting across country yet devised by man” (Robbery Under Law, Penguin, 2011, p. 7). Little could he know that over the next decade this form of transport ceased to exist.

The Waughs were befriended by an American couple on the train to California. This was Howard and Marguerite Cullman. Mr Cullman was involved in show business, and they were both fans of Waugh’s writings.  They were also well informed about the Hollywood film business and briefed Waugh on the MGM executives he was about to meet. Mrs Cullman, who later published a memoir in which she recounted, inter alia, her encounter with Waugh, also provided advice on what to see. Among her suggestions was the pet cemetery.

Waugh made three more trips to New York: 1948, 1949 and 1950. Most of this trip was spent in California where he arrived on 6 February 1947. The furthest west he got on those later occasions was Minneapolis-St Paul.

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New Dutch Edition of Brideshead

A new Dutch edition of Brideshead Revisited will be published next week. The Dutch title is Terugkeer naar Brideshead (literally “Return to Brideshead”) and will be published by Prometheus in Amsterdam. This is the 10th edition of a Dutch version. Here is an excerpt from a translation of the review by Rudi Muelemans in the Belgian paper De Standaard:

It’s doubtful that a creative writing student would get good marks with a paper like  Brideshead Revisited. The teacher would certainly point out some structural shortcomings. For example, the most fascinating character, Sebastian, disappears from the picture after a few chapters and in the third part the main character, Charles, suddenly appears to have a wife and children out of nowhere. The author of  Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh, was aware of these flaws based on his experience with the writing process.

Waugh had gone into military service at the outbreak of World War II. When he parachuted out of a plane during a training flight in December 1943, he made a somewhat rough landing and broke his fibula. He got leave. During that time, lasting until June 1944, he wrote Brideshead Revisited. Although largely set in the 1920s and 1930s, it is a souvenir of the Second World War.

Waugh described the novel’s theme as the action of divine grace on a group of distinct but closely related characters. He had joined the Catholic Church a few years earlier and, after the satirical works Decline and fall and A handful of dust , it was time for his great Catholic novel. He subtitled the book The Sacred and Profane  Memories of Captain Charles Ryder . Those memories are linked to a specific place:  Brideshead castle…

Waugh’s leave was originally granted for a few weeks to recuperate from his injury but was later extended several times to allow him to write the book. The review continues with a summary of the plot and ends with this:

The epilogue of the book takes us back to the beginning. Charles sees how the troops have damaged Brideshead. Evil tongues sometimes claim that during the war the British army caused more damage to the manors than Hitler’s bombings. As his men settle in, Charles visits the chapel and says a prayer.

At this point in the novel, I consider that Sebastian’s disappearance from the narrative may not be Waugh’s fault after all. It ensures that the reader also feels the pressing loss. Charles realizes that the best time of his life was the period of his friendship with Sebastian. The only thing we possess is the past.

The first Dutch translation was by E. van Andel and was published in 1947 by De Bezige Bij in Amsterdam. A new translation by Luc Viljingh was issued in 2001, and Prometheus republished that version in 2008. This information is based on The translation of the review is by Google with a few edits.


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Midwinter Roundup

–Charles Moore writing in his miscellany column for The Spectator marks the upcoming 70th anniversary of the death of George VI:

King George VI died in his sleep 70 years ago next week, after a day at Sandringham shooting hares and pigeons (the pheasant season having just ended). ‘I hope,’ said Winston Churchill to his doctor, ‘you will arrange something like that for me. But don’t do it till I tell you.’ He then broadcast to the nation. His phrase about the King having ‘walked with death’ was much admired. Evelyn Waugh was unimpressed. ‘Do your foreign set know that our King is dead?’ he wrote to Nancy Mitford in Paris. ‘Mr Churchill made a dreadful speech on the TSF [Telégraphie sans fil, i.e. wireless]. Triteness enlivened only by gross blunders… George VI’s reign will go into history as the most disastrous my unhappy country has known since Matilda and Stephen.’ ‘All the newspapers,’ he raged, ‘are full of the glorification of Elizabeth Tudor [because the new Queen was Elizabeth II], the vilest of her sex.’ He added that ‘The King died at the moment when Princess Elizabeth [in Kenya] first put on a pair of “slacks”… The Duke of Windsor lost his throne much more by his beret than by his adultery.’

