Despite ample evidence to the contrary, every generation is secretly convinced that they’re
the ones who invented sex.
Thus, books like Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead
are always slightly shocking. The book chronicles – in the most exhaustive
detail – Waugh’s youthful indiscretions both at Oxford and as the self-appointed chronicler of the Bright Young Things, which is what they called Generation X in the UK back in the 1920s.
These blurry buttocks belonged to Alistair Graham who accompanied his early 20th century version of sexting with instructions on the best way to drink fine wine: You must take a peach and peel it, and put it in a finger bowl, and pour the Burgundy over it. The flavour is exquisite.
The note is signed, With love from Alistair, and his poor dead heart.Alistair came to a bad end.
But then, so did Waugh. He grew old and fat and Catholic, though his trenchant tongue continued to amuse. Upon hearing that doctors had removed a benign tumor from his sometimes friend Randolph Churchill, he confided in his diary, A typical triumph of modern science to find the only part of Randolph that was not malignant and remove it.
Ann Fleming a/k/a Mrs. Ian was one of the circle of friends in far-flung corners of the world with whom Waugh spent time. After one such Jamaican holiday, Waugh heard third-hand that he had bored
Fleming and her guests while there, and that damning word “bored” threw him into a depression from which he never recovered. He lost his teeth, stopped eating, began drinking. Don’t let me in my dotage oppress you
, he wrote his favorite daughter.
Waugh died on the toilet – just like Elvis! Damn! That Valsalva maneuver will get you every time.
Of course, this raises the interesting question: Is any
end ever good? Except Lord Marchmain’s?
In that other place where it is always summer, the strawberries are always ripe, and Aloysius is always in a good humor, Waugh continues to live on. Because as is the case with most novels, Brideshead Revisited
was really artfully rearranged autobiography, and Evelyn Waugh was Charles Ryder.
This is Madresfield Court, the manor house that inspired the Brideshead.
As you can see, it looks very little like Castle Howard, which is the house that posed as Brideshead both in the very fine 1981 miniseries and the mediocre 2008 film.
Unlike the harmonious, baroque mansion in the fiction, Madresfield – Olde English for “mowers’ field” – is an architectural hodgepodge, that has been lived in and added on to by the same family, the Lygons, since the time of the Domesday Book. A thousand years of continuous habitation! Nor was Brideshead
the first piece of great fiction to be written about Madresfield: A dispute over the property was immortalized by Charles Dickens as Jarndyce and Jarndyce in one of his driest but most entertaining novels, Bleak House
The property is surrounded by a moat. The doors opening on to the bridge were carved from oak in the 12th century, but the house’s medieval core has been smothered by Tudor brickwork on the outside, and swallowed by Gothic, neo-Gothic, and Georgian extensions on the inside.
Oh, how I would love to visit it!
In other news, I made all the phone calls in my queue, thereby solving many practical problems and moving ever closer to achieving my ambition, which is to become a Real Human Girl.
I toiled for the Scut Factory.
I remonstrated with Samir: “I know it’s not my job to give you advice, but moving to New York City would be such
a terrible thing for you.”
It dawned on me that we might be able to raise capital for his mobile phone fixing enterprise by crowdsourcing. We shall see.
I bickered with Celeste about the contract and about the upcoming house party dates.
Max wants me to write an op ed about my experiences as an ESL teacher.
Somewhere, I heard that Greta Garbo walked eleven miles a day
right up to the day she died! (She died at 85.) A scarecrow in white with enormous dark glasses wandering Third Avenue.
This really shamed me since I often find it difficult to walk four
Especially in humid weather when my hip joints actually ache. I think the humidity must make the synovial fluid reservoir shrink though I’m unclear about the actual physiology.
Yesterday was not particularly humid, so I was able to walk a fairly long distance.
It’s definitely autumn, though a strange autumn: The leaves aren’t turning so much as drying up. Here’s a maple that’s bucking the trend, though: