Piers Court to be Sold at Auction

Real estate agents Knight, Frank have announced the sale by auction of Evelyn Waugh’s former home at Stinchcombe, Dursley, Gloucestershire. The sale will take place online on 15 December 2022. Details and contact information are available from the website of Knight, Frank and a link to the website of the auctioneers Allsop is copied below. Excerpts of the house description and sale procedures from Knight, Frank refer to an:

“8 bedroom house for sale in Piers Court, Stinchcombe, Dursley, Gloucestershire, GL11: 23.58 acres

Offers in excess of  £2,500,000.

Unless sold prior to or withdrawn Piers Court will be for sale by Auction on Thursday 15th December 2022–On the instruction of the joint fixed charged receiver.

The property has not been visited by the selling agents since 2019. All images dated 2018. It is NOT possible to view the property.


Perhaps best known for being the home of author Evelyn Waugh, Piers Court has many historical connections. It was used for royalists during the Civil War. In 1640 the local wealthy mill owning Pynffold family acquired Piers Court where they remained for 150 yrs. After the fall of Bristol, it is thought that Piers Court was ransacked by parliamentarian troops while searching for Prince Rupert, the King’s cousin. In the nineteenth century Piers Court saw little change until 1937 whenEvelyn Waugh was given the property by his parents in law. [Emphasis supplied.]

This Grade II* listed Georgian manor house is approached up a long drive. Piers Court is nestled in its extensive grounds enjoying views over its own land. Once described by Pevsner as a ‘dignified and elegant house’, Piers Court displays a classical 18th century façade with the central crowning pediment bearing a coat of arms which is supported upon enriched pilasters. Piers Court has not been inspected since early 2019 when purchased by the current owners. The property at the time was extremely well presented and benefits from both an imposing, formal layout ideal for entertaining, yet to the rear of the property lies a more homely arrangement of rooms ideal for family

The front door opens into a classical Georgian hall with a flagstone floor and cantilever staircase. Off the main entrance hall was the formal drawing room and library, both of which provided the grandeur that would be expected of a Georgian manor house. On the west side of the library was a large bay window.The drawing room looked to the front of the house and down a copper beech avenue.The Elizabethan rear of the house, had slightly less formal rooms. The kitchen had a range of traditional wooden cabinets and a terra cotta tiled floor. The wine cellar comprised two rooms and wine bins.A self-contained staff wing lead from the kitchen.

The first floor offered the primary accommodation with an en-suite master bedroom with south westerly views of the parkland. There were four further bedrooms on this floor, all of which had en-suite.The second floor had three spacious double bedrooms which would be ideal for guests. Servicing these bedrooms was a family bathroom. It
is from this floor that a large attic space was accessed which provided
storage space.

Positioned close to the house is the stunning William and Mary coach house
which is a Grade II listed building. In 2019 it provided 5 loose boxes and an
office/tack room on the ground floor and an upper floor with a loft and a
dovecote. The nearby mews, constructed in 1987 of stone elevations, had a
two bedroom apartment on the first floor with 5 five garages on the ground
floor. There were 6 loose boxes / garden stores with in the grounds.

Garden and Grounds
The front garden was lawned with a circular clipped yew. There was a croquet lawn and tennis court and many other garden components. The park was pasture with parkland trees including horse chestnut, lime, oak and copper beech. Lying to the south of the parkland were further grass paddocks. A footpath crosses part of the land to the west of the house.

It is NOT possible to view the property. The photographs [available on Knight, Frank website linked above] are from historic marketing in 2018. The vendors agents are able to discuss the property from historic viewings.

To access legal pack, go to www.Allsop.co.uk

Tenure: The property is occupied under a Common Law Tenancy at a rent of £250 per annum. A Notice To Quit has been served on the occupant on 19 August 2022 and a copy of such notice was affixed to the property gate on 22 August 2022. A prospective purchaser should take their own legal advice regarding this.”

The auctioneers Allsop advise that pre-registration is required in order to bid. Their terms and and procedures as well as a detailed description of the property with photos may be visited and downloaded at this link.



