Following research done by Father Damian Kearney ’45, O.S.B., in the monastery archives for details of a visit to the school by Evelyn Waugh on March 30, 1949, a donation has been made to the library. Father Damian, writing to a researcher of Mr. Waugh for the conference being presented , noted:
“He came to the Monastery/School to give a lecture in March 1949 on the topic, The Catholic Novel in England. This was a benefit lecture to parents and friends of the School to be given in Providence to raise money for a projected monastery and church. Mr. Waugh stayed in guest quarters in the Manor House, which served as the main building for administration, guest facilities and reception rooms. The Headmaster was a monk, Dom Gregory Borgstedt, and the Assistant Headmaster was Mr. John Brady, who lived in a colonial building on the campus. Mrs. Sue Brady served as the hostess and presided at teas given in one of the reception rooms on Sundays and special occasions such as the Waugh visit. At the tea Mr. Waugh was on his best behavior and was most cordial; a number of the monks were present as well as several lay faculty. Also present was Mrs. Waugh. The Waughs were met at the train in Providence by one of the monks, who was surprised to find Mrs. Waugh carrying the suitcase and offered to take it from her, only to be told by the author that she always carried the luggage, or words to that effect. When he was introduced by the sponsor of the lecture, his name was mis- pronounced, sounding something like wawf, which must have been disconcerting, but Mr. Waugh took it in good stride. No copy of this lecture exists at the School; he may have published it subsequently as an article in a magazine or in a collection of essays. I am quite certain that when the Waughs attended mass the next day ( a Sunday), he was not using an ear trumpet, (see below). Although I came to the monastery in early 1950, several of the monks gave me this information which is still quite recent.”
The Brady daughter-in-law, Sally, a next-generation author has written, “I had barely heard of Evelyn Waugh or Brideshead Revisited, but all three of them knew the book almost as well as they knew their Gospels. Evelyn Waugh had even visited the Priory, gone to Mass with his large ear trumpet, and had tea poured by Madee at the Manor House. Upton, Buff, and Lib talked about Sebastian Flyte and Lady Marchmain the way they talked about the monks…”
Also seen here, ” According to the article in the Providence College newspaper (The Cowl) for March 23, 1949, the lecture was delivered in Hope High School on the evening of March 20. Portsmouth Priory was the sponsor.
Last year, February 27th to April 7th, 2012, Loyola Notre Dame University Library in Baltimore, Md., held an exhibit, “An Englishman in Catholic America,” which was a display of artifacts, documents, first editions, letters and photographs, as part of the Evelyn Waugh Conference. Portsmouth Priory was noted as the last stop for the visit. A T-shirt was created and donated to the School at the conclusion of the conference. (R.S.)