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DELIGHTS

 

A number of interesting events helped us to celebrate Waugh’s 100th birthday in 2003, and there have also been a few exciting developments since then. Here are some of them. Please contact me if you have something you think would go well on this page.

CONTENTS
  1. Collectors’ Edition of the DVD Brideshead Revisited
  2. Brideshead Regained by Michael Johnston
  3. The film of Vile Bodies, renamed Bright Young Things
  4. A film of Brideshead Revisited - revised
  5. At War with Waugh by W.F. Deedes
  6. Evelyn Waugh by Benoît Le Roux
  7. The Evelyn Waugh Society
  8. The Evelyn Waugh Newsletter
  9. Fathers and Sons by Alexander Waugh - PAPERBACK UPDATE
10. Re-publication of Novels of R.H. Benson
11. Film of The Scarlet Woman
12. New Edition of Waugh in Abyssinia
13. A jeu d’esprit

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1. Collectors’ Edition of the DVD of Brideshead Revisited


COLLECTORS' EDITION
 
As an early celebration of the 25th anniversary of the first showing of the TV series of Brideshead Revisited, Granada have issued a Collectors’ Edition of the whole series on DVD with the help of the original producer, Derek Granger. It will include a number of extras, including commentaries on three of the episodes by Anthony Andrews, Jeremy Irons, Diana Quick, Nickolas Grace, Derek Granger and the two directors Michael Lindsay-Hogg and Charles Sturridge; out-takes; a documentary on the making of the series; and galleries of stills. I find that the visual quality is much the same as that of the original DVD issue, an observation that might be accounted mildly disappointing. On the other hand the value of the extras is striking.
 
The DVDs, on four discs, are available in the United Kingdom at present. Amazon.co.uk are at present advertising the series at £23.97, but I do not know how long such a low price will last.

Cover of the Collectors' Edition
In the United States the 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition of Brideshead Revisited will be released on DVD on October 10, 2006.

The List Price is given as $59.99 on Amazon.com, but the edition is actually available there for $41.99 and ships for free with Super Saver Shipping.
No doubt other retailers will match this sort of price.

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2. ‘Brideshead Regained: Continuing the Memoirs of Charles Ryder’ by Michael Johnston

Published by



Many readers will be unaware that this book encountered problems when being prepared for publication in September 2003. The Waugh Estate objected to its publication and there was a lengthy round of negotiations. The author, Michael Johnston, agreed that there would be no further print edition (or even further copies of the present edition) and that sales of the present edition would be channelled through the internet (e.g. Amazon), via mail-order, and through direct sales from the publisher. There was to be no advertising of the book through bookshops. Moreover, potential sales of ‘rights’ in the book are frozen and subject to the consent of the Waugh Estate.

Michael Johnston, who has corresponded with me since May 2003 and whom I met, told me that he felt bound to accept the conditions because of the relative financial strengths of the two parties, even though he had received a robust legal opinion in his favour.

The book is available directly from his publisher, Akanos. The ISBN is 0954290100, price UK£14.95.

If you want a signed copy then send your cheque for UK£14.95 (payable to Akanos) directly to the author at 2 Woodfall Avenue, Barnet EN5 2EZ (post free) - or €30 (including postage) from Europe, or US$30 or CAN$40 (including airmail postage) from North America. For all other overseas orders please add £4 for airmail postage and packing.

At present, there are two other ways of getting hold of the novel.
1. In the United States you may go to Amazon.com, though the book is nearly sold out.
2. In the United Kingdom go to Amazon.co.uk. The price is now UK£9.86 (plus postage).

If you have difficulty, please write to Mr Johnston at the address I give above or telephone (+44) 020 8449 6629.

Mr Johnston kindly sent me a copy, and these are my reactions.

Michael Johnston has made an interesting and noble attempt to continue Charles Ryder’s story through the rest of the second world war and into the first months of peace. This is no wishy-washy treatment; it does not lack either ambition or incident and it retains one’s interest right up to the final, rather shocking climax. On the way Ryder meets Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle, as well as other historical characters, and in their presentation he seems to me to hit the mark spot on. The fitting of these historical characters into the pattern of the novel is a technical delight in itself.