Posted in Auctions, Evelyn Waugh, Piers Court | Tagged , | Comments Off on Piers Court to be Sold at Auction

Derek Granger (More)

Several newspapers and other media have run obituary notices for Derek Granger. The most comprehensive are those in the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph. The Guardian, for example, mentions some of his other TV work for Granada:

When he took over as the second producer of Coronation Street, from 1961 to 1962, he learned an early lesson in overcoming unforeseen problems. A seven-month strike by Equity members meant that only 13 actors on long-term contracts could appear. Granger’s ruse of using tall children to deliver milk and post failed to impress the union, so he put one of the characters, Dennis Tanner (played by Philip Lowrie), in charge of a theatrical agency and filled out scenes with snakes, sea lions, pigeons, dogs and a chimp.

He then switched to sitcom to create and produce The Bulldog Breed (1962), starring Donald Churchill as the disaster-prone Tom Bowler and Amanda Barrie as his girlfriend, Sandra Prentiss. He returned to comedy with the Coronation Street spin-off Pardon the Expression (1966), relocating Leonard Swindley (Arthur Lowe) to the branch of a national chain store as assistant manager. It was a massive hit, but Turn Out the Lights (1967), a spin-off of the spin-off, with Swindley as a ghost hunter, bombed.

Earlier, in 1964, Granger had a run as executive producer of World in Action. Among the episodes during his time in charge was Seven Up!, featuring seven-year-olds whom Michael Apted, the researcher, would subsequently visit as director of stand-alone programmes every seven years to chart the ups and downs of their lives. Granger also presented Granada’s regional programme Cinema during 1964 and 1965.

The Daily Telegraph cites Derek’s 1952 interview of Waugh in Brighton:

In the early 1950s he interviewed Evelyn Waugh who was convalescing at a local hotel. Contrary to the received image of the famous novelist as rude, snobbish and overbearing, Granger found him “amazingly nice and wonderfully funny”. As they parted after a two hour talk, the writer murmured gravely: “Ours is a very exacting trade, Mr Granger, is it not?”

The Telegraph also mentions, in its closing paragraphs,  an anecdote from the filming of Brideshead of which I was not previously aware:

A lifelong cat-lover, he tried to get felines in all his films. No fewer than 40 were scheduled for one scene in Brideshead, to lap up milk spilled in a road accident. On shooting day in Manchester, it rained and the cats declined to appear. Only one could be coaxed into the shot.

After retiring in the early 1990s, Granger, an engaging talker with an impish mien and relish for the absurd, returned to Brighton where he served as vice-president of the Regency Society and was involved in campaigns by various Brighton societies concerned with development threats to the city’s historic centre.

The Argus (Brighton) also runs an obituary which includes several recent photos of Derek. Ironically, although it refers to Derek’s status as a former employee (his first job after leaving the military in WWII), it fails to note that his 1952 interview of Evelyn Waugh appeared in its sister paper the Sussex Daily News.

Posted in Brideshead Revisited, Interviews, Newspapers | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Derek Granger (More)

Derek Granger: 1921-2022 R.I.P.

The producer of the 1981 Granada TV series of Brideshead Revisited Derek Granger has died at the age of 101. According to The Independent (Ireland) Derek was reported by close friends to have “died peacefully at his home.”  The obituary appearing in the Hollywood Reporter is thus far the most definitive:

Derek Granger, the British producer and screenwriter who served as the driving force behind the acclaimed 1981 miniseries Brideshead Revisited, died Tuesday at his London home, screenwriter Tim Sullivan told The Hollywood Reporter. He was 101.

Granger teamed with Sullivan and Brideshead writer-director Charles Sturridge on the grand period films A Handful of Dust (1988), starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Judi Dench, James Wilby, Anjelica Huston and Rupert Graves, and Where Angels Fear to Tread (1991), featuring Graves, Helena Bonham Carter and Judy Davis.

A onetime journalist and frequent Laurence Olivier collaborator, Granger in 1958 joined Granada Television, where he was head of drama and produced the famed soap opera Coronation Street; the epic 1972-73 series Country Matters, starring Ian McKellen; a 1976 adaptation of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, starring Olivier, Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner; and, of course, Brideshead Revisited.

Based on Evelyn Waugh’s sprawling pre-World War II novel first published in 1945, Brideshead Revisited was voted the 10th best British program of all time by the British Film Institute in 2000. Starring Jeremy Irons, Diana Quick and Anthony Andrews, the ITV production raked in seven BAFTAs and was nominated for 11 Emmys, including the one for outstanding limited series.

“It was very highly experimental for the day because nothing like it of that scale had ever been done all on film except Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which was just a year before, but with nothing like the production values,” Granger recalled in 2017.

