Driberg’s Wedding

The Daily Express opens its weekend TV review column with a quote from Waugh:

WHEN the novelist Evelyn Waugh received an invitation to the wedding of the notorious philandering MP Tom Driberg, he declined to go. “I expect the church will be struck by lightning,” he explained.

The quote is offered in a review of the final episode of the current BBC TV series Call the Midwife and further discussion along that line will be avoided so as not to reveal the ending. The quote itself seems to be taken from the biography of Tom Driberg by Francis Wheen (p. 249) but is somewhat out of context. Waugh reportedly declined the invitation to the wedding because he would be abroad and was, indeed, in France at the time of the wedding, 30 June 1951. Waugh wrote, according to Wheen, “I will think of you intently on the day and pray that the church is not struck by lightning.” Waugh’s concern of such a lightning strike would have arisen not from Driberg’s philandering but, more likely, from his open homosexuality and Communism. The quoted letter is not included in Waugh’s collected Letters, but the collection does contain (p. 352) a letter to Driberg dated 21 July 1951 referring to a wedding present and commenting on press reports and gossip of the wedding.

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