This piece was inspired by an episode of The Cooler, KQED’s weekly pop culture podcast. Give it a listen!
Why You Should Be Glad Evelyn Waugh Isn't Your Valentine
Whether you're attached or single this Valentine's Day, just be glad you're not getting a love note from Evelyn Waugh, the author of Brideshead Revisited and the only man to (mistakenly) end up on Time Magazine’s list of most-read female writers. He had a way with words, but using them to be romantic -- or even decent -- didn't seem to be one of his talents.
Take this 1945 letter he wrote to his wife, Laura, for instance:
It starts off promisingly enough with a cute nickname -- sweet whiskers! -- but quickly devolves into documenting just how very boring and disappointing he thinks his wife is. The letter ends with a condescending catchphrase perfectly suited for a reality TV villain. 'Do grasp that'? Do grasp this drink in your face, Evelyn.
Not knowing much about Waugh, I did some research: Was he just having a bad day, or was he kind of an a-hole?
From what I found, it's the latter.
- Waugh was referred to as "the nastiest-tempered man in England."
- He believed that class divisions and inequalities were natural.
- His anti-Semitism was considered by some to be his "most persistent nastiness."
- He named one of his characters "Black Bitch."
- He didn't mind fascism.
- When he converted to Catholicism, someone asked him, "How can you be a Christian when you are such an a-hole?” Waugh didn't deny it: "Just think how much worse an a-hole I would be if I were not a Christian."
- In a piece called "The Misguided PC Attacks on 'Black Mischief,'" a writer tries -- and fails -- to defend Waugh's bigotry: "Waugh ridicules women, Jews, fascists, Arabs, the French, upper class white colonials, as well as indigenous populations, therefore showing himself to hold intense disdain for humanity. Rather than racist, Waugh is anti-human and pro-God."
So, in summary, Evelyn Waugh was the worst. This Valentine's Day, be thankful you're not dating him. And if any of the above reminds you of your boo, dump him/her immediately. You can do so much better, sweet whiskers.