Tom Wolfe Alters Waugh

Novelist Tom Wolfe has written a detailed obituary of painter and photographer Marie Cosindas for New York magazine. In this, he explains that Cosindas is best known for being the first photographer to realize the potentials of Polaroid color film. She studied under Ansel Adams who recognized that she composed things in color, not black-and-white, and converted her to color film just at the time Polaroid was introducing its own version. Wolfe brings Waugh into the story with an altered quotation from Decline and Fall:

Movie companies began to commission her to do Polaroid portraits for promotion: The Great Gatsby, The Sting’s Robert Redford and Paul Newman. As her income accumulated, she began to invest in stocks and bonds — on her own, no broker, no adviser — and made spectacular profits. “To Fortune, a much-aligned lady!” as Evelyn Waugh once put it — because she developed a spine-bending scoliosis in the early 1980s and suffered several serious falls. She went through a series of operations. Back surgery seldom leads to complete recovery.

The original quote is Paul Pennyfeather’s toast “To Fortune, a much-maligned lady!”, proposed at the Ritz just before he was arrested and then recalled at the very end when he meets Peter Beste-Chetwynde at Oxford (Penguin, 2011, pp. 209, 290).

In another quote from Waugh that appears unaltered, the Daily Telegraph includes Waugh’s characterization of Marseilles among other “Best Travel Quotes of All Time”:

“Everyone in Marseilles seemed most dishonest. They all tried to swindle me, mostly with complete success.” Diaries, Christmas Day, 1926.

Waugh was on his way to Athens to visit Alastair Graham who had recently been posted there by the Foreign Office. Waugh’s visit probably informed his description of Marseilles in Decline and Fall written a few years later. The Telegraph’s collection carries four other quotes about visits to Marseilles, and the one from Henry Swinburne written in 1783 is to much the same effect as Waugh’s:

“No place abounds more with dissolute persons of both sex than Marseilles…It is almost on a par with London.”


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