HARRIET WA UGH
"i THINK I ought to tell
you," said the pale, fairhaired girl diffidently, "I've been done pretty thoroughly aheady." For "done" read interviewed and for the pale, fair girl read Harriet Waugh, fourth of the late Evelyn Waugh's six children.
She is now the second of them to take up writing.
Auberon, her elder brother, combines novels with journalism, while Hatty. as everyone calls her, confines herself for the moment to short stories.
The novel will come later when she can summon up the energy. not to mention the inspiration to do it. Her output so far has been small—three pieces in three magazines.
wanted to write when I was 17, hut soon dropped the
idea and only took it up again a year ago," said this absurdly young-looking 25-year-old. After reading her latest story published in Queen Magazine
one can only think that laziness must have prevented her. It certainly isn't lack of imagination or ability.
The story is a macabre tale of a man who sees so much beauty and colour . in every
thing that the pain is too much for him. He has to live in a
grey world —home, furniture, clothes, everything—in order to survive.
Eventually he persuades his wife to remove his eyes so that he will no longer have to stand seeinn anything of the world around him at all.
A weird and beautifully written story it seems to have
nothing in common with the
quiet girl who wrote it. She insists that she is an incom
petent person and cites her inability to pass any exam except 0-level History to prove it,
"F couldn't possibly have gone to university," she said, the cut-glass accent softened by a gentle voice. "I'm very had at spelling," she added as if this non-sequitur explained everything.
As Maureen Cleave pointed out in her Evening Standard interview, Harriet Waugh is an
elusive character. Shy with all all but her friends, she has an indeterminate air about her and a diffidence of odds with her occasionally trenchant re
marks. To me she seemed like one of those pale English moths. soft and unobstrusive. Unlike the moths, however, she can't be pinned down.
She doesn't know what she wants to do with her life. "1 get bored with things quite quickly." Although she says she prefers familiar people and
things, perhaps boredom is what has prompted her to take a number of very unfamiliar jobs.
She has had the present one, "twiddling knobs at the Plane
tarium" for a year now and
seems to find it "alright." She is one of the five Zeiss Opera tors who twiddle knobs to keep the sky in line with the cornmentary. "Once you know how
to do it it's not a difficult job. One's mind wanders a bit," she admitted, "but you can't let it wander too far."
Before the Planetarium job she worked at the College of Heralds as an assistant librarian at Farm Street, a curious and somewhat anomalous position since she was not allowed in the library.
"I was really the general office girl because only men are allowed in. I made tea and coffee, cooked a few lunches and answered the door."
She said this with the air of
one who finds nothing unusual in such "office girl" duties. Hatty tells you her history with any air of detachment as though it had all happened to somebody else.
What things mattered to her most? I asked. "One's friends, I suppose," she answered, "and one's religion. One treats it a bit like a superstition, though, not asking too many questions.
"One changes one's political opinions through thought (her's are far to the Left), but Eve purposely not thought too much about my beliefs. One thinks that although one believes one really doesn't know. But it's the best religion around and it would be rather difficult working out how one could live with a totally different philosophy."
About her friends, Hatty is quite properly reticent. "One can't just say that they are all layabouts or all journalists or all accountants." Like most people who enjoy living in I,ondon—"it's daftness and squareness, that's what I love" —Hatty has friends from all kinds of backgrounds. "I have a number who are moderately unoccupied," she says kindly.
Moderately unoccupied is a term one feels she might even
apply to herself. "I'm a very inactive person physically," she said. "I'm adequately interested in everything but I can't be bothered to gear myself up to initiate anything."
And the future? "I certainly don't live for the future, though I suppose I'd like to marry and have children sometime." She says this with the same kind of detached air that she might use when discussing the weather.
"There are countries rd like to visit such as America, but I wouldn't want to go anywhere for long. It would mean the boredom of meeting new people a n d making n e w friends."
She is the sort of person who doesn't find it easy to make friends so that when she does she obviously hangs onto them. "I like the people one knows one is going to go on knowing. I dislike the idea of seeing that there are a lot of people I won't know in five yeaosntimthee.
..r other hand." she
added, "I like not knowing people too."
She is a strange paradox, this quiet girl. She professes to love being among crowds and movement. "1 like things moving around one, railway stations and things happening." Yet she also likes to spend an afternoon at the V. and A. "It is so large it is almost empty and one is in a sense alone there."
natty likes belonging and has had a happy family life to help her. She likes to be alone too and has the crowds of London where she can be alone. It's not that she consciously thinks about this much, it's just an atmosphere she feels.
She is a gentle girl but has a determined character. One wouldn't get to know her easily. People worth knowing are rarely easy to know.