Plashy fen and leprechaun-flavoured wine

Waugh scored a twofer in last week’s Telegraph with citations relating to both nature and food writing. On March 30, Waugh’s parody of nature writing in Scoop is cited by Robert Macfarlane in an interview as an example of what that genre needs to escape:

Nature writing, he says, “still carries a hint of 18th-century cleric; of the plashy fen [as William Boot had it in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop]”.

Then last Sunday in an article (“The Sound of Food”) by Jane Shilling, the language used by Waugh in Brideshead Revisited to describe wine is compared to that of a present day quest by an Oxford academic to find sound equivalents to describe tastes:

Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte, the exquisite Oxford undergraduates of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited, baptised their friendship in a torrent of fine wine and adjectival excess: “It is a little, shy wine like a gazelle … Like a leprechaun. Like the last unicorn …”

The quote is somewhat misleading in that Charles and Sebastian in this scene are tasting three separate but unnamed wines from the Brideshead cellars. The shy, gazelle-like, leprechaun-flavoured variety is also compared to something “dappled, in a tapestry meadow…like a flute by still water.” The wine that reminded them of the last unicorn was also compared to a “necklace of pearls on a white neck” and “a swan.”  Brideshead Revisited (Penguin, pp. 81-82)

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