EVELYN WAUGH NEWSLETTER AND
Evelyn Waugh Centenary
Monday, 22 September 2003
Tuesday, 23 September 2003
Wednesday, 24 September 2003
Persistence of Waste Lands in Waugh’s Fiction
12:00 noon Luncheon “Litera Scripta Manet”: Film and the Novel of the Thirties Thursday, 25 September 2003 . 4:00 p.m. Afternoon Tea Guy Crouchback’s Disillusion: The Crete Diaries, Justice and the Russian
Alliance Friday, 26 September 2003 Saturday, 27 September 2003 Conference ends. Breakfast is
available on Sunday morning.
12:00 noon Luncheon
“Litera Scripta Manet”: Film and the Novel of the Thirties
Thursday, 25 September 2003 .
.Livia Hekanaho, University of Helsinki
4:00 p.m. Afternoon Tea
Guy Crouchback’s Disillusion: The Crete Diaries, Justice and the Russian
Friday, 26 September 2003
Saturday, 27 September 2003
Conference ends. Breakfast is available on Sunday morning.
Anglo-American Impasse:"Never the Twain Shall Meet"
first visit to the United States, in 1938, had been a very brief one.
He had visited the country while going to Mexico and also before returning
home. He did not maintain any diary during this period and, therefore,
we know very little about his impressions of America or the Americans at that
Nanny Hawkins and the Servant
The character of Nanny Hawkins in Brideshead
Revisited has seldom been dealt with, and I, for one, think it is high
time that she be debunked. It is my belief that she belongs to the
dubious tradition of ineffectual servants exemplified by Juliet Capulet's
Nurse. Both women are rather effete characters, more concerned about
pleasing themselves than being truly useful. The difference between the
two is that Nanny's days of authority are behind her, while Juliet's Nurse
continues to exert her influence. The Boots' servants in Scoop,
who wait upon the family in "desultory fashion," may be a source
The framing device for this diverting, if ultimately unsatisfying, radio
piece is a meeting of the Sacred Congregation for the Decency of
Literature. Appalled by the depravity of modern fiction, the
intractable Cardinal Copper informs his subordinates, Monsignors Crutwell and
Hale, of the dire need to revive the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.
Countering that the Index is effectively only a “study guide for
adolescent boys,” the earnest Msgr Hale proposes an alternative: the
canonization of a Roman Catholic writer as a positive role model for the
present age. “In the middle of the twentieth century,” Hale somewhat
dubiously asserts, “all the major fiction writers were Roman Catholic.”
It seems that, from this pantheon of piety, he has two figures in mind as
especially suitable candidates for sainthood. What follows is an
imaginative reconstruction of a handful of meetings between Waugh and Greene
over the course of their thirty-year friendship, punctuated by prelatical
bickering over just how meritorious the two of them really were. Mark
Lawson has leafed through the relevant studies--Norman Sherry and Selina Hastings
are referred to by name in the programme, no doubt indicating the extent of
his debt to them – and pieced together a dialogue from fragments of
biographical trivia and epistolary witticisms. Aficionados are unlikely to
learn anything new about either writer but there is nonetheless something to
be gained from this approach. Waugh’s irascibility is almost axiomatic
but merely reading about his rages does not convey what it was like to be on
the receiving end. In Simon Day’s portrayal, his eruptions of ire (be
it over the negligence of a waiter or the mention of Pope John XXIII) manage
to be genuinely startling. Also vividly depicted is the wheezing
debility of Waugh in his decline. John Sessions is a less likeable
Greene, affected and oleaginous, but perhaps this is simply because Greene
was the less likeable man.
Is it inappropriate to see Waugh’s prose as a
kind of literary formaldehyde, preserving the sheen of life on an antique
cadaver? “The novels […] will survive,” Lawson writes, “but the
peculiar literary-religious culture which produced them has evaporated like
last Sunday's incense.” Of course, the liberal Catholicism Lawson
espouses could hardly have flourished without the evaporation of that culture
but this does not hinder him from wistful lamentation. Lawson
goes on to complain that the “true implications” of Brideshead Revisited
would be “alien” to English students of today, without considering how alien
his own beliefs and practices would be to Charles Ryder. Perhaps the
seductive prose of Brideshead would be better compared to
lotos-fruit. Assent is unwittingly granted, cares and anxieties fade,
as the reader is lulled into an unthinking, unquestioning reverie. That
is what style does.
