Sunday, August 31, 2014

Evelyn Waugh's BBC Interview


Alan: I discovered this 1953 BBC interview in the following post by "The Thinking Housewife," a Traditionalist Catholic and white supremacist.

Like Waugh, "The Thinking Housewife" uses Catholicism as a shield to resist change and to justify personal bias. To sustain her bias, "The Thinking Housewife" declares Pope Francis a non-Catholic "impostor pope" who embodies a pornography of compassion 

In furtherance of her views "The Thinking Housewife" has affiliated with a self-pontificating movement called sedevacantism. In a remarkable display of self-certainty, "The Thinking Housewife" conceives Francis as a vain, self-seeking poseur while representing sedevacantists as the only non-deluded devotees of "the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church." 

N. B. The PBS dramatization of Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited," with Jeremy Irons, is nonpareil


Evelyn Waugh


Waugh's biographer, Christopher Sykes, records that after the (1929) divorce friends "saw, or believed they saw, a new hardness and bitterness" in Waugh's outlook.[66] Nevertheless, despite a letter to Acton in which he wrote that he "did not know it was possible to be so miserable and live",[67] Waugh soon resumed his professional and social life. He finished his second novel, Vile Bodies,[68] and wrote articles including (ironically he thought) one for the Daily Mail on the meaning of the marriage ceremony.[67] Between September and January 1930, when the novel was published, Waugh moved between the various houses of his friends, a practice he was to continue as he was to have no settled home for the next eight years.[68]

Conversion to Catholicism

On 29 September 1930 Waugh was received into the Roman Catholic Church. This shocked his family and surprised some of his friends, but the step had been contemplated for some time.[70] Although he had lost his Anglicanism at Lancing and had led an irreligious life at Oxford, from the mid-1920s there are references in his diaries to religious discussion and regular church-going. On 22 December 1925 Waugh writes: "Claud and I took Audrey to supper and sat up until 7 in the morning arguing about the Roman Church".[71] The entry for 20 February 1927 includes "I am to visit a Father Underhill about being a parson".[72] Throughout this period Waugh was influenced by his friend Olivia Plunket-Greene, who had converted in 1925 and of whom Waugh wrote later: "She bullied me into the Church".[73] It was she who led him to Father Martin D'Arcy, aJesuit, who persuaded Waugh "on firm intellectual convictions but little emotion" that "the Christian revelation was genuine". In 1949 Waugh explained that his conversion followed his realisation that life was "unintelligible and unendurable without God".[74]

Second marriage

On his conversion, Waugh had accepted that he would be unable to remarry while Evelyn Gardner was alive. However, he wanted a wife and children, and in October 1933 began proceedings for the annulment of the marriage on the grounds of "lack of real consent." The case was heard by an ecclesiastical tribunal in London, but a delay in the submission of the papers to Rome meant that the annulment was not granted until 4 July 1936.[94] In the meantime, following their initial encounter in Portofino, Waugh had fallen in love with Laura Herbert.[95] He proposed marriage, by letter, in Spring 1936.[96] There were initial misgivings from theHerberts, an aristocratic Catholic family; as a further complication, Laura Herbert was a cousin of Evelyn Gardner.[22] Despite some family hostility the marriage took place on 17 April 1937.[97] As a wedding present the bride's grandmother bought the couple Piers Court, a country house near Stinchcombe in Gloucestershire.[98] 


