Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Waugh On Being Hopelessly Upper Class

'... How right you were, Guy, to fix yourself up with this racket. I've been round the other Commandos. Not at all the same sort of fellows. I should like to write a piece about you all. But it wouldn't do.'

'No, it would not. Not at all.'

'Don't misunderstand me,' - the night air was taxing his residue of self-command - 'I don't refer to security. There's an agitation now from the Mystery of Information to take you off the secret list. Heroes are in strong demand. Heroes are urgently required to boost civilian morale. You'll see pages about the Commandos in the papers soon. But not about your racket, Guy. They just won't do, you know. Delightful fellows, heroes too, I dare say, but the Wrong Period. Last-war stuff, Guy. Went out with Rupert Brooke.'

'You find us poetic?'

'No,' said Ian, stopping in his path and turning to face Guy in the darkness. 'Perhaps not poetic, exactly, but Upper Class. Hopelessly upper class. You're the "Fine Flower of the Nation". You can't deny it and it won't do.'

In the various stages of inebriation, facetiously itemized for centuries, the category, 'prophetically drunk', deserves a place.

'This is a People's War,' said Ian prophetically, 'and the People won't have poetry and they won't have flowers. Flowers stink. The upper classes are on the secret list. We want heroes of the people, to or for the people, by, with and from the people.'

The chill air of Mugg completed its work of detriment. Ian broke into song:

'When wilt thou save the people?
Oh, God of Mercy! When?

The People, Lord, the People!
Not thrones and crowns, but men!'

He broke into a trot and breathlessly repeating the lines in a loud tuneless chant, reached the gangway.

Out of the night the voice of Brigadier Ritchie-Hook rang terribly: 'Stop making that infernal noise, whoever you are, and go to bed.'

Guy left Ian cowering among the quayside litter, waiting a suitable moment to slip on board.

Evelyn Waugh Officers and Gentlemen