Waugh at Thanksgiving Table

The San Diego Reader, a weekly alternative print newspaper, has an article imagining a Thanksgiving dinner at which Evelyn Waugh is one of the guests. The others are:

writer and critic H.L. Mencken, Pogo Possum, Roman emperor Claudius, writer and humorist James Thurber, writer and agitator Hunter P. Thompson, author Robert Penn Warren, and founding father James Madison.

 The host and columnist Walter Mencken (addresses H L as his father, but then he’s the writer of the “Almost Factual News” column) asks the assembled guests:

on this most American of holidays, if everyone could find a way to give thanks for our new American president. Silver linings, it’s an ill wind, that sort of thing.

Waugh’s response is first:

Evelyn Waugh: “‘Change and decay in all around I see,’ sang Uncle Theodore, gazing out of the morning-room window. Thus, with startling loudness, he was accustomed to relieve his infrequent fits of depression.”

W.M.: Very funny, Brexit-boy. That’s from Scoop, isn’t it? Good reference in the wake of the campaign’s media follies. And it’s funnier when you know it’s a line from a hymn. But let’s pretend we’re not just old men who can’t bear to see civilization march on without us. Maybe Trump won’t burn it all down.

H L Mencken is next to reply: 

“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

And so on around the table. It might have been noted that this is the first opportunity for Waugh and H L Mencken to meet in person. A meeting was arranged on Waugh’s visit to Baltimore in 1948 but was cancelled due to a stroke suffered by Mencken, from which he never fully recovered, the evening before the event.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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