Evelyn Waugh’s Time magazine reference became an embarrassing error in its 100 most-read female writers in college classes. Waugh made the list and joined the ranks with Kate L. Turabian and Diana Hacker, authors of several writing manuals, followed by Toni Morrison and Jane Austen, according to The Record.
As bibliophiles on social media quickly pointed out, number 97 on the list, Evelyn Waugh, was actually a man. Time quickly corrected the mistake, replacing Waugh with French author Marguerite Duras, but that didn’t stop the steady stream of jokes.
Waugh may have hated the name throughout his life-in boyhood, he claims to have responded to ridicule by citing Evelyn Wood, the famed British Army officer who fought in India and South Africa. But then he decided to marry a woman named Evelyn.
Evelyn Waugh has always been a source of confusion and error for publications since his wife shared the same first name. The duo was jokingly referred to as “He-Evelyn” and “She-Evelyn” before their marriage was annulled in 1936.
Some people suggest that there’s been a Decline and Fall in the standards of Time magazine’s list-compiling, and now if people have female-sounding names, compilers don’t bother to check the Vile Bodies of the authors involved before proceeding.
If you Loved One of Evelyn Waugh’s books, you too might be a little surprised that an author you remember as male has wound up on the list of 100 Most-Read Female Writers, but — look, what does it matter? Eventually we will all be nothing but a Handful of Dust.
The angriest Evelyn Waugh ever got about his name may have been in 1928, when the Times Literary Supplement, in the course of reviewing his early book on Rossetti, referred to the author as “Miss Waugh.” This so enraged Evelyn that he fired off a letter combining his usual mix of snobbery and comic genius: “My Christian name, I know, is occasionally regarded by people of limited social experience as belonging exclusively to one or other sex; but it is unnecessary to go further into my book than the paragraph charitably placed inside the wrapper for the guidance of unleisured critics, to find my name with its correct prefix of ‘Mr.'”
Still, his name did allow for some lighter moments. Evelyn Waugh told a story in his autobiography about reporting on the Italian war in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), a conflict whose details he would mine for some of his darkly brilliant comedies. He was sent to a military post “many miles from any white woman, preceded by a signal apprising them of the arrival of ‘Evelyn Waugh, English writer.’ The entire small corps of officers, shaven and polished, turned out to greet me each bearing a bouquet.”
Frankly, others think it’s more distressing that Kate Turabian, the author of a manual for formatting your thesis, is the most-read female author on campus, according to this list. Her manual may be assigned, but it is read only intermittently, generally at 3 in the morning the day your thesis is due, when you discover that you should have reversed the order of your citations and you run through the campus library rending your garments and weeping aloud. This is like calling the author of the iTunes Agreement the most-read writer of all time.
There are many unsurprising names compiled by the Open Syllabus Project. And according to TIME’s “analysis,” Toni Morrison, Jane Austen, and Virginia Woolf, all rank in the top 10. But for some reason, and what had some people laughing out loud is that George Eliot was accidentally included on the women’s list.
At first, Evelyn Waugh’s Time magazine reference proved that college-aged women are devouring some eclectic authors, everything from the individualist tracts of Ayn Rand to the dystopian fiction of Margaret Atwood and Naomi Klein. And most were confused to see the author of Brideshead Revisited and Scoop as a woman.