It is with Ryder and the other Brideshead characters that some might feel that the focus has been slightly distorted, that these are not quite the characters Waugh had in mind. In the end I put this feeling down to the age in which Mr Johnston is writing. Waugh’s particular brand of Catholicism, which one assumes is the Catholicism of Sebastian, Julia and Ryder himself as well as that of Lady Marchmain and Cordelia, does not survive well into the modern age, and nor does it into ‘Brideshead Regained’. We see little enough of Julia; Charles does not even seem to be a Catholic but a kind of devout non-denominational; and Cordelia, in true modern style, regrets her repressed childhood and youth, which she now thinks she has wasted. It has to be said that Waugh would have been outraged by this development.

In other words, the express intention of ‘Brideshead Revisited’ does not largely survive into ‘Brideshead Regained’. The operation of divine grace on a group of diverse but closely connected characters, as Waugh expressed it, is not a concern. God is at a considerable distance. The nearest we get to Waugh’s theme is with the death of Sebastian, a helpless, shattered being in his monastery in Carthage, though even this has its ironic aspect : Charles has deserted Churchill’s painting party to go and meet him, achieves his object but then, though nearby, misses the actual death itself.

I must sum up by saying that I very much enjoyed the book, as a good yarn. One cannot help thinking, ‘I wouldn’t have had Ryder (or someone) do that or be like that’ but Mr Johnston sweeps you along with him. He introduces new characters, of course, with considerable success. I am particularly taken with Diana and the German lay-brother Hermann. I cannot say I much admire the double flash-back structure of the novel (perhaps it is both flash-back and flash-forward), but it puzzles for only a few pages. Mr Johnston’s style too is nothing like Waugh’s either as the nostalgic novelist of ‘Brideshead’ or the satirical writer of youth (it is far looser-limbed), but it would be unreasonable to expect otherwise.

There are many incidental delights which he has conjured up for us : Ryder’s father is exactly as we would expect him to be, Ryder’s daughter Caroline is now a truly horrendous brat (and her mother a bitch), Jasper is now Sir Jasper Ryder and something important and portentous in Whitehall, and after the Tory defeat in the General Election Rex Mottram is an aggrieved politician. The scenes with Churchill and De Gaulle are remarkably convincing (I speak as someone who never met them!) The climax is interestingly worked up, though it does leave questions unanswered - perhaps Mr Johnston has (had?) ideas of continuing the tale into a second volume.

Perhaps the most striking section of all is the scene in Belsen, which is described with a realism that is fascinating as well as horrid. It also provides one of the most affecting incidents in the book, which I shall not spoil by telling you.

All in all, lovers of ‘Brideshead Revisited’ will probably be alternately charmed and puzzled by ‘Brideshead Regained’, but they will not be bored!

3. The film of Vile Bodies, renamed Bright Young Things (now out on DVD)

Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry

The actor, writer and comedian Stephen Fry has put all his considerable energy into writing and directing a film of Waugh’s second novel. Aficionados may think it regrettable that a change of title was thought necessary, and pedants might have preferred Bright Young People, but the project has a lot going for it, including a splendid cast : Emily Mortimer (daughter of John Mortimer, the writer of the TV series of Brideshead Revisited), Stephen Campbell Moore, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Broadbent, Simon Callow, Jim Carter, Stockard Channing, Richard E Grant, Guy Henry, James McAvoy, Julia McKenzie, John Mills, Alec Newman, Bill Paterson, Michael Sheen, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, Harriet Walter, Fenella Woolgar and Peter O’Toole. The lesser-known names are young actors who are already making their way on the British stage and on television; the well-known and the veterans take cameo parts.

The film had its first public showing in the U.K. on 3rd October 2003. On Sunday 28th September it had a Royal Gala première in the presence of the Prince of Wales which raised £50,000 for the Prince’s Trust, an organisation which raises money for disadvantaged young people. You may visit the film’s website at http://iconmovies.co.uk/brightyoungthings/synopsis.html.

