In a previous post, we discussed a quote attributed to Evelyn Waugh in an unsigned Private Eye book review about a new collection of stories by James Kelman. A search turned up the quote as having first appeared in a novel by D J Taylor who was also suspected of having written the review. Taylor, who is indeed the reviewer, has explained all this in a recent email:
Inspired by your researches, I decided to summon all the powers of memory at my disposal and track this back to source. It is NOT EW. Here is Alan Watkins in his Brief Lives (1982), writing about my namesake A.J.P. Taylor:
‘He was a short, slight man with a peering and somehow suspicious expression. He resembled a small creature of the field who was apprehensive of attack but would turn nasty in that event.’
I think I must have confused this with EW by misremembering a William Boot, Countryman column in Scoop.
So, that’s sorted. The quote as written by Watkins is unlikely to be mistaken for Waugh whereas, as modified by Taylor for his novel Real Life, it might easily be. Indeed, Taylor’s early novels, of which Real Life is one, are written very much in the Waugh satiric comedy tradition and should have received more attention than has been the case. Others include Trespass and The Comedy Man (published together with Real Life as Returning: Three Novels) as well as English Settlement.