Evelyn Waugh, 19, is absolutely over the moon to be back on campus at Oxford.
Waugh has just been at home in Hampstead, London, with his father for Easter vacation. He thought he’d go mad with the boredom.
Having won a scholarship late last year, Evelyn entered Hertford College in January. Starting halfway through the academic year put him somewhat at a disadvantage, as all the other first-years have been making friends since their arrival last September.
Despite this awkward timing, Waugh has been fitting into campus life quite well. He smokes a pipe; he rides a bike. He is writing for both college magazines, Cherwell and Isis, and has given his maiden speech at the Oxford Union. He chose to oppose the motion,
This House would welcome Prohibition.”
However, one of the other disadvantages of his late start was that all the good rooms had been taken and Evelyn is left with a tiny, dark, ground floor chamber next to the buttery.
This location makes it a natural stopover for the campus drunks, day and night. The other evening, an inebriated member of the Bullingdon club vomited into Waugh’s window.
About 90 miles northeast, at Trinity College, Cambridge, Russian émigré Vladimir Nabokov, about to turn 23, is returning to campus for his final term. He is not in good spirits. Spring always makes him think of past years spent with his family in the Russian countryside, before they were forced by the Bolshevik Revolution to go into exile.
And less than a month ago, his father, V. D. Nabokov, 52, had been assassinated by two Russian monarchists at a political conference in Berlin. They were aiming at another politician; Vlad’s Dad tried to shield him and was shot twice.
Despite his melancholy, Vlad is determined to pass his final exams and graduate in June. He is going to throw himself into studying and not allow any diversions.
However, one of his fellow Russian students has just come into his room with a novel he has discovered, Ulysses, and he is reading out incredible passages from some raunchy woman’s soliloquy.
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In June I will be talking about the Stein family salons in Paris before and after The Great War at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Carnegie-Mellon University.
If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.
Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.