“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

A Pleasant Combination – Lin Yutang and Evelyn Waugh

Posted: March 26th, 2015 | No Comments »

A friend recently reread Evelyn Waugh’s Put Out More Flags (shamefully I never have) and told me that the title derives from a quote by a Chinese sage quoted and translated in Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living….

‘A man getting drunk at a farewell party should strike a musical tone, in order to strengthen the spirit…and a drunk military man should order gallons and put out ore flags in order to increase his military splendour.’

Indeed Waugh also includes a quote from an epigram by Chang Ch’ao (Zhang Zhao) quoted and translated by Lin in the same book…

‘A little injustice in the heart can be drowned by wine; but a great injustice in the world can be drowned by the sword.’

Waugh’s Put Out More Flags was published in 1942 and is a satire on the English in the first years of the war. Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living was published in 1937, quickly beca,e a bestseller (and indeed may still hold the record for the largest number of copies sold of a China book, though Lin’s charming and sophisticated books, notably My Country and My People, are little remembered today. Lin’s tips are still worth reading though – ‘If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live’ – indeed.

Sadly, though it is clear Waugh read Lin, I can find no reference to the two ever meeting…..

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