At this year’s Hay Festival, there was the repeat of of an event from previous years where letters from noteworthy persons of the past are read aloud by their counterparts of the present. The event is called “Letters Live” and has moved on from Hay to additional performances in theatrical venues. Earlier today actor Jude Law read out a letter of Evelyn Waugh that was described by the Daily Telegraph’s reporter as the “biggest ostensible draw on this occasion.”
According to the Telegraph, the letter was from Waugh to his wife Laura during WWII and involved the story of an accidental explosion. The letter was no doubt the one dated 31 May 1942 written while he was on training with the Commandos in Scotland. In it, he describes the Army’s attempt to win favor with a local laird by removal of an unwanted tree through application of the Commandos’ expertise with high explosives. It does not go well for the Army. The letter is published in the 1980 collection (Letters, p. 160) and rereading it will explain why it went over so well at the Hay Festival.