EVELYN WAUGH NEWSLETTER AND
“Beefsteak Mind” and “Greatest Sonneteer
On 25 May 1939, Evelyn Waugh wrote to Marie
Stopes. Coming across a reference to
his letter in a catalogue, I imagined a sharp missive about birth control or
Black Mischief, for Waugh lampoons Stopes (the then leading advocate of
birth control) in Black Mischief, and Stopes eagerly joined in The
Tablet’s condemnation of the novel. Some years later, in 1943,
Stopes would attack, and Waugh defend, Catholic schools. Imagine my
surprise (as they say) when Waugh’s 1939 letter turned out to be a polite
note agreeing to put his name to a petition organized by Stopes seeking a
civil list pension for Lord Alfred Douglas, “Bosie” of Oscar Wilde fame.
 Excerpt from letter to Cyril Connolly quoted in editor’s “Comment,” Horizon 4 (Nov. 1941), 300-01.
 Michael Davie, ed. The Diaries of Evelyn Waugh (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1976), 649.
Abstracts of Essays on Waugh in Eigo
Eigo Seinen/Rising Generation is one of the leading literary journals in Japan. The issue for November 2003 included eight essays in Japanese on Evelyn Waugh. Below are abstracts for each essay.
Sasaki, Toru (Kyoto University). “Dikenzu o yomu Uo” [“Waugh Reading
Dickens”]. Eigo Seinen/Rising Generation 149.8 (Nov. 2003).
Koyama, Taichi (Wayo Women’s University). “Ivurin Uo to komedi no
kukan” [“Evelyn Waugh and the Space of Comedy”]. Eigo Seinen/Rising
Generation 149.8 (Nov. 2003): 461-63.
Fujikawa, Yoshiyuki (Komazawa University). “Uo, Wairudo, Fabanku:
Biishiki no keisei.”
Hirose, Masahiro (late of Osaka University). “Edomando Kyanpion:
Shinko to dannen to” [“Edmund Campion: Faith and Resignation”]. Eigo
Seinen/Rising Generation 149.8 (Nov. 2003): 466-67.
Kato, Mitsuya (Tokyo Metropolitan University). “Uo no kigekiteki
jokyo” [“Waugh’s Comedic Situation”]. Eigo Seinen/Rising Generation
149.8 (Nov. 2003): 468-69.
Arai, Megumi (Chuo University). “‘Oh, Bright Young People!’: Ivurin
Uo no Igirisuzo” [“‘Oh, Bright Young People!’: Evelyn Waugh’s Symbol of
Britain”]. Eigo Seinen/Rising Generation 149.8 (Nov. 2003):
Murayama, Toshikatsu (late of Seikei University). “Sword
of Honour to chiisana sekai” [“Sword of Honour and a Small World”].
Eigo Seinen/Rising Generation 149.8 (Nov. 2003): 473-75.
Kawabata, Yasuo (Japan Women’s University). “Uo to Oueru” [“Waugh
and Orwell”]. Eigo Seinen/Rising Generation 149.8 (Nov. 2003):
Bodies to Bright Young Things: Waugh and Adaptation
Bright Young Things, Stephen Fry’s recent
adaptation of Waugh’s Vile Bodies, is problematic in a number of
ways. Like other heritage films, Bright Young Things idealizes
an era of British history. The bright world of the film is a stark
contrast with the bleak, dark world of Waugh’s novel. A closer
examination of the contrasts between the novel and the film is necessary, not
to prove the superiority of the novel, or of the film, but to examine how the
changes produce a different vision and what the implications of that vision
The dialogue does little to indicate their love for each other and
suggests that they are simply bored; the attempts to marry are really just a
new adventure, something to counteract their growing dissatisfaction with
parties. In the film, this conversation is presented in a much
different light. There are deep pauses between the lines, both of the
actors look troubled, and Nina’s disappointment comes through, even as she
tries to keep up her laissez-faire attitude. Behind all of this is the
soft, wistful music, which communicates to the audience that Adam and Nina
truly love each other but cannot reveal their feelings, so they conceal
emotions under light and easy banter.
In the film, the suicide is quite different. Balcairn is not
matter-of-fact but noble and resigned. He turns on the stove and lies
down, almost with dignity. The music is somber and sad as the camera
slowly pans over all of Balcairn’s mementos. There is none of the dark
humor of Balcairn discovering that his head is resting on his rival’s column
or noticing the crumbs on the floor. Instead, the scene is mired in
sentimentality and regret for the loss of Balcairn and the aristocracy.