In an interesting and amusing article based on extracts from his diaries of the period, Stephen Fry gave a thought-provoking account of making the film in the London Sunday Telegraph of 28th September 2003. The difficulties of maintaining cash flow seem to have been almost (but not quite) insuperable. The Film Consortium, created as part of the government-inspired UK Film Council in order to aid British film projects, acted as a stumbling-block to the extent that Fry had to use his own money to pay the crew; it even gave the incredible advice that he should find backing from American loan sharks. EW himself would have had a fine time presenting for our delectation the bureaucratic inefficiency and artistic insufficiency of the organisation.

Fry ends the article with a defence of his adaptation of the novel. He says :

The narrative liberties I have taken and the title change from Vile Bodies to Bright Young Things are issues which have been well covered in the public prints lately. I have always felt that books are books and films are films. Whenever anybody talks about Vile Bodies, from now until the crack of doom, it will be to the brilliant 1930 novel by Evelyn Waugh that they refer. Had I arrogated that title to my film, there might be more reason to complain at any structural changes.
In fact, I think the wondrously romantic finish to the film, with Emily (
Mortimer) and Stephen (Campbell Moore) dancing to The Party’s Over Now, really works. There’s so much wrong with it in theory: ridiculous amount of candles to be burning in wartime, absurd romanticism in some ways and quite untrue to the bleak ending of the book. And yet I don’t care. It’s the ending to my film, not for some Hollywood “feel good” reason, but because I think it’s truer. It’s my film and it will always be Waugh’s book, though I can already hear the pencils being sharpened along with the knives. Some critics will go straight for it, I am sure, but I believe audiences will respond; that’s if they’ve stuck it to the end, of course.

Early reviews have commented on the film’s remarkable evocation of an age (1930’s rather than 1920’s) but also on its softening of the impact of Waugh’s satire. Some reviewers feel that the film thereby loses its solid structure and makes the young things silly and negligible rather than desperate and doomed. All agree that there are remarkable performances, especially from the veteran actors, and that Stephen Fry has made a very promising directorial debut.

My own reactions are very favourable. True, there were things to cavil at if one felt a sense of possessive duty to the inviolability of Waugh’s invention. Little things did get to me, though : why was Margot Metroland called Lady Maitland, and why was Miles Malpractice presented as her son? I have not yet worked out what the gain was in making those changes. But the sheer quality of the film I found breathtaking. Its appearance was remarkably beautiful and remarkably bold in turns : I loved the astounding red of the opening party scene and the silver of the later one, I admired the wonderful lighting of the quieter interior scenes (one could easily believe that the candles or lamps constituted the only lighting in some of them), and the costumes and hair-styles seemed to me real and absolutely convincing. The acting was astoundingly good, as one would expect from such a cast. The veterans all gave their expected stalwart and enjoyable performances. But, in particular, I thought Stephen Campbell Moore and Emily Mortimer excelled as the young lovers Adam and Nina. Behind Nina’s hesitant behaviour one could sense the voice of prudence hissing in her ear; and our irritation at Adam’s ridiculously passive and superficial character (much more ridiculous when seen in a film than read in a book) was stilled by Campbell Moore’s remarkable rendering of the ‘Vile Bodies’ speech, a moment when suddenly Adam takes on a prophetic, even tragic, aspect.

The point of the book may seem to be, at least in part, that the Bright Young Things are too insubstantial to take seriously; one is not horrified by their fate but at best not quite indifferent : Balcairn’s suicide and Agatha’s death in a mental asylum wring no withers. One cannot take Nina and Adam’s swiftly changing relationship seriously when they seem not to do so themselves. The endless run of parties can arouse little more than mildly irritating ennui. And yet in the film one cares about these people : one has subtly been drawn into their world and their concerns. I think that is why Stephen Fry gives us a happy ending instead of Waugh’s bleak and universally devastating one : Fry sees the book as a love story at heart. Some may see his decision as a capitulation to Hollywood values; but I think it could (just) be justified by saying that at the end, in a world war, things have changed, the old careless and selfish values and their advocates are gone, and a future of austerity, commitment and self-sacrifice has arrived. Nina and Adam have found themselves in time to deserve a future together, however bleak.