“There we were with foreign locations … hunting scenes, scenes on Atlantic liners … very grand houses … It was enormously spectacular. I don’t think anybody had quite worked out how it should be done. And of course we were making it. I mean, we started off to do six hours and ended up making 11!”

Born on April 23, 1921, Granger served as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, then reviewed plays for the Sussex Daily News and Evening Argus in Brighton, England. Olivier liked his writing and recommended him for the job as the first drama and film critic for the Financial Times, where he helped launch the newspaper’s arts page.

However, Granger “was bored stiff with reviewing,” he told The Telegraph last year, “and was aching to go into television. At just that moment, I got a phone call from Sidney Bernstein, the founder of Granada TV, asking me if I’d like to join the company.

For 10 months in 1961-62, Granger was the second-ever producer on Coronation Street, where he introduced storylines that could span multiple episodes. He also produced its spinoffs Pardon the Expression and Turn Out the Lights as well as the documentary series Cinema and World in Action.

“With great sadness the production team at Coronation Street and ITV Studios would like to send heartfelt condolences to Derek’s family and friends,” ITV said in a statement.

He left for stints at London Weekend Television and the National Theatre (as a literary consultant to Olivier) before returning to Granada to produce six plays, including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Harold Pinter’s The Collection, starring Helen Mirren and Alan Bates.

Brideshead Revisited — which won just one Emmy, for Olivier’s supporting turn — cost several millions to make and, interrupted by an ITV strike in 1979, three years to complete.

Because of the work stoppage, Granger was forced to replace his original director, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who had a previous commitment, with Sturridge, an inexperienced protégé of his at Granada who was in his 20s. “He turned out to be incredible,” he said.

Granger noted he and his team were driven to producing “something that is incredibly close to the feeling of the novel and would echo it. And I think … the television experience is as good, if not slightly better. But that’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to be true to the Waugh.”

He retired in the early 1990s. His husband and partner of 66 years, interior designer Kenneth Partridge — he worked on homes for John Lennon and Ringo Starr and Beatles manager Brian Epstein — died in December 2015 at age 89.

Derek was a good friend of the Evelyn Waugh Society. He appeared at the society’s 2011 conference at Downside. He had met Waugh personally in 1952 while a reporter for the the Sussex Daily News. A copy of the interview and Derek’s own memoir of how it came about along with his personal assessment of Waugh are reproduced in vol. 19 of the Complete Works 0f Evelyn Waugh (A Little Learning), pp. 517 ff.



Posted in Adaptations, Brideshead Revisited, Newspapers, Television | Tagged , | Comments Off on Derek Granger: 1921-2022 R.I.P.

Thanksgiving Roundup

–Iona McLaren writng in the Daily Telegraph considers the problem posed by readers who want to be warned against reading something that might upset them–in this case about books in which animals die. The article opens with this:

The US writer David Sedaris tells the story of his sister Lisa refusing to see a film because she had heard that a dog gets killed in the first 15 minutes. “I reminded her that the main character dies as well, horribly, of Aids, and she pulled into the parking lot, saying, ‘Well, I just hope it wasn’t a REAL dog.'” On behalf of Lisa – and, frankly, most English people – I am pleased that Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner has been given a trigger warning by the University of Greenwich for depicting “animal death” when the mariner admits: “With my crossbow/I shot the albatross.” This is a poem in which many sailors die, some in quite imaginative scenarios, but it takes the betrayal of a seabird to get the eyes stinging. It’s because, as Lisa Sedaris says, “human suffering doesn’t faze us much”. We see ourselves parodied in Dame Mildred Porch and Miss Tin of Evelyn Waugh’s Black Mischief, trying to get 1930s Africa compliant with the RSPCA. As GK Chesterton once put it: “Wherever there is animal worship, there is human sacrifice.” […]

One somehow expected a suggestion of a trigger warning for Black Mischief that included references to avoidance of descriptions of racial prejudice and/or consumption of human flesh. However, after discussing several examples of trigger warnings that involve animals and other matters of readers’ potential concerns, the article concludes:

Of course, it’s good to feel something, sometimes, and the great thing about trigger warnings is they could help. Of Mice and Men, Bambi, and White Fang would all be there in the “WARNING: animal death” section of the library. And me? I’d be amusing myself in the “WARNING: child mortality” section for, as Oscar Wilde said of Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop: “One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing.”

