Thursday, 5 January 2012


Staying at Combe Florey, Jack and I went one afternoon for a walk and Jack, wanting a stick, rather stupidly chose a light cane. This he broke, and on our return went shame-facedly to Evelyn to apologise. Evelyn was really upset and angry - he loved this small, rather dashing cane - and Jack felt an ass. When we got home he wrote to Evelyn asking him to send it to Briggs to be mended but Evelyn replied 'Tonkin has been spliced locally', and Jack forgot the incident.

Some weeks later I said to him, not thinking much about it:

'Annie has a letter from Evelyn in which he said: "The Donaldsons came to stay. He broke my cane.".'

'Oh no,' Jack cried. 'How beastly of him.'

Evelyn Waugh: Portrait of a Country Neighbour, Frances Donaldson (1967)

Their first halting-place was Yenidje, and Lear, armed as usual with letters of introduction, was staying with the postmaster. As they were drinking coffee in the evening an incident occurred which, though unfortunate in itself, provided an example of Oriental good manners which filled him with delight. In his awkward, shortsighted way (in a room where there was neither table nor chair) he stepped heavily on his host's handsome pipe-bowl. He apologised profusely through his interpreter, to which the postmaster, bowing as he sat cross-legged on the floor, replied: 'The breaking such a pipe-bowl would indeed, under ordinary circumstances, be disagreeable; but in a friend every action has its charms....'

Edward Lear: Landscape Painter and Nonsense Poet 1812-1888, Angus Davidson (1938)

Both Waugh and Lear travelled, sometimes alone (though I think Lear was the more intrepid) in remote parts of Europe and adjoining continents. Both were men for whom humour (of utterly different kinds) was essential in their relationship to the world.

This is the bicentenary of Edward Lear's birth - see A Blog of Bosh