22 OCTOBER 1988, Page 28

Waugh's syndrome

Sir: I feel bound to protest at Auberon Waugh's suggestion (Another voice, 8 October) that all of us who have a good word for 'modern art' are 'crooks'. If only he would savour a Jackson Pollock etc in the same unbuttoned way he does a bottle of wine: if only he would acknowledge the `richness of underlying fruit' that is there for all to admire, instead of becoming as `closed tight as the proverbial whatnot', how much more fitted he would be to address the subject.

The best of us 'crooks', Sir Sacheverell Sitwell — first Englishman to champion Modigliani, passionate advocate of Picasso — was sadly accorded no more respect by Victoria Glendinning in the same issue. This great man — acclaimed by Yeats for his poetry, by MacDiarmid for the univer- sality of his learning, by Walton for his enormous services to music, by Clark for 'creating a revolution in the history of English taste' — is dismissed by Miss


Glendinning as a 'gentleman amateur'; a dismissal made all the more infuriating by its patronising intimacy. The affliction of Waugh, Glendinning, Amis and all is not philistinism but insular- ity. Evelyn Waugh suffered from the same defect. On 26 August 1944 he reports in his diary that he lunched in Rome 'amid tapestry and Empire furniture'. Mark Am- ory, your literary editor, appended a foot- note to this entry: 'There was damask but no tapestry on the dining-room walls of Countess Gravina's house and the furni- ture was not Empire but Italian settecento and ottocento.'

John McEwen

74 St Augustines Road, London NW1