Waugh at 60: BBC 1964 Monitor Interview Available Online

A link has become available to the 1964 TV broadcast of the BBC’s Monitor interview of Evelyn Waugh by novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard. The link is to the BBC Archives via Facebook (don’t ask me how that works or how long it will last) and contains the first half of the interview. Whether the second half will become available via the same routing is not indicated. The posted portion is good quality audio and video for the standards of the early 1960s. The background of how the interview was arranged was included in an earlier post, the relevant parts of which are copied and updated below.

Novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard was the last person to conduct a broadcast interview of Evelyn Waugh. This was for the BBC Monitor documentary series and was transmitted in February 1964. According to her memoirs, Waugh was willing to do a second TV interview after having appeared on BBC’s Face-to-Face series in June 1960. This time around, however, he wanted to write the questions himself and wished the interviewer to be either his friend Christopher Sykes or a woman who was familiar with his books. In the end, Howard got the nod (Slipstream: A Memoir, 351-52). A transcript of the interview is available in Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh, vol. 19, A Little Learning (2017), Appendix F, pp. 575 ff.

Howard says that there were two afternoon filming sessions in the BBC’s London studios. This was necessary, she explains, to produce enough material for a one-hour broadcast, although the final result, as it survives in the BBC archives, is approximately 20 minutes, probably a segment of a longer program. Prior to the recording sessions, Howard met for lunch with Waugh and the director, Christopher Burstall, to whom Waugh condescendingly explained that “one used one’s knives and forks beginning from the outside.” She asked some of the questions from Waugh’s list, which she considered very “run-of-the-mill,” but managed to slip in a few of her own. During the filming, “Waugh was still playing games. During each interval when they reloaded the camera he asked things like, ‘When is Miss Howard going to take off all her clothes?’” She was also asked to amuse Waugh during the intervals and, when she explained her lack of a formal education, he “seemed to enjoy [it], or at least he remained benign throughout.” When she asked whether he preferred to be anxious or bored, he replied “Oh, bored every time is the answer.”

The Monitor interview is much less lively and spontaneous than the earlier one on Face-To-Face in which Waugh was forced to ad lib and came off brilliantly. Waugh also appears to have aged considerably in the few years between the interviews. He referred to his 1964 performance as “a dreary exhibition I made of myself on the television.” (The Letters of Evelyn Waugh, 61)

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