(…Masked parties, Savage parties, Victorian parties, Greek parties, Wild West parties, Russian parties, Circus parties, parties where one had to dress as somebody else, almost naked parties in St John’s Wood, parties in flats and studios and houses and ships and hotels and night clubs, in windmills and swimming-baths, tea parties at school where one ate muffins and meringues and tinned crab, parties at Oxford where one drank brown sherry and smoked Turkish cigarettes, dull dances in London and comic dances in Scotland and disgusting dances in Paris—all that succession and repetition of massed humanity.… Those vile bodies…) (Waugh 123)
The narrative returns to Adam and Nina, and all Adam can do is lean his
forehead on Nina’s arm; Nina, just as inarticulate as Adam, comes out with
only “I know, darling” (Waugh 123-24). In the film, however,
Adam is much more eloquent; after visiting Agatha in the hospital and
learning of Nina’s new engagement, Adam himself recites the speech. Yet
this moment of seriousness is so overdone, almost to the point of hysteria,
and seems so out of place that it plays as just an awkward moment and does
not carry any sort of emotional impact.
It is still an issue, however; it is not uncommon in a satirical
film (for example, Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, 1964) for the characters
to be entirely unsympathetic. This is accomplished by making the characters
into caricatures. Waugh uses this technique often (as do many other
satirists), and in his novels terrible things, such as death or cannibalism,
are portrayed without seriously disturbing the reader. The characters in Vile
Bodies are caricatures; they have very little emotion or feeling.
Fry could have gone the opposite route; instead of sympathizing with the
Bright Young Things and sentimentalizing them, he could have de-humanized
them even further and made a successful black comedy. The issue is why
Fry chose sympathy rather than satire and what impact his decision has on the
images in the film.
Editor's Note: Emily Shreve won the Second Annual Evelyn Waugh Undergraduate Essay Contest with her honors thesis written at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. The above essay is a condensation of her thesis. Emily is studying for a master's degree in English at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.
Some Problems with John Maxwell
Hamilton's Introduction to Waugh in Abyssinia
First of all, despite the first note on page
ix, Italy can't be getting coffee from Italy. Maybe from
Abyssinia? On page xii, Hamilton says Scoop (1938) is a
"classic" for foreign correspondents, but Nicholas Kulish, author
of Last One In (2007), didn't know of it for his relevant
anti-Bush novel until someone told him, so he put in an honorary
reference after the fact. Kulish made his hero tell lies that he was
"Bill Boot" who worked for National Geographic to prevent
some stranger Marines from finding out that he really was a gossip
writer (which they'd have ridiculed). As "Boot," he claims to
be interested in an Iraqi 1/4" scorpion, which leads one to wonder if
Kulish knew of the article in National Geographic (September 2007) on
miniature scorpions (134-44).
O Would Some Power the Giftie
Gie Us, to See Ourselves as Others See Us!
Here I was, self-deluded, believing my review of
Professor Hamilton’s Scoop was polite and informed, when “wop bang
wallop,” as the song used to say, came the revelation, via Charles Linck,
that what I had written was “angry yet wishy-washy.” Like the heroine
of The Awakening Conscience(though I lack her hair and beauty),
I leapt up from the computer’s lap and resolved never to be wishy-washy or
Those who prefer a much shorter comparison of
Orwell and Waugh might want to see my "Quixote Meets Pinfold: George
Orwell & Evelyn Waugh," Encounter, 72 (March 1989), 46‑52.
However, those who know little or nothing about English social, educational,
literary, and other aspects of history in the first half of the twentieth
century will get a general, sometimes repetitious account in The Same Man.
Those who know little about the two writers will welcome selective and often
intelligent summary of their lives and careers drawn from various
Sword of Honour Revisited
In one essay of this broad-ranging Festschrift on
the theme of heroism and passion, written in honor of scholar Moya
Longstaffe, Richard York’s “Evelyn Waugh’s Farewell to Heroism” (245-253)
revisits the Sword of Honour trilogy. Using the final
“Death-Wish” section as his beginning point, York posits the argument that,
for Waugh as for Guy Crouchback, the pity of war in its modern context is
that it provides so few opportunities for heroism. Waugh’s treatment of
war in the trilogy "is anti-heroic not just as a stylistic procedure,
but as part of a complex reflection on what heroism is or can be" (246).
the Show on the Road
This television documentary is based Alexander
Waugh’s book, Fathers and Sons: The Autobiography of a Family, reviewed
in the Winter 2005 issue of the Newsletter.
