Page 10, 7th December 1973

7th December 1973
Page 10
Page 10, 7th December 1973 — Cosmos of Evelyn

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Locations: Oxford


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Cosmos of Evelyn

Evelyn Waugh and his World. edited by David Pryee-Jones (Weidenfeld and Nicolson £3.75).

The publication in The Observer of his revolting diaries seems to have created an inexhaustible public interest in the minutiae of Evelyn Waugh's life. This book, arranged before the publication of the diaries, will therefore he welcomed for the extraordinary lavish illustrations of letters and woodcuts by Waugh and photographs of his life and his friends.

The articles give on the whole a juster picture of him than he gave of himself in the diaries, which he never intended for publication. They are mixed. Some — those which tell of chapters in his life by those who were intimately acquainted with them — are extraordinarily interesting and extraordinarily well done. Perhaps the best is that by Lord Birkenhead on their joint adventures in Yugoslavia.

The articles by Mr, Douglas Woodruff and D'Arcy most necessarily be of great interest

lo Catholics. Lady Dorothy Lygon tells us how far Madreafield was and was not Brideshead, and incidentally how far Sebastian Flyte was Hugh Lygon.

The articles between them cover Waugh's life on one point and another. hut there arc ommissions. We are told in some detail by Mr. Dudley Carew of Waugh's first marriage about which Evelyn was always extraordinarily reluctant to speak. We have pictures but little letter-press about his second marriage and his relations with his family — doubtless because at the time of the book's planning Laura Waugh was still alive.

We have a photograph of

Alistair Graham the Hamish Lennox of "A Little Learning" — but no account how one who played so important a part in

Evelyn's early life so completely and mysteriously vanished both from him and from all of us.

The Oxford adventures are most inadequately covered. Mr, Peter Quennell. to whom the story was entrusted. did not know him very well in those years; indeed knew so little about him that he did not even know who "Philbrick" was.

The articles by writers who did not know Evelyn other than through his writings are less satisfactory. Great writer as he was, he was not one whom it was easily possible to appreciate through a mere acquaintence with his works.

The work of Dr. Storm is quoted with approval, hut we should understand how wildly comic Evelyn thought that book, and how fantastic its attribution of derivation to various far-flung authors of whom Evelyn had never heard.

He read his book out with tears of laughter rolling down his cheeks. Much the same, I feel, would have heen his reactions to the comparisons between Evelyn and other modern authors in which Mr. Bradbury and Mr. Lodge indulge.

In the caption of a letter to Lord Kinross, when he speaks of a threat of an elopement there is fantastic and very serious confusion. The caption says: "The last sentence refers to the end of his first marriage."

The letter, as we read, was written in 1928 when the first marriage had not yet taken place. That marriage was as a matter of fact an elopement in the sense that it took place without his parents' consent or knowledge.

But there was. on February 20, 1928, the date of the letter's writing, no question as yet or the marriage ending. It did not break up until the end of his honeymoon in 1929. The letter clearly refers to the threat of elopement in order to bring about the marriage.

There are a number of other incidental slips in the various articles hut none is nearly as serious as this.

Christopher Hollis

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