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Scoop : Popular Penguins : Popular Penguins - Evelyn Waugh

Scoop : Popular Penguins

Popular Penguins

Paperback

Published: 28th June 2010
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Lord Copper, newspaper magnate and proprietor of the Daily Beast, has always prided himself on his intuitive flair for spotting ace reporters. That is not to say he has not made the odd blunder, however, and may in a moment of weakness make another. Acting on a dinner-party tip form Mrs Algernon Stitch he feels convinced that he has hit on just the chap to cover a promising little war in the African Republic of Ishmaelia. One of Waugh's most exuberant comedies, Scoop is a brilliantly irreverent satire of Fleet Street and its hectic pursuit of hot news.

About The Author

Evelyn Waugh was born in Hampstead in 1903, second son of Arthur Waugh, publisher and literary critic, and brother of Alec Waugh, the popular novelist. He was educated at Lancing and Hertford College, Oxford, where he read Modern History. In 1928 he published his first work, a life of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and his first novel, Decline and Fall, which was soon followed by Vile Bodies (1930), Black Mischief (1932), A Handful of Dust (1934) and Scoop (1938). During these years he travelled extensively in most parts of Europe, the Near East, Africa and tropical America, and published a number of travel books, including Labels (1930), Remote People (1931), Ninety-Two Days (1934) and Waugh in Abyssinia (1936).

In 1939 he was commissioned in the Royal Marines and later transferred to the Royal Horse Guards, serving in the Middle East and in Yugoslavia. In 1942 he published Put Out More Flags and then in 1945 Brideshead Revisited. When the Going was Good and The Loved One preceded Men at Arms, which came out in 1952, the first volume of 'The Sword of Honour' trilogy, and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. The other volumes, Officers and Gentlemen and Unconditional Surrender, followed in 1955 and 1961. In 1964 he published his last book, A Little Learning, the first volume of an autobiography. Evelyn Waugh was received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1930 and his biography of the Elizabethan Jesuit martyr, Edmund Campion, was awarded the Hawthornden Prize in 1936. In 1959 he published the official Life of Ronald Knox. For many years he lived with his wife and six children in the West Country. He died in 1966.

Waugh said of his work: 'I regard writing not as investigation of character but as an exercise in the use of language, and with this I am obsessed. I have no technical psychological interest. It is drama, speech and events that interest me.' Mark Amory called Evelyn Waugh 'one of the five best novelists in the English language this century', while Harold Acton described him as having 'the sharp eye of a Hogarth alternating with that of the Ancient Mariner'.

While still a young man, John Courteney Boot had, as his publisher proclaimed, 'achieved an assured and envi­able position in contemporary letters.' His novels sold 15,000 copies in their first year and were read by the people whose opinion John Boot respected. Between novels he kept his name sweet in intellectual circles with unprofitable but modish works on history and travel. His signed first editions sometimes changed hands at a shilling or two above their original price. He had published eight books – beginning with a life of Rimbaud written when he was eighteen, and concluding, at the moment, with Waste of Time, a studiously modest description of some harrowing months among the Patagonian Indians – of which most people who lunched with Lady Metroland could remember the names of three or four. He had many charming friends, of whom the most valued was the lovely Mrs Algernon Stitch.

Like all in her circle John Boot habitually brought his difficulties to her for solution. It was with this purpose, on a biting-cold mid June morning, that he crossed the Park and called at her house (a superb creation by Nicholas. Hawksmoor modestly concealed in a cul-de-sac near Saint James's Palace).

Algernon Stitch was standing in the hall; his bowler hat was on his head; his right hand, grasping a crimson, royally emblazoned dispatch case, emerged from the left sleeve of his overcoat; his other hand burrowed petulantly in the breast pocket. An umbrella under his left arm further inconvenienced him. He spoke indistinctly, for he was holding a folded copy of the morning paper between his teeth.

`Can't get it on,' he seemed to say.

The man who had opened the door came to his assist­ance, removed the umbrella and dispatch case and laid them on the marble table; removed the coat and held it behind his master. John took the newspaper.

`Thanks. Thanks very much. Much obliged. Come to see Julia, eh ?'

From high overhead, down the majestic curves of the great staircase, came a small but preternaturally resonant voice.

`Try not to be late for dinner, Algy; the Kents are coming.'

`She's upstairs,' said Stitch. He had his coat on now and looked fully an English cabinet minister; long and thin, with a long, thin nose, and long, thin moustaches; the ideal model for continental caricaturists. 'You'll find her in bed,' he said.

`Your speech reads very well this morning.' John was always polite to Stitch; everybody was; Labour members loved him.

`Speech? Mine? Ah. Reads well, eh? Sounded terrible to me. Thanks all the same. Thanks very much. Much obliged.'

So Stitch went out to the Ministry of Imperial Defence and John went up to see Julia.