The TV version follows the chronology of the book by tracing the father/son
relationship through five (or six depending on how you count) generations of
the Waugh family beginning with Dr. Alexander Waugh (“The Brute”) and
continuing through the author’s young son Bron. But the TV program
opens up the book by having Alexander retell the story to his young son and
discuss it with family members and friends in interviews set in various
locations where the Waughs lived or were educated. This structure works
quite well and keeps the documentary flowing very nicely over its
approximately 1½ hours. The documentary is produced and directed by
Fran Landsman, whose previous TV documentaries also relate to families and
Although Collecting the Imagination looks
like a coffee-table book, it is rather frank in presenting some of the low as
well as the high points of the growth of the massive archive at the Harry
Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin. Perhaps the last
chapter, on the current regime, is a bit Panglossian, but on the whole it
celebrates, accurately as far as I can judge, the people who founded,
acquired, catalogued, and made available this wealth of material. The
roster includes not only directors and staff members but also patrons,
donors, and book dealers.
Marina MacKay has come up with a fascinating and
largely unexplored idea for a critical study: the effect that World War II
had on the politics of modernism. That her book ultimately fails to
make that idea cohere in a convincing way does not diminish the fact that she
has asked a very good question. There is every reason to think that
another critic will follow MacKay’s lead to a more satisfying conclusion.
to the Treasure Hunt
As can be deduced from its title, this book looks
as if it will cover the same material already included in two previous
works--Humphrey Carpenter’s The Brideshead Generation: Evelyn Waugh and
his Friends (1989) and Martin Green’s Children of the Sun: A Narrative
of “Decadence” in England after 1918 (1976). To some extent
it does. Perhaps this generation is fated to be revisited every fifteen
years or so. Although Taylor’s book describes the lives and works of
the same people as its predecessors (in particular Waugh, Brian Howard,
Robert Byron, the Mitfords and others), it is more focused on the brief
period when the Young People in question shone at their brightest (1924-30)
and also includes more detailed description of several members who were on or
outside the margins of the earlier books.
 Carpenter’s book covered Waugh and his friends to his death in 1966, and Green’s used the lives of Brian Howard and Harold Acton as the vehicle for its description of decadence from the end of the First World War to Howard’s death in 1957.
 Missing from Taylor’s book are John Betjeman, Graham Greene, W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, who were included in the earlier works but were not BYP as defined by Taylor.
 Taylor suggests that Waugh, once admitted to the BYP, lost interest in Elizabeth (or perhaps the feeling was mutual). After her fictional appearance as the Hon. Agatha Runcible in 1930, she reappears in a 1939 letter written by Waugh to Diana Cooper: he mentions a report of her in connection with Robert Byron and several others, “all the old figures of my adolescence in the 20’s.” If he knew of the wretched, alcohol-soaked life she had led during the intervening years, he fails to mention it.
 According to Taylor, the original name for Miles’s character in the early printings of DF was “the Hon. Martin Gathorne-Brodie,” which combined Eddie’s name with those of two other “notoriously flamboyant ornaments of the scene” (135). In A Bibliography of Evelyn Waugh (1986), the name is spelled Martin Gaythorne-Brodie and is said to appear in that form only in the first printing of the UK first edition of DF..
 Elizabeth Ponsonby's parents recorded their disapproval of Waugh, and Taylor provides an extended discussion (56-58). Waugh and Elizabeth’s younger brother Matthew were apprehended for drunk driving. The Ponsonbys blamed the Plunket Greenes for having introduced their son into a bad set. Waugh did not forgive them for leaving him in the slammer after springing Matthew and used the incident as the basis for a similar scene in BR twenty years later.
of an Age
When Jessica Mitford died in 1996, her sister
Deborah compiled from the obituaries a list of adjectives used to describe
“the Mitford Girls”: “Famous Notorious Talented Glamorous Turbulent
Unpredictable Celebrated Rebellious Colourful & Idiosyncratic.” The
list doesn’t really do them justice, but it’s a start.
 Charlotte Mosley, ed., The Letters of Nancy Mitford & Evelyn Waugh (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996).
Evelyn Waugh: A Supplementary
Checklist of Criticism
This is a continuation of the earlier checklists, published in Evelyn Waugh Newsletter and Studies. It includes books and articles published in 2002 and 2003.
Adams, David. Colonial Odysseys:
Empire and Epic in the Modernist Novel. Ithaca: Cornell UP,
2003. Reviewed by Jonathan Pitcher, “False Modesty,” EWNS 35.2 (Autumn 2004).
Editor’s Note: See also the annotated lists of periodical articles concerning Evelyn Waugh’s centenary in October 2003: “Scoops: Waugh in the Press” (EWNS 34.3) and “Belated Birthday Cards” (EWNS 35.3).
Voice of Waugh
Loveday" on Stage
the Devil his Due
F. Buckley, Jr., 1925-2008
Homes, Real and Imagined