Baltimore Sun Quotes Waugh on Useage

In his Baltimore Sun column entitled “You Don’t Say” (about language, useage, etc.), John McIntyre quotes a paragraph from a letter Evelyn Waugh wrote to Nancy Mitford in which Waugh comments on an article she wrote for Encounter magazine on the subject of upper class British useage. The letter is dated 19 October 1955 and is reproduced in the Mark Amory collection at pp. 451-52. McIntyre cites that as the quotation’s source but describes the letter in his introductory paragraph as follows:

In a letter of 1955 to Nancy Mitford about her article “The English Aristocracy,” later included in Noblesse Oblige, Evelyn Waugh makes the link between idiosyncratic linguistic preferences and social class.

McIntyre seems to suggest (although his statement is ambiguous) that this letter of Waugh’s was included in the collection entitled Noblesse Oblige. It may be that he only intended to say (correctly) that Mitford’s article was later published in that collection. For avoidance of doubt, however, it should be noted that Waugh wrote another longer, more detailed letter, entitled, rather pompously, “An Open Letter to the Hon Mrs Peter Rodd on a Very Serious Subject”, and that was the letter included in the collection. It was originally published in the December 1955 issue of Encounter magazine and is also reprinted in the collection of Waugh’s Essays, Articles and Reviews. In that “open letter”, he makes some of the same points that are made in the earlier letter now published in the Sun, but the Sun’s version contains personal references to friends of Waugh such as Perry Brownlow (described therein as “very illiterate”) and Ronald Knox (who is said to blanch “if one says ‘docile’ with a long o”). Waugh would not have made such comments in a “letter” he knew would be published contemporaneously. In any event, the quote published in the Sun works quite well for the purpose intended.


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