A Diary, a Legacy, and a First Edition

The long-running “Londoner’s Diary” column of the Evening Standard has been relaunched as “The Londoner” and has a new author, Charlotte Edwardes, who writes her introductory article with a nod to Evelyn Waugh and several of his friends:

On my first day on one of the broadsheet diaries back in the late Nineties, I found a reporter balled up in the stationery cupboard reeking of what they called “a light breakfast wine”. […]

As I return to the new Londoner, launched yesterday, I’m reminded how important these mischievous, dirty, scandalous corners are to the trade. They have bags of history — not least in Evelyn Waugh’s satire Vile Bodies, where a diarist is the tragic hero. Anyone snobby towards diarists should remember the alumni: John Betjeman, Randoph Churchill, Harold Nicholson and Michael Foot, all worked on The Londoner. The diary,  said Bill Deedes, should have one fact, one generalisation and a slight inaccuracy.

Rules today seem as they always were: the least relevant are the most haughty, while the most glittering are the most helpful.

Waugh’s career as a gossip columnist was on the Daily Express which used none of his copy written during his brief tenure. He became a subject of a gossip column in the “Londoner’s Diary” in 1948 when he was waylaid by a reporter on his arrival from the USA. This was after an unpublicized tour to gather research for a Life magazine article. Having avoided negative publicity on this tour, he was somewhat abashed by the story that appeared in the Standard’s “Londoner’s Diary” for 30 December 1948: “The Americans–by Waugh” (reprinted in CWEW, v. 19: A Little Learning, p, 505). In this, he complained that the Americans overheated their rooms, nailed down their windows, played their radios endlessly, talked too much and chewed bubble gum. After the story spread through the US press on the wire services, Waugh felt obliged to submit a rejoinder, professing his admiration for Americans. This was intended to unruffle feathers in advance of his public lecture tour of the USA in early 1949. The article eventually appeared, entitled “Kicking Against the Goad”, in Commonweal, a Roman Catholic journal (EAR, p.371).

Naim Attallah has republished on his website another of his detailed literary interviews. The subject was Sybille Bedford, novelist and biographer of Aldous Huxley as well as his friend. The interview was conducted in 1996, 10 years before Bedford’s death in 2006. Her first novel was A Legacy, published in 1956. Attallah asks her about it:

Q. A Legacy was reviewed favourably by Evelyn Waugh in The Spectator. He said: ‘We know nothing of the author’s age, nationality or religion, but we gratefully salute a new artist.’ I imagine these words gave you a tremendous thrill…

A. Still do…still do. It’s the one thing I hang on to sometimes when I start to wonder what I have done with my life. It’s much the best thing that ever happened to me.

Waugh’s review (entitled “A Remarkable Historical Novel”) appeared in The Spectator’s 13 April 1956 edition and is reprinted in EAR, p. 510.

Finally, an inscribed first edition of Waugh in Abysinnia is offered for sale by a dealer in Hull:

A very good book that has been warmly inscribed by the author to his father, to the ffep. The Inscription reads BEST LOVE FROM / EVELYN. The book has the family bookplate of Arthur Waugh to the front pastedown, opposite the authors inscription.

The book is listed on ABE for about $15,000. The listing includes photos of the inscription and bookplate.

UPDATE (15 March 2018): Modified to reflect comment of David Platzer printed below. Thanks, David.

This entry was posted in Complete Works, Essays, Articles & Reviews, Evelyn Waugh, First Editions, Interviews, Newspapers, Vile Bodies and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Diary, a Legacy, and a First Edition

  1. David Platzer says:

    Perhaps the reason why A Legacy was the first of Sybille Bedford’s novels to attract critical attention is that it was the first of novels to be published. She had published a travel book several years earlier but not a novel until then. If I am not mistaken, Malcolm Muggeridge was also on the ‘Londoner’s Diary’ for a time in the Thirties.

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