Evelyn Waugh Face To Face BBC Interview

He was a novelist known for his quick and cruel wit, his wide-eyed opinions and his indifference about saying the shocking. So a BBC Home Service programme called Frankly Speaking in which Evelyn Waugh is quizzed by three abrasive questioners was never going to be a walk in the country. Today what was later described as the most ill-natured interview ever broadcast can be heard for the first time since 1953. Waugh was being questioned by Charles Wilmot, Jack Davies and Stephen Black and the exchanges are, to say the least, "sparky", according to British Library sound archive curator Stephen Cleary. "It's three interviewers pitched against one subject and they don't get on terribly well."

Kenneth Schmidt
Waugh was rather polite, really. This is especially true in light of his reputation of not taking fools gladly.
Red Dog
The interviewer seemed unaware that Mr Waugh was a satirist.
"No, you must allow the novelist's imagination to roam more freely than that," says Waugh, and smiles.
Jack Beazley
A little curt perhaps but certainly not rude as the introduction suggested. Waugh seems quick and to the point, what more could be wanted?
There is no animosity I can see in this interview. Waugh seems to answer politely every question and has patience with every interruption.
His manners are perfect. I see no problem whatsoever here.
D. Wilson
Simpleton asking questions of a literary genius.  Good example of modern journalism.
I think this is one of the most biased, ridiculous interviews I've ever seen. Interviewer is flat out baiting Waugh over his lifestyle, religion, etc. I can't believe the introduction to this tried to depict how "tricky" Waugh was...he seemed a little perturbed after some of these questions, but who wouldn't be? You can see Waugh trying his best to play nice, but unable to fathom the sheer lack of manners and decorum. Overall a very presumptuous and unprofessional approach went into formulating these questions. You don't have to be christian or catholic (and for the record I'm neither) to find this deeply offensive.
Waugh isn't ill-natured. The insensitive obtuse interviewer is interrogating him like a cop.
I agree with some of the posts here. Waugh was courteous enough and seemed willing at times to open up, but the style and tone of the interviewer (which at times resembled that of a public prosecutor) unfortunately did not allow for much to happen in this interview. A more skilled interviewer makes a relaxed atmosphere for his guest. But perhaps this was not this interviewer's intent. Pity.
The interview isn't listening, he is just rattling off prearranged questions that have nothing to do with what Waugh is saying. If Waugh isn't expansive with his answers, it is hardly his fault.
Joe Wilkes
As a journalist, the approach of this interviewer (who, strangely, retrospectively said he held Waugh in high esteem) irritates, angers and perplexes me. He never attempts to develop a rapport with the interviewee, he never complements him or attempts to get him to elaborate on his answers. He seems more eager to get to the next question than to get Waugh waxing lyrical. He is almost barraging him with questions like a physical questionnaire. For a modern journalist like me, to see an interviewer make so little effort to disarm and charm his interviewee before rounding off with some piercing questions, makes me think he either did not appreciate the privilege of such an interview opportunity or was not clever or open-minded enough to approach this interview in a tactical manner. It is absurd that the interviewer says he felt bad that he could not turn Waugh around, when he appears to make no effort to relax Waugh into talking freely. I mean my word, these days interviews can be 'sparky' even when the interviewer is trying their best to get on with the interviewee, the interviewer in this regard should be grateful he didn't get a cup of hot coffee chucked in his face.
Ronald Meyer
This was no interview, it was an interrogation! 
Nicholas Reid
Waugh's answers are brief, clipped and to-the-point, but they are in no way rude or demeaning. Whatever Freeman says in the inroduction, this is not a hostile interviewee, simply one who is answering accurately the questions he has been asked. I think the "legend" about this interview arises (a.) from nitwits confusing this interview with the completely different one to which Waugh was subjected by other inquisitors years before; and (b.) by another variety of nitwit who expects an interview to be an emotive tell-all dealing with all manner of intimate details which interviewees of Waugh's generation would have regarded (quite rightly) as quite irrelevant to the matter on hand.
Just want to add to the rest of the people saying that the interviewer seems ruder than Waugh.
pamla motown
john freeman trying too hard and waugh brushing him off oh so effortlessly.
