EVELYN WAUGH NEWSLETTER AND
Evelyn Waugh, A. P. Herbert and Divorce
To the end of his life Evelyn Waugh kept quiet about his first
marriage. He had met Evelyn Gardner in 1927 and they married in June
1928. She was well-born, pretty, modern (cropped hair) and
intelligent. Many of their friends thought, at least in retrospect,
that the marriage had been unconsidered. Within a year 'she-Evelyn', as she
was known, had fallen in love with another man and begun an adulterous
affair. Two months later Waugh sued for divorce.
is Brenda Last's divorce solicitor. Her meeting with him follows
immediately in the novel the episode in which her husband, Tony, has indeed
spent a weekend in Brighton with a strange woman in order to supply the
evidence for his adulterous wife to divorce him.
nightmare concludes on the Sunday morning, when Tony is hounded along the
sea-front by a vigilante crowd vociferating ‘There’s a man who’s eaten two
breakfasts and tries to drown his little girl.’ The whole Brighton
episode, apparently a piece of gratuitous farce, is actually crucial to the
plot: when faced with selling Hetton Abbey 'to buy Beaver for Brenda' Tony
for a moment sees things straight. 'The evidence I provided at Brighton
isn't worth anything...,' he tells her brother. 'I shall divorce Brenda
without settlements of any kind.'
Incidentally, Brenda’s brother, Reggie St Cloud, has been seen as a portrait of Waugh's Oxford friend Frank Pakenham (later Lord Longford, who died in 2002), but Waugh's description sounds very like Haynes:
There is no
evidence that Waugh and Herbert ever met, but I suspect that Haynes may have
provided, perhaps for both novelists, the idea of Brighton and the wilder
absurdities which the unreformed divorce laws had given rise to.
The transcript of the hearing shows Mr Justice Hawke was not quite up to speed:
A. P. Herbert is best known for his Misleading Cases--hilarious fictional legal reports based on real points of law. It is doubtful if he ever in fiction surpassed this account of the divorce of Mrs. Simpson, who was soon to marry King Edward VIII.
A Kinder, Gentler Look at Rex Mottram
Since my last rereading of Brideshead Revisited, I have been
particularly struck by the character of Rex Mottram. I would like to
make a case for Rex as a basically good character whom some other characters,
including Julia, Lady Marchmain, and Father Mowbray, are too hard on.
Loved One on
Alexander Waugh, on behalf of the Estate, has
kindly given 'ready maid productions', a London-based theatrical production
company, permission to adapt and perform The Loved One as a play.
on Travel Writing
Room at Hertford College, Oxford
World is Always Too Much
And so the sick mind continues to infinity, creating groups then
dispersing them again, heaping up diverse similarities, destroying those that
seem clearest, splitting up things that are identical, superimposing
different criteria, becoming more and more disturbed, and teetering finally
on the brink of anxiety.
The above is one of the more infamous passages of twentieth-century social
science. It concludes a paragraph describing an aphasiac’s ever-failed
attempts to sort and re-sort clews of colored thread. The twist is that
for Foucault the aphasiac should revel in this inability, and is only
traumatized by the external imposition of a counterfeit desire for
order. It is also the rationale for Foucault’s radical negation of the
meaning-making premises of his field, indeed of any field, and would ultimately
become the impetus for his paradoxical creation of “spontaneous” resistance
Mrs. Rattery sat intent over her game, moving little groups of cards adroitly backward and forwards about the table like shuttles across a loom; under her fingers order grew out of chaos; she established sequence and precedence; the symbols before her became coherent, interrelated . . . then [she] drew them towards her into a heap, haphazard once more and without meaning. (87)
book, titled Confused Roaring (Indiana University Press, 1987) in its
former life, presents Waugh as an author both of and often before his
time. This version of the last century is buoyant on the literary
modernism of Conrad, Mann, Lawrence, Woolf and Joyce, all of whom “portray
European man as a victim of his overly intellectual culture” (34), on the
fluctuating, frivolously intricate architecture of Antonio Gaudi, the modern
art of Francis Picabia and Max Ernst (the former’s cubism paralleling the
latter’s “seething surrealism” ), the transience of film, and above all
on Henri Bergson, “the philosopher of Becoming” (37). Denying all
principles of intelligibility, of the symbiosis of the intellectual and
physical worlds, such figures’ replacement is the vague promise of an
acultural entame, projected into the present and then intuitively
apprehended--a mass aphasia. Mrs. Rattery, along with Waugh’s other
“willful gods” (23), the likes of Captain Grimes, Lord Copper, Rex Mottram,
and Sir James Macrae, all “live completely in the present moment, unable to
recall today what they said and did yesterday” (90). In mirroring their
milieu, unimpeded by the past, they are successful because of this
oblivion. In contrast, bereft of meaning, Paul Pennyfeather’s
apparently stable “Edwardian dream of an ordered, benevolently progressive
world achieved by prudence and industry” (9), or Tony Last’s nonchalant,
neo-Gothic idealism, are belittled by these übermenschen,
superstitions now condemned, along with the superstitious, to disappear.
