Although Waugh wielded the trumpet with relish he had admitted to the Duchess of Devonshire: “I don’t think I hear any better for them, but I look more dignified.” After Waugh’s death aged 62 in 1966, his trumpet gained almost mythical status among his fans. Malcolm Muggeridge, the author and satirist, described seeing Waugh for the final time at a wedding: “He made considerable play with an old-fashioned Victorian ear trumpet, though whether for use or ostentation I cannot say.”
Claud Cockburn, Waugh’s cousin, had described how the author’s “ostentatious, self-dramatising rejection of reality required, in middle life, an equally ostentatious model”. He recalled how Waugh once unscrewed the trumpet when he became bored during a speech by Muggeridge at a Foyle’s literary lunch in London. “The guest of honour could have dealt easily with some rude heckler, but the gesture with the trumpet utterly discomforted him.” Joseph Epstein wrote in the New Criterion Reader: “He is usually described as ‘brandishing’ his ear trumpet, which is not imprecise as he used it as a social weapon to make people uncomfortable.”
A comment submitted by R Morse provides more details about Cockburn’s description of Waugh useage of the instrument:
Cockburn’s original, published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1973 and reprinted in the magazine Counterpunch in 2003, was, “The guest of honour could have dealt easily with some rude heckler. But the gesture with the trumpet utterly dismayed and discomfited him.” Still, we all know what you meant, and I’m sure Oliver Kamm would support the use of a different but similar word. Incidentally, Cockburn’s article doesn’t identify Muggeridge specifically as the target: he merely describes him as “the… principal speaker was some pompous statesman; a member I think, of the cabinet, with unjustified pretensions as a scholar and writer.”
The comment goes on to explain that Cockburn’s 1973 article is also the source of the story that Waugh walked up the hill from his family’s house in Golders Green NW11 to secure a Hampstead NW3 postmark on his letters. The Times article is accompanied by a photo (which your correspondent doesn’t recall having seen previously) of Waugh wielding the trumpet.