Auberon Waugh: 20 Years Since He’s Gone
I well remember the January of 2001 when youth was mine and Al Qa’eda was considered a mere nuisance. A political group I belonged to at Oxford invited the scabrous reactionary writer to talk to us. However, Auberon Waugh failed to appear. His sudden death seemed an acceptable excuse.
Waspish, contrarian and mean spirited but never banal: Auberon was one of a kind. He was the son of the celebrated novelist Evelyn Waugh. Auberon came from a long line of writers and eccentrics. His forekind would be traced to 17th century North Britain. Waugh actually has a meaning: it means something like valiant. Thence they transmigrated to northern England wherein their surname was pronounced ‘woof.’ The Waugh’s were a most gifted race. They produced physicians, palmary writers and even a religious maniac who argued that the evidence for evolution was planted by Beelzebub to fool those of little faith.
Auberon was born in 1939 into a family of considerable means. His family were plain English (but for distant Scots ancestry) yet had crossed the Tiber. Auberon was raised in the Catholic faith. Though an inveterate sinner he remained a devoted child of the Universal Church all his days.
By the time Auberon came into this world his pater was renowned for writing some of the defining novels of the Jazz Age and of the 1930s. Evelyn’s proto-fascist leanings never left him. It was Evelyn’s 1945 novel Brideshead Revisited which remains the peerless novel of the Oxford undergraduate experience. 60 years after its publication my friends lived in conscious imitation of its protagonists.
Auberon had a lot to live up to. He was sent to Downside which is a school in Somerset run by monks. Despite his fervent faith he was a nonconformist and pleasingly cynical. An able pupil but a poor sportsman his time there was not entirely happy.
National Service beckoned. Somehow, he was commissioned as a cavalry officer. Auberon was dispatched to Cyprus. There he was shot by a machinegun operated by himself! He was near death but his family did not bother to visit him. Miraculously he pulled through and made a full recovery. However, he was invalided out of the army. Thereafter he was more gormful around firearms.
Upon leaving school Auberon was accepted at Christ Church, Oxford. Such places were not difficult to get into back then for those who were cut from the right cloth. Christ Church was and is the noblest Oxford college. To his father’s chagrin, Auberon was reading English. Evelyn told his son scornfully that English is a girl’s subject. The course was not entirely to Auberon’s taste since it focused overmuch on bardolatry.
After a year Auberon decided to go down. Leaving without a degree was not uncommon in the 1950s. Any experience of university education put him in the top 2% of the populace. He had the innate intelligence and the contacts to secure lucrative work. He was couth but had a low boredom threshold.
Article from LewRockwell