Waugh Letters on Offer

Jonkers Books of Henley-on-Thames has posted an offering of Waugh items. In addition to first editions and signed copies, there are several letters for sale. The first is a batch of 7 (4 short letters and 3 postcards) to Christopher Sykes in the period 1961-63. These are described as follows:

(i) January 1961. An unpublished letter written in self-consciously absurd, heavily Anglicised French. One side of Combe Florey House letter paper (single foolscap sheet, approx. 200 words in total), addressed “Cher Beau Laird”, signed with the soubriquet “Welenski”, and dated 1961 in Sykes’s hand in pencil.
(ii) “11 Jan 1961”. An unpublished card from Evelyn Waugh to Christopher Sykes. One side of a Combe Florey House postcard, addressed and stamped on the reverse, signed “E. Waugh (late Pinfold)”.
(iii) “20 Jan 1961”. An unpublished card from Evelyn Waugh to Christopher Sykes. One side of a Combe Florey House postcard, addressed and stamped on the reverse.
(iv) “22nd June 1961”. A jovial, unpublished letter from Evelyn Waugh to Christopher Sykes, discussing his recent stay in London to record his BBC programme ‘An Act of Homage and Reparation to P.G. Wodehouse’ on 20 June 1961, produced by Sykes. One side of Combe Florey House letter paper (single foolscap sheet, approx. 200 words in total), signed “E. Waugh”.
(v) [October 1962]. A jovial, unpublished letter from Evelyn Waugh to Christopher Sykes, asking if he and Sykes can spend a weekend in London together. One side of Combe Florey House letter paper (single foolscap sheet, approx. 250 words in total), signed with the soubriquet “Soblen”.
(vi) [1963]. An unpublished, gossipy, card from Evelyn Waugh to Christopher Sykes. One side of a Combe Florey House postcard.
(vii) “7th August 63”. An unpublished letter from Evelyn Waugh to Christopher Sykes, discussing the Profumo affair, as well as literary and social matters. One side of Combe Florey House letter paper (single foolscap sheet, approx. 260 words in total), addressed “Dear Canon Ward”, signed with the soubriquet “Profumo Keeler Waldorf Astor”, and dated “7th August 63, Sir Algar Howard’s 83rd birthday”.
The letters, which begin with discussions about the P. G. Wodehouse broadcast by Waugh that Sykes produced for the BBC, show Waugh on song and quintessentially acerbic.

One of these letters is in an envelope marked “Letters not given to Mr Amory”. That would of course have been Mark Amory who edited Waugh’s letters in the 1980 edition and explains why they were not in that collection. An interesting question not addressed is why these letters were not among those sold to Georgetown University with Sykes’ other papers which included several letters from Waugh?

Another letter from 1957 is addressed to Basil Bennett, an Army colleague and manager of the Hyde Park Hotel where Waugh frequently stayed when in London:

One page of folded headed letter-paper, written on both sides, to Basil Bennett (though the salutation is “Dear Wallis”), requesting information on military protocol as research for Men at Arms, the first of the Sword of Honour trilogy. “It is vy hard for a failing memory to recall what happened twelve years ago. Could you be vy kind and supply a further pieces of information. I make an officer of the Rifle Brigade go to dinner in another mess for a quiet night… Is this correct for Dec 1939? Are your patrols as I think dark green with black patent leather pouches on the back? Have these pouches a special name?…”

Finally, there is an earlier letter to author SPB Mais dated 1936 on the stationery of the St James’ Club:

One page of club notepaper, to S.P.B. Mais, author and journalist, thanking Mais for his congratulations on receiving the Hawthornden Prize of Edmund Campion, “I made no bones about my delight…”, commenting on Mais connection to the Petres, “Of course I know their history well + have met several of them”, and agreeing to sign Mais’s copies of Campion and Handful of Dust.

S.P.B. Mais had been Alec Waugh’s influential English master at Sherborne. It is believed that Mais encouraged Alec to publish his controversial novel The Loom of Youth, in which the character of Ferrers is based on Mais. Two years later Mais’s own novel, Interlude, also published by Chapman & Hall, so closely detailed life at Sherborne, that Mais was forced to resign as a master.

Mais was also a close friend of novelist Henry Williamson who won the Hawthornden Prize in 1928 for Tarka the Otter. Waugh records a visit from Williamson on 1928 while Waugh was living in Canonbury Square (Diaries, p. 301). Williamson went on to create the  character of Anthony Cruft based on Waugh in The Power of the Dead, a novel in his Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight series.

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