 Since April 2004 the film has been available on Region 2 DVD in the United Kingdom. Stephen Fry supplies an audio commentary, and besides the more usual features there are also an intriguing Behind The Scenes featurette and a standard documentary on Stephen Fry himself. The regular price is UK£15.99, but Amazon.co.uk now sells it at £5.97 plus postage, and Play.com at £5.99 delivered free.

The Region 1 DVD may still be available in the United States, but appears at the moment to be out of stock.

4. A film of Brideshead Revisited

The proposal to make a feature film of Brideshead Revisited first surfaced in 2002. A script was commissioned from Andrew Davies (famous for his work on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice), but reservations soon arose when Davies spoke about his dramatisation. He was quoted as saying ‘I’m much less enamoured of all that Oxford snobbery than some people. It’s written from the point of view of someone who does not believe in the religious themes as Evelyn Waugh did. If God can be said to exist in my version, he would be the villain.’ He wished to emphasise the Julia-Charles liaison and to reduce the religious dimension, using it only to show how faith is a destructive force.

If he wanted arouse interest and controversy, he certainly achieved his aim. Protests arose from all sides, and indeed I cannot see how Waugh’s novel can fail to have a deep religious dimension. If it did not, the film would turn out to be merely a rom-com. I was not puzzled by the Waugh Estate’s apparent blessing of the enterprise : I imagine that they wish to maximise profits before the copyright runs out in 2016. They ignored the fact that Waugh himself set the example when he insisted in Hollywood in 1947 that the religious theme should not be jettisoned or diluted.

Filming was originally due to start in August 2004, with the movie due for release in 2005, but there were considerable hitches in the film-making. There were doubts among the American backers, it seems, partly about the actors chosen to star, and partly because a tax loophole had been closed in British law. The proposed director, David Yates, was quickly diverted to take charge of the fifth Harry Potter film.

But in 2005-6 there were signs of some activity in the production. Jeremy Brock (who wrote the impressive film The Last King of Scotland) was pulled in to help with the script. The co-producer Douglas Rae stated that the funding problems had been overcome. Filming began in Spring 2007. Julian Jarrold, who had recently displayed his literary credentials with Becoming Jane, was hired to direct the film. In June they filmed at Castle Howard, despite the statement in 2006 of Simon Howard, the owner of the house, ‘We don’t want it filmed here. You don’t want to be associated with the Americanisation of it.

Rae has again reiterated the fact that his production will approach the story from a different angle from that of the ITV series. ‘The story is about how you think happiness is in your grasp but there is a third character in the story, God, who also has a role to play,’ he is reported as saying. ‘I think it’s exciting to grasp a holy cow like this and introduce it to a whole new audience.’ At least God gets a look-in now, it seems, holy cow or not.

Throughout 2007 there were indeed rumours of considerable in-fighting going on behind the scenes about how the film should proceed and what the overall approach should be. If I interpret them correctly, it seems that Davies’s radical interpretation has been reined in - for which relief, much thanks.

Ben Whishaw plays Lord Sebastian, Hayley Atwell is Lady Julia, and Matthew Goode takes the part of Charles Ryder. Emma Thompson takes Lady Marchmain, Michael Gambon her estranged husband and Joseph Beattie Anthony Blanche.

Andrew Davies’s recent words about the film (of which he is no longer the sole writer) indicate a shift in his viewpoint. He said : ‘All anyone remembers is Charles and Sebastian swanning around Oxford and, certainly to Evelyn Waugh, that was not the main part of the book. (Too true! - DC) The crux of the book is really Julia Flyte’s giving up of Charles for God. It is the religious crisis that the book is working towards.’ This religious slant was certainly not present in his early comments on the film. One wonders whether he was at first putting out a line that was designed to attract plenty of attention, all the better if a lot of it is flak.