By 1953 Waugh's popularity as a writer was declining. He was perceived as out of step with the Zeitgeist, and the large fees he demanded were no longer easily available.[132] His money was running out, and progress on the second book of his war trilogy, Officers and Gentlemen, had stalled. Partly because of his dependency on drugs, his health was steadily deteriorating.[140] Shortage of cash led him to agree in November 1953 to be interviewed on BBC radio, where the panel took an aggressive line. "[T]hey tried to make a fool of me, and I don't think they entirely succeeded", Waugh wrote to Nancy Mitford.[141] Peter Fleming in The Spectator likened the interview to "the goading of a bull by matadors".[142]
Early in 1954 Waugh's doctors, concerned by his physical deterioration, advised a change of scene. On 29 January he took a ship bound for Ceylon, hoping that he would be able to finish his novel. Within a few days he was writing home complaining of "other passengers whispering about me" and of hearing voices, including that of his recent BBC interlocutor Stephen Black. He left the ship in Egypt and flew on to Colombo but, he wrote to Laura, the voices followed him.[143] Alarmed, Laura sought help from her friend Frances Donaldson, whose husband agreed to fly out to Ceylon and bring Waugh home. In fact Waugh made his own way back, by now believing that he was being possessed by devils. A brief medical examination indicated that Waugh was suffering from bromide poisoning from his drugs regime. When his medication was changed the voices and other hallucinations quickly disappeared.[144] Waugh was delighted, informing all of his friends that he had been mad: "Clean off my onion!". The experience was semi-fictionalised a few years later in The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (1957).[145]
Restored to health, Waugh returned to work and finished Officers and Gentlemen. In June 1955 the Daily Express journalist and reviewer Nancy Spain, accompanied by her friend Lord Noel-Buxton, arrived uninvited at Piers Court and demanded an interview. Waugh saw the pair off, and wrote a wry account for The Spectator,[146] but was troubled by the incident, and decided to sell Piers Court; "I felt it was polluted", he told Nancy Mitford.[147] Late in 1956 the family moved to the manor house in the Somerset village ofCombe Florey.[148] In January 1957 Waugh avenged the Spain–Noel-Buxton intrusion by winning libel damages from the Express and Spain. The paper had printed an article by Spain, suggesting that the sales of Waugh's books were much lower than they were and that his worth as a journalist was low.[149]
Pinfold was published in the summer of 1957, "my barmy book", Waugh called it.[150] The extent to which the story is self-mockery, rather than true autobiography, became a subject of critical debate.[151] Waugh's next major book was a biography of his long-time friend Fr. Ronald Knox, the Catholic writer and theologian who had died in August 1957. Research and writing extended over two years, during which time Waugh did little other work, delaying the third volume of his war trilogy. In June 1958 his son Auberon was severely wounded in a shooting accident while serving with the army in Cyprus. Waugh remained detached; he did not go to Cyprus, nor did he immediately visit Auberon on the latter's return to England. Critic and literary biographer David Wykes calls Waugh's sang-froid "astonishing", and the family's apparent acceptance of his behaviour even more so.[152]
Although most of Waugh's books had sold well, and he had been well-rewarded for his journalism, his levels of expenditure meant that money problems and tax bills were a recurrent feature in his life.[153] In 1950, as a means of tax avoidance, he had set up a trust fund for his children (he termed it the "Save the Children Fund", after the well-established charity of that name) into which he placed the initial advance and all future royalties from the Penguin (paperback) editions of his books.[154] He was able to augment his personal finances by charging household items to the trust, or by selling his own possessions to it.[22] Nonetheless, by 1960 shortage of money led him to agree to an interview on BBC Television, in the Face to Face series conducted by John Freeman. The interview was broadcast on 26 June 1960; according to his biographer Selena Hastings, Waugh restrained his instinctive hostility and coolly answered the questions put to him by Freeman, assuming what she calls a "pose of world-weary boredom".[153]
In 1960 Waugh was offered the honour of a CBE but declined, believing that he should have been given the superior status of a knighthood.[155]

Character and opinions

In the course of his lifetime, Evelyn Waugh made enemies and offended many people; writer James Lees-Milne said that Waugh ″was the nastiest-tempered man in England″.[174] He had been a bully at school, and retained an intimidating presence throughout his adult life; Waugh's son, Auberon, said that the force of his father's personality was such that, despite his lack of height, ″generals and chancellors of the exchequer, six-foot-six and exuding self-importance from every pore, quail[ed] in front of him.″[175]

