Monday, June 25, 2012

Literati cum sigaro--Evelyn Waugh and Cigars

In our frenetic effort to justify our vice, we have tried to invoke other cigar smokers as a sort of foil against any incipient anti-matter Manicheeism or hyper-rigorous Jansenism.  Why, against such as these, and with Hilaire Belloc, G. K. Chesterton, and many others, the holding of a cigar in hand is virtual proof of Orthodoxy (except that--alas--a lot of heretics, even unbelievers, also smoke cigars).  While our group does not have unbelievers, we do have what in our group what we would not-so-ecumenically call our heretics.  But we love our heretics, and our group would suffer were they not in fellowship with us.  Besides, of all heretics, drinking and cigar-smoking heretics are the best kind, and that's the only kind we allow on our campus.  

Alas, smoking a cigar is not communicatio in sacris, but it is a communicatio in sigaris, a weak analogue, but an analogue nevertheless.  We think that maybe the horrible Thirty Years' War could have been avoided had Luther and Cajetan smoked a stogie together instead of battling it out at the Diet of Augsburg.  You will note in the depiction below, that the then-Augustinian friar Luther and the Dominican-friar Cajetan were not smoking cigars.

But this posting is not about Luther or Cajetan, it is about the cigar-smoking habits of a Catholic novelist known as Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966).  Evelyn Waugh's most famous or at least most popular works include Decline and Fall, A Handful of Dust, and perhaps the most famous, Brideshead Revisited (1945).   Evelyn Waugh was not raised Catholic; rather, he converted to the Faith at the relatively young age of 27 in 1930.  He was a traditionalist, and found himself frequently fighting against the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.  (He would have referred to our cigar-smoking "separated brethren" as "heretics".)  Politically, he was also quite conservative, and was most disdainful of the modern welfare State.  

In fact, in one of his novels, Brideshead Revisited, he mentions the Partagas brand by name ("the box of a hundred cabinet Partagas on the sideboard"), a mention of which the Partagas Company is very proud.  But for all his faults (and he had many), Waugh loved cigars.  He is said to have stated the following: "The most futile and disastrous day seems well spent when it is reviewed through the blue, fragrant smoke of a Havana Cigar."  Well, that may be.  But better yet, it would seem, is not to review such a "futile and disastrous day," but rather to forget it in the company of friends, even if they be heretics, and the "fragrant smoke of a Havana Cigars."  In one of his letters, he observes how he bought a complete set of Max Beerbohm (that's different from a Beer Bong or Beer Pong, in case you're wondering) and "am re-reading him all day in bed-room slippers with a big fire & a box of Havana cigars sent me from the USA so life is not all as beastly."  

His habit was pretty prodigious.  He stated in his diary that he had had a good year in 1942 (at age 39) inasmuch as he had "begotten a fine daughter, published a successful book, drunk 300 bottles of wine, and smoked 300 or more Havana cigars."

There are many more mentions of cigars in his letters and in his diaries, but I'll get to those and anthologize them ONLY if I am given 300 bottles of wine and 300 or more Havana cigars (and his diaries and letters) by some enterprising cigar aficionado.

But enough, here's a photo of Waugh, somewhere in France, cum sigaro:

The sign on the gate (which is in French) says: "Entry Prohibited to Walkers," which I suppose means that entry was not prohibited to cigar smokers who ran, jogged, skipped, rode bicycles, unicycles, horses, or ostriches.