PERSONAL NOTE - I have been asked what my attitude is to filming classic books. In brief, I have no objection to adaptation. A book is not a film, and adapters must be allowed to find filmic ways of translating what may be undramatic in the book into appropriate imagery for a movie. The caveat is of course that a good novel will always have some solid core which should not be ignored or distorted - the point of the book, if you wish. A film-maker should be concerned wholly to translate that irreducible core into filmic terms without diluting or maiming it.

My fear for this adaptation of Brideshead Revisited was that the film-makers had fallen prey to the delusion that many superficial readers of the novel surrender to, that the novel is a pretty story of boys at university and the ways that they muck up their lives, and nothing more. It is far more than that, or I should not have bothered to create this web-site.

5. At War with Waugh : The Real Story of Scoop by W.F. Deedes

W.F.Deedes At War with Waugh (Deedes)
W.F. ‘Bill’ Deedes At War with Waugh

Lord Deedes (who died in 2007 - see my obituary) was a pre-war acquaintance of Evelyn Waugh’s : they worked together as journalists in Abyssinia in 1935, covering the Italian invasion. Deedes claimed to be the original possessor of the vast amounts of odd and cumbersome equipment, supposed to be necessary for a foreign correspondent, that Waugh describes in his novel Scoop. Deedes retained some of that original equipment stored in a large metal-lined trunk in his house. In later life he became the distinguished editor of the Daily Telegraph, a Member of Parliament and a government minister. On 6th June 2003 he published this book, which tells of his (and Waugh’s) adventures and misadventures in Abyssinia (Macmillan; the book may be ordered from Amazon.co.uk at a cost of £5.59, plus postage and packing.)

In the book Deedes claims that he is not the model for William Boot in Scoop, except in the one particular that he took an immense amount of equipment with him. He points out that most of the journalists in Abyssinia were competent and effective, in so far as conditions allowed them to be. He states that Waugh was an excellent eye-witness, but that he did not have the journalist’s desire for searching out news in difficult or unpromising circumstances. He would not soil his hands with the reporter’s occasionally necessary task of embroidering half-truths and rumours and of filing entirely fictional reports in order to satisfy newsdesks and editors at home.

Lady Mosley (née Diana Mitford), who also knew Waugh before World War II, reviewed Deedes’s book in the London Evening Standard in what must have been her last piece of published writing. She agreed that Deedes was not the model for William Boot, but commented that Evelyn Waugh, aged 32 ... was, at that time, the most perfect companion imaginable. Lord Deedes says he was a real help, as an old Africa hand, and praises his efficiency, although he missed the one and only scoop by being away when it was achieved. He doesn’t mention the scintillating wit, the wonderfully original point of view of the Evelyn Waugh of those days. He detects the monster, but not, seemingly, the genius. In these few words Lady Mosley reminded us that there was another view of Evelyn Waugh which is distinct from the curmudgeon we have all heard about.

6. Evelyn Waugh by Benoît Le Roux

 

The first biography of Evelyn Waugh in French was published in March 2003. Waugh has always had a small but loyal following in France, his satires The Loved One and Vile Bodies being (in my opinion) especially appreciated, and critics such as Alain Blayac (author of Evelyn Waugh: New Directions) and Yvon Tosser (author of Le sens de l’absurde dans l’oeuvre d’Evelyn Waugh) have developed and maintained a serious and distinct position for Waugh studies in French literary criticism.

Benoît Le Roux has now written a biography, published by L’Harmattan. Le Roux teaches at Saint-Brieuc and has taken upon himself the responsibility of writing this important biography. As he states on his website, he has not only used the information already available in English (it is quite extensive), but also had the aim of giving a new perspective on Waugh’s oeuvre in order to show that it is more original, more varied, and more modern than is sometimes thought.

You may buy the book from L’Harmattan, price €25.90 plus postage. The book is reviewed by Alain Blayac in the Evelyn Waugh Newsletter, at http://www.lhup.edu/jwilson3/Newsletter_34.3.htm.