A volume of Macmillan's Literary Lives series,
the book is meant to be, as the series, direct and brief. Unlike "traditional biography,"
it is meant to "follow the outline of the writers' working lives"
while focusing on "professional, publishing, and social contexts"
(i). Wykes moves along his subject by groups of years — 1903-24,
1924-30, 1930-39, 1939-51, and 1951-66 — touching on life events and
corresponding publications during each period. He posits his view in the preface and
introduction that Waugh's "comic intelligence matches Jane Austen's and
his exuberance [. . .] is Dickensian" but remarks that no biography or
other work "can explain how he came by this power" (1). One could wish, however, that Wykes had
attempted to explain various influences upon Waugh's literary art while at
the same time (albeit giving the novels "precedence" over the other
writings) answering the question, "how did this life support this
Chief among Wykes's focal points are the
predominance of Catholicism and the "quite bewilderingly enjoyable"
early fiction. On the former issue
much time is spent, and explanation of Waugh's credo within
Catholicism is set forth point by point.
The only other event beyond his conversion to Catholicism that colored
Waugh's vision on "everything of any importance" was the fiasco of
his first marriage to Evelyn Gardner, which, as Wykes explains, "was the
most important event of his life, though the argument can be made that in his
literary life it was the most important event" (63).
In case you ever wondered what a scholar of
Evelyn Waugh does in his spare time, Robert Murray Davis has provided at
least part of the answer in Mid-Life Mojo. Recently retired from
teaching at the University of Oklahoma, Davis has "shifted his writing
emphasis from modern literature to broader aspects of contemporary
culture." He has also been divorced for twenty years and has
acquired "what social scientists call 'extensive field experience' in a
number of . . . relationships" (14). Mid-Life Mojo is
the fruit of Davis's research.
The Third Man
If you had to draw up a list of the three greatest English comic writers of the twentieth century, Evelyn Waugh and P. G. Wodehouse would be very obvious choices, but who would be the third man? I think there's a very good case for his being a columnist on The Daily Telegraph called Peter Simple, who has been writing astonishingly inventive and intelligent fantasies, satires, polemics, and whimsies for more than fifty years and who was a very important influence on much more famous (and sadly much less talented) writers like Auberon Waugh. A short appreciation of him can be found at www.theambler.com/nov6-15_02 (search for "greatest living Englishman") and many of his columns can be read on-line at www.opinion.telegraph.co.uk (search for "Peter Simple"). In a recent interview with W. F. Deedes, Peter Simple, a.k.a. Michael Wharton, mentions Evelyn Waugh as an influence: news.telegraph.co.uk. Best of all, however, find and read one of the collections of his writing available at Amazon.com.
Edition of Waugh's Travels
Many admirers of Evelyn Waugh's classic novel Brideshead Revisited and the celebrated television series must have wondered what lay in the future for Charles Ryder and the aristocratic Flyte family he loved. In this 'fine sequel to one of the greatest stories ever told' (Sheridan Morley), Michael Johnston effortlessly recreates their world as we follow Ryder on a dangerous journey through the Second World War.
Ryder's memoirs open in 1945 at Brideshead, where the family have gathered for the funeral of their beloved Nanny Hawkins, triggering his account of the intervening years. Appointed a war artist, Charles was swept into the company of Eisenhower, Churchill and De Gaulle, his painting expeditions leading to a chance encounter with the lost Sebastian. His artistic reputation at an all-time high, Charles tumbles through a war-torn Europe, witnessing the worst horrors and greatest victories, At last, his health in ruins, he is invited back to Brideshead for the funeral . . .
The scene is set for a final high drama as Ryder returns to the company of Julia and Cordelia Flyte, Bridey, Rex Mottram, 'Boy' Mulcaster, his ex-wife Celia and their two children, John & Caroline. In Brideshead Regained, Michael Johnston has achieved that most difficult of literary tasks, a seamless sequel to one of the greatest works in English literature.
Also according to the cover,
Brideshead Regained is now available on Amazon.co.uk at £14.95, and there are plans to market the book in the United States at $24.95 and Canada at $34.95. Further information and excerpts from the novel are available at www.author.co.uk/brideshead/index.htm. Look for a review in a forthcoming issue of the Newsletter.
Life in French
in The Atlantic
Back on the Beeb
Lady Acton, 1911-2003
of the Best
House for Sale
Just a Cigar