I am sure there are Waugh-fans, or, better, Waugh-wolves who can answer a simple question: In their respective biographies of Evelyn Waugh, Christopher Sykes (Evelyn Waugh: a biography) and Selina Hastings (same title) tell the story of the ageing master of English prose appearing at an Ann Fleming dinner party with a huge, old-fashioned ear-trumpet. He claimed to be deaf, but was actually using the trumpet as a weapon in conversations. Sykes and Hastings have Ann Fleming giving the instrument a sound thwack with a table implement when Waugh turned it toward her. We are also told that Lady Diana Cooper poured champagne down it.
But in Gore Vidal’s book of reminiscences (Palimpsest – a Memoir) the ageing master of American prose claims to have been present at the party, and to have been the striker. Which is true?
There are generations of Waugh descendents very much alive all over Europe and the United States. Can one (or more) of them get the anecdote right. Mr Vidal must be over ninety and I believe he is not well. But Auberon’s talented sons Nat and Alexander are alive. Alexander speaks in full Wavian form about Vidal in his excellent book about the Waugh generations.
Vidal speaks slightingly of Alexander’s grandfather, but adds that he has read every one of Evelyn’s books with pleasure.
Friends and followers! Please use the Comments section to advise me if you are sure you know the truth.