As her husband had told him, she was still in bed al­though it was past eleven o'clock. Her normally mobile face encased in clay was rigid and menacing as an Aztec mask. But she was not resting. Her secretary, Miss Hollo­way, sat at her side with account books, bills, and corres­pondence. With one hand Mrs Stitch was signing cheques; with the other she held the telephone to which, at the moment, she was dictating details of the costumes for a charity ballet. An elegant young man at the top of a step ladder was painting ruined castles on the ceiling. Josephine, the eight-year-old Stitch prodigy, sat on the foot of the bed construing her day's passage of Virgil. Mrs Stitch's maid, Brittling, was reading her the clues of the morning crossword. She had been hard at it since half past seven.

Josephine rose from her lesson to kick John as he entered. 'Boot,' she said savagely, `Boot,' catching him first on one kneecap, then on the other. It was a joke of long standing.

Mrs Stitch turned her face of clay, in which only the eyes gave a suggestion of welcome, towards her visitor.

`Come in,' she said, 'I'm just going out. Why twenty pounds to Mrs Beaver?'

`That was for Lady Jean's wedding present,' said Miss Holloway.

`I must have been insane. About the lion's head for the centurion's breastplate; there's a beautiful one over the gate of a house near Salisbury, called Twisbury Manor; copy that as near as you can; ring up Country Life and ask for 'back numbers'; there was a photograph of it about two years ago. You're putting too much ivy on the turret, Arthur; the owl won't show up unless you have him on the bare stone, and I'm particularly attached to the owl. Munera, darling, like tumtiddy ; always a short a in neuter plurals. It sounds like an anagram: see if 'Terracotta' fits. I'm delighted to see you, John. Where have you been? You can come and buy carpets with me; I've found a new shop in Bethnal Green, kept by a very interesting Jew who speaks no English; the most extraordinary things keep happening to his sister. Why should I go to Viola Chasm's Distressed Area; did she come to my Model Madhouse?'

`Oh, yes, Mrs Stitch'

`Then I suppose it means two guineas. I absolutely loved Waste of Time. We read it aloud at Blakewell. The headless abbot is grand.'

'Headless abbot ?'

`Not in Wasters. On Arthur's ceiling. I put it in the Prime Minister's room.'

'Did he read it ?'

'Well, I don't think he reads much.'

'Terracotta is too long, madam, and there is no r.'

'Try hottentot. It's that kind of word. I can never do anagrams unless I can see them. No, Twisbury, you must have heard of it.'

'Floribus Austrum,' Josephine chanted, 'perditus et liquidis immisi fontibus apros; having been lost with flowers in the South and sent into the liquid fountain; apros is wild boars, but I couldn't quite make sense of that bit.'

'We'll do it tomorrow. I've got to go out now. Is 'hottentot' any use ?'

'No h, madam,' said Brittling with ineffable gloom. 'Oh, dear. .I must look at it in my bath. I shall only be ten minutes. Stay and talk to Josephine.'

She was out of bed and out of the room. Brittling fol­lowed. Miss Holloway collected the cheques and papers. The young man on the ladder dabbed away industriously. Josephine rolled to the head of the bed and stared up at him.

`It's very banal, isn't it, Boot ?'

'I like it very much.'

'Do you ? I think all Arthur's work is banal. I read your book Waste of Time.'

'Ah.' John did not invite criticism.

'I thought it very banal.'

'You seem to find everything banal.'

'It is a new word whose correct use I have only lately learnt,' said Josephine with dignity. 'I find it applies to nearly everything; Virgil and Miss Brittling and my gymnasium.'

'How is the gymnasium going?'

`I am by far the best of my class, although there are several girls older than me and two middle-class boys.'

When Mrs Stitch said ten minutes, she meant ten minutes. Sharp on time she was back, dressed for the street; her lovely face, scraped clean of clay, was now alive with interest.

'Sweet Josephine, has Mr Boot been boring you ?' 'It was all right really. I did most of the talking.' 'Show him your imitation of the Prime Minister.' `No.'

`Sing him your Neapolitan song.'

'No.'

'Stand on your head. Just once for Mr Boot.'

`No.'

'Oh, dear. Well, we must go at once if we are to get to Bethnal Green and back before luncheon. The traffic's terrible.'

Algernon Stitch went to his office in a sombre and rather antiquated Daimler; Julia always drove herself, in the latest model of mass-produced baby car; brand-new twice a year, painted an invariable brilliant black, tiny and glossy as a midget's funeral hearse. She mounted the kerb and bowled rapidly along the pavement to the corner of St James's, where a policeman took her number and ordered her into the road.

'Third time this week,' said Mrs Stitch. 'I wish they wouldn't. It's such a nuisance for Algy.'

Once embedded in the traffic block, she stopped the engine and turned her attention to the crossword. 'It's 'detonated ',' she said, filling it in.

