BRIDESHEAD FESTIVAL



So I read about the forthcoming Brideshead Festival in the middle of December, 2019. And I immediately wrote this:

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Dear Laura,

I noticed the Brideshead Festival announcement yesterday. Thought I’d take the opportunity of pitching something…

I’ve made a detailed study of EW’s time at Piers Court, where he was living when BR was written (though he wrote it elsewhere) and for the next ten years. See the section of my site that begins here:
http://www.evelynwaugh.org.uk/styled-47/index.html

Evelyn would rather have lived somewhere much grander, like Castle Howard. But what impact would that have had on his day-to-day life? Would there have been more or less drinking and a different order of socialising? Who with? What would the impact have been on his post-
Brideshead writing? (Nothing as dim as Scott King’s Modern Europe would have been come about, surely) And how would his family life have differed?

There are relatively few photos of EW at Piers Court from 1945 to 1956, at which point he went to live in the equally semi-grand Combe Florey. A
Country Life photographer visited in 1949 and there was another set of pictures taken in the summer 1955, when Officers and Gentlemen was published. In a single afternoon of spring 2020, with a photographer and an Evelyn Waugh lookalike, a whole new post-Brideshead Evelyn Waugh history could be created! A history that I would dearly love to deliver with a powerpoint presentation as part of the Brideshead Festival.

Is this something that might be of interest? I’d be grateful if you could forward this mail to Victoria Barnsley.

Best wishes,

Duncan
@duncan_mclaren

This essay on Barford House, an inspiration for
Brideshead: http://www.evelynwaugh.org.uk/styled-22/index.html

This essay on Madresfield, also important in
Brideshead’s gestation: http://www.evelynwaugh.org.uk/styled-130/index.html

This essay on the talk I gave at Chipping Campden Literary Festival this May re
Scoop: http://www.evelynwaugh.org.uk/styled-138/index.html

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And ten days later this:

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Hi Laura,

I’ve not heard from Jenny or Victoria but have been giving the Festival a little more thought. Do you think you could kindly forward this mail to them? Thanks so much.

Building up an alternative post-War story, with Evelyn living at Castle Howard instead of Piers Court, would be great fun. I can envisage:

  • Graham Greene visiting Waugh (as he did in 1951) and them behaving like Sebastian and Charles when Sebastian is in the wheelchair.
  • Waugh filling a wing of Castle Howard with Victoriana, and in particular a first class collection of Charles Spencelayh paintings
  • Spending a fortune on religious constructions in the grounds while writing Helena (which he would still do).
  • Re-staging the summer 1955 photoshoot from Piers Court to Castle Howard
  • Evelyn organising a much more ambitious fête than the one he organised at Piers Court in 1954.
  • Where would EW sleep? On a four-poster bed like the one he used at Piers Court. Much grander though.
  • Photoshoots at the temple where Evelyn goes with a bottle of fine wine to remember his youth, his Oxford days, his Alastair...
  • Devoting part of the grounds to his war experience. That would include a cleverly signed latrine, of course.

Waugh’s larger-than-life personality calls out for a backdrop like Castle Howard.

I could walk around taking contextual photos by appointment in Spring, work on these essays, and reveal them on my website (or Castle Howards’s) in time for the Festival.

Indeed, a 'Brideshead Festival' section of my website feels like a good idea from another perspective. I have this fantasy of various characters that Evelyn Waugh knew in his youth (Richard Plunket Greene on his motorbike, the paedophile teacher on his bike, Alastair Graham driven by his mother) congregating there to celebrate what
Brideshead Revisited celebrates. Oxford, getting drunk, riding a bike while paralytic, that sort of thing.

When Evelyn was a young man, he was always at the centre of groups of
avant garde artists and writers. How they would flock to pay tribute! Diana Guinness, Bryan Guinness, Nancy Mitford, She-Evelyn, Henry Lamb, Pansy Pakenham, Patrick Balfour, Richard Plunket Greene, the whole Plunket Greene family, everyone who ever bumped into EW at Oxford. All making pilgrimage to Castle Howard to pay their respects.

But I'd better leave it there.

All best wishes,

Duncan

Oh, yes, and there’s my splendid book whose cover was surely designed with Castle Howard in mind.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_6bc4

View from The Temple of the Four Winds, perhaps.

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It's now the middle of January and I still haven't heard from the organisers of the Brideshead Festival. There's still time, but in any case I must organise my own festival, which will take place right here, online.

What do I mean? I mean:

"EVELYNEERS ASSEMBLE!"