–The Chelsea Arts Club has announced the presentation next week of a one-man play by actor Bob Kingdom entitled Bloody Brideshead: Both Sides of Evelyn Waugh. In this he explores “the complexities behind Evelyn Waugh.”  The performance will take place on 4 December at the club, 143-5 Old Church Street, SW3. You must be a member of the club or guest of one to attend. See above link for details.

The Times has an article in its “Feedback” column about what was once known as the “fourth leader” on its editorial page:

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned a light-hearted leading article from 1946 celebrating the return of bananas after the war. This prompted Mark Negin to write from Ramsgate. If his memory wasn’t deceiving him, he says, “it was a regular exercise in the English class of my small prep school, evacuated to Wales, to write a precis of the fourth leader. It was always humorous and witty. When and why was the fourth leader dropped?”

Welsh prep school? This sounds like a scene from Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall. My colleague Rob Nash tells me that Times leaders were also deployed at his boarding school, where he had to copy one out if he’d been naughty. It’s nice to know that they’ve had their uses.

Anyway, the banana fourth leader, as Mr Negin suspected, was a classic example of the Times institution kicked off by the paper’s proprietor, Lord Northcliffe, in a telegram to the editor from Paris, dated January 25, 1914: “Humbly beg for light leading article daily till I return — Chief.”

Northcliffe, who also owned the Daily Mail, was determined to get The Times into profit by broadening its readership, and introducing a bit of frivolity on the leader page seemed a good way to start. Whether it worked or not, the light leaders — they might have been the third or the fifth, but were always known as the fourth — continued to appear until 1967, when William Rees-Mogg became editor. Bent on raising the paper’s gravitas, just as Northcliffe had aimed to lighten it up, he axed the fourth leaders on his first day…

–The Spanish language publication La Diaria Cultura based in Uruguay has a brief article on Waugh’s career. After a review of his life and works, the article concludes:

With a long and prolific publishing life in Spanish during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, his work was published copiously by Losada, Alianza, Emecé, Criterio and Sudamericana, with translations written by Guillermo Whitelow, Pedro Lecuona, Floreal Mazía, Clara Diament and Juan Rodolfo Wilcock, among others–, Evelyn Waugh’s work deserves … all that attention, although for the average reader the mere mention of his name signifies a woman (there is a great joke about it in the film Lost in Translation, by Sofia Coppola), if not the comfortable and obtuse reductionism of placing him among the reactionary writers, “from the right”, that stoned seat to which authors such as Knut Hamsun, Curzio Malaparte, Ernst Jünger, Louis-Ferdinad Céline and many others, all apostrophized as conservatives and other epithets as useless as stupid. Of course, Evelyn Waugh himself would not be interested in the praise of his contemporaries or the worship of generations to come, since he knew that the fate of the world is nothing other than decadence. Not in vain in an interview for The Paris Review, from 1962, when asked what period of history he would have liked to live in, he replied: “The 17th century. I think it was the time of the best drama and the best romance. I think he might have been happy in the 13th century, too.”

The translation by Google leaves something to be desired in this particular case. Here’s a link to the original.

–The Guardian has a review of the BBC’s drama series SAS Rogue Heroes. This is by WWII historian Anthony Beevor. The article opens with this:

 I really have to take my hat off to Steven Knight. The writer of Peaky Blinders has adapted Ben Macintyre’s SAS Rogue Heroes, the authorised history of the Special Air Service, and turned it into the best dramatic series the BBC has produced for ages.

After a discussion of the plot and characters, Beevor continues with this:

In the desert, there was little time for snobbery. Right from the start, we see the SAS coming together as an unholy alliance of upper-class thugs, mostly from Guards regiments, along with “pirates” from other backgrounds who are equally violent and determined to fight the advancing Axis forces. In what was almost inevitably a misogynistic environment, men were judged on their courage and stamina. Several of them…may even have been suppressing gay instincts as they fought and drank men from other units into oblivion back in the fleshpots of Cairo’s red-light district. It was Evelyn Waugh, an officer from the Middle East commando unit known as Layforce, who claimed from personal knowledge that most gay men in the armed forces did not conform to popular stereotype. “Buggers were jolly brave in the war,” he wrote later to Lady Diana Cooper.

Randolph Churchill makes an appearance in Episode 5. The series is also discussed in previous posts.

UPDATE (28 November): Randolph referenced re SAS Rogue Heroes and typo corrected.