7. The Evelyn Waugh Society

As a result of last year’s conferences, the Evelyn Waugh Society is on the move. Early in 2004 Dr. John Howard Wilson sent round to interested parties a proposed Constitution of the Society. No doubt he received helpful comments from those expert in such matters. Now the Society is in process of formation; for further information you should go to http://www.lhup.edu/jwilson3/EWSociety.htm. There are representatives waiting to take your subscriptions in Australia and New Zealand, Canada, India, Japan and the United Kingdom as well as the USA.

8. The Evelyn Waugh Newsletter and Studies

This Newsletter was for many years (from 1967 to 1998) a valuable source of information and delight. There was something for everybody: simple amusement and information for the generality of Waugh’s readers and hard scholarship for those of more serious mien. Then as its propagators grew older and more infirm, the Newsletter appeared to cease publication. It has however, to his eternal credit, been revived by Dr John Howard Wilson of Lock Haven University as an internet publication. He maintains the high standard of its forerunner and welcomes contributions from all over the world.

You may read all the issues of the Evelyn Waugh Newsletter that Dr Wilson has published at his website, http://www.lhup.edu/jwilson3/newsletter.htm.

UPDATE (May 2005) : I have voluntered to put the original series of the Evelyn Waugh Newsletter on the internet. This will be a job of transcription that will take some time to achieve, but I shall put them up as I complete each volume. Keep an eye both on my website and on Dr Howard Wilson’s for up-to-date news.

9. Fathers and Sons : The Autobiography of a Family by Alexander Waugh

 Fathers and Sons dust jacket
The cover of the hardback edition The cover of the paperback edition

Alexander Waugh is the grandson of Evelyn and the son of Auberon. All three may be seen in the photograph on the dust jacket of his new book, for he has bowed to his genes by becoming a writer, first a journalist (notably as an opera and music critic) and then as the author of both a superb study of Time and a more controversial and whimsical look at the nature of God. He points out in this biography of his family from the time of his great-great-grandfather Dr Alexander Waugh that, as the family trade, writing has taken over fully from medicine and, before that, the church.

There have already been contributions to the biographical business from his great-grandfather Arthur (One Man’s Road), his grandfather (A Little Learning), his great-uncle Alec (My Brother Evelyn and three attempts at autobiography), and his father (Will This Do?). One wonders before picking up this book if there is much more to add to the crowded field. But one’s juices begin flowing as one realises that there will be opportunities for the gossip that perhaps was Evelyn’s longest-lasting consolation in life - and I take pleasure in stating that there certainly is a good measure of it in Fathers and Sons.

The major surprise is that one actually does learn more about the Waugh family, though not perhaps about the Brute, their nickname for Dr Alexander. The old stories of sadistic behaviour mentioned in A Little Learning recur here, and one supposes there is not much more to be discovered about this unsavoury gentleman. Alexander Waugh does, however, reveal the character of the Brute’s son Arthur far more clearly than it has been uncovered before. He has access to letters written between the good publisher and Alec, the son of my soul, that fully indicate the doting nature of the father’s devotion. Alec was at pains to conceal from his father the extent of both his adolescent homosexuality at Sherborne School (the source of the oblique references in his first novel The Loom of Youth) and his mature heterosexual philandering. He managed to retain his father’s undiscriminating love to the end, for Arthur seems to have died (as late as 1943) still believing that Alec was a greater writer than Evelyn.

It is Alexander Waugh’s triumph to have revealed at last the true state of the relationships in Arthur’s family. Alec put it about, especially after Evelyn’s death, that while he himself was his father’s favourite, Evelyn was his mother’s. This seems not to have been true. Though she was not as adoring as her husband was, she too was convinced of Alec’s supreme qualities, and she demonstrates no conspicuous love of Evelyn in her diary or in other writings. Evelyn’s childhood comment Then I am lacking in love appears as only too discerning a statement. In adulthood he felt uncomfortable, not to say bored, with his mother’s narrow concerns, family-based as they were though something with which his wife Laura was very much at ease. And from childhood Evelyn was torn between jeering at his father’s comfortable traits and attempting vainly to win his whole-hearted approval.