“In no case can [Catholics], strictly speaking, form an English Literature.” John Henry Newman
Ian Ker assures the reader at the outset of his latest book that Newman was
“happily lacking in prescience” when he made this grim prognostication
(2). And up to a point Ker shows that there is now a formidable English
Literature by Catholics. Another question, though, drives this
excellent study and has perhaps never been so alive as at present: What makes
writing “Catholic”? Is it a matter of the author’s baptism? Of
imagery? Of style? Recent centenary conferences on Graham Greene
and Evelyn Waugh, the success of the annual Conference on Catholicism in
Literature (Little Rock, AR), and a number of book-length studies have kept
the question in focus for scholars. Ker’s is a significant contribution
to the discussion, and although it does not presume to answer the big
question definitively, it does much more than simply pose it once
again. Any future studies taking up the intersection of Catholicism
(indeed, of religion) and literature will be indebted to this book.
One of the first things which liberated people want to know is the truth
about their past.
Philosophically and explicitly indebted to the
work of Hans Blumenberg, David Adams perceives the modern West as bereft of
Christian theology, though irritatingly the questions posed and answered by
former dependence on a theological episteme tarry. Blumenberg
“remains committed to the ‘legitimacy’ of modern thought” (70), but stresses
that the latter must not be forced into ontological corners, lured by the
possibility of a replacement utopia. Instead, it must acknowledge that
“fundamental questions, like answers, are not constant” (181), and its
excesses must be restrained. Freud, Nietzsche, Marx, and most
significantly the colonial odysseys of modernist fiction between 1890 and
1940, are all recast as prone to such excesses, to the neo-Christian process
of “‘reoccupation’” (5) or “secularization” (160), and are therefore
propaedeutically determined to fail.
“Like it or not, we come to life in the middle of
stories that are not ours. The way to knowledge, and self-knowledge, is
through pilgrimage. We imitate our way to the truth, finding our
lives—saving them—in the process” (472). So says Paul Elie at the end
of An American Pilgrimage. In this remarkable book, Elie weaves
into one narrative the careers of four of the most prominent American
Catholic writers of the twentieth century: Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Walker
Percy, and Flannery O’Connor. The result is an intriguing blend of
biography, cultural history, and literary criticism, an exploration of the
ways reading and writing can mark out paths for persons of faith to follow.
to the Choir
Why apologize indeed, the authors ask, when the
court of the Inquisition was “the most humane and impartial one of its
times,” when it “prevent[ed] the persecutions of innocent people” (including
Jews and Muslims), when, “judged by the standards of its times, the Spanish
Inquisition was neither unjust in its procedures nor cruel in its
punishments,” and when, to boot, the English Reformation under Henry VIII and
Elizabeth I was immeasurably worse?
Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire, 1920-2004
Young Things Marches
Hill Press Liquidates Stock
Davis, Robert Murray, ed. Evelyn Waugh, Apprentice: The Early
Writings, 1910-1927. (hardcover, 1985).
Charles also has several other titles on sundry subjects. Please contact him, Charles Linck, at P.O. Box 3002, Commerce TX 75429, USA, or Linck@tamu-commerce.edu.