Alexander Raban "Alec" Waugh (8 July 1898 – 3 September 1981), was a British novelist, the elder brother of the better-known Evelyn Waugh and son of Arthur Waugh, author, literary critic, and publisher. His first wife was Barbara Jacobs (daughter of the writer William Wymark Jacobs), his second wife was Joan Chirnside and his third wife was Virginia Sorenson, author of the Newbery Medal–winning Miracles on Maple Hill.
Waugh was born in London, and educated at Sherborne School, a public school in Dorset. The result of his experiences was his first, semi-autobiographical novel, The Loom of Youth (1917), in which he remembered and reflected on his schooldays. The book was clearly inspired by The Harrovians by Arnold Lunn, published in 1913 and discussed at some length in The Loom of Youth.
The Loom of Youth was so controversial at the time (it openly mentioned homosexual relationships between boys, albeit in a very understated, staid fashion) that he remains the only former pupil to be expelled from the old boys society (The Old Shirburnian Society). It was also a best seller.
When the book was published Waugh was serving in France, although he did not see action in the First World War until Passchendaele. He was commissioned in the Dorset Regiment in May 1917. He was captured by the Germans near Arras in March 1918 and spent the rest of the war in prisoner-of-war camps in Karlsruhe and Mainz. He went on to a career as a successful author, although never as successful or innovative as his younger brother. He lived much of his life overseas, in exotic places such as Tangier – a lifestyle made possible by his second marriage to a rich Australian, Joan Chirnside. His work, possibly in consequence, tends to be reminiscent of Somerset Maugham, although without Maugham's huge popular success. Nevertheless, his 1957 novel Island in the Sun was a best-seller, as was his 1973 novel, A Fatal Gift. According to his nephew Auberon, Alec Waugh "wrote many books, each worse than the last".
Alec Waugh was the author of In Praise of Wine & Certain Noble Spirits (1959), an amusing and discursive guide to the major wine types, and Wines and Spirits, a 1968 book in the Time-Life series Foods of the World. This was not a stretch as he was a noted connoisseur. Waugh is said to have invented the cocktail party when he was active in London social life in the 1920s when he served Rum Swizzles to astonished friends who thought they had come for tea. Within eighteen months, early evening drinks had become a widespread social entertainment.
Waugh also has a footnote in the history of reggae music. The success of the film adaptation of Island in the Sun and the Harry Belafonte title track provided inspiration as well as the name for the highly successful Island Records record label.
- The Loom of Youth (1917)
- Resentment Poems (1918)
- The Prisoners of Mainz (1919)
- Pleasure (1921)
- Public School Life: Boys, Parents, Masters (1922)
- The Lonely Unicorn (1922)
- Myself When Young : confessions (1923)
- Card Castle (1924)
- Kept : a story of post-war London (1925)
- Love In These Days (1926)
- On Doing What One Likes (1926)
- Nor Many Waters (1928)
- The Last Chukka : Stories of East and West (1928)
- Three Score and Ten (1929)
- "Sir!" She Said (1930)
- The Coloured Countries (1930)
- Hot Countries (1930), with woodcuts by Lynd Ward
- Most Women (1931)
- So Lovers Dream (1931)
- Leap Before You Look (1932)
- No Quarter (book)|No Quarter (1932)
- Thirteen Such Years (1932)
- Wheels Within Wheels (1933)
- The Balliols (1934)
- Jill Somerset (1936)
- Eight Short Stories (1937)
- Going Their Own Ways (1938)
- No Truce With Time (1941)
- His Second War (1944)
- The Sunlit Caribbean (1948)
- These Would I Choose (1948)
- Unclouded Summer (1948)
- The Sugar Islands: a Caribbean travelogue (1949)
- The Lipton Story (1950)
- Where the Clocks Chime Twice (1951)
- Guy Renton (1952)
- Island in the Sun (1955)
- Merchants of Wine: House of Gilbey (1957)
- The Sugar Islands: a collection of pieces written about the West Indies between 1928 and 1953 (1958)
- In Praise of Wine (1959)
- Fuel for the Flame (1960)
- My Place in the Bazaar (1961)
- The Early Years of Alec Waugh (1962)
- A Family of Islands: A History of the West Indies 1492 to 1898 (1964)
- Mule on the Minaret (1965)
- My Brother Evelyn and Other Portraits (1967)
- Foods of the World: Wines and Spirits (1968)
- A Spy in the Family (1970)
- Bangkok: the story of a city (1970)
- A Fatal Gift (1973)
- A Year to Remember : a reminiscence of 1931 (1975)
- Married to a Spy (1976)
- The Best Wine Last : an autobiography through the years 1932–1969 (1978)
- Fathers and Sons: The Autobiography of a Family by Alexander Waugh, 2004.
- A New York Life of Friends and Others by Brendan Gill, 1994.
- Alec Waugh, The Loom of Youth (London: Methuen 1984) p. 135 et seq.
- Alec Waugh, The Loom of Youth (London: Methuen 1984) p. 12.
- London Gazette 7 August 1917. Page 6
- Joan Acocella, "Waugh Stories: Life in a Literary Dynasty", The New Yorker, 2 July 2007.
- Ayto, John. (2006) Movers And Shakers: A Chronology of Words That Shaped Our Age. Page 61. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-861452-7.
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- Works by Alec Waugh at Project Gutenberg
- The Loom of Youth, Project Gutenberg
- Old Shirburnian Society website
- Sherborne School Archives – holds the manuscript of 'The Loom of Youth' together with related correspondence