The plated copper English made telescopic ear trumpet, estimated at £1000-1500, has good provenance. It was owned by a now deceased collector and was consigned with a collection of other Waugh (1903-1966) first editions and letters.
It comes with letters of provenance from son Auberon Waugh. He wrote: “I have sent you a disgusting object… you may be able to identify as a telescopic ear trumped as used by my Father in his later years… it may be of some whimsical interest to an obsessive collector.”
The telescopic ear trumpet will be offered at Forum Auctions Fine Books and Works on Paper (including Modern Literature and Private Press) which will be held on March 30 at The Westbury Hotel in central London.
Forum’s book specialist Max Hasler said the trumpet will be sold alongside the collection of other Waugh first editions and letters.
The trumpet last sold at Sotheby’s in December 1995.
Foyle’s Literary Luncheon
According to documents, Waugh’s cousin Claud Cockburn recalled a time when Waugh used the trumpet to withering effect against Malcolm Muggeridge at the Foyle’s Literary Luncheon. Cockburn wrote: “Then the guest of honour rose to speak... The receiving end of the trumpet was trained upon him. He had been speaking for perhaps a minute when Evelyn, was seen to be unscrewing the thing from his head. He removed it from his ear, placed the great bulk on the table cloth in front of him, and sat gazing intently at his plate.
“The guest of honour could have dealt easily with some rude heckler. But the gesture with the trumpet utterly dismayed and discomfited him… He sat down after speaking for less than half the time allotted to him. As he did so, Evelyn picked up the trumpet and began adjusting it, once more to listening position.”
It is not the only ear trumpet that Waugh owned, however.
In a posting on the website of The Evelyn Waugh Society it confirms Waugh had at least two.
A tortoiseshell ear trumpet, which he was given to him by the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, was once offered to journalist Alexander Chancellor to try on a visit to the Waugh household over a decade ago. Chancellor, whose daughter Eliza is married to Evelyn’s grandson Alexander Waugh, recalls he “heard rather better through Waugh’s ear trumpet than I do through my two state-of-the-art Swiss-made electronic hearing aids that cost me around £2,000 each a few years ago”.
Forum is still consigning for the Fine Books and Works on Paper auction, with a deadline of February 10.