This interview was important in confirming Evelyn Waugh in his view that the BBC and its officials wanted to persecute and mock him for his unfashionable, anti-modern opinions. It was in fact a compound of two interviews he had given in London in autumn 1953. He had been dissatisfied with the first interview (he felt he had been drawn into too many diffuse and unwise political and social statements) and himself asked to have a second chance. The same three interviewers questioned him.
It was not the first interview he had done that year. Only a few weeks before he had agreed to be interviewed by Stephen Black for the Personal Call series for the BBC World Service. The BBC sent a recording van to Piers Court, his home in Gloucestershire. It proved of great interest to Waughs children, who were on holiday from school at the time. Auberon, Waughs eldest son, thought that it was this interview that drove my father mad. At the time he gave it as his opinion that Black did not seem to like his father very much. You may find excerpts from this interview (all that I have been able to find so far) here.
As I explained in my Introduction, the three interviewers in Frankly Speaking seemed to Waugh to gang up in order to badger him about his opinions. One of the interviewers certainly had a badly-disguised sneer in his voice. Waugh did not share the views of the liberal consensus which dominated British cultural life at the time, and still does today; and no doubt his ideas seemed to them ludicrous and illiberal. The programme was broadcast on 16th November 1953 and the interviewers were Charles Wilmot, Jack Davies and Stephen Black, though I am sorry to say I do not yet know which ones are speaking in this excerpt. You may read further excerpts from their interview here.
Within a year Waugh was to suffer the hallucinations which he described so clearly in The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold; during those hallucinations he imagined he was being tormented by, among other voices, speakers on the radio.
LISTEN to this extract.
It is a 243KB long mp3 file, lasting 62 seconds and taking about a minute to download.
|Interviewer||But in personal, youve never yourself felt that there is an evil incarnate in an individual which should be removed and, if you could, you would remove it?|
|EW||And now youre speaking of exorcism; the -|
|Interviewer||Well, execution more -|
|Interviewer||He means, have you ever wanted to kill somebody -|
|EW||You dont remove the evil in a person by killing the person.|
|Interviewer||So, for instance, you would not be in favour of capital punishment?|
|EW||Indeed I would, I think its one of the kindest things you can do to the very wicked, to give them time to repent.|
|Interviewer||You are in favour of capital punishment?|
|EW||For an enormous number of offences, yes.|
|Interviewer||And you yourself would be prepared to carry it out?|
|EW||Do you mean, actually do the hangmans work?|
|EW||I should think it very odd for them to choose a novelist for such tasks.|
|Interviewer||Supposing they were prepared to train you for the job, would you take it on?|
|Interviewer||Would you like such a job, Mr Waugh?|
|EW||Not the least.|
LISTEN to this extract.
It is a 141KB long mp3 file, lasting 36 seconds and taking a little over half a minute to download.
|Interviewer||In what respect do you, as a human being, feel that you have primarily failed? ...|
|EW||I have never learned French well, and I never learned any other language at all; Ive forgotten most of my classics; I cant often remember peoples faces in the streets; and I dont like music. Those are very grave failings.|
|Interviewer||But no others - you are not conscious of?|
|EW||Those are the ones that worry me most.|
|Interviewer||Well now, finally, how, when you die, would you like to be remembered?|
|EW||I should like people of their charity to pray for my soul as a sinner.|