The letter is dated 28 January 1952 (NMEW, 264). The Spectator quote omits an interesting passage about Queen Elizabeth I in which Waugh disagreed with Winston Churchill’s assessment of her reign:

His [Churchill’s] most inept historical parallel: comparing our present Queen with Elizabeth Tudor: ‘Neither grew up in the expectation of the crown.’ Elizabeth Tudor had been formally bastardized & declared ineligible by Henry VIII and all three estates of the realm. She survived alive because of the high Christian principles of Mary Tudor, when in any other royal family, she would have been executed. She was jockeyed into place by a gang of party bosses and executed the rightful heir Mary Stuart.

–A posting on the weblog of the University of Texas–Permian Basin (in Odessa) includes an excerpt from a new book by one of its faculty, Antonio Moreno, Professor of Spanish. This is entitled Burnished Mahogany Between Two Mirrors: Mexico and Scandinavia and will be published next month:

Travel narratives are not a minor undertaking nor an easy task. They force us to implement a range of techniques and a variety of devices to describe the landscape and to both make immediate and transcendent that specific moment when the traveler connects profoundly with the place and the people. [..] To transcend said bond [between place and people], one must practice searching, negotiating, interacting, crossing… and must be open to barter. A text narrating a voyage is completely questionable if rooted in stereotype, prejudice, and an underestimation of the visited culture.

There are many examples, from both sides of the spectrum.

Let’s take, for instance, Mexico: An Object Lesson (1939), by British writer Evelyn Waugh. Its pages reveal that the reasons for the 1938 trip described by Waugh had nothing to do with pleasure, aesthetics, or gastronomy; they were political. The translation of the title into Spanish speaks volumes: México: robo al amparo de la ley (2009) / Mexico: Theft Sanctioned by Law. The translator’s interpretation of the title confirms that Waugh was traveling as a correspondent both for the British Crown and for the British oil companies – very much the same way employees of the famous East India Company did a century prior. The British author was not a traveler with a desire to learn lessons from a vast country he knew nothing about. His views on Mexico provoke indignation. He maintains that it is a country in ruins, plunged into chaos, dependent on the rich nations, and—as if that were not enough—a country lacking Enlightenment-fueled ideas. Waugh aims to impose his ideological point of view, one of an English conservative and colonialist (though one who, at least, writes devilishly well) as he assesses the effects of the oil appropriation that President Lazaro Cardenas had set in motion, thereby impacting Great Britain’s investments and interests on Mexican soil.

The Guardian has posted an interview of writer Edmund White. Here is one of his responses:

The book I could never read again
I have a book group of two with the novelist Yiyun Li. I suggested we read Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, which I’d read as a student and thought was terminally sophisticated. When we tried it a year ago I thought it was antisemitic (Father Rothschild!), heavy-handed and unfunny.

–The Italian religious website Radio Spada has posted an English-language version of an article by Luca Fumagalli. This is entitled “Chesterton and Waugh: resounding, unforgettable laughter”.  Here are the opening paragraphs:

With the exception of being converts to Catholicism G. K. Chesterton and Evelyn Waugh seem to have nothing in common: in addition to being born in different periods, each had a unique and unmistakable style.

Yet a profound bond exists between the two, starting with some shared biographical details such as a passion for drawing and the journey towards religion undertaken only after having toyed with the idea of suicide.

Chesterton and Waugh are, so to speak, the alpha and omega of the first period of English Catholic literature of the twentieth century, the one that draws heavily from the theological-cultural tradition of Newman and Manning, and that ends with Vatican II (harshly criticized by Waugh) and with a new generation of more progressive Catholic authors.

–The website The Data Lounge has opened a discussion thread to consider this question:

Watching [the 1981 Granada adaptation of Brideshead Revisited] I couldn’t help but think, would anyone in 2021 be able to sit through a single episode of this? It’s far too literate for people weaned on recent period pieces like Downton Abbey and The Gilded Age etc.

Is it even possible for something to be both popular and sophisticated like this anymore?

There are several interesting responses, and I believe the thread may still be open. Here’s the link.

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Keeping Up With Aristocrats (More)

The second episode of the new ITV series “Keeping Up With the Aristocrats” airs tomorrow on ITV at 9pm. This will, no doubt, offer additional examples of enterprising efforts by four aristocratic families to make something of more immediate value out of their inheritances. Previously, we mentioned Evelyn Waugh’s connections with one of these families–the Sitwells at Renishaw Hall. It turns out, after some additional research, that Waugh also had a connection with the Sitwell’s neighbors the Fitzalan-Howards at Carlton Towers. Waugh recounts in some detail a 1939 visit to Carlton Towers where he was the invited guest of Miles Howard.

