Enemy of Evelyn Waugh Killed By Monkey In Spanish Civil War

basil-murrayIf you’ve ever read any Evelyn Waugh then you’ll know the name Basil Seal. He’s the roguish protagonist of Black Mischief (squeezing money out of an impoverished African nation), Put Out More Flags (squeezing money out of WW2), and Basil Seal Rides Again (squeezing money out … no wait, sabotaging his daughter’s wedding). He also makes a brief appearance in the amputated limb of Work Suspended.

Amoral, unclean, and charming, he’s a bit of a fantasy self-portrait for Waugh. But he began as a stinging caricature of Waugh’s real life enemy from Oxford University: Basil Murray.

A dissolute and rich Oxford graduate who found a cause in Liberal politics and anti-fascism, Murray is probably the only man to be murdered by a monkey during the Spanish Civil War.

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Black Sheep Of The British Empire

dolce2Sitting comfortably? Then put a new cigarette in its ivory holder and refresh your whisky and soda. Get the servants to stoke the fire because these old houses can get so cold at night. And make sure your service revolver in the desk drawer is loaded. Captain Grimes is coming round tonight to discuss the accounts.

The little matter of those post-dated cheques in the mess tin. You might be forced to take the gentleman’s way out. Or you might be forced to shoot Captain Grimes.

The wealthiest stratum of British society has always prided itself on loyalty and devotion to duty. But too many of the aristocrats, trust fund beneficiaries and members of the officer class who sit at the apex of Britain’s social triangle have a moral backbone like a bit of wet spaghetti. From Rupert Bellville to Simon Raven, the Earl of Erroll to John Aspinall, the most respectable part of the country has churned out black sheep on a production line scale.

So put away that portfolio of artistic French photographs and leave answering the love note from your brother’s wife until later. Let’s take a stroll through the last one hundred years of bankrupt aristocrats, corrupt golden youths, and frankly untrustworthy remittance men. Books and the odd flick will be our signposts.

We’ll start gently, with some flawed heroes. Let’s go back to the days when we still had an Empire … .

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Fictional Painters of 1926

Weird_Tales_February_1928Ok, here’s some historical literary trivia for you. What do HP Lovecraft and Evelyn Waugh have in common apart from a deeply ingrained conservatism and a healthy dose of snobbery?

Well, both created fictional painters active in 1926. Lovecraft came up with Monsieur Ardois-Bonnot, a French painter who “… hangs a blasphemous Dream Landscape in the Paris spring salon of 1926”, for his short story The Call of Cthulhu.

Ardois-Bonnot is an example of the worldwide psychic disturbances signifying the reappearance of the alien god. Cthulhu is obviously an art lover.

Waugh’s contribution is Monsieur Jean de Brissac la Motte who appears in his novel Brideshead Revisited. De Brissac la Motte joins the narrator and friends in London at the time of the 1926 General Strike. He ends up in hospital after an elderly widow drops a flower pot on his head from a top floor window.

“We were joined by a Belgian Futurist, who lived under the, I think, assumed name of Jean de Brissac la Motte, and claimed the right to bear arms in any battle anywhere against the lower classes.” 

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