February 14, 1992 at 05:00 AM EST

The Letters of Evelyn Waugh and Diana Cooper

Current Status
In Season
Artemis Cooper
Ticknor & Fields
Nonfiction, Biography
We gave it an A

He called her Baby, Pug, Hoopers, Honks, and Mrs. Stitch. She called him Bo or Mr. Wu, after a favorite Pekingese. They met in 1932. He was 28, the brilliant novelist. She was nearly 40, the beauty, actress, socialite, Duke of Rutland’s youngest daughter (possibly illegitimate), wife of the Tory politician Duff Cooper. She and Waugh were never lovers. Their meetings were often fiascos. She liked crowds, excitement, change. He craved slow tête-à-têtes, felt jealous and neglected. Later drink, ill health, and what she called his ”unexorcisable demon” of irritability clouded their rare encounters. But in the letters they exchanged for over 30 years, it all came right between them. His, from British Guiana, Morocco, Abyssinia, and the rural seats where he played the part of country gentleman, offer flashes of inspired mockery, some sickmaking anti-Jewish cracks, and stern catechizing lectures on the use of grief. She, who once poured champagne down his ear trumpet, demolishes his affectation with generosity, astuteness, and great verbal felicity. The Letters of Evelyn Waugh and Diana Cooper is a fascinating read and a warm epitaph for a vanished crowd. A

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