Auberon waugh

Granada’s Brideshead Revisited remains the sine qua non of mini-series

It is 40 years ago today since Granada’s masterly adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited first beamed into British homes. This 11-part serialisation of a book originally entitled A Household of the Faith soon gathered millions of faithful householders. The autumn of 1981 was an especially cold and wet one and it was still too soon in the Thatcher premiership for her patron saint, Francis of Assisi, to have worked his magic. So while ITV was not able to deliver harmony, truth, faith or hope, it certainly provided 659 minutes of romantic escapism. It began very soberly with the credits — a simple black screen announcing the first episode’s actors in stark white script — propelled only by Geoffrey Burgon’s majestic score. The opening scene —

The Spanish winemakers with a missionary zeal

It is time to begin with an apology, and hope. In the course of these columns, I have already admitted to a deplorable ignorance of Spanish wine, including sherry. The finest sherries are subtle, complex, powerful — and excellent value. The same is increasingly true of other Spanish wines and there again, I am lament-ably ill-informed. There have always been serious Riojas. But a couple of decades ago, the late Bron Waugh lamented the fact that most Riojas left a hint of eggshell on the palate. In those days, he had a point. The principal Spanish grape is Tempranillo, which also produces excellent reds from the Ribera del Duero. There,

The Spectator’s Notes | 14 February 2019

On Tuesday, Le Monde published a piece it had commissioned from me to explain why, from a British point of view, Brexit is not mad. (I was told that all the paper’s readers think it is.) I enjoyed doing this for two reasons. The first was seeing how my English came out in French. Le Monde sent me its translation. I was delighted to sound so much brainier and statelier, though French feels less flexible than English. The second was that writing for an intelligent audience which knows little of the background is an interesting exercise. It forces one to distil. I no longer had to analyse, say, the intricacies of

How I miss Auberon Waugh

Every now and then one suddenly misses somebody. I miss Bron, who died 17 years ago last month. There’s an Auberon Waugh-sized hole in British satirical journalism. Listening to the radio last week — it was all about famous women, women in history, women’s suffrage, sexual harassment of women, equal pay for women at the BBC, women this and women that — I felt vaguely irritable. Not that I seriously disagreed with anything being said, or wished to rain on any suffragist’s parade, or have ever been remotely sympathetic to inappropriate male behaviour towards women … no, I’d place myself on the ‘politically correct’ side of the argument on every

A huff to the music of time

You’re in the index, but not in the book. This ghostly sensation has been my experience since 1990 after commissioning Auberon Waugh to review Anthony Powell’s Miscellaneous Verdicts. Waugh’s verdict appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on 20 May that year. Next morning, Powell resigned in a celebrated huff from the sister paper, of which I happened to be literary editor. When, seven years later, Powell published his Journals, I wanted to know how he dealt with this incident which had caused acute distress. The index directed me to page 40, yet my name wasn’t there. Nor any entry for 20 May 1990; nor one for Auberon Waugh, as promised, on

The Spectator’s Notes | 9 November 2017

Let us assume — which we shouldn’t — that it is automatically wrong for the Queen to benefit financially from funds invested offshore. Let us agree — though we shouldn’t — to declare ourselves shocked that the Duchy of Lancaster put money on her behalf into funds in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, and later, Guernsey. Let us forget — though it is difficult — that she is the Queen of all those places, and therefore that it is almost as strange to complain about her money being in them as it would be to complain about it being invested in Britain. Let us accept — though no evidence has

High life | 2 February 2017

When I saw an email from Lucy, the lady who has the unenviable task of editing my copy each week, I knew something was wrong. And sure enough it was. The bad news was that my first editor at my beloved Spectator had died. Forty years, gone in a jiffy. It was back in 1977, and I had gone to Turin to pick up a new car on my way to Paris. Back then one had to drive the first thousand miles slowly, while breaking in the engine. (Yes, I know: a bit like wearing spats and a monocle, but that’s how it was in those prehistoric days.) Driving a

Last words | 5 May 2016

This, my 479th, is to be my last contribution as a regular columnist to The Spectator. I have written here for 33 years and 4 months, a way of life really, and one I have greatly enjoyed. I thank Auberon Waugh in absentia for suggesting me to Alexander Chancellor in the first place; and Charles Moore for keeping me on in the early years, once we were up and running. I also thank three quite exceptional arts editors: Gina Lewis, Jenny Naipaul and the doyenne of these pages, Liz Anderson. Things have moved on from my habitual think pieces, outraged rants, ad hominem demolition of palpable idiots written in the

Oh, what a lovely Waugh!

Fifty years have passed since the death of my father, Evelyn Waugh. His remains, together with those of his wife Laura and daughter Margaret, are buried within a ha-ha which is now collapsing into the churchyard of St Peter and Paul, Combe Florey. My nephew, Alexander, and I hope that these graves could be incorporated in the churchyard as only a dilapidated wall separates them. But our efforts have been frustrated by bureaucratic obtuseness. I wonder if the creakiness of the bureaucratic process has been created by the undeserved popular perception of my father as a monster. The portrait is based on his own diaries and my late brother Auberon’s

Long life | 16 July 2015

I have always been what I suppose one could call a weed, and a cowardly one at that. I never liked sports and was never any good at them. When fielding at cricket at my prep school, I used to while away time making daisy-chains. Of my part in football one prep-school report merely said, to my mother’s great amusement, ‘Chancellor prefers to avoid the ball.’ At my public school, where you had to choose between rowing and cricket, I chose rowing, but only because I was just small enough to get away with being a cox, which only involved sitting in the stern of a boat and bellowing orders

