While waiting for Acton's reply, Waugh heard that his brother Alec had arranged a job for him based in Pisa, Italy, as secretary to the Scottish writer Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff who was working on the first English translation of Marcel Proust's novel sequence À la recherche du temps perdu. Waugh promptly resigned his position at Arnold House, in anticipation of "a year abroad drinking Chianti under olive trees." Then came Acton's "polite but chilling" response to The Temple at Thatch. This letter has not survived; its wording was recalled by Waugh 40 years later, in his biography A Little Learning. Acton wrote that the story was "too English for my exotic taste ... too much nid-nodding over port." He recommended, facetiously, that the book be printed "in a few elegant copies for the friends who love you", and gave a list of the least elegant of their mutual acquaintances. Many years later Acton wrote of the story: "It was an airy Firbankian trifle, totally unworthy of Evelyn, and I brutally told him so. It was a misfired jeu d'esprit."[n 2]
Waugh did not query his friend's judgement, but took his manuscript to the school's furnaces and unceremoniously burnt it. Immediately afterwards he received the news that the job with Scott Moncrieff had fallen through. The double blow affected Waugh severely; he wrote in his diary in July: "The phrase 'the end of the tether' besets me with unshakeable persistence". In his biography Waugh writes: "I went down alone to the beach with my thoughts full