Mrs. Luce’s Dinner Party

The Spectator’s gossip columnist Taki Theodoracopulos recalls descriptions of a dinner party given by Waugh for Clare Boothe Luce. The column (“On the consolations of old age”) appears in the latest issue of a publication entitled Spectator Life which is available online and separate from the regular magazine:

I was reading about a dinner party Waugh gave for Clare Luce in November 1949 at the Hyde Park Hotel. He later wrote to Nancy Mitford complaining how much money the dinner had cost him, and how Clare — in my not so humble opinion the greatest woman of the 20th century — had failed to write a thank-you note.

Waugh was a hell of a writer but a pretty piss-poor human being. He was petty, a closeted tortured gay with seven children. And from what I’ve read, he was always down on his fellow man and on life in general. Pretty depressing stuff. Why give a dinner and then complain that it cost too much?

Waugh probably gave the party to thank Mrs. Luce for the extensive hospitality she has shown Waugh and his wife during their U.S. tours in 1948-49. The letter (dated 5 December 1949) to Nancy Mitford is reproduced in Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, pp. 158-59. Amends were apparently made between the Waughs and Mrs. Luce because she hosted them again on their short trip to the USA in October 1950. On that occasion, Laura Waugh wrote her a kind thank you letter (or “Collins” as Waugh would call it) which is archived in the Clare Boothe Luce Papers at the Library of Congress. Perhaps Waugh delegated the “Collins” to his wife due to lingering  froideur from the thankless dinner he had hosted in London the previous year.

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