Posted in Black Mischief, Decline and Fall, Letters, Newspapers, Television Programs, Theater, World War II | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Thanksgiving Roundup

Book Launch in Oxford for “Handful” and “Campion”

Lincoln College, Oxford has announced an event for early next month. It is entitled “From Despair to Faith: Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust and Edmund Campion“.  Here are the details:

You are warmly invited to a discussion, with Clare Asquith, Gerard Kilroy, Alexander Waugh, and Henry Woudhuysen, to celebrate the publication of the OUP editions of Edmund Campion and A Handful of Dust as part of The Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh.

The event will take place in The Oakeshott Room on Thursday 8 December, from 5-7pm.

Booking is required but there is no fee. Here is a link to the booking form. Kilroy and Woudhuysen are the editors, respectively, of the Campion and Handful volumes of the CWEW series. Campion will be published next week in the UK and Handful in early December. North American publication of both books is scheduled for February.

Posted in A Handful of Dust, Academia, Complete Works, Edmund Campion, Oxford | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Book Launch in Oxford for “Handful” and “Campion”

World Cup Roundup

–A recent book with a Waugh theme was listed (with reservations) among the Daily Telegraph year’s best biographies:

Daisy Dunn’s Not Far From Brideshead (W&N, £20) is less satisfactory. What should be a dynamite intellectual history of how three great classicists – Gilbert Murray, Maurice Bowra and E R Dodds – shaped our modern world gets mired in the sort of creamy nostalgia that Evelyn Waugh found so embarrassing when he came to revise Brideshead Revisited in 1959.

–Another recent Waugh-related book gets a boost from Matthew d’Ancona on his website TortoiseMedia.com.  This is Hellfire: Evelyn Waugh and the  Hypocrites Club. Here’s an excerpt:

…For Waugh, it was a portal into aristocratic society. Cockburn described it as “a noisy alcohol-soaked rat-warren by the river.” High seriousness was disdained by its members but, as Powell would later recall, its members were “a collection, most of them, of hard-headed and extremely ambitious young men”, many of whom went on to occupy leading roles in national culture and the republic of letters. Like Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead, they used Oxford as a playground and salon for debauched self-indulgence, before embarking upon the harder business of adult life.

The club was finally closed down after a riotous party at which its members dressed as Queen Victoria, choristers in lipstick, Madame de Pompadour and, fatally, a nun – who was in fact Arden Hilliard, the son of Balliol’s bursar, spotted by the porters trying to slip into the college on the evening of 8 March 1924. This was sufficient grounds for a ban. But the bonds formed at the club would linger long into the century; 40 years after its closure, Waugh recalled it as the “stamping ground of half my Oxford life and the source of friendships still warm today.”

–A new documentary series on UK Channel 4 is mentioned in Church Times. This also has a Waugh element:

SOME readers of the Church Times will have felt ruefully familiar with the problems underlying Channel 4’s new series Castle Howard: Through the seasons (Sundays from 11 November). [sic] How to pay for essential repairs? Will numbers ever recover from Covid? And the never-ending challenge of responsibility for a beloved and inspiring chunk of our heritage…

The Yorkshire Post also has posted an article about the series.  See this link. The first episode briefly mentioned Brideshead Revisited in connection with a recent exhibition involving the costumes for the Brideshead adaptations filmed there as well as those  for the more recent Bridgerton series. The next weekly episode is scheduled for today, Saturday, 19 November at 810p. The first episode can be watched on the streaming site 4oD. A UK internet connection is required. The second will be available after tonight’s broadcast.

–Matthew Parris writing in The Times describes a recent TV award ceremony he attended. This was the Editors Media Freedom Awards and extended over several hours, through most of which he was bored:

…There was, however, a moment I’ll always treasure. The Daily Mirror were having a particularly good night but everyone was quiet to watch a harrowing clip from an award-winning documentary about Afghan women forced to sell their kidneys, the camera lingering on each awful scar as the poor women raised their clothing. After the clip came a second’s shocked silence. It was broken by the loud pop of a champagne cork from the Mirror table. Only the cold-hearted kept straight faces. Oh, Evelyn Waugh (I thought) thou shouldst be living at this hour. It could have been a scene from Scoop.

–An OUP editor with a sense of humor has written an extract for an academic journal’s review of a book entitled “Private Bill Legislation in the Nineteenth-Century Parliamentary Promotion from 1797 to 1914”:

This book reminds one of the delightful exchange between Guy Crouchback and the immortal Apthorpe in Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy. When asked to give a lecture to the troops, Apthorpe volunteers to talk about the jurisdiction of Lyon King of Arms compared with that of Garter King of Arms. Crouchback queries whether the men will be interested, to which the reply is ‘Not all of them, perhaps. Those that are interested will be very much interested indeed’.

