Evelyn Waugh’s ear trumpet vs. £4,000 worth of electronic hearing aids

Alexander Chancellor tries Waugh’s notorious ear trumpet, and is impressed:

On Christmas Day, in the Somerset home of my daughter Eliza, and her husband, Alexander Waugh, Evelyn’s grandson, I was offered the novelist’s old ear trumpet to try. I am rather deaf, as he was, and I was interested to see how it worked. It is a charming object, made of tortoiseshell, very light, and compressible so as to fit in a pocket, which was once given to him by the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. And I am embarrassed to say that I think I heard rather better through Waugh’s ear trumpet than I do through my two state-of-the-art Swiss-made electronic hearing aids that cost me around £2,000 each a few years ago.

Update (Jan. 24): In a letter to The Spectator published the following week, a Mr. Tom Blackett of West Byfleet, Surrey, writes:

Alexander Chancellor writes of the efficiency of Evelyn Waugh’s tortoiseshell ear trumpet (Long life, 11 January). Waugh also had a brass model — clearly less efficient — which he once brandished at Ann Fleming, shouting: ‘What? What?’ This so enraged her that she took a pudding spoon and soundly rapped the horn, sending the great man’s head into a spin.”

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One Response to Evelyn Waugh’s ear trumpet vs. £4,000 worth of electronic hearing aids

  1. Mandy S. M. Chan says:

    This is a very interesting sharing. Thank you for the anecdote.

    I was reading Waugh’s letters (ed. by Mark Amory) and found this entry dated Midwinter 1956 to Deborah Mitford, the Duchess of Devonshire:

    “Darling Debo

    They are very pretty – like M. Angelo’s Moses but I dont suppose you have seen him – also like cuckold’s horns. I don’t think I hear any better for them, but I look more dignified. Thank you, thank you for your kindness in sending them. Perhaps you have forgotten what you sent. It was snails in tin. […]”


    I gather these “snails in tin” should be the ear trumpets the duchess gave Waugh as a gift?

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