Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Bella Fleace Gave a Party" by Evelyn Waugh

"Bella Fleace Gave a Party" by Evelyn Waugh (1936, seven pages)

Evelyn Waugh (1903 to 1966-London) is best known for two of his novels, The Decline and Fall (1928) and Brideshead Revisted (1945).    I had heard of him, of course, but I did not really have a great wish to read him until I discovered in Elizabeth Bowen by Victoria Glendinnings that in addition to being a close friend  of hers,  she tremendously admired the quality of his prose.    His work will not be in the public domain until 2036 under current UK law and I could not find any online.   I was thus very happy to see one of his short stories was included in an anthology of short stories from 1947 that my cousin Bonnie had recently given me.   Waugh had a very interesting life with lots of twists and turns.    He is for sure a GLBT author.    Waugh saw  combat  as a Captain in the British Army during WWII.    

I really like "Bella Fleace Gave a Party".   The prose style is truly wonderful.    It is set in Ballingar in Ireland in the 1920s or so.   It is after a time of troubles in Ireland but you do not have to know any history to appreciate it.   (It has the feel in some ways of one of Kate Chopin's stories about the days after the civil war in the American South but is better written).   Bella Fleace is all alone in her great manors house.    Her family is either all dead or think about her only when they wonder when she will finally die so they can inherit from her (she is 80).    Her servants have an easy life as she does not really observe what a state of disrepair her house has fallen into as she rarely leaves her room.

Somehow Bella gets the idea she should throw a huge grand society party.   This idea completely  energizes her and clears 30 years of cobwebs from her mind.    Soon the old mansion is full of activity.    Seven extra staff are hired to get the house back in shape and prepare for the party.   She begins to put a lot of thought into who to invite and at least as important, who to fail to invite because they simply are not high enough in society.   The day of  the party finally comes.   Beautiful invitations have been prepared for delivery.   (Beyond this point I will relay the conclusion of the story.    It is a surprise ending type of story but I see few people as really being able to read this story.)

The night of the big party comes,  Bella is dressed so perfectly, the house is wonderful and awesome food and drinks for 100 people are at the ready.    Two hours  past the start time and Bella is in despair as no one has come then she is so happy when the first guests arrive.   But wait, the guests are undesirable types who may have money but lack breeding.   Bella has no choice (in fact she loves it) but to tell her butler that she is not receiving guests.    Sadly no one else ever shows up for the party.   Two days latter Bella has a stroke and dies.    Beside her in a box on the floor are found the invitations to her party which she forgot to have delivered.

The ending maybe a bit predictable but editors at that time wanted twist endings on short stories.    I bet all of his short stories and for sure his major works are as well written and are as brilliantly satirical as this brief story.    One of the great uses of short stories is it lets you "try out" a writer.    I look forward to reading the major works of Waugh.

If anyone has any suggestions as to short stories I might like, please leave a comment.   If you know where Waugh can be read online-please leave a comment.

Mel u


Mel said...

Hi Mel U

I enjoyed reading this post. I have not read the short story, but have read and absolutely adore, his novel Brideshead Revisted. BR is far from a cheery read, but the prose is beautiful and the story very moving. The tone of the short story you have described is similar. Brideshead is also a story of looking back and "clearing cobwebs." The difference with BR is that the narrator is forced back to Brideshead in his early middle age through events in WWII, and thoughts of loves and losses of his early life are brought back to him that way.

Unknown said...

here you can read online:

Unknown said...

There you can read
"Bella Fleace Gave a Party"