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In the autumn newsletter there is a few questions on Rex's refusal of the cognac

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  • Shane Dallesandro
    I have made an attempt to answer these but would not feel brave enough to voice my opinions to the newsletter itself,I thought I would be safer to do so here.
    Message 1 of 9 , Dec 16, 2005
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      I have made an attempt to answer these but would not feel brave
      enough to voice my opinions to the newsletter itself,I thought I
      would be safer to do so here.


      'The cognac was not to Rex's taste.It was clear and pale and it came
      to us in a bottle free from grime and Napoleonic cyphers.It was only
      a year or two older than Rex and lately bottled.They gave it to us in
      very thin tulip-shaped glasses of modest size.'

      When he refuses the cognac I think he does so partly out of
      snobbery.I think Waugh intended this to be a statement about Rex
      Mottram and perhaps people like him,Canadians,politians ,social
      climbers. Rex is Canadian perhaps this makes him feel a sort of
      annomosity towards the French?I think he refuses the cognac because
      he is saying "I know more about this than you,it might be yours but
      it is inferior,it isnt good enough for me." He is an arrogant self
      interested person thoughout his part in the book and it is easy to
      dislike him.He is never shown in a favourable light.
      In refusing the first cognac he is finding a way to politely insult
      his dinner companion and the restaurant and perhaps even in his small
      way, the French themselves.
      The significance of the cognac being free from Napoleonic cyphers is
      a reference to its youth, but the mention of Napoleon, a great leader
      (?) and polititian perhaps gives an insight into what Rex might think
      of himself, perhaps he sees himself as a great political leader, and
      of course everyone knows the joke about people with illusions of
      grandeur wanting to be Napoleon.Perhaps this is a further insult to
      Rex but I think it is mostly to do with its age,and perhaps relative
      cheapness. Napleonic brandy is supposed to be the best.
      I think the irony of the passage is that when Rex gets the second
      bottle brought out to him he thinks he has made a great point when
      all he has done is made himself look silly.
      This is seen when you compare Rex to the first cognac, pale and new,
      he is like that, it could be argued that compared to France, Canada
      was like that. The second cognac which is older and steeped in
      history is more like France, and Europe in general, Canada being part
      of the new world.His social position is more like the pale weaker
      cognac as well, as a business man and politian a social climber a
      member of the new rich,he prefers (because he thinks it is more
      admirable)the older more refined cognac in the same way he only
      really wanted Royals to attend his wedding to Julia.
      He is easy to liken to a modest size glass of pale weak cognac,a
      small glass for the small imprint he makes on the world and it is
      great that he sees this cognac as something that he would have with
      soda at home,as people can only seem to put up with him when he is
      watered down.It is even better he decribes it as tasteless.

      I am sure I am only seeing this through stupid eyes but would like to
      know if what I think makes any sense to anyone with more sense than
      me.
    • dave matheny
      Shane, you are hardly seeing it through stupid eyes, as you put it. You have seen far more in it than I would have, unless I had been, for example, stuck on
      Message 2 of 9 , Dec 16, 2005
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        Shane, you are hardly seeing it through "stupid eyes," as you put it. You
        have seen far more in it than I would have, unless I had been, for example,
        stuck on a transatlantic flight with only this one passage available to
        read, over and over.

        Rex Mottram is a profoundly shallow man, whose only mission is to rise in
        prestige. In fact, Waugh sees him as barely human at all, I'm fairly sure.
        He is like some single-celled animal that moves instinctively towards light,
        or in his case grandness, acceptance, and admiration. If he has any
        principles, they are written on Post-it notes -- sorry, slight anachronism
        there -- like a certain U.S. president of the 1990s.

        One small suggestion: Run your posts through a spell-checker before sending
        them. But keep it up. You are headed in what I would regard as the right
        direction, if only I had thought of it.

        --Dave
      • Shane Dallesandro
        Thank you, I am bad at spelling but dont know how to spell check on yahoo.I only know how to do it in word.Im glad I didnt look stupid with what I was saying.
        Message 3 of 9 , Dec 18, 2005
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          Thank you, I am bad at spelling but dont know how to spell check on
          yahoo.I only know how to do it in word.Im glad I didnt look stupid
          with what I was saying.
        • dave matheny
          If you re using Outlook Express for e-mail, hit Control-A (to highlight the whole message), then F7 -- that runs the spellchecker. --Dave ... From: Shane
          Message 4 of 9 , Dec 18, 2005
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            If you're using Outlook Express for e-mail, hit Control-A (to highlight the
            whole message), then F7 -- that runs the spellchecker.