Evelyn came to appreciate his father only after his death. As he himself toiled with a family, at six surviving youngsters much larger than Arthur had to cope with, he began to think that his father had taken unusual and painstaking steps to educate his boys in reasonably wide cultural values. In youth and middle age Evelyn was appalled by his father’s theatricality, which dominated all his dealings with other people; but as he himself began to age Evelyn took on his father’s role, acting out to the hilt his reputation as a curmudgeon and an eccentric.

The general view of his biographers is that Evelyn was a poor father. Alexander Waugh puts this in correct perspective. One should not go by his diaries, where he put down his feelings after exhaustion had set in, or his letters, where he was acting a part, but by the fact that his children defend him vigorously. He did make a tremendous effort to amuse and distract them; he may often have failed (Auberon once thought a specially arranged day trip out to London a bit dull), but he tried hard. Auberon later said that his father could not open his mouth without saying something funny. What is certainly true is that as they grew up his children appreciated Evelyn more and more, and he began to find them more sociable company.

Alexander Waugh concludes his survey with an account of his relationship with his own father, Auberon. He derives his own anarchic tendencies from his father’s; reading between the lines one can detect that Auberon’s propensity for fantasy had led to collisions with Evelyn, who, though no literalist himself, was prone to think of his son’s childhood pranks as lying and vandalism. Alexander is grateful that Auberon not only tolerated but seemed to appreciate similar tendencies in his own son; he actually wrote in a letter to a headmaster defending his son’s destruction of a cupboard (he was looking for a teacher’s supposed collection of ladies’ knickers) : when one grasps the simple proposition that vandals obviously enjoy breaking things, then vandalism is no more senseless than playing tennis.

The book is a fascinating read for the Waugh enthusiast. If it does nothing else, it begins to redress the balance for Evelyn Waugh. I have always thought that Waugh’s later reputation growed like Topsy from a strenuously-promoted facade which began as an amusing act to ward off bores, then as he aged was made more internal by illness and disappointment (with the church, at least), and ended as an incubus which could not be shifted. In this book we see Evelyn as his family saw him; and that was something rather different.

You may now buy the book from amazon.co.uk at very reduced prices.

PAPERBACK VERSION !
Headline issued the paperback edition of Alexander Waugh’s book Fathers and Sons on 5th September 2005.
You may buy it from Amazon.co.uk at the reduced price of £7.19, and no doubt other retailers will also stock it.
PUBLICATION IN THE UNITED STATES
Fathers and Sons was published in the United States by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday on Fathers’ Day, 17 June 2006. (Information from the Evelyn Waugh Newsletter). At present the hardback retails for $18.15 from Amazon.com.

10. Re-publication of the Novels of R.H. Benson

I have received information from Michael D. Greaney, the co-founder of Once-and-Future Books, that his firm are planning to to republish the complete fiction of Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, a writer whom Evelyn Waugh greatly admired. In 1955 Waugh actually wrote prefaces for an American edition of Benson’s work. In particular he admired Benson’s novel Lord of the World, which showed a future world in which humanism and subjectivist attitudes have triumphed and the Catholic church has been reduced to a fugitive few. Waugh was particularly attracted by the idea, implicit in this novel, of serving the last mass for the last Pope in a catacomb at the end of the world, a desire he actually gives to Guy Crouchback in Men at Arms and Sword of Honour. Perhaps the novel most directly to have been stimulated by Benson’s writings was Love Among the Ruins.

Michael Greaney informs me :

Once-and-Future Books has already established a reputation for recovering “long lost” works of literature. Breaking new ground, Once-and-Future Books announces the first three offerings in its series of the complete fiction, drama and poetry of Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914), The Light Invisible (ISBN 0972982167), Lord of the World (ISBN 0972982140), and The Dawn of All (ISBN 0972982159). The Benson Unabridged project is the first-ever presentation of these works in newly-formatted and consistent editions. Each volume in the set features an original foreword written especially for this series.