Apart from the author’s wife Lizzy to whom this book is dedicated, and who we can therefore assume has a consuming passion for minute details about private bill legislation in the 19th century, not many people will be interested in this book. But those who are will be very much interested indeed.

And many of those who are not would probably be all the better for it if they were.

This is a book of consummate scholarship.

–Duncan McLaren sent the following message on the recent occasion of Evelyn Waugh’s birthday:

I had just written a birthday tribute to Evelyn when I began to receive anonymous postcards from someone paying his own tribute. As a result, this piece has a certain gravitas and complexity, not necessarily obvious from the start



Posted in Books about Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited, Newspapers, Scoop, Sword of Honour, Television Programs | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on World Cup Roundup

BBC Radio Adaptation of Put Out More Flags

BBC Radio 4 Extra will broadcast a 3 hour radio adaptation of Put Out More Flags in early December. This will be aired on three successive days starting Monday, 5 December at 0500 and repeated at 1000 and 1500, with a different episode each day. Each episode will one hour. It will be accessible on BBC worldwide via the internet shortly after the first broadcast of each episode. Here’s the link: <https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001fwx1>.

The adaptation is by Denys Hawthorne and was first broadcast in September 1990. Basil Seal is played by the late Simon Cadell, best known for his appearance in the BBC sit com Hi-De-Hi!.

Here’s the BBC’s description:

As the Second World War looms, upper-class loafer Basil Seal considers his role in the unfolding events.

Evelyn Waugh’s sixth novel, first published in 1942. The satire reprises characters found in previous novels such as ‘Decline and Fall’ and ‘Vile Bodies’.


Posted in Adaptations, Put Out More Flags, Radio, Radio Programs, World War II | Tagged | 1 Comment

Waugh and Intermodernism

An academic article entitled “Intermodernism and the Ethics of Lateness in Evelyn Waugh and Harold Acton” and published in English Studies, v. 103, Number 6 (2022) has been posted on the internet. This is written by Allan Killner-Johnson, University of Surrey. Here’s the abstract:

Evelyn Waugh and Harold Acton had a deeply ambivalent relationship to the narrative of modernism, and their attempts to negotiate their position within the literary milieu of their own time clearly registers the tensions inherent in much of late modernist writing. Early modernism and high modernism were concerned with the nature of the ‘firstness’, of innovation and change, but as this article argues, intermodernism is best seen as an ethical mode that saw itself as increasingly removed from the organising attitudes of literary revolution. In their mid- and late-period writing, Acton and Waugh were concerned with structures of age-old history and prestige-notably Catholicism (Waugh) and China (Acton)-that they felt outweighed the innovations of modernism and made the modern aesthetic spirit seem clumsy, if not painfully late.

The full article can be read at this link.


Posted in Academia, Articles, Brideshead Revisited, Decline and Fall, Vile Bodies | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Waugh and Intermodernism

Roundup: Oxford, Metro-Land and Commandos

The Times has a review of the recent book about Waugh and the Oxford-based Hypocrites Club, entitled Hellfire. See previous posts. This is reviewed by Daisy Dunn who opens with a well written summary of some of the book’s high points. Here are some excerpts of her assessment of the book:

…Does such a short-lived social club warrant a biography? While several of the Hypocrites went on to become very famous — Waugh, Anthony Powell and the Party Going novelist Henry Green for example — they hardly owed their success to their club membership alone. They wrote relatively little about it, not because it was secretive, but because, in all honesty, there was not very much to say. […] Fleming attempts to get round this by shifting quickly from the student club to the grown-up lives of the Hypocrites. He follows them into publishing houses and newspaper offices, into London parties and terraces, down aisles and back up them, and finally into the Second World War. […]

It seems inadvertent that, in drawing attention to the successes of the Hypocrites, Fleming also undermines them. His book illustrates brilliantly just how lazy and overindulged several of these characters were. Most went down from Oxford with no degree or secured a lousy third. […] Some of the Hypocrites were certainly ambitious. […] But it was almost as though these men grew too enervated in their darting passions to see anything through in their youth. They didn’t always amount to very much. […]

This is a pacey and colourful read and, with the exception of the occasional anachronism (it is bizarre to refer to Waugh wearing “an Andy Warhol shock blond wig” in 1924 when the artist wasn’t born until 1928), elegantly written. Whether or not you feel the book represents yet another indulgence of a group that never quite merited the attention may well depend on your tolerance for monocles and tweed.

