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Wednesday, 17 January, 2001, 19:44 GMT
Stand up the real Auberon Waugh
Auberon Waugh
Auberon Waugh: "Courteous, gentle, but a pessimist"
BBC media correspondent Nick Higham writes a personal appreciation of satirist Auberon Waugh, who has died at the age of 61

Auberon Waugh ended a 40-year career as a novelist, journalist and satirist as editor of The Literary Review, best known for its annual awards for the worst sex scene in a new novel.

The awards were a typical gesture from a man whose outrageous prejudices and deliberate contrariness offended and entertained readers in roughly equal parts.

But it was sometimes hard to see the joke - as when, for instance, he attacked northerners as whingers who thought the state owed them a living (at least he had the grace to add that southerners had become hard-hearted).

To his fans, this was a fine example of the intellectual honesty which forced him to describe the world as he found it, not as others might have wished it to be.

Swift comparison

To his detractors it was arrogant, patronising and unforgiveably lacking in compassion.

But then almost all his many newspaper columns were caustic, snobbish and frequently racist and sexist.

His dislike of the world in which he found himself often rivalled that of Britain's greatest satirist, Swift, to whom he was sometimes compared.


Perhaps he sometimes had difficulty himself separating the real Auberon Waugh from his satirical persona

Nick Higham
He was intolerant of many things in modern Britain - among them politicians.

His greatest strength was a dislike of pomposity and humbug and the second-rate.

Waugh condemned what he called the "grisly spectre of modern Britain, now reduced by over-emphasis on social welfare and workers' rights to a nation of unemployable, semi-imbecile football hooligans".

He was a man of deeply conservative views. But he wasn't a conventional right-winger.

He was, for instance, an enthusiast for all things European rather than a typical Eurosceptic, and once said he'd rather the country was run by a Belgian ticket collector than a British politician.

Bleak view

Taken at face value his view of the world was a bleak and misanthropic one.

Yet anyone who met him found him a delightful man - courteous and gentle and amusing company.

It came as rather a shock after reading Waugh the journalist.

Perhaps he sometimes had difficulty himself separating the real Auberon Waugh from his satirical persona.

Despite his apparent pessimism he enjoyed life and its pleasures (especially wine, cigarettes and gossip) immensely. But like all satirists, it seems unlikely he was truly happy.

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See also:

17 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Auberon Waugh dies
17 Jan 01 | UK
Auberon Waugh: Biting wit
17 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Literary world saddened at Waugh's death
17 Jan 01 | Talking Point
Auberon Waugh: Send your tributes
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