Wednesday

The most terrifying aspect of Evelyn Waugh as a parent


was that he reserved the right not just to deny affection to his children but to advertise an acute and unqualified dislike of them. This was always conditional on their own behaviour up to a point, and seldom entirely unjustified, but it was disconcerting, nevertheless, to be met by cool statements of total repudiation.

As the number of children increased–by 1950 there were six of us–he spent longer periods away from home, much to the relief of all of us. As I have said, even at the time, I half-suspected that he was aware of the relief we felt when he was away, that his great act of disliking his children and shunning their company was at any rate in part an acknowledgement of his tragic inability to relax with them.

In fact the most welcome aspect of him, as a parent, was his lack of interest in his children, at any rate until they were much older and became fit subjects for gossip. I have described how no noise could be made in the front of the house, but that was as far as his reign of terror extended. So long as we were out of sight and sound, we could do whatever we wanted. Similarly, he was unconcerned about school rules and school reports, holding all authority in derision until the threat of expulsion brought with it the danger that children might be returned home.

Auberon Waugh’s autobiography

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