TLS Reprints Review of “Miss” Evelyn Waugh’s First Book

In last week’s edition (22 February 2017), the TLS in its “From the Archives” column has reprinted its 1928 review of Evelyn Waugh’s first book: Rossetti: His Life and Works. This review was published anonymously, as was then customary, but it is revealed in the reprint as having been written by “Sturge T Moore.” They probably mean T Sturge Moore (1870-1944) who was a poet of suffcient note to have been nominated to be Poet Laureate in 1930. His original name was Thomas Sturge Moore but, according to his Wikipedia entry, he adopted use of his middle name (his mother’s family name) to distinguish himself from the poet Thomas Moore. The review was a detailed one and remains so even in the edited reprint version. Here’s an excerpt as it refers to the book’s author:

…Miss Evelyn Waugh, Rossetti’s latest biographer, is of the moment in dissatisfaction with the pure doctrine of Fry and inability to free herself from it. She rightly reasons that there is no distinctive aesthetic emotion; so used, “aesthetic emotion” can merely mean emotion caused by a work of art. … Miss Waugh approaches the “squalid” Rossetti like some dainty Miss of the sixties bringing the Italian organ-grinder a penny, merciless in spite of the best intentions. Though alert and courageous, she surely sees but half, and is more inadequate over the poetry than over the pictures—admires “Fifine at the Fair” more than “House of Life” (though by that time the sense of form and beauty had got practically crowded out of Browning’s work by his intellectual interests), and prefers Morris’s later interminable flaccid “grinds” to the best constructed narratives in English verse. On page 41 she sums up Rossetti’s and Hunt’s visit to Paris and Belgium, but omits mention of “that stunner” Memmelinck—though the letters about him and Van Eyck give the kernel of Rossetti’s aesthetics and shed light forward even to the “Beata Beatrix” and beyond. Why should admiration for Chatterton be termed “adulation”? And why does she repeatedly call Simon the Pharisee’s House Simon Peter’s? And why write “sensual” when she means sensuous? No, her mental eye is probably slightly astigmatic, but she is never tedious.

Waugh’s reply, which has come to be considerably better known than the review (or, indeed, the book itself), is also reprinted:

Sir,—In this week’s Literary Supplement I notice with gratitude the prominence given to my Life of Rossetti. Clearly it would be frivolous for a critic with pretensions even as modest as my own to genuine aesthetic standards to attempt to bandy opinions with a reviewer who considers that Rossetti’s drawings “refine on” those of Ingres; but I hope you will allow me space in which to call attention to [one] point in which your article appears to misrepresent me.

Your reviewer refers to me throughout as “Miss Waugh.” My Christian name, I know, is occasionally regarded by people of limited social experience as belonging exclusively to one or [sic] other sex; but it is unnecessary to go further into my book than the paragraph charitably placed inside the wrapper for the guidance of unleisured critics, to find my name with its correct prefix of “Mr.” Surely some such investigation might in merest courtesy have been taken before your reviewer tumbled into print with such phrases as “a Miss of the Sixties.” …

Your obedient servant,


In view of Moore’s evident sensitivity to his own Christian name, one might have expected that he would have taken greater care in his use of another’s. Indeed, Waugh might well have made note of this if he had known the name of his reviewer. The reprinted text of Waugh’s letter is the same as that appearing in Mark Amory’s edition, but surely in the third line of the second paragraph Waugh must have written (or intended to write) “one of the other sex.” Or am I missing something?

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