Two papers today have independently quoted Evelyn Waugh on the issue of when to add milk to one’s tea. In the Liverpool Echo there is a feature article on the subject that opens with the claim that “Liverpool is the UK’s tea-drinking capital, with the average Scouser downing four cups a day.” The Huffington Post has a lower profile article on the social implications of milk and tea. Both quote Waugh’s judgement that adding milk first was a sign of lower class standards. This quote may have become enshrined in the journalistic quote canon by its inclusion in Fortnum & Mason’s guide to “The Perfect Cup of Tea“:
This thorny question has divided tea drinkers for quite some time. Putting the milk in last was considered to be the ‘correct’ thing to do in refined social circles, but the reason for this is often forgotten. In the early days of tea-drinking, poor-quality cups were inclined to crack when hot tea was poured into them, and putting the milk in first helped to prevent this. When finer and stronger materials came into use, this was no longer necessary – so putting the milk in last became a way of showing that one had the finest china on one’s table. Evelyn Waugh once recorded a friend using the phrase ‘rather milk-in-first’ to refer to a lower-class person, and the habit became a social divider that had little to do with the taste of the tea…Now that the days when one’s social position was judged by this sort of thing are long gone, you may pour your tea however you choose.
For the source of Waugh’s quote, see earlier post.
In other news, writer and Waugh admirer A N Wilson on a visit to Australia has compared his attitude to the past to that of Evelyn Waugh. This appears in the Sydney Morning Herald:
“I’m not at home in the modern world,” says Andrew Wilson…”I’m much happier in the 19th century. The minute I open a Victorian volume of memoirs, a Victorian volume of letters, a Victorian novel, I feel at home…I don’t want to sound like a bargain-basement version of Evelyn Waugh but there are so many things about contemporary life, from sort of plastic packaging to muzak and everything that are just sort of horrible and unnecessary and which didn’t exist in those days. Of course you can turn around and say yes, and there were children dying of starvation and so on. And of course I know all that.”
Finally, the Daily Express in today’s edition mentions Waugh twice. Once in connection with the favorite books of actor Sir Ian Ogilvy, best known for playing the lead in the 1970s TV series The Return of the Saint. He includes Scoop among his 6 favorite books:
I love his wry sense of humour. He doesn’t push the jokes at you. The main character writes a country column and is then given a journalistic assignment to a war-torn country. It’s very silly.
Another article, reviewing a BBC Four Timeshift documentary on the history of the landline telephone, opens with a reference to Waugh:
The writer Evelyn Waugh had a great dislike of the radio, calling it ‘a detestable toy’ and refusing to allow one in his house. Dial ‘B’ For Britain: The Story Of the Landline (BBC4) included footage of a similarly jowly and furious man describing the telephone as a thundering nuisance. Lord knows what they would make of the ringtone and automated checkout.
If they had looked further that would have found that Waugh also avoided using the telephone. Although he allowed one in the house, he preferred to communicate in written correspondence (which is one of the reasons he left so much of it).