A 4 December 1959 letter from Evelyn Waugh to a reader in Columbus, Ohio is for sale. The letter is offered on the internet by Charles Agvent Rare Books and Autographs of Fleetwood, Pennsylvania. The letter is addressed to Jane Callaway who had apparently been assigned to write about Waugh for her school or college lessons. She seems to have had a question about the religious themes in Brideshead Revisited.
Waugh’s letter opens:
I think it is vulgar for a writer to discuss his own work. Still worse to ascribe any value to it. You have been [illegible] given the uncongenial task of studying my work as a test of your intelligence, taste and ability to use a library.
He goes on to suggest that she reread Brideshead, with the admonition that “Any book worth reading once is worth reading three times.” He also recommends that she try reading his other books as well as Frederick J Stopp’s 1958 critique of his work and suggests that she try a survey of English literature 1935-1945. The letter closes:
If I may offer advice without impertinence stop writing letters to people in ‘Japan, Germany, Canada’ and above all in Great Britain.
The letter was previously sold by the auction house of Skinner in Boston. At that time, two years ago, it went for a price of $400: Lot 1113A, Auction 2891T, 18 May 2016. Miss Callaway’s identity is not revealed aside from her residence in Columbus. No letter from her to Waugh is listed in the British Library’s archive of Waugh’s incoming correspondence.