A Tiger’s Dinner

An auction house in London has on offer a letter from Evelyn Waugh dated 4 December 1964¬†to Peter Luke, playwright and journalist. In it, Waugh¬†apologizes for having written in A Little Learning that Luke’s grandfather, who was the father of Waugh’s school friend at Lancing, Rupert Fremlin, “had been eaten by a tiger in India.” Luke complained to the Sunday Times about this error, and they passed his letter along to Waugh. Rupert Fremlin (Luke’s father) was described by Waugh in A Little Learning (London, 1964, p. 126) as a¬†

delightful, mercurial fellow…His alternations of exhuberance and depression–‘Fremlin’s “states”‘–later became settled in melancholy. He was with us at university and died very young in West Africa.

When Luke explained that his grandfather died of natural causes, Waugh wrote in apology  that he

had memories (no doubt inaccurate) of Rupert telling us of a more dramatic ending which, again inaccurately, I thought your grandmother confirmed. In any case it seemed to us then a glorious death and it was in no spirit of ridicule that I recorded it. 

In his letter, Waugh explained that it was too late to change the text of the first edition but that future editions would be corrected. In fact, the 1973 edition (published after Waugh’s death) states that Rupert’s father was “wrongly believed to have been eaten by a tiger” (p. 123). The letter is Lot 66 in Forum Auction’s current catalogue. The cataloguer erroneously describes the tiger’s¬†misremembered meal as Lukes’s father, rather than his grandfather.

 

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