Long-Missing Waugh Letter for Sale

Peter Harrington Booksellers are offering the original of a 24 January 1958 letter from Evelyn Waugh to Nancy Mitford. The letter was published in full in the Christopher Sykes biography (Penguin, p. 525) but had gone missing when Charlotte Mosley was compiling the correspondence between Waugh and Mitford. She published what she described as “extracts” quoted by Sykes (NMEW, p. 409), but in fact it was the complete letter, as Sykes himself explained.

The contents of the letter are well known and provide Waugh’s opinionated assessment of Brian Howard’s carreer on the occasion of his suicide, as well as Waugh’s difference of opinion with the obituary of Howard written by Alan Pryce-Jones in The Times. He also tells Mitford about his forthcoming trip to Rhodesia and notes that his life is insured on the journey for more that his estimated earnings for the remainder of his life.

The interesting question is where was this letter after Christopher Sykes quoted it? There were dozens of other letters from Waugh to Mitford which must have been supplied to Sykes from the same source–which Sykes cites (p.9) as Mitford herself who died in 1973 while he was writing his book–and they were also mostly available to Mosley for her volume. Why did this one letter go astray and who is now offering it for sale? At this point that is a more interesting tale than the contents of the letter that have already been published twice. The asking price is £7,500.

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