The interviewer's tone and line of questioning was off-putting from the start, Waugh answered the questions directly and with good humor
This is not the interview as noted above, but it shows, in my opinion, Mr Waugh to be a very patient, decent man.  It was a pleasure to watch his reactions to these questions.  I feel I know him better now.  Thank you.
He comes across pleasantly enough. The interviewer isn't antagonistic, but he asks far too many questions that invite single-word responses.
Well-fenced. He, deceptively, gave very little away.
Jerome Mc Kenna
It is a bit too bad that Waugh didn't have more fun with the interview, but he does a very good job.
Son of Alba Steelman
"No, I'm afraid if someone praises me, I think: 'Whar an arse;" and, if they abuse me, I think: 'what an arse.'"
Tony Chiodo
A dapper version of WC Fields.
I feel the descriptions of Waugh in the preamble are exaggerated. But he clearly would rather be somewhere else. He needed the money which the interview brought as he says and I get the feeling this made him uncomfortable. He made a couple of half-jokes and you can see from his facial reaction that Freeman didn't share the hilarity. I think this made him more tense. JF could have done a better job. A fascnating glimpse all the same.
Matt Houston
Totally ridiculous, but expected, intro by the two narcissistic BBC idiots at the beginning. They see the most important aspect of the interviews how Waugh related to the interviewer! I thought Waugh was remarkably restrained with someone so obviously his inferior.
What an irritating interview, possibly the worst kind. In spite of the opening sequence in which Waugh is bashed for being difficult, my take is just the opposite: he's being easy-going. He thinks; answers directly without rambling; and is on point. Every time. Meanwhile, the interviewer is using his life and his books as evidence against him in some stupid effort to catch him out, get something on him, or knock him for what others say about him. It's not an interview; it's an inquisition. Waugh makes it clear that he has lost his hearing, and that the loss imposes a social distance on him, and anyone who's lost hearing will recognize the truth of this; yet he listens while the real snobs of the BBC take no notice of this and find him aloof, snobbish, and caustic all the way to the pronunciation of his name. The antagonists are the snobs of the BBC.
Peter Gregory
"You didn't get a very distinguished degree, did you?". I'd have walked out.
Yankie Doodle
The look in Waugh's eyes: 'I'd like to poke you in the eye with my cane.'
Bor Studios
The interviewer is so rude... "Why didn't you do well at Oxford?", "I was too busy enjoying myself I suppose", "HOW? WHY?!"
Charles Nelson
I had braced myself for some unpleasantness. Instead I found Mr Waugh to be rather charming in a diffident way. He is a truly great writer and it is a shame that the modern British establishment never bestowed the recognition he deserved...or maybe its not a shame. His legacy will persist in spite of them.
I don't understand what the fuss is about. Waugh doesn't strike me as rude at all - in fact his behavior is admirable considering the quality of questions, which ranged from banal to tendentious. 
Vyt Autas
this is rude or antagonistic? Where exactly? It's just that he's not pretending to be nice, as is so the norm today... you must be nice to everyone. Has niceness replaced truth and real argument? Generally is a normal civil interview. Waugh looks a little annoyed, that's it. And some of the questions are boring, childish and even unfriendly.
This interview could be pasted into a courtroom drama and fit in perfectly. The interviewer seems to be cross-examining him. Firing questions one after another. I love Waugh's books. And he shows here that he is a patient person, with a lousy interviewer, and a quick thinker who can answer the questions thrown at him quickly. But why shoot the questions at him so quickly? It seems kind of rude. What a lousy interviewer! I thought BBC was a little better than this.
I absolutely love the British Classics. All geniuses are a bit eccentric, because they put themselves through the mill to produce their brilliant works.
How I would love to spend time with him..
Debra Di Blasi
There is from the beginning a terrible, arrogant chill in the interviewer's voice. He begins prejudicially. Waugh is quite generous.
Watching this a second time, I'm convinced the interviewer is targeting his being Christian and a Catholic in particular. What a shame and what a waste of an interview. Bad form, BBC. Very bad form. You should be ashamed of the way in which you treated this artist. He clearly admitted he agreed to come on because of poverty. He needed the money and honestly stated the fact. Not pretentious in the least, he fielded the barrage of antagonistic questions in a distinguished manner, understandably defensive. Who wouldn't be? "Are you a snob?" I think that question could be asked of the interviewer instead of the other way around. 
«You must allow the novelist’s imagination to roam more freely than that.»
