Thursday 18 June 2020

Boris Johnson, Evelyn Waugh and Churchill: three very different Tories


Evelyn Waugh on Churchill:

'Rallied the nation indeed! I was a serving soldier in 1940. How we deplored his orations.'

'Churchill was a radio personality who outlived his prime.'

Boris Johnson on Evelyn Waugh on Churchill: 

There are some people…who may be tempted to dismiss or downplay the virtuosity of Churchill as a writer …. Indeed, he has always had his detractors. Evelyn Waugh, that inveterate Churchill-basher, said he was a “master of sham-Augustan prose”, with “no specific literary talent but a gift of lucid self-expression”. After reading Churchill’s Life of his father Randolph, Waugh dismissed it as a “shifty barrister’s case, not a work of literature”…

Why did Waugh sneer at Churchill’s writings? Notice that he–Waugh–had actually tried to emulate Churchill in the 1930s and got himself sent out to cover a war in Abyssinia. He produced Scoop of course, one of the great stylistic landmarks of the twentieth century. But his reporting had nothing like the same journalistic impact as Churchill’s. Is it that Waugh was just a teensy bit jealous? I think so; and it was not just because Churchill had become so much more famous than Waugh had been, by the time he was twenty five, but that he had made such stupendous sums from writing. And that for most journalists, alas, is the truly sensitive point for comparison.
This explains one important reason why British journalists so much dislike Boris, though there are certainly others. Boris, when writing about Churchill, is talking about himself. 


  1. Boris, when writing about Churchill, is talking about himself.

    Boris is indeed a very Churchillian figure. Which is his tragedy. Like Churchill he's a media creation, entirely lacking in substance or ethics.

    How Waugh would have despised Boris Johnson.

    And was Churchill, the great opportunist, even an actual Tory?

  2. Not very Tory. An Edwardian progressive and imperialist, hence his views on race, which were considered a bit off even in his day.

    Churchill and Boris do have things in common. Boris is also a progressive, also a genius, also an opportunist but much better read.

  3. But Boris is clearly not recovered from his illness and has not led the country out of lockdown or defied the BLM people.