            --Dave

            ----- Original Message -----
            From: "Shane Dallesandro" <shanethegoth@...>
            To: <Evelyn_Waugh@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Sunday, December 18, 2005 7:38 AM
            Subject: [Evelyn_Waugh] Re: In the autumn newsletter there is a few
            questions on Rex's refusal of the cognac


            > Thank you, I am bad at spelling but dont know how to spell check on
            > yahoo.I only know how to do it in word.Im glad I didnt look stupid
            > with what I was saying.
            >
            >
            >
          • michael telford
            I was most interested in the points you made about this intriguing matter, but for me, it begs two more questions. Firstly, how come Rex is sufficiently smart
            Message 5 of 9 , Jan 9, 2006
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              I was most interested in the points you made about this intriguing matter, but for me, it begs two more questions. 
              Firstly, how come Rex is sufficiently smart to KNOW that there is such a facility in French restaurants, i.e., 'real'/old brandy?  This is the man who suggests eating onion with caviar, and does not recognise sorel soup.  (I confess that I wouldn't either, but then I ain't suffistikated like what Rex is)
              Secondly, does Rex speak good enough French to be able to argue his case with the waiter, or does Charles have to do that for him?  That would leave Rex looking like the country bumpkin.  Remember that he - a Canadian - says at one point (1945 edition, I think), "we don't take too much account of the French".  This is presumably a reference to the Quebecois.  Since Rex obviously looks down on them, he is less likely to have a command of their language.
              Yes, an odious little man is Mr. Mottram.  It would be amusing to hear Anthony Blanche's assessment of him.
              Mike Telford

              Shane Dallesandro <shanethegoth@...> wrote:
              I have made an attempt to answer these but would not feel brave
              enough to voice my opinions to the newsletter itself,I thought I
              would be safer to do so here.


              'The cognac was not to Rex's taste.It was clear and pale and it came
              to us in a bottle free from grime and Napoleonic cyphers.It was only
              a year or two older than Rex and lately bottled.They gave it to us in
              very thin tulip-shaped glasses of modest size.'

              When he refuses the cognac I think he does so partly out of
              snobbery.I think Waugh intended this to be a statement about Rex
              Mottram and perhaps people like him,Canadians,politians ,social
              climbers. Rex is Canadian perhaps this makes him feel a sort of
              annomosity towards the French?I think he refuses the cognac because
              he is saying "I know more about this than you,it might be yours but
              it is inferior,it isnt good enough for me." He is an arrogant self
              interested person thoughout his part in the book and it is easy to
              dislike him.He is never shown in a favourable light.
              In refusing the first cognac he is finding a way to politely insult
              his dinner companion and the restaurant and perhaps even in his small
              way, the French themselves.
              The significance of the cognac being free from Napoleonic cyphers is
              a reference to its youth, but the mention of Napoleon, a great leader
              (?) and polititian perhaps gives an insight into what Rex might think
              of himself, perhaps he sees himself as a great political leader, and
              of course everyone knows the joke about people with illusions of
              grandeur wanting to be Napoleon.Perhaps this is a further insult to
              Rex but I think it is mostly to do with its age,and perhaps relative
              cheapness. Napleonic brandy is supposed to be the best.
              I think the irony of the passage is that when Rex gets the second
              bottle brought out to him he thinks he has made a great point when
              all he has done is made himself look silly.
              This is seen when you compare Rex to the first cognac, pale and new,
              he is like that, it could be argued that compared to France, Canada
              was like that. The second cognac which is older and steeped in
              history is more like France, and Europe in general, Canada being part
              of the new world.His social position is more like the pale weaker
              cognac as well, as a business man and politian a social climber a
              member of the new rich,he prefers (because he thinks it is more
              admirable)the older more refined cognac in the same way he only
              really wanted Royals to attend his wedding to Julia.
              He is easy to liken to a modest size glass of pale weak cognac,a
              small glass for the small imprint he makes on the world and it is
              great that he sees this cognac as something that he would have with
              soda at home,as people can only seem to put up with him when he is
              watered down.It is even better he decribes it as tasteless.

              I am sure I am only seeing this through stupid eyes but would like to
              know if what I think makes any sense to anyone with more sense than
              me.