Dunn herself recently wrote a book about interwar Oxford, but it dwelt on more elevated and serious academic circles. This is entitled Not Far From Brideshead and has been described in previous posts.

–An earlier edition of The Times mentions Waugh in a different context. This is in an unsigned leading article that marks the centenary of Marcel Proust’s death. It is written in the form of a page-long Proustian paragraph from which this excerpt has been taken. It describes his major work:

…which is about 15 times the length of an average novel, comprising the epic text of a writer whom Graham Greene considered “the greatest novelist of the 20th century” although Evelyn Waugh did call him “insane” and more recently Kazuo Ishiguro described his work as crushingly dull, presumably because the narrator is a pretentious snob given to micro-analysing a life in which nothing happens… 

The Times received the following letter in response to the aforesaid leading article:

Sir, For some very peculiar reason your leading article on the standing of Marcel Proust in this, the centennial of his death (Nov 11), cites Evelyn Waugh’s view of him as “insane”. What in fact he wrote to Nancy Mitford was: “I am reading Proust for the first time in English of course and am surprised to find him a mental defective. No one warned me of that. He has absolutely has no sense of time.” Proust suffered from all sorts of ailments, but dyschronometria wasn’t one of them. Waugh’s claim is not simply stupidly offensive but symptomatic of a certain provincial way with Proust. The Times seems to have opted for his company. Prof Christopher Prendergast King’s College, Cambridge

The letter was posted in the 12 November 2022 edition.

–Historian and TV presenter Dominic Sandbrook writing in the Financial Times has an article entitled “Revisiting Metro-land: is the future suburban?” In this he considers the centenary of the area to which “the Metropolitan Railway lured home buyers to a suburban paradise on London’s fringes.”  This mostly revolves around the works of John Betjeman who praised the area both in his books and poems and on TV. But Waugh (who was less enamored of the area) also gets a look-in:

Even at the time, critics found Metro-land laughably fake–a British equivalent of the Disney World residential communities that followed. As early as 1928 Evelyn Waugh’s satirical novel Decline and Fall featured an intolerably stuffy politician who is ennobled as Viscount Metroland. Six years later, the composer Constant Lambert mocked “the hideous faux bonhomie of the hiker, noisily wading his way through the petrol pumps of Metroland, singing obsolete sea chanties with the aid of the Week-End Book, imbibing chemically flavoured synthetic beer under the impression that he is tossing off a tankard of ‘jolly good ale'”

The Imaginative Conservative reposts a 2011 article by Daniel McCarthy entitled “Books That Make Us Human”. This includes:

Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh – His first and by no means his best novel, but it captures so much of the human experience:  how it feels to be young, to be at once ambitious and fearful for one’s career, to suffer reversal and suddenly achieve one’s dreams. Possibility, uncertainty, love. You could give this to a Martian and he would begin to understand what these human beings are like.

–Finally, for those interested in the subject of the WWII SAS and Commando units as depicted in the ongoing BBC drama series SAS Rogue Heroes (featured in a recent post), the BBC has reposted an earlier three-episode documentary on the same subject. This is narrated by Ben Macintyre based on his same book that inspired the drama series. It is somewhat confusingly entitled SAS: Rogue Warriors and is available on BBC iPlayer through the end of November. A UK internet connection is required.

UPDATE: A letter to The Times regarding the Proust leading article was posted in the 12 November issue of the paper and was added to this roundup.

Posted in Anniversaries, Decline and Fall, Newspapers, Oxford, Television Programs, World War II | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Roundup: Oxford, Metro-Land and Commandos

Roundup: Books Listed, Reviewed and Revisited

–The Daily Telegraph has a review of the new book by David Fleming entitled Hellfire: Evelyn Waugh and the Hypocrites Club. This was published in the UK last month as noted in a recent post. The review is by Nikhil Krishnan and begins with this:

Oxford has never been short of drinking clubs. Why does this one so short-lived deserve as lengthy a biography as David Fleming has given them? There is to start with the fact that the club counted as members three novelists of great originality (Evelyn Waugh, Henry Green and Anthony Powell) and one man with a claim to be the 20th century’s greatest travel writer, Robert Byron. There were others–Brian Howard and Harold Acton–who never quite delivered on their early literary promise but did their bit for modern literature by providing Waugh with the inspiration for Anthony Blanche, the memorable camp aesthete from Brideshead Revisited.

