“Where you see zippy, zesty lesbian Jewesses bubbling with new ideas, I see plodding, ill-mannered, bottomlessly earnest boobies . . . I do not scowl or sneer. It is brilliant of you to have conquered New York.” So wrote Auberon Waugh in a letter in 1989 to Tina Brown, the conquering heroine and editor of Vanity Fair. She notes in her diary: “Jesus. Bron has become so archaic in social attitude, he’s turning into Evelyn. He is upset by the VF success that he feels has driven us apart.”
Brown went on to found the online news journal The Daily Beast, named after one of the newspapers in Waugh’s novel Scoop.
In the online Croatian newspaper Total Croatia News, an interview of its founder and owner, British born Paul Bradbury, who now lives in Croatia, offered this concluding thought about the advantages of living there: If you are a fan of Evelyn Waugh, there is perhaps no better country in all Europe. He doesn’t explain his conclusion but probably has in mind Waugh’s writings on the country in his novel Unconditional Surrender as well as his diaries and journalism.
Finally, in the usual UK year-end reports of New Year’s honours lists, there are also reports of those in the past who have turned down honours. The Daily Mail rarely fails to mention Evelyn Waugh in this category and, as usual, doesn’t disappoint this year either:
Others appear to have rejected honours because they were holding out for something more prestigious. Evelyn Waugh, whose novels included Brideshead Revisited, appeared to fall into this category. He is recorded as turning down a CBE in the Birthday Honours list of 1959. But Waugh, who confided in friends that he saw the CBE as an honour fit only for “second grade civil servants”, was motivated by loftier ambitions. When his friend and fellow novelist Anthony Powell was granted a CBE, Waugh wrote in a letter: “I hope it doesn’t block you from a knighthood. That’s what one really needs.” He was never offered a knighthood but Powell, author of A Dance to the Music of Time, was – and declined it. See earlier post.
The Guardian also joined the chorus this year with this comment regarding writers:
Honours are, of course, awarded in recognition of significant achievement or service and there can be no cosier embrace from the establishment. So when an author kneels down in front of the Queen and receives a royal pat on the shoulder, have they compromised their independence?…Tom Stoppard, David Hare and Salman Rushdie have not stopped speaking out since they accepted theirs, but many authors have turned down honours – some out of republican principle, others because they were holding out for a higher award. They include: Roald Dahl, CS Lewis, Graham Greene, JB Priestley, Robert Graves, Aldous Huxley, Rudyard Kipling, Michael Frayn, Alan Bennett, Leonard Woolf, Seán O’Casey and Evelyn Waugh.