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Tuesday, August 15, 2006
The More Things Change...
Preparing for my talk tonight on Friendship and Creativity. I'm going to use Charles' journey as an artist from Brideshead Revisited to set up some ideas. So, I have been pouring through a volume of the leters of Evelyn Waugh for more insight. I came across the following passage in a letter he wrote in December 1944. It stuck me funny because I have had this same experience many times in these last ten years, and I realized that I have made the mistake of being sillily nostalgic about a time before my own. I thought people were smarter before and that somehow the Sexual Revolution deadened our brains. After all, they had better education back then. And the Church and family were in better shape.

Anyway, here is Waugh on the experience of getting wedged between the artistic sensibilities (which means actually their politics) of pious people. (I also thought it was interesting that the event he describes was going on during WWII. Funny how life goes on regardless.) It's all wrong to think of art this way - as something diverting in a completely manageable way. Again, I don't see "balance" as a holy virtue. It is something that professional religious people encourage to keep the soup kitchens and Mass schedules aright. Has nothing to do with holiness.

"I conducted a meeting for the Catholic Guild of Arts and Crafts where I won their confidence by abuse of Picasso, and then lost it with abuse of Catholic Arts and Crafts...

Then I had an excruciating week-end in a convent in Surrey conducting a "Catholic Booklovers Week-End." The nuns were very attentive with little packets of chocolate and glasses of milk covered with muslin veils and weighted with beads do you know what I mean....The sort of questions are, of course, 'Why does Mr. Greene have such a nasty mind?' and 'Is it not the duty of the artist to consider the average reader?' "
(from Letters of Evelyn Waugh, Letter to Nancy Mitford, Dec. 5, 1955)

P.S. here's a spicy bit about Brideshead from a letter of January 7, 1945:
"Lady Marchmain, no, I am not on her side; but God is, who suffers fools gladly and the book is about God. Does that answer it?"