Waugh Recognized as Expert on Style

In yesterday’s Guardian, Waugh is named twice by novelist and bibliophile Joseph Connolly in his list of Top 10 books on the topic of “style.” Connolly (no apparent relation to Waugh’s friend Cyril Connolly a/k/a Everard Spruce) names Brideshead Revisited as one of his Top 10 in this category, contrasting it to another selection, Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby:

The rather more tasteful English vision: “The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder”, without whom the aspiration to class and wealth simply couldn’t be triggered. The lavish food, wine, clothes, cars and sensuous self-indulgence – the easy grace of the true aristocracy – is deeply envied by the middle-class upstart Ryder: the outsider, looking in – who yearns to emulate such consummate style.

Another of Connolly’s choices is Nancy Mitford’s 1956 essay collection Noblesse Oblige to which Waugh contributed:

Nancy Mitford is always credited as the one responsible for bringing U and Non-U language and behaviour to the attention of the terrified middle classes, but it was actually Alan SC Ross who first started probing into sociological linguistics in the magazine Encounter. Mitford further explored the theme, and Osbert Lancaster, Evelyn Waugh and John Betjeman were eager to joyously and snobbishly pitch in. The middle classes strove to do better, and they are striving still.

Waugh’s contribution (“An Open Letter”)is included in Essays, Articles and Reviews, p. 494.

Further evidence of Waugh’s skills as a tastemaker appears in an article by novelist Allan Massie in today’s Daily Telegraph (“The Boat Race and Grand National show we’re creatures of tradition”).  A popular drink at the Grand National is called a Black Velvet, a mixture of stout and champagne. Waugh is quoted by Massie as describing it as a “sour and invigorating drink.” The quotation comes from Waugh’s 1942  novel Put Out More Flags (Penguin, p. 38).

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