The damning, shocking, depressing life of Jeremy Thorpe

Jeremy Thorpe by Michael Bloch Little, Brown, pp.606, £25 The back story of Michael Bloch’s biography of Jeremy Thorpe is a story in itself.  The book’s appearance, in the same month as its subject’s death, is only possible because it has been on ice for many years. In the 1990s the author had numerous meetings with the former Liberal party leader and gained access to many of his circle with a view to writing a vaguely official biography. But after reading a draft in the 1990s Thorpe said words to the effect of ‘over my dead body’, and this took longer to come about than expected. Thorpe died last month at

Mark Amory’s diary: Confessions of a literary editor

Until recently I used to claim that I had been literary editor of The Spectator for over 25 years; now I say almost 30. The trouble is I am not quite sure and it is curiously difficult to find out. Dot Wordsworth arrived on the same day as me but she cannot remember either. Each of us assumed that the other was an established figure and so our superior. A similar imprecision may undermine other memories. In the early Eighties then, when Alexander Chancellor had reinvented the magazine after a bad patch, and it seemed daring, anarchic and slightly amateurish, I wrote theatre reviews and one late afternoon went round

The man who went to Hell and back – for a laugh

Since the passing of Auberon Waugh, there haven’t been many really successful right-wing comedians. The Mayor of London is one. Another is the American journalist and wit P.J. O’Rourke. The alliterative title of The Baby Boom, his 20th book, essentially sums up its author’s style, his childlike boisterousness, his resonant infantilism. Its scarcely less suitable subtitle — ‘How It Got That Way, And It Wasn’t My Fault, And I’ll Never Do It Again’— is almost as revealing, indicating a man engaged in a conversation with himself and determined to have the last word. Here his professed subject matter is the generation of Americans born between 1946 and 1964: the lucky

The Spectator’s Notes: Max Clifford’s conviction vindicates juries. But so did the acquittals

The conviction of Max Clifford for indecent assaults feels like a vindication of the jury system, as did the acquittal of the many other showbiz characters charged under Operation Yewtree. One reason I keep raising questions of justice about the current obsession with paedophilia is out of suspicion that those most zealous in their accusations are unhealthily interested in the subject. This was the case with Clifford himself and, of course, with the newspapers with which he did business. Celebrity culture is, in essence, a form of pornography which incites powerful people to exploit unpowerful people. It acquires an extra twist of perversion when it turns on those it has

Auberon Waugh’s Christmas Sermon

Writing in the 23 December 1966 edition of The Spectator, Auberon Waugh considers the role of Christianity, in all its forms, in an English Christmas. It’s not hard to see why most grown-ups detest Christmas nowadays. It is expensive and tawdry, a time for self-deception and false sentiment. It is a children’s feast, which is why we all pretend to be children and show gratitude for unwelcome presents and rot our fragile insides with poisonous green crystallised fruit. To crown all the meretricious jollity and make-believe, an enormous number of grown-up Englishmen go to church. This has become as much part of Christmas as the plum pudding, and I think

The National Theatre – 50 years (and more) in The Spectator

Today the National Theatre hosts a gala performance, screened on BBC2 at 9pm, to celebrate fifty years since its launch as a company in 1963. You can view the full programme here – I’d wanted to be cynical about a Greatest Hits parade, but reading the cast list, it simply looks astounding. But it’s not the fiftieth birthday of Denys Lasdun’s building on the South Bank – that robotic monstrosity, suggestive of an early design for Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, if Bay’s anthropomorphic tanks could ever rear onto hind legs while made of concrete. When the building was finally complete in 1977, Auberon Waugh told The Spectator’s readers that the

Letters: David Aaronovitch defends Daniel Finkelstein, Godfrey Bloom defends himself

Oborne’s ideas of ethics Sir: Your edition of 28 September included a 1,500-word demand from the journalist Peter Oborne to the effect that the Times, the newspaper that I work for, should sack its columnist Danny Finkelstein. The reason given by Oborne for this view is that Finkelstein is too parti pris and close to people in power to be a ‘proper’ journalist. He is wrong in his argument and also, I believe, deficient in his journalism. Oborne deploys the veteran cliché about true journalists ‘speaking truth unto power’. Yet the history of British newspapers is full of ‘political’ journalists such as Finkelstein. At the Telegraph there were great figures

Trying to get the mad, broody chicken off her addled eggs

A friend who is not normally receptive to left-wing or republican ideas suddenly exclaimed at dinner in my house the other day that he was bored, sickened and disgusted by the Queen and all the royal family, and thought it was high time they were removed. In the mood of the moment, nobody seemed disposed to disagree, although compassionate noises were made from some quarters about the Queen Mother and the Waleses. In the ensuing discussion, everyone observed that they were not aware of having felt this way before, but agreed that they felt it now — that is to say, at about 9.45 p.m. on Saturday, 12 August 1989.

Newt Gingrich & The Dog Lovers’ Party

Say this for Newt Gingrich, he does know how to have some sport at Mitt Romney’s expense. How else to explain this? Forget the back and forth attacks with Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich’s campaign has decided to take another route on his bid to the Republican nomination: pets and music. The campaign said today that it will soon launch a “Pets With Newt”  site aimed at Gingrich’s love for animals, intended to show a “lighter side” of the candidate. “As speaker I made it possible for people in public housing to keep their pets in 1988. I love pets so we’re going to have an entire project,” Gingrich said. Gee,

Keep on running

Astonishingly, it is nearly ten years since Auberon Waugh died. I never met him — I came about half a glass of wine away from introducing myself at a party, but didn’t quite make it — but like most of his fans, read him avidly and admired him from afar. My girlfriend used to work at the Academy Club and was very fond of him, even though she was a lefty actress who thought he was the most right-wing man who had ever lived. It’s strange the way this reputation clung to him. After he died, Polly Toynbee wrote a quite crazed hatchet-job in the Guardian, describing him as the