This connection is mentioned in an article by Eleanor Doughty appearing in today’s Sunday Times based on her interview of Gerald Fitzalan-Howard and his wife. Here’s an extract:

…Carlton, rebuilt by Edward Pugin in 1873, has 126 rooms, a clock tower, and about 2,000 acres. The house came into Gerald’s family through his grandmother Mona, 11th Baroness Beaumont, in whose family, the Stapletons, the estate had been since 1301. Gerald’s late father treasured Carlton as his childhood home, and, Gerald told me in 2018 when I visited, “could remember the First World War armistice parade coming through”. His friend, the author Evelyn Waugh, who was at Oxford with the future duke — in his time, the most senior lay Roman Catholic — stayed at Carlton, “and wrote Brideshead Revisited after he stayed here”.

Waugh leaves a record of that visit in his diary for 29 July 1939. The visit began with a trip in a hired railroad carriage arranged by Miles Howard who accompanied Waugh and two other guests on the trip to Yorkshire, where they got out at Selby. Waugh’s connection with the Howards seems to come through their friendship with his wife’s family, the Herberts. The Times article suggests that Waugh and Miles knew each other at Oxford, but that seems unlikely since Miles was 12 years younger than Waugh. In his diary entry, Waugh comments, “Lord Howard has little importance in the house and twitches painfully.” That must have been Lord Howard of Glossop (1885-1972) who (according to a footnote in the diary) was the father of Miles Howard (1915-2002) and owner of Carlton Towers at the time of Waugh’s visit. Miles  became the 17th Duke of Norfolk in 1975, inheriting the title not from his father but from a second cousin once removed. Miles was, in turn, the father of Gerald Fitzalan-Howard (b. 1962) present owner of  Carlton, who appears in the ITV series.

Just to complicate matters further, Waugh’s biographers make several references to a Francis Howard. This is probably Francis Philip Howard, 2nd Baron Howard of Penrith (1905-1999). Waugh met him on the occasion of his first meeting with the Herbert family in Portofino. His obituary in the Daily Telegraph (8 Dec 1999) says that during “school holidays and thereafter he enjoyed staying with his Herbert cousins in the West Country where his love of literature was fostered in company that included Evelyn Waugh, Hilaire Belloc, and Ronald Knox.” Francis was a witness at Waugh’s marriage to Laura Herbert in 1937 and a godfather of their first child Teresa. Selina Hastings identifies him as “Francis Howard, 2nd Baron Howard of Penrith”. On the day of his departure from Carlton Towers (2 August 1939), Waugh enigmatically writes in his diary: “Lord Howard of Penrith dies.” The person referred to as Francis Howard would have inherited the Penrith title at that time, but Waugh makes no connection between this Howard and those at Carlton Towers mentioned a few lines above. How Francis may be related, if at all, to the Fitzalan-Howards at Carlton Towers is not explained. His father was a diplomat: Esmé Howard (1863-1939), sometime Ambassador to the US, and was created the 1st Baron Howard of Penrith in 1930 when he retired.

Waugh says that there were 7 or 8 Howards present when he visited Carlton Towers in 1939, “each with a Christian name beginning with M.” That would seem to exclude Francis Howard from that party. However, it is somewhat troubling to note that Miles, who was definitely present and seems to be Waugh’s connection to the family, had the full name “Miles Francis Stapleton Howard”.  So far as I can determine, however, “Francis Howard” and “Miles Howard” as referred to by Waugh and his biographers are different people. Michael Davie, who edited Waugh’s diaries, seems to agree (p. 810). Anyone having more or contrary information on this point is invited to comment as provided below. Another indirect connection existed between Waugh’s wife Laura and a “Henry Howard” who, according to Selina Hastings (p. 324), was one of her suitors before she met Evelyn. Since he lacks an “M” name, he was also probably absent from the Carlton Towers house party. He may possibly be Francis Howard’s brother: Henry Anthony Carrillo Howard (1913-1977).

In his diary, Waugh provides a detailed description of Carlton Towers, both outside and inside. It is not very flattering:

“First sight of the house is staggering, concrete-faced, ivy-grown, 1870 early Tudor, bristling with gargoyles, heraldic animals carrying fully emblazoned banners, coroneted ciphers; an orgy of heraldry…The inside gives every evidence of semi-amateur planning; space where none is needed, cramped arches and windows where one cries out for space, harsh light everywhere from bad stained glass…Large numbers of indifferent paintings ascribed to Italian masters. The great drawing room wainscotted in sham ebony with, above, sham Spanish leather, atrocious paintings in the panel of Shakespearian characters, more escutcheons with countless quarterings.”

