On the latest episode of The Cooler, the weekly pop-culture podcast on KQED, the theme is Valentine’s Day and opens with an extended discussion of celebrity couple break-ups. From this the commentators segue into a discussion of a letter from Evelyn Waugh to his wife which they find particularly mean spirited. This begins at the 15:30 minute point on the Sound Cloud audio clip if you want to skip the rather tedious celebrity break-up discussion. The text of most of the first paragraph of the letter dated 7 January 1945 concluding with the sentence “Do grasp that” is read out on the air (Letters, p. 195). The full text together with this summary appears on the KQED website:
It starts off promisingly enough with a cute nickname — sweet whiskers! — but quickly devolves into documenting just how very boring and disappointing he thinks his wife is. The letter ends with a condescending catchphrase perfectly suited for a reality TV villain. ‘Do grasp that’? Do grasp this drink in your face, Evelyn.
There follows a bullet point recitation, said to be based on research from Wikipedia, of the reasons you don’t want to receive a Valentine from Evelyn Waugh. This starts with his mean-spirited nastiness and proceeds through charges that he was a defender of the class system, racist, Fascist, anti-Semite (probably included within racism but for avoidance of doubt mentioned separately) and concludes with equal opportunity bigot. The list was prepared by presenter Emmanuel Hapsis and is also reproduced on the KQED website which is headed by a photo of Waugh surrounded by colorful bits of Valentine candy decorated with nastygrams. The audio moves on to other topics but adopts “Do grasp that !” as a consistent catch phrase through to its conclusion. This is from the Public Radio outlet in San Francisco, in the unlikely event any of our readers feel like sending in a donation. On the other hand, there is no such thing as bad publicity in book publishing, which is something Waugh well understood when he developed the nasty public persona which has attracted so much attention from the media over the years.