East wind swept the street, carrying with it the exhaust gas of a hundred motors and coarse particles of Regency stucco from a once decent Nash façade that was being demolished across the way. John shivered and rubbed some grit further into his eye. Eight minutes' close appli­cation was enough to finish the puzzle. Mrs Stitch folded the paper and tossed it over her shoulder into the back seat; looked about her resentfully at the stationary traffic.

`This is too much,' she said; started the engine, turned sharp again on to the kerb and proceeded to Piccadilly, driving before her at a brisk pace, until he took refuge on the step of Brooks's, a portly, bald young man; when he reached safety, he turned to remonstrate, recognized Mrs Stitch, and bowed profoundly to the tiny, black back as it shot the corner of Arlington Street. 'One of the things I like about these absurd cars,' she said, 'is that you can do things with them that you couldn't do in a real one.'

From Hyde Park Corner to Piccadilly Circus the line of traffic was continuous and motionless, still as a photo­graph, unbroken and undisturbed save at a few strategic corners where barricaded navvies, like desperate outposts of some proletarian defence, were rending the road with mechanical drills, mining for the wires and tubes that controlled the life of the city.

'I want to get away from London,' said John Boot. 'So it's come to that? All on account of your Ameri­can girl? '

'Well, mostly.'

`I warned you, before you began. Is she being frightful? 'My lips are sealed. But I've got to get far away or else go crazy.'

'To my certain knowledge she's driven three men into the bin. Where are you going?'

'That's just what I wanted to talk about.'

The line of cars jerked forwards for ten yards and again came to rest. The lunch-time edition of the evening papers was already on the streets; placards announcing

ISHMAELITE CRISIS

and

STRONG LEAGUE NOTE

were fluttering in the east wind.

'I. hmaelia seems to be the place. I was wondering if Algy would send me there as a spy.'

`Not a chance.'

`No ?'

'Foregonners. Algy's been sacking ten spies a day for weeks. It's a grossly overcrowded profession. Why don't you go as a war correspondent ?'

'Could you fix it ?'

'I don't see why not. After all, you've been to Pata­gonia. I should think they would jump at you. You're sure you really want to go ?'

`Quite sure.'

`Well, I'll see what I can do. I'm meeting Lord Copper at lunch today at Margot's. I'll try and bring the subject up.'

Evelyn Waugh

Introducing a new hardback series in Penguin Classics with eight Evelyn Waugh harback editions. They've been carefully designed to give a beautiful reading experience: their cool, elegant covers are fresh and timeless, while echoing many stylings from Penguin's past, including hints of the very first Penguin Classics covers (created by legendary Jan Tschihold), and the Penguin Poets series from the same time.

Evelyn Waugh's father Arthur was a noted editor and publisher. His only sibling Alec also became a writer of note. In fact, his book “The Loom of Youth” (1917) a novel about his old boarding school Sherborne caused Evelyn to be expelled from there and placed at Lancing College. He said of his time there, “…the whole of English education when I was brought up was to produce prose writers; it was all we were taught, really.” He went on to Hertford College, Oxford where he read History. When asked if he took up any sports there he quipped, “I drank for Hertford.”

In 1924 Waugh left Oxford without taking his degree. After inglorious stints as a school teacher (he was dismissed for trying to seduce a school matron and/or inebriation), an apprentice cabinet maker and journalist he wrote and had published his first novel, “Decline and Fall” in 1928.

In 1928 he was married for the first time to Evelyn Gardiner. She proved unfaithful and the marriage ended in divorce in 1930. Waugh would derive parts of “A Handful of Dust” from this unhappy time. His second marriage to Audrey Herbert lasted the rest of his life and begat seven children. It was during this time that he converted to Catholicism.

During the thirties Waugh produced one gem after another. From this decade come: “Vile Bodies” (1930), “Black Mischief” (1932), the incomparable “A Handful of Dust” (1934) and “Scoop” (1938). After the Second World War he published what is for many his masterpiece, “Brideshead Revisited,” in which his Catholicism took center stage. “The Loved One” a scathing satire of the American death industry followed in 1947. After publishing his “Sword of Honor Trilogy” about his experiences in World War II (“Men at Arms” (1952), “Officers and Gentlemen” (1955), “Unconditional Surrender" (1961) his career was seen to be on the wane. In fact, “Basil Seal Rides Again” (1963) - his last published novel - received little critical or commercial attention.

Evelyn Waugh, considered by many to be the greatest satirical novelist of his day, passed away on 10 April 1966 at the age of 62.

Visit Evelyn Waugh's Booktopia Author Page


ISBN: 9780141195124
ISBN-10: 0141195126
Series: Popular Penguins
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 222
Published: 28th June 2010
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 18.3 x 11.5  x 1.4
Weight (kg): 0.13
Edition Number: 1