Zona Eufotica
@22:50 - "Well, everyone thinks ill of the BBC" ~ Yes, indeed. And still most of us do.
Jane Smith
Nothing like as bad as the introduction suggests. Waugh seems reasonably relaxed, clearly suffering physically from his chosen abuse of his body through drugs, alcohol and excessive unhealthy foods and the smoking, not overly nervous for someone unused to television.
Joseph Campagnolo
I didn't observe any moments in this half hour where Waugh was rude or upset. He seems to have handled himself very well, and appears absolutely honest and straightforward. The interviewer posed too many questions which implied Waugh had a hypocritical side and a number of character defects. Waugh lets it be known throughout that he is pretty defective, hence human. Waugh may have been leery that he was stepping into a potential lion's den, which he was. Not a very stimulating interview and not much humor in it. I get the sense throughout that Waugh was not enjoying life in the post-War Labourite paradise and that for all his earnings he could not afford as well as he would have liked.   
Joseph Johnston
I heard no rudeness or irritability. He seemed very reasonable and scarcely contradicted the interviewer.
Ariel Cohen
Great interview...glad to have met the man.......
michael berry
I agree with most of the comments ! As much as I admire Joan Bakewell , I did not understand her introduction. John Freeman could have done a much better job, in my opinion. He was more than capable.  Thank you for the upload.
Hi Everybody!
The information about the radio programme "Frankly Speaking" has nothing at all to do with this video. Waugh is being interviewed here in 1960 by John Freeman.
I'm afraid I can't see any hostility or fear that the interviewer alleges occurred in this interview. In fact, I think that judging by today's standards the interviewer was somewhat curt, but I think that was the accepted style for BBC interviewers. I think it was a good interview but had a lot of trivial questions.
"...never rude to nun, obviously..." Heathens and protestants, etc. Religious people are very odd.  Very odd.
D. Wilson
I like how they transition from Evelyn Waugh to Janis Joplin. Good example of the BBC.
Just the facts, ma'am.
Scott Trucano
I'm confused...the intro and description clearly are mixed up yes? This has to be one of the most tepid interviews in history.
DJ Sullivan
Reminds me of a deposition, taken by the "opposing" side....more like an interrogation than an interview. One wonders why Mr. Waugh agreed to it; he clearly didn't want to be there. Anyway, thank you for posting it.
graham neumeister
"I've started so I will finish" ....The interviewer a bit like Magnus?
Robert Bunn
Waugh is neither rude nor nervous; rather, he is patient and accommodating to a half-wit named Freeman.  The interviewer is an irritating d-bag.  
Dominic M
Great that this old footage where writers and great thinkers were interview has become available for posterity. Thanks
Donald Miller
"I don't remember the event." ROFLMHO "I had an absolutely happy childhood. I believe that's why I have little memory of it." Hahhaha The guys killing me. ;) Seems a dash bit like a PG Wodehouse character. Shees. The interviewer comes across like he's giving the guy a psychiatric exam or some sort of Civil Service test. Around 27:00 I would have said, "Even though being interrogated by a horse's ass, such as yourself, is loads of fun, I'm outta here, you lout.
Hypnotherapy 101
Perfectly good and polite interview by Evelyn Waugh. BBC interviewers and the BBC back then were amazingly pretentious. It probably was their job to treat everyone who questioned the power structure/establishment with arrogance and condescension.
Bruce Boome
It's hardly Hard Talk.
Pyt Farrugia
Towards the end, the questions became very odd indeed. Dividing the world into "Catholics, heathens, and Protestants" did make me lol though.
"Squire-archic life".  Even 40 years after-the-fact, in a black-and-white interview, Evelyn Waugh augments my vocabulary.
On the 13:40 mark, interviewer wants to bring up homoerotic liaisons but he's too much of a wuss to ask directly.
Maura Holden
The interviewer is stupid and cruel. Waugh's responses are either perfectly reasonable or generous and magnanimous, considering that his personal life is under fire in this way. An artist should be treated with friendliness and respect by those who wish to pry into his or her creative motives. 
Ivan Denisovich
Where is this aspersion of characteristic interview-setting hostility coming from? E Waugh comes out of this looking positively candid. I'd describe him as frank... an open book even. That's what we Waugh enthusiasts want, or?
This interview is from June 1960, not 1953. "The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold", mentioned during the interview, was first published in 1957.
