83 years ago yesterday Evelyn Waugh entered the Church of Rome. Of course, 83 years is not an anniversary that people usually take notice of. But since I happened to come across Waugh’s 1960 BBC television interview on YouTube yesterday, I thought I would mention the anniversary.
The interview is conducted by John Freeman and you can watch it here. Freeman’s show, which ran between 1959 and 1962, was called Face to Face. The YouTube video starts with some more recent material introducing the interview including some comments by the (now) elderly Freeman about how important the interview was for him and how disappointed he was that he was unable to get more out of Waugh than he did. But, as you will see, many of Freeman’s questions seem positively antagonistic (although in the introduction it is strangely proposed by Joan Bakewell that Waugh was the one being antagonistic). And Waugh does not seem in the least disturbed by them. Perhaps Freeman’s real disappointment was that he did not succeed in getting Waugh to lose his cool.
Waugh smokes a cigar throughout interview. Indeed, there was a time when smoking on television (and indoors and just about everywhere) was something perfectly normal. Alas, in our uncivilized age this would be a terrible scandal.
Waugh utters many priceless lines. When Freeman asks him, for example, why he has agreed to do the interview if Waugh, as he claims, doesn’t care whether people pay attention to him, Waugh replies quite matter-of-factly: “Poverty. We’ve both been hired to talk in this deliriously happy way.”
The introductory material lasts about 3 minutes and the interview about 25 minutes.