Waugh’s 1942 letter to his wife recounting the disastrous results of his army unit’s attempt to remove a tree stump from the garden of a Scottish aristocrat has now been included in a collection entitled More Letters of Note, edited by Shaun Usher. It was previously read out at the Hay Festival in a performance called Letters Live and was then read by Geoffrey Palmer in an online video. See earlier post. The book’s introduction to the letter explains that at the time it was written, Laura Waugh found herself:
Back home, in dire need of some light relief, holding fort whilst just weeks away from the birth of their fourth child, Margaret. Entertainment soon arrived in the form of a letter from her husband in which he expertly and with pitch-perfect comic timing told the story of a tree stump on the Earl of Glasgow’s estate.
Other letters in the collection from members of Waugh’s generation include one from Aldous Huxley to George Orwell in 1949 thanking him for a copy of 1984 and explaining how much better it would been if it had been written like Brave New World. There is also a 1937 letter to 19 year old Jessica Mitford written by her but as from a French friend with a coded explanation of Jessica’s elopement with Esmond Romilly to the Spanish Civil War. The subterfuge was good enough to provide cover until they were safely beyond the border.