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            • Shane Dallesandro
              ... Secondly, does Rex speak good enough French to be able to argue ... I think it is not so much he knows that there is older brandy, but that he assumes
              Message 6 of 9 , Jan 13, 2006
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                > Firstly, how come Rex is sufficiently smart to KNOW that there
                > is such a facility in French restaurants, i.e., 'real'/old brandy?
                Secondly, does Rex speak good enough French to be able to argue
                > his case with the waiter, or does Charles have to do that for him?

                I think it is not so much he knows that there is older brandy, but
                that he assumes there is. Perhaps Waugh used this to display Rex's
                arrogance? I also think him wanting onion in the caviar is him
                trying to insult Charles again, to put something so humble with
                something so luxurious, like having a roof rack on a ferrari, like
                to say, "This is a luxury for you,not to me." I am just guessing here
                though. I think also that he does not recognise sorrel soup as it is
                a delicate unassuming (actually bland) soup and I think it was too
                subtle for his tastes and this could be an indication of him being
                obnoxious. I am sure that the waiter would be able to understand Rex
                if he spoke English, I think rich people have the privilege of being
                understood even in french restaurants. I think that he would be able
                to speak French though, but I am sure he would not bother to.
                Anthony Blanche would have fun describing Mr. Mottram. (I especially
                like when he calls Boy Mulcaster a 'bovine spectre')
              • dave matheny
                Shane Dallesandro wrote: . . . I think that he would be able to speak French though, but I am sure he would not bother to. . .
                Message 7 of 9 , Jan 13, 2006
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                  Shane Dallesandro wrote: ". . . I think that he would be able to speak
                  French though, but I am sure he would not bother to. . ."
                  ................................................

                  I would not assume that Rex can speak French just because he's Canadian.
                  There is a vast swath of non-French-speaking Canada even today, after years
                  of compulsory French taught in Canadian classrooms (under a government edict
                  that Waugh would have delighted in making fun of). And in Rex's time that
                  swath would have been even larger.

                  --Dave Matheny
                • miketee02
                  ... wrote: I would not assume that Rex can speak French just because he s Canadian. There is a vast swath of non-French-speaking Canada
                  Message 8 of 9 , Jan 13, 2006
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                    --- In Evelyn_Waugh@yahoogroups.com, "dave matheny"
                    <davematheny@p...> wrote:
                    I would not assume that Rex can speak French just because he's
                    Canadian. There is a vast swath of non-French-speaking Canada even
                    today, after years of compulsory French taught in Canadian
                    classrooms (under a government edict that Waugh would have delighted
                    in making fun of). And in Rex's time that swath would have been even
                    larger.
                    Dave Matheny

                    Yes Dave, I totally agree. With apologies to any Canadians reading
                    this, I have to say that the degree of linguistic chauvinism - on
                    both sides - in Canada has always amazed me.

                    On a completely different tack and regarding the video of BR, can
                    anyone elucidate some points about dress? I had always understood
                    that Oxford and Cambridge students were obliged to wear their gowns
                    at all times within the university/city bounds, yet Ryder and Flyte
                    et al seem more often to be without gowns.
                    What if anything is the significance of the styles of hunting dress,
                    as depicted in the video's hunting scene? For example, notice that
                    ladies never seem to wear 'pink' (i.e., red) coats or to
                    wear 'caps' - only toppers or bowlers. Also that Julia has a purple
                    collar to her coat, but not Cordelia. Some ladies are seen riding
                    side-saddle. Presumably this was, at one time, obligatory and if so
                    when did it cease to be so?
                    Mike T
                  • dave matheny
                    . . . What if anything is the significance of the styles of hunting dress, ... ............................................... For what it s worth, I formed
                    Message 9 of 9 , Jan 13, 2006
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                      ". . . What if anything is the significance of the styles of hunting dress,
                      > as depicted in the video's hunting scene? For example, notice that
                      > ladies never seem to wear 'pink' (i.e., red) coats or to
                      > wear 'caps' - only toppers or bowlers. . . ."
                      ...............................................

                      For what it's worth, I formed the distinct impression that the filmmakers
                      simply asked as many foxhunters as they could find to show up dressed in
                      their best. I doubt that the film crew supplied anything but the cameras and
                      some stage direction -- for most. The principals, no doubt, were specially
                      costumed.

                      --Dave M
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