British author Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) had a strange book in his - yes, his - collection. Waugh (pictured at age 26 in 4th image, a portrait by Henry Lamb) was given his first name on a whim of his mother’s. "He disliked the name for the same reason that most of us are puzzled when we first hear it. Man or woman?" His 1st marriage, which was annulled, was to a woman with the same name, so their friends referred to them as "He-Evelyn" and "She-Evelyn." Waugh was a "difficult" and notoriously bad-tempered man. When he was introduced to Salvador Dali (1904-1989), he attemped to pull off Dali's moustache, thinking it a joke, so the Spanish artist never spoke to him again. Coincidentally (since this post was not timed to coincide with the Christian holiday), Waugh - a converted Catholic - died on Easter Sunday.
The "Victorian Blood Book" (sample pages pictured), as it is known, was among the 3,500 volumes in Waugh's personal library. Described as a large oblong folio decoupage book, it was made by Newfoundland politician John Bingley Garland (1791-1875) for his daughter Amy in 1854. The 41 plates were collaged from hundreds of Christian and natural images from books, including etchings by William Blake (1757-1827), which were then sprinkled liberally with drops of red India ink. It would have taken Garland hundreds of hours to put the "Blood Book" together and add his extensive handwritten commentary. The folio was acquired by Waugh, who was a collector of Victoriana long before it was fashionable.
I have read only 1 of Waugh's novels, The Loved One, which is a satire about the much-maligned American death care industry. The story is set at the cemetery that symbolizes posthumous excess, Forest Lawn Memorial Park - visited more than once by Waugh. The title is a euphemism for the dead body, which is so lovingly and gingerly handled by the mortuary staff as it is prepared for "slumber" (embalmed), to become the centerpiece at the "leave-taking" (wake). The funeral director in the novel is portrayed as performing miracles behind the scenes on a daily basis:
"Next he took a visiting card - one of a box of blanks supplied to the florist below - and a pair of surgical scissors. In one continuous movement he cut an ellipse, then snicked half an inch at either end along the greater axis. He bent over the corpse, tested the jaw and found it firm set; he drew back the lips and laid his card along the teeth and gums. Now was the moment; his assistant watched with never-failing admiration the deft flick of the thumbs with which he turned the upper corners of the card, the caress of the rubber finger-tips with which he drew the dry and colourless lips into place. And, behold, where before there had been a grim line of endurance, there was now a smile! It was masterly. It needed no further touch."Like Forest Lawn, the fictional funeral home of Whispering Glades is full-service, from the preparation of the "loved one" to his or her "inhumement, entombment, inurnment, or immurement" on the grounds of a manicured cemetery replete with gaudy statues and piped-in music. In contrast, Waugh was buried - presumably without being embalmed - in a churchyard in Somerset, England.