So much appreciate that there is a video of this interview.
Is he interviewing Waugh, or analyzing him?
Robert James Chinnery
interviewer attacked him...Waugh I think one of the greatest of English writers.
Toni OConnor
Freeman is just trying to make an issue. He said it himself, "It seems to me to be an important one' [interview] He's just "PR" ing the interview to bring attention to it for his own purposes. Really, quite a poor interviewer
Brian Peel
I support Nicholas's comments below but sadly disappointed with Freeman's approach, he is after all an experienced interviewer. But on this occasion he rarely gave Waugh time to respond and judging by his body-language he did want to reply more fully to many of the questions put to him. Perhaps we are more privileged to have good TV interviews now. I admire Evelyn Waugh.
I agree with other commentators here: Miss Bakewell's introduction seemed to me to bear no relation to the interview - such as it was.  I thought that Waugh was almost indefatigably patient and indeed charming, with a smile which in its readiness surprised me (I have been a student of Waugh for forty years) faced with what was a fairly inept interview.  I suspect that in fact it was Mr Freeman who was nervous!
exappler relppaxe
Good interview despite what the interviewer says about it. Come on, guys, you all know what that introduction was all about. In 1960 the BBC was sure that nobody would remember this old reactionary in 5 years, so why bother preparing a better interview? They were wrong and the introduction is just a way to make themselves look less asinine. It does just the opposite.
how did you get this SPECTACULAR interview - thank you so much for posting it , SUCH A WONDERFUL GIFT ! SUCH A BRILLIANT MAN , A HUMAN TREASURE !
Marvelous to watch :^)
The interviewer is dying to ask , "are you a poof"?
This is more like a Police interrogation than an incisive interview. Waugh, for all his faults, was a man of subtle wit, something the interviewer should well have learnt from and been prepared for. Bakewell and Freeman should be ashamed of their supercilious pre-progamme banter, even more so in retrospect years later after Waugh's comments on this shambolic indictment of the BBC and those so called intellectuals it employs. Times haven't changed and, oh dear, what a great opportunity missed!
Waugh was nervous in advance of this interview and asked a friend to supply him with some dirt on "Major Freeman" in case he became "impertinent". Many contributors seem oblivious to his obvious distrust and unease. Waugh's wilfully short answers to some open questions is equally responsible for the poorness of the interview. To see what Freeman could achieve with a willing interlocutor, see the wonderful "Face to Face" with the almost nonagenarian Bertrand Russell.
It looks like everyone is in agreement that Waugh was a perfect gentleman and the interviewer was, at best, a little too nosy.
Quite aside from his manner ("Oh, and here's a list of virtues *you don't have*, right?" uhm, RUDE), it's clear that the interviewer (and he admits as much) wanted certain kinds of information from Waugh, and Waugh is markedly disinterested in obliging him. As well he should be. Expecting an artist to provide you with a cheap list of historical and/or moral motives for his life's work? My dear Freeman, you have entirely missed the point, and Waugh was a king of a man to tolerate you so amicably.
Sharon Tanner
yes! his comments are chippy and snide...and i think he is not giving him a chance to finish his thought or thoughts to come...till on to a next fast question-
Joan Bakewell's preamble is baffling. Waugh seems perfectly fine to me, he does a better job at putting up with the chippy, snide questions of Freeman than most would.
Sharon Tanner
waugh seems quit plesant on the interview here...
Waugh seems pleasant enough to me. Maybe the English are more sensitive to undertones of hostility.
John K Lindgren
E like in eagle " eeeeve-lin vooo " Kiitos OK tete-a-tete.
Tony de Castro
interviewer was full of psycho-babble shit...
The conversation looked like it was taking an entirely different shape when Waugh talked about Helena, he really latched onto that subject. But it didn't...It was the best part of the interview.
Dreadful interview questions. Waugh seems like a very likeable person.
I thought Evelyn was a woman.
Lauren Bellamore
"Well I was never rude to a nun obviously!" Amazing. The interviewer is way more of a snobby sounding douche bag than the interviewee.
S. Flavius Mercurius
After that introduction, you expect Waugh to be such a monster that he actually comes across as quite charming. I especially liked this bit: Freeman: What do you feel is your worst fault? Waugh: Irritability. Freeman: Irritability with your family? With strangers? Waugh: Absolutely everything. Inanimate objects and people, animals, everything..