But as he explored some further reaches of the house, he found

“many charms: the relics of two earlier houses below the 1870 shell, some 1830 Gothic, some first-class pre-Adam Georgian and bits of pre-Tudor rooms. A fine music library with some fairly interesting books.”

So far as I can tell from Waugh’s writings, he did not renew his friendships with the Howards after the war. They must have rubbed into each other in London but he mentions no further visits to Carlton Towers or meetings with Miles, Francis or “Lord Howard”. In the case of Francis, this may have been due to a war wound in 1942 from which, according to the Telegraph, he never fully recovered and which  limited his mobility. There was a further connection with Carlton Towers after Waugh’s death. As explained in Miles Howard’s obituary in the Daily Telegraph (26 June 2002):

When Evelyn Waugh’s novel A Handful of Dust was filmed at Carlton Towers, [Miles Howard, by then 17th Duke of Norfolk] was an extra in the part of a gardener; Kenneth Rose remarked in The Sunday Telegraph that Norfolk lit a bonfire and touched his cap as if “to the cottage born”.

It would seem fair to say that a closer personal relationship existed between Waugh and the Fitzalan-Howards than he had with their Protestant relatives living at Castle Howard a few miles further north, even though the latter have benefitted more from repeated adaptations of his works.

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Connolly’s Letters

A London auction house (Forum Auctions) has listed for sale 5 letters from Cyril Connolly to Evelyn Waugh. Here’s the description from their online announcement:

Connolly (Cyril) 5 Autograph Letters signed to Evelyn Waugh, [c. 1948], discussing “The Loved One”, to be published in Horizon magazine and with references to Aldous Huxley, Ronald Knox and George Orwell who, Connolly tells Waugh, “has written a horrific anti-totalitarian book about the future in this country, called 1984”.

The source of these letters is not revealed. The interesting question is why they are not included in the British Library’s archive catalogued as the Evelyn Waugh Papers.  This contains incoming correspondence to Evelyn Waugh from his friends and associates such as Connolly. The BL archive includes a manuscript volume # MS 81051 that contains 47 pages of letters from Connolly to Waugh between 1946-1964. The letters to be auctioned apparently cover the period late 1947-early 1948 when Waugh arranged for the publication of The Loved One in Connolly’s Horizon magazine. They may contain discussions about edits to the text of that novella which appeared in the magazine’s February 1948 issue. Some of Waugh’s side of the correspondence about The Loved One publication appears in his collected Letters, pp. 259 ff.

It is apparent from the annotations that the editor of the collected Letters (Mark Amory) had copies of Connolly’s side of the correspondence (or at least some of it) about the Horizon publication of The Loved One. At p. 260, this note appears relating to Waugh’s proposal dated 16 September 1947 offering the novella to Connolly for publication in Horizon:

Connolly was enthusiastic. “One of your very best I think. I shall be honoured to publish it.” He made several detailed suggestions, most of which Waugh adopted. The Loved One was published in February 1948 in Horizon and in November as a book. [Letters, 260.]

Additional comments from Connolly are quoted at p. 262. Waugh’s biographer Philip Eade quotes a letter from Connolly to Waugh that discusses the Horizon publication; this is dated 2 September 1947 and is cited to the BL archive as its source (Eade, pp. 283, 368). That quote also includes some of the same language of Connolly quoted in the collected Letters annotations (p. 260, n.2). Whether other letters among those to be auctioned may be the source for additional references to  Connolly’s publication of and editorial suggestions for The Loved One is not clear.

The Forum Auction notice includes a copy of one page of Connolly’s correspondence. This is where he describes George Orwell’s convalescence in a sanatorium near Stroud, Gloucestershire, which was in turn near where Waugh was living at Piers Court in Dursley. Waugh took up Connolly’s suggestion and visited Orwell there.  A least one Orwell biographer (DJ Taylor, p. 409) was aware that it was Connolly who was responsible for Waugh’s visiting Orwell at the sanatorium. But whether the discussions of Waugh and Connolly about Aldous Huxley or Ronald Knox or about Connolly’s early personal assessment of 1984 and Orwell’s state of health have been available to and discussed by the several biographers of those various writers I couldn’t say. The Ronald Knox discussion probably relates to Waugh’s essay on Knox that appeared in the May 1948 issue of Horizon.  Perhaps the BL or one of the repositories of Connolly’s papers will acquire these letters and assure their future availability to scholars.

