“Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole”*

From Wikipedia:

“Scoop is a 1938 novel by the English writer Evelyn Waugh. It is a satire of sensationalist journalism and foreign correspondents.

The fictional newspaper in Scoop served as the inspiration for the title of Tina Brown‘s online news source, The Daily Beast.

The novel is partly based on Waugh’s experience of working for the Daily Mail, when he was sent to cover Benito Mussolini‘s expected invasion of Abyssinia, later known as the Second Italo-Abyssinian War (October 1935 to May 1936). When he got a scoop on the invasion, he telegraphed the story back in Latin for secrecy but they discarded it. Waugh wrote up his travels more factually in Waugh in Abyssinia (1936), which complements Scoop.

Lord Copper, the newspaper magnate, has been said to be an amalgam of Lord Northcliffe and Lord Beaverbrook: a character so fearsome that his obsequious foreign editor, Mr Salter, can never openly disagree with him, answering “Definitely, Lord Copper” and “Up to a point, Lord Copper” in place of “yes” or “no”.

It is widely believed that Waugh based his protagonist, William Boot, *(a line from one of Boot’s countryside columns which has become a famous comic example of overblown prose style) on Bill Deedes, a junior reporter who arrived in Addis Ababa aged 22, with “quarter of a ton of baggage”. According to Peter Stothard, a more direct model for Boot may have been William Beach Thomas, “a quietly successful countryside columnist and literary gent who became a calamitous Daily Mail war correspondent”.

The novel is full of all but identical opposites: Lord Copper of The Beast, Lord Zinc of the Daily Brute (the Daily Mail and Daily Express); the CumReds and the White Shirts, parodies of Communists (comrades) and Black Shirts (fascists) etc.

The most recognisable figure from Fleet Street is Sir Jocelyn Hitchcock, Waugh’s portrait of Sir Percival Phillips, working then for The Daily Telegraph. Mrs Stitch is partly based on Lady Diana Cooper, Mr Baldwin is a combination of Francis Rickett and Antonin Besse. Waugh’s despised Oxford tutor C. R. M. F. Cruttwell makes his customary cameo appearance, as General Cruttwell.

One of the points of the novel is that even if there is little news happening, the world’s media descending requires that something happen to please their editors and owners back home and so they will create news.

Christopher Hitchens, introducing the 2000 Penguin Classics edition of Scoop, said “[i]n the pages of Scoop we encounter Waugh at the mid-season point of his perfect pitch; youthful and limber and light as a feather” and noted: “The manners and mores of the press, are the recurrent motif of the book and the chief reason for its enduring magic…this world of callousness and vulgarity and philistinism…Scoop endures because it is a novel of pitiless realism; the mirror of satire held up to catch the Caliban of the press corps, as no other narrative has ever done save Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’sThe Front Page.”

Scoop was included in The Observers list of the 100 greatest novels of all time.”

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