A recent episode of the BBC’s series The Culture Show (November 6, 2013), entitled Wars of the Heart, dealt with the experience of several writers during the Blitz. The presenter was James Runcie. The focus was on Graham Greene and Elizabeth Bowen, with lesser consideration given to novelist Henry Yorke (who published under the name Henry Green) and US poet Hilda Doolittle (“H.D.”). The program seems to have been inspired to some extent by Lara Feigel’s recent book The Love-charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War. She was interviewed for the program.
Waugh was named in the program as one of a group of writers — those previously mentioned plus Dylan Thomas — who were said to have frequented the pubs of Fitzrovia during the war. Examples cited were the Wheatsheaf, the Bricklayers Arms and the Marquess of Granby, all still in existence. It was suggested that Waugh might “perhaps” have been among the punters if he happened to be in town. This seems rather doubtful. Waugh by his own account seems to have done most of his wartime drinking in his gentlemen’s clubs around St James’s Square or nearby watering holes such as the Ritz, at least while he was in London. Waugh’s second appearance was in conjunction with the period of 1942 when the front line retreated somewhat from London. Waugh described London in this period as:
…crowded and dead. Claridge’s slowly decaying. Wine outrageous in price and quality…Newspapers always late and usually deficient. [Diary, December 1941]
The program may be repeated in the future on the BBC or shown on foreign television channels. It’s worth watching for its period flavor. Clips — but not the segments in which Waugh appears — are currently available on BBC iPlayer. Feigel’s book frequently cites Waugh for information about the writers whose wartime lives she describes (particularly Graham Greene and Henry Yorke), although Waugh himself is not among her subjects.