I’ve finally gotten around to the June 5 issue of the LRB, and in a Paul Laity review of a biography of George Steer, a war correspondent of the 1930s, found an excellent story about Evelyn Waugh. Steer and Waugh were both in Ethiopia for the Italian invasion of 1935; Steer, like most journalists, was against the Italians, while Waugh (predictably enough) took the imperialist side. Laity says:

But then Waugh was a hopelessly unsuccessful reporter. (He did send one significant cable to the Mail, informing the editor that the Italian minister in Addis was withdrawing his staff—a sign that the invasion was imminent. To keep the story from competitive colleagues, however, he sent it in Latin, and a puzzled subeditor in London was still trying to work out what it meant when the fighting began.)

Had he been working for the Times, of course, he wouldn’t have had this problem, but Steer had beaten him out for that job.

Addendum. I should add, for curious non-Latinists, that the title of this entry is line 850 of Seneca’s Oedipus (spoken by the impatient eponymous king, who is about to learn distressing facts about his ancestry) and means ‘Why do you look for words? Truth hates delay’; the latter hemistich is used by Denis Dutton as the motto of his Arts & Letters Daily.


  1. Yeah, unfortunately that trick rarely works ;)

  2. dung beetle says:

    I’m glad the Dictator [Mussolini] did not read it, he may have been flumoxed too:

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