The Spectator at 10,000

The Spectator, always proud of its heritage as the oldest periodical in English, is now celebrating the publication of its 10,000th issue. As part of this, they commissioned a clerihew competition (“Two couplets, AABB, metrically clunky, laconic and humorous in tone”). The subject should relate to the magazine’s contributors. Various Waughs feature in several of the winning entries (each of which was awarded a prize of £8):

Auberon Waugh/is hard to ignore/but it takes no effort to revel in/Evelyn. (submitted by Robert Schechter)

Auberon Waugh/Thought his given name rather a bore,/Perhaps my parents suffered from Shakespeare mania./But I feel a right Titania. (submitted by Brian Allgar)

‘Evelyn Waugh’/Rhymes with ‘Bernard Shaw’./ So why ‘Shavian’?/But not ‘Wavian’? (submitted by Basil Ransome-Davies)

Here are some others relating to Evelyn’s contemporaries:

Kingsley Amis/had many fans who may miss/him terribly, but at least they can hearten/to know we still have Martin. (submitter unspecified)

Graham Greene/Judged Shirley Temple on the silver screen/More than age appropriately cute./Her studio filed suit. (submitted by Chris O’Carroll)

Also related to The Spectator’s publication milestone is an article entitled “From Middlemarch to Mickey Mouse: a short history of The Spectator’s books and arts pages.” This is written by Richard Bratby. Waugh frequently wrote for The Spectator throughout his career and his contribution is duly noted in the article, along with that of his friends John Betjeman and Graham Greene;

…there are the moments when the editor guides a writer to the ideal subject, and creates something remarkable in itself — a glimpse of immortality before any other contemporary could have perceived or expressed it. […]

Graham Greene’s film reviews have been the subject of books, but he wrote on other subjects as well, and in an obituary of Ford Madox Ford in 1939 he suddenly soars clear into pure, unmistakable Greene:

The war had ruined him. He had volunteered, though he was over military age and was fighting a country he loved: his health was broken, and he came back to a new literary world which had carefully eliminated him… But I don’t suppose failure disturbed him much: he had never really believed in human happiness, his middle life had been made miserable by passion, and he had come through — with his humour intact, his stock of unreliable anecdotes, the kind of enemies a man ought to have, and a half-belief in a posterity which would care for good writing.”


These moments get easier to spot as the 20th century progresses. Betjeman reveals that his teddy bear Archie ‘has a very dreary, Nonconformist face’, and discusses pets in the most Betjeman way imaginable: ‘I had the privilege of being introduced to two enormous millipedes, about nine inches long and half an inch in diameter, by Miriam Rothschild in a country house drawing-room in Oxfordshire a few days ago.’ […] With E.M. Forster, Evelyn Waugh, Anthony Burgess and Anthony Powell all contributing to the mid-century arts section, the game is to try and find the most illuminating possible mismatch of writer and subject. […]

Evelyn Waugh, asked to nominate Christmas books, suggests using them to settle grudges (‘We can send these missiles in the happy assurance that in the dyspeptic gloom of Boxing Day, any hit which we score will be doubly painful’). …

In his 1983 selection of Evelyn Waugh’s journalism, Donat Gallagher wrote: “In most circumstances Waugh would write entertainingly for a high fee. He would write seriously for no fee (e.g., for the Tablet) or for a small fee (e.g., for the Spectator). The market in between did not much interest him.” (EAR, pp.111-12).

Finally, Waugh is also mentioned in connection with another less well- remembered art figure of the interwar years. This is Arthur Jeffress described as a “bright young person of the post-war art scene”. He was a collector and dealer of artworks who has now become the subject of a biography by Gill Headley: Arthur Jeffress: A Life in Art. This is reviewed in this week’s Spectator by Ariane Bankes. As she explains:

…A penchant for dressing up and play-acting enlivened his days at Cambridge, and he emerged into the world of bright young people. or indeed Vile Bodies, with the funds to make a splash, hosting the infamous Red and White Party in 1931. His aesthetic taste was honed by friendships with the likes of the Sitwells and Edward Burra, and notably during his turbulent affair with John Deakin, then a belligerent and sulphurous would- be painter before he turned to photography…

The review goes on to describe his career as a dealer and collector, ending with his suicide at 55 for reasons not entirely clear.


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