The auction is scheduled for 10 February 2022. For more details see this link to the auction notice.

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Midwinter Events

Here are some upcoming events that may be of interest to our readers:

–ITV has started a 3-episode documentary series called “Keeping up with the aristocrats” which began airing yesterday. It will follow the lives of four aristocratic families who are striving to preserve their expansive and expensive homes and estates by marketing bits of both to the public. Among the participants are the residents of Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire, ancestral home of the Sitwells and a favorite venue for Evelyn Waugh’s Country House visits in the days of Osbert Sitwell’s incumbency. Today, Alexandra Sitwell, daughter of Osbert’s brother Sacheverell (also a friend of Waugh), and her husband Rick Hayward live there.

In this episode Alexandra and Rick host their Yorkshire neighbors Lord and Lady Fitzalan-Howard (aka Gerald and Emma) who live at Carlton Towers near Harrogate. They are relatives of the Howards who live at Castle Howard, also in Yorkshire. As noted in a recent post, these Fitzalan-Howards are of a Roman Catholic heritage whereas those at Castle Howard are descended from Protestants. The Fitzalan-Howards are in the process of starting a vineyard and wanted to compare notes on that subject with the Sitwells (or should they be referred to as the Haywards?) who already have one. Waugh would probably find this amusing. The other two subjects are Princess Olga Romanoff (currently single) and Lord Ivar Mountbatten and his husband James.

The Daily Telegraph’s online review of the first episode was written by William Cash, who it turns out supplements his income from journalism by organizing holiday lets on his own estate called Upton Cressett. Here’s the opening of his review:

There is a wonderful 1960s photograph of Evelyn Waugh taken by photographer Mark Gerson in which he is standing in a dogtooth, bookie-style, three-piece suit fiercely between two stone caryatides with armoured breasts who are guarding his small Somerset estate, Combe Florey. His hands are slung deep into his pockets and his frosty expression says: “Do not enter”. In short: public keep out.

The reverse is true today. To keep going, the public — or “guests”, as the former Duke of Devonshire always used to call Chatsworth’s tens of thousands of visitors — are now being courted with an increasingly wacky array of ventures. As seen by the enterprising efforts of the colourful cast of the new reality show, Keeping Up With The Aristocrats, which starts tonight on ITV, long gone are the days when aristos relied on thousands of acres of land and tenant rents to pay for their London houses and school fees.

It’s nothing less than an artisan country house revolution, and my milliner wife, Lady Laura, and myself are proud to be part of it. English country houses have always been stage sets and by reinventing themselves again they are helping to regenerate local economies and become local community hubs as they were in the Victorian and Edwardian (ie Downton) era.

No longer are we talking about the old traditional country house survival model: owner-led guided tours and tea rooms. Thanks in part to the Culture Recovery Fund, which doled out previously unheard of grants to struggling privately owned heritage owners, many faced with near ruin after their visitor businesses were closed due the pandemic, there has been a gold rush of planning applications and projects to turn every disused barn or stable into some innovative new ‘sustainable’ enterprise.

The first episode can be streamed on itvPlayer and subsequent episodes will air on the next two Mondays at 9pm. You will need a UK internet connection.

–Gresham College in London has announced a lecture on “Coincidences in the Novel: Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot to Evelyn Waugh and David Nichols” that may be of interest. Here’s the description:

If, as displeased reviewers and readers sometimes complain, coincidences mar good plots, why do so many novels turn on them? From Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot, to Sebastian Barry and David Nichols, novelists have relied on coincidences. While these can reveal the weaknesses of a novel’s design, they can also be put to creative use: as we will see, novelists, like Charles Dickens, Evelyn Waugh and Muriel Spark, choose to emphasise coincidences, making them entertaining and revealing.

The lecture will be given by literary critic Prof. John Mullan and can be attended online or in person at the Museum of London, 150 London Wall, Barbican EC2 on Wednesday, 2 March at 6-7pm. Registration details are available at this link.

–Finally, the Long Island newspaper Newsday has announced an online discussion of Waugh’s novel Scoop. This will be conducted via Zoom by the Amagansett, NY Library on Monday, 7 February at 130-230pm. Here’s a link for registration.

UPDATE (19 January 2022): Excerpts from William Cash’s review of the ITV “Aristocrats” series were added.

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