Hubert Sixte du Chatêlet
Unfortunately, you have chosen to misconstrue my comments. You used the word “hatred”. If you look up the word in the dictionary you will see that it implies emotions. Emotions are feelings. I have no feelings one way or the other toward Waugh. I merely commented on scenes from the novel Brideshead, the Freeman interview, and anecdotes from Waugh’s life. These are not emotions; these are observations which constitute an opinion. You are entitled to your opinion; I am entitled to mine.
I don't know why people can't accept that Waugh was both a great author and an almighty tosspot...
1/ get a life. 2/ get over your hatred of Waugh. if anybody is "disturbed", it is you(evidence for that is ample here). [email protected] multiple comment writer unable to get over his hatred of waugh
Hubert Sixte du Chatêlet
PART XIII Given the autobiographical nature attributed to Charles’ character, did you feel that Freeman was attempting to illicit some sort of admission, on Waugh’s part, that he had had same sex relationships during his days at Oxford?
Hubert Sixte du Chatêlet
PART XII Like so many things in life, there are certain things better left unsaid. After all, you don’t tell your hostess that she’s ugly, do you, even though you think it? It is widely believed that Charles Ryder is loosely based on Waugh’s own life. Do you believe, as I do, that there were strong homosexual undertones in Charles’ relationship with Sebastian? Twice, during the interview, Freeman referred to Waugh’s affiliation with aesthetes during his days at Oxford. See Part XIII
Hubert Sixte du Chatêlet
PART XI Given the exchange, referred to earlier, between Freeman and Waugh before the broadcast, Waugh had obviously rehearsed the line and was determined to show his contempt for Freeman, the BBC, broadcasting in general (and, perhaps, the whole world) by being as uncooperative as possible. I was offended by Waugh’s response to the question, “Why are you doing this interview?” The answer was, to the effect, “For the money. As you are doing”. See Part XII
Hubert Sixte du Chatêlet
PART X I can not agree with the commentator who said that Waugh behaved/defended himself well. I did not find Freeman’s manner antagonistic, yet Waugh did. Or, rather, from what I’ve read of Waugh, he was able to change his personality almost as dramatically as Dr. Jekyll did, and, at the flick of a switch. In answer to Freeman’s question about making much money at the time from the sales of a particular book, Waugh snapped, “Still am!” See Part XI
Hubert Sixte du Chatêlet
PART IX The Freeman interview – Freeman never attempted to be warm, humouring or flattering, and was certainly never fawning or sycophantic (as some TV interviewers of today are); that was his style. True, Freeman does fire questions in a much more mechanical and staccato manner than usual. Was Freeman, a professional broadcaster, really so shaken by Waugh that it caused Freeman to lose his sang-froid? See Part X
Hubert Sixte du Chatêlet
PART VIII Example no. 3 – Freeman recounts his meeting with Waugh shortly before the live broadcast. Freeman pronounced Waugh’s name correctly, yet Waugh pretended that Freeman had mispronounced it, then proceeded to correct Freeman. Again, I consider this episode to be the mark of a disturbed man. See Part IX
Hubert Sixte du Chatêlet
PART VII True. Lady Marchmain did go a little overboard when she confronted Charles about the episode. I believe her words were, “I don’t see how anyone could do something so wickedly callous, so wantonly cruel”. Charles replies, simply, “Good-bye, Lady Marchmain”. Not one word of apology; not one word of thanks for all the hospitality. I see Charles as an ungrateful, selfish free-loader of the first magnitude. See part VIII
Hubert Sixte du Chatêlet
PART VI When one is a guest, one is on one’s best behaviour. One says and does nothing to offend one’s hosts. That Charles, after accepting so much hospitality, and having been treated very nearly as one of the family, should then turn round and repay that hospitality by deliberately encouraging Sebastian to get drunk, against the family’s wishes, is unforgivable. See part VII
Hubert Sixte du Chatêlet
PART V In Brideshead you will recall the final encounter between Lady Marchmain and Charles. Charles confirms that he had given Sebastian cash on the morning of the hunt so that Sebastian could go off to a pub and get drunk. Charles had been a frequent guest of the Marchmains over a period of many months. By my standards, he had been the recipient of gracious and generous hospitality on a major scale. See part VI