William Boot

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William Boot is a fictional journalist who is the protagonist in the 1938 Evelyn Waugh comic novel Scoop.

Character[edit]

Boot is the young author of a regular column on country life for a London newspaper named the Daily Beast. His affected style is typified in the notorious sentence "Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole". After the Daily Beast's publisher mistakes him for the "real" war correspondent Henry Boot, William is sent abroad as a foreign correspondent to the fictional African state of Ishmaelia which is on the brink of a civil war. Although he is completely inept, he accidentally gets the 'scoop' of the title.

Inspiration for character[edit]

It has been suggested that Waugh based the character of William Boot on his own experiences and on the legendary journalist Bill Deedes; the two had reported together in 1936, trying to cover the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and Deedes arrived in Addis Ababa aged 22 with almost 600 pounds of luggage.[1] Deedes himself said he "spent part of my life brushing aside the charge," but admitted "that my inexperience and naivety as a reporter in Africa might have contributed a few bricks to the building of Boot."[2]

Barring the question of age, a more appropriate model for Boot may be William Beach Thomas who, according to Peter Stothard, "was a quietly successful countryside columnist and literary gent who became a calamitous Daily Mail war correspondent" in World War I.[3]

Yet another suggested candidate as the model for Boot was the Daily Mail's gardening correspondent for 50 years, Percy Izzard (1877-1968).[4]

Television portrayals[edit]

  • Harry Worth played the character in a 1972 BBC television series, which was an adaptation of the novel scripted by Barry Took.

Popular References[edit]

Tom Stoppard has sometimes gone by the pseudonym William Boot when working as a journalist in the early 1960s.

In Jojo Moyes' novel "the Last Letter from your Lover" (2010), a female character ('Jennifer Stirling') nicknames her secret lover ('Anthony O'Hare'), a war journalist, William Boot.

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ W.F. Deedes, At War With Waugh (London: Macmillan, 2003), p.3
  2. ^ W.F. Deedes, At War With Waugh (London: Macmillan, 2003), p.102-103
  3. ^ The Times Hay, we got it wrong 29 May 2007
  4. ^ Obituary: Palph Izzard, The Independent, 14 December 1992