Waugh on Desert Island Discs

Reader David Lull has provided the results of a search for Evelyn Waugh on the BBC database for the entire run of its Desert Island Discs program. Waugh was never a castaway and, if ever asked, he would have surely declined. He told composer Igor Stravinsky that he found listening to music painful and declined an invitation in 1949 to the premiere of a Stravinsky composition. On the other hand, he apparently liked hymns which he frequently works into his fiction as well as certain musical comedies–for example, he went to multiple performances of The Beggar’s Opera and Kiss Me Kate.

He shows up on Desert Island Discs as the author of castaways’ selections of a book they can choose to take with them (aside from the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare which are already there). Scoop, Brideshead Revisited (Greek version), Sword of Honour, and Vile Bodies were each chosen by one castaway and Decline and Fall, by two. The castaway who chose Brideshead has an additional Waugh connection. This is actor Peter Bull who was the owner of the teddy bear that played Sebastian’s Aloysuis in the 1981 Granada TV adaptation of that novel. Another example of Waugh’s selection was in the 2015 appearance of TV comedy writer Maurice Gran who would take the Complete Works of Waugh with him (apparently not planning to be shipwrecked until that project is completed). See previous post. It is not obvious why that selection did not turn up in Dave’s search so there may be some limitations to the search function for “book” on the BBC database. Any of our readers knowing of other examples of Waugh’s selection on the show are invited to comment below.  Tip of the hat once again to Dave for sending us his search results. 

UPDATE (20 April 2017): The Auberon Diary Twitter page has kindly posted the Desert Island Discs episode in which Auberon Waugh was the castaway. This is from 1986, shortly after he had left Private Eye and become editor of Literary Review. The presenter is Michael Parkinson. They discuss Auberon’s childhood briefly. He describes his father as moody but not a bad-tempered person, and one inclined to melancholy. There was little music in their household, as his father was tone deaf and his mother not interested. He also mentions his hope to have the time to write the 3 or 4 novels buzzing around in his head after he retires. Alas, that didn’t happen.

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