... As an instinctive conservative, Waugh believed that class divisions, with inequalities of wealth and position, were natural, and that "no form of government [was] ordained by God as being better than any other".[182] In the post-war "Age of the Common Man", he attacked socialism (the "Cripps–Attlee terror")[183] and complained, after Churchill's election in 1951, that "the Conservative Party have never put the clock back a single second".[184] Waugh never voted in elections; in 1959, he expressed a hope that the Conservatives would win the General Election, but would not vote for them, saying "I should feel I was morally inculpated in their follies"; and added: "I do not aspire to advise my sovereign in her choice of servants."[185]
The Catholicism of Evelyn Waugh was fundamental: ″The Church . . . is the normal state of man from which men have disastrously exiled themselves.″[186] He believed that the Catholic Church was the last, great defence against the encroachment of the Dark Age being ushered in by the welfare state and the spreading of working-class culture.[187] A strictly observant Catholic, Waugh admitted to Diana Cooper that his most difficult task was how to square the obligations of his faith with his indifference to his fellow men.[188] When Nancy Mitford asked him how he reconciled his often objectionable conduct with being a Christian, Waugh replied that ″were he not a Christian he would be even more horrible″.[189]
... Throughout his literary works, Evelyn Waugh freely expressed his racial and anti-semitic prejudices, especially in the books he wrote before the Second World War. The writer V.S. Pritchett said that Waugh's anti-semitism, ″like Mount Everest, is there, nonviolent, but undeniable″; Wykes said that anti-semitism is Waugh's "most persistent nastiness".[194] Wyke also said that the Second World War might have modified Waugh's racist attitudes, though not to an extent discernible in his social behaviour. That Waugh's racism was "an illogical extension of his views on the naturalness and rightness of hierarchy as the [main] principle of social organisation".[195] As an admirer of Waugh's writing, George Orwell said that Evelyn Waugh was "almost as good a novelist as it is possible to be . . . while holding untenable opinions".[196]


In 1973 Waugh's diaries were serialised in The Observer, prior to publication in book form in 1976. The revelations on his private life, thoughts and attitudes created controversy. Although Waugh had removed embarrassing entries relating to his Oxford years and his first marriage, there was sufficient left on the record to enable enemies to project a negative image of the writer as intolerant, snobbish and sadistic, with pronounced fascist leanings.[22] Some of this picture, it was maintained by Waugh's supporters, arose from poor editing of the diaries, and a desire to transform Waugh from a writer to a "character".[235] Nevertheless, a popular conception developed of Waugh as a monster.[236] 
... The 1982 Granada Television adaptation of Brideshead Revisited introduced a new generation to Waugh's works, in Britain and in America.[236] There had been earlier television treatment of Waugh's fiction—Sword of Honour had been serialised by the BBC in 1967—but the impact of Granada'sBrideshead was much wider. Its nostalgic depiction of a vanished form of Englishness appealed to the American mass market;[22] Time magazine's TV critic described the series as "a novel ... made into a poem", and listed it among the "100 Best TV Shows of All Time".[238] There have been further cinematic Waugh adaptations: A Handful of Dust in 1988, Vile Bodies (filmed as Bright Young Things) in 2003 and Brideshead again in 2008. These popular treatments have maintained the public's appetite for Waugh's novels, all of which remain in print and continue to sell.[22] Several have been listed among various compiled lists of the world's greatest novels.[n 7]
Beneath his public mask, Stannard concludes, Waugh was "a dedicated artist and a man of earnest faith, struggling against the dryness of his soul."[22] Graham Greene, in a letter to The Times shortly after Waugh's death, acknowledged him as "the greatest novelist of my generation",[242] while Time magazine's obituarist called him "the grand old mandarin of modern British prose", and asserted that his novels "will continue to survive as long as there are readers who can savor what critic V. S. Pritchett calls 'the beauty of his malice' ".[243] Nancy Mitford said of him in a television interview; "What nobody remembers about Evelyn is that everything with him was jokes. Everything. That's what none of the people who wrote about him seem to have taken into account at all."[244]

No comments:

Post a Comment