Features April 1985
The outrageous Mr. Wu
On Evelyn Waugh.
In his inevitably charming essay “Quia Imperfectum,” Max Beerbohm proposed a museum composed of incomplete masterpieces, which would include among other items Penelope’s web, the original drawings for the Tower of Babel, the manuscripts of Edwin Drood and “Kubla Kahn,” the fragments from Racine’s “Iphigénie,” and the blank spaces and bare pedestals for the paintings and statues that Michelangelo planned but never completed for the Baptistery of San Lorenzo. I wonder if I might suggest yet another item for inclusion, that of the quite scrappy notes for an essay that George Orwell had hoped to write about Evelyn Waugh before death, the ultimate deadline, arrived to rescind all others in Orwell’s active journalistic career. Like the other items in Beerbohm’s museum dedicated to enshrinement of the incomplete, a full-blown George Orwell essay on Evelyn...
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