Robert Hugh Benson, a member of the famous Benson literary clan (E. F. Benson [Mapp and Lucia] and A. C. Benson were his brothers) enjoyed a celebrated and prolific career that lasted a little over a decade. In addition to many non-fiction works, he wrote a series of eighteen novels, two short story collections, four plays and a volume of poetry. Father Benson’s writing combined a specific moral orientation with an astonishing popularity among the general public of the early twentieth century. As an Anglican and later a Catholic priest, Father Benson was in great demand as a speaker in both England and the United States.

Benson was the most sensational English convert from the Anglican Communion to Catholicism (in 1903) since John Henry Newman. Hugh, as his friends and family called him, was a son of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward White Benson (1829–96). Benson wrote from a Catholic perspective, but with real understanding and sympathy for the Protestant position.

At present Once-and-Future Books publications are easily available from American sources, online from www.Benson-Unabridged.com, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I hope that they will soon be as easily procured from British sources.

Evelyn Waugh on R.H. Benson :

He knew that there was only one relationship of absolute value, that of the soul to God.
How was he to approach God, how best serve Him?
In each of his novels one can see a sketch of what he thought might possibly be
the type which God was seeking to produce in him.

 Mgr R.H. Benson Mgr Robert Hugh Benson

11. Film of The Scarlet Woman

Many years ago Charles E. Linck Jr., the well-known expert on matters Waugh, obtained from Terence Greenidge a copy of The Scarlet Woman, the film that Greenidge and Evelyn Waugh made in 1924-5. There have been VHS copies made of it in the past, but now the film has been treated to modern techniques that give both a true speed and a picture with no jumpiness. Mr Linck has had DVD copies made and is offering them for sale at a price of US$20 to cover cost of manufacture, postage and a donation, which will go to the Evelyn Waugh Society.

I have received my own copy, and I must say that the film is less damagingly episodic, illogical and amateurish than I had anticipated. The story, farcical as it is, flows well, and the acting is never less than satisfactory and in the cases of Terence Greenidge and Elsa Lanchester, both of whom went on to make careers on the stage and screen, excellent. Some of the scenes demonstrate true filmic awareness : I am thinking particularly of the chase scenes on Hampstead Heath which were, it appears, directed by Evelyn Waugh himself. Waugh himself acts in two roles, and also appearing are his brother Alec (as a cardinal’s bibulous mother), Terence Greenidge’s brother John, Viscount Elmley of the Madresfield family (later the last Earl Beauchamp), and the future film producer John Sutro. All in all, an entertaining three-quarters of an hour.

Mr Linck’s address is P.O. Box 3002 TAMU-C, Commerce, Texas 75429, U.S.A. His email address is Linck at tamu-commerce.edu (change the word at to @ and close the gaps up.)

You can find Mr Linck’s transcription of The Scarlet Woman in the Evelyn Waugh Newsletter, Volume 3 Number 2.

Elsa Lanchester and Evelyn Waugh Evelyn Waugh (in another role, the Dean of Balliol)
and John Greenidge as the Prince of Wales

12. New Edition of Waugh in Abyssinia

I have received information from Leslie A. Green, Direct Marketing Coordinator of Louisiana State University Press, that the Press is publishing a new edition of Waugh in Abyssinia as the first of a series to be known as From Our Own Correspondent. There is an introduction by John Maxwell Hamilton, Dean of the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University and the editor of the whole series.

You may find details of the book at http://s50780.sites40.storefront-hosting.com/detail.aspx?ID=1604. Judging from his few words there, Mr Maxwell Hamilton’s introduction promises to be interesting reading, especially as he notes the literary implications of Waugh’s journalism and activities.

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Finally :

13. A jeu d’esprit from myself

A correspondent once told me in an email that he had heard Harold Acton described as ‘poet and athlete’ rather than the certainly more correct ‘aesthete’. This slip made me laugh out loud; one cannot easily imagine Acton capable of much splendour in the sphere of physical effort. I decided to honour the howler with the illustration I append below. I hope you enjoy it.

Poet and Athlete

 Contact me at
 David Cliffe
last updated 1st February 2008

 

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