The plated copper English-made telescopic ear trumpet was snapped up at a hammer price of £2200, more than double its low estimate, at Forum Auctions' Fine Books and Works on Paper auction on March 30 at The Westbury Hotel in central London.
It was owned by a now deceased collector and was consigned with a collection of Waugh (1903-66) first editions and letters.
Son Auberon Waugh had been less than impressed with the object and the ear trumpet is accompanied with letters of provenance from Auberon who wrote: “I have sent you a disgusting object… you may be able to identify as a telescopic ear trumpet as used by my Father in his later years… it may be of some whimsical interest to an obsessive collector.”
Waugh is said to have enjoyed playing up to the image of the grumpy elderly man of letters and he would use the trumpet to great effect in cultivating this persona.
In one incident it is reported that Lady Diana Cooper once became so exasperated with Waugh that she poured a glass of champagne down it whilst it was at his ear.
The trumpet was bought by a UK institution.
The last time it sold at auction was at Sotheby’s in December 1995. But 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 during 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 £2000 each a few years ago”.