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Auberon Waugh

Auberon Alexander Waugh (November 17, 1939 - January 16, 2001) was a British author and journalist.


Life and Career

Auberon Alexander Waugh—known as Bron by friends and family—was the second child and first son of Evelyn Waugh and his wife Laura. Born just as war broke out, he hardly saw his father until he was five. Auberon was schooled at Downside School in Somerset. After a year at Christ Church, Oxford, he was rusticated (suspended for unsatisfactory performance) by the academic authorities, and opted not to return to the university, preferring to make an early start in journalism.

During his National Service he almost killed himself in a machine gun accident. Waugh, commissioned into the Royal Horse Guards and serving in Cyprus, became annoyed by a fault in the machine gun on his armoured car, seized it and shook it. It fired several rounds through his chest. He lost a lung, spleen, several ribs, and a finger.

While recuperating in Italy, he began his first novel, The Foxglove Saga.

He began his journalistic career in 1960 as a cub reporter on Peterborough, the social/gossip column of the Daily Telegraph.

In a long and prolific career he wrote for The Spectator, The New Statesman, British Medicine and various newspapers (including the Daily Mirror).

His work as political columnist on the Spectator coincided with the war in Biafra, a mainly Catholic province that split from Nigeria. Waugh raged against the Wilson government, especially the foreign secretary Michael Stewart, for colluding in a war where millions were starved into submission.

In 1990 he returned to the Telegraph as the successor of Michael Wharton (better known as "Peter Simple") writing the paper's long-running Way of the World column. This would see him writing three columns a week for the Daily Telegraph plus another for the Sunday Telegraph from 1990 until December 2000.

Private Eye

Waugh achieved his greatest fame with his diary in Private Eye, which ran from the early 1970s until 1985, and which he described as "specifically dedicated to telling lies". He fitted in well with the Eye which had set its political ethos as "balls to the lot of them", although he made clear his dislike of the Labour government of the 1970s. The education secretary Shirley Williams became a personal hate figure arising out of her support for comprehensive education. In his 1991 autobiography Will This Do?, Waugh claimed that he had broken two bottles of wine by banging them together too hard to celebrate when she lost her seat in the House of Commons as an SDP MP in 1983 (not when she lost for Labour in 1979 as previously stated here).

Waugh was a candidate at the 1979 election, indulging another of his pet hates, former Liberal Leader Jeremy Thorpe, who was about to stand trial for conspiracy to murder arising out of a scandal that Waugh had helped expose. It was alleged that Thorpe had links to an incident in which a man called Norman Scott, who claimed to have had an affair with Thorpe, had seen his dog shot dead. Waugh stood against Thorpe for the Dog Lovers' Party and Thorpe obtained an injunction against Waugh's election literature. Waugh polled only 79 votes—but Thorpe lost his seat.

Waugh left Private Eye in 1986 when Ian Hislop succeeded Richard Ingrams as editor.

Waugh's views

Waugh broadly supported Margaret Thatcher in her first years as prime minister, but by 1983 he became disillusioned by the Government's economic policy which he felt embraced the economics and cultural ideas of the New Right. When Thatcher became a strong public opponent of his friend and Sunday Telegraph editor Peregrine Worsthorne , Waugh became a confirmed opponent. Her closeness to Andrew Neil, editor of The Sunday Times, whom Waugh despised, further confirmed his view. Waugh tended to be identified with a defiantly anti-progressive, small-c conservative worldview, opposed to "do-gooders", social progressives and suchlike. Three days after his death, Polly Toynbee in The Guardian vociferously attacked him for such views.

Waugh bemoaned what he saw as the cultural proletarianisation of the British middle classes, the general Americanisation of Britain and the sale of the wealth of the English shires to American businessmen, which from an old-school Tory perspective were key tendencies of the Thatcher years. He had a house in France and was a fervent supporter of European integration and the single currency, which he saw as a means of de-Americanising the UK. He opposed anti-smoking legislation and in his later years he was highly critical of Labour threats to ban fox hunting. Waugh has been assessed as a nostalgist and a romantic, with a tendency to snobbery at times, although his anarchistic streak ensured that he retained the admiration of a surprising number of people whom he would have considered horribly "progressive" or "leftish".

Auberon Waugh married, in 1961, Lady Teresa Onslow, daughter of the Earl of Onslow . The couple—with their two sons and two daughters—eventually moved to his father's old house, Combe Florey, Somerset.

Literary Career

Before giving up writing fiction because he knew he would always be compared to his father and he knew he would not be able to match up to his father's standards, Waugh wrote five novels. They are:

  • The Foxglove Saga (1960)
  • Path of Dalliance (1963)
  • Who Are The Violets Now? (1965)
  • Consider the Lilies (1968)
  • A Bed of Flowers (1972).

He wrote a book about the Thorpe case, The Last Word. He made several programmes for ATV in the 1970s, and was interviewed by Anthony Howard in 1991 for the Thames TV documentary Waugh Memorial. From 1986 until his death he also edited the Literary Review magazine, where he organised awards for what he called "real" (i.e., rhyming) poetry, and also a Bad Sex Award for the worst description of sex in a novel.

Last updated: 05-07-2005 05:15:21
Last updated: 05-07-2005 18:09:53