But is this enough to justify revisiting much visited literary territory yet again? Fleming proposes that the Hypocrites were special. Although they ran the political gamut from “bone-dry Conservative” (Waugh) to “firmly on the left” (the journalist Claud Cockburn), they had in common a sensibility: independent-minded, rebellious, argumentative and intolerant of cant. […]

After discussing several of the book’s themes and noting that the “editorial apparatus is disappointingly sparse”, Krishnan concludes:

Fleming’s prose is, at best, workmanlike, unflashy and blandly informative. Nearly every quotation has the inevitable effect of making the lack of distinction in his own prose painfully apparent, but that is the occupational hazard of a literary historian.

The book will also be reviewed in an upcoming issue of Evelyn Waugh Studies.

–Emily Temple writing in Literary Hub has made a list of the top 60 “campus novels”. Here’s her definition and selection criteria:

..to keep you company as the cold weather descends, here is a list of the greatest academic satires, campus novels, and boarding school bildungsromans in the modern canon.

I limited my selections to one per author (though I made an extra note here and there, and a set or two may have slipped in) and I excluded anything written for children (or the magic schools would overwhelm), though boarding schools in general are allowed. Finally, my obligatory caveat that not every campus novel that anyone has ever loved is included here, lists and time both being finite and literature being subjective, but please feel free to add on in the comments section.

Her Waugh selection is Decline and Fall:

A novel in which events are set in motion by a trouser theft and subsequent streaking and even subsequenter expulsion? No one does satire like Waugh. See also: Brideshead Revisited, the most famous (and best) campus novel that is actually mostly not a campus novel at all.

Entertainment Weekly has compiled a list of the 25 best Hollywood novels. Waugh’s The Loved One is included:

A little Six Feet Under here, some Golden Age romanticizing there, and you’ve got Evelyn Waugh’s crackling The Loved One. A poet and pet mortician becomes enraptured by the golden gates and paradise aesthetic of Whispering Glades Memorial Park, located in the heart of Los Angeles, where he falls into a bizarre love triangle.

–John Self in The Critic has produced a thoughtful reconsideration of the works of Kurt Vonnegut. As he sees it, Vonnegut is one of several novelists who is best known for the wrong book–in his case Slaughterhouse-Five:

If Mother Night and Cat’s Cradle are the early peaks of Vonnegut’s work, later in the decade he would produce one combining science fiction and war that masquerades as a peak, but is really the beginning of the journey down the other side. Like Evelyn Waugh, Kazuo Ishiguro and Charlotte Brontë (among many others), Vonnegut is famous for the wrong book.

Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) remains his most popular book, and in a way you can see why. It takes a serious subject — war and the bombing of Dresden — and makes it funny, in fact twists it out of shape with a hero who becomes “unstuck in time”, has future flashbacks and travels to a planet called Tralfamadore.

Yet I can only agree with the ur-critic, John Carey, who categorises it among those books “that gain their power from their subjects more than their writing”. The book saw Vonnegut placed as an anti-war satirist alongside Joseph Heller, another member of the famous-for-the-wrong-book club, whose Catch-22 had been published at the beginning of the decade.

In Waugh’s case Self presumably assumes the wrong book is Brideshead Revisited.

–Finally, the New York Times reviews a selection of diaries and photos of the Rome-based, US-born photographer Milton Gendel. This is entitled Just Passing Through. After explaining Gendel’s somewhat eclectic career, the review notes his acquaintanceship with several writers:

More public writers are observed concisely and without mercy, both their work and their personalities. Of Muriel Spark: “She is a bag fumbler.” On “Portnoy’s Complaint,” by Philip Roth: “It is brilliant. But caricatural and pseudo-literary,” with “comic strip characters.” Evelyn Waugh is held to account for his “bitchy right-wingery and his vein of anti-Semitism,” even as Gendel fraternizes with his eldest son, Auberon. Graham Greene is deemed a “brilliant tightrope walker edging between God and his grubby little creatures” but nonetheless compares unfavorably to Isaac Bashevis Singer.

Gendel would have encountered Waugh on one or more of the latter’s several trips to Rome in the 1950-60s where Gendel’s wife was a friend of Diana Cooper. See previous post.



Posted in Brideshead Revisited, Decline and Fall, Newspapers, The Loved One | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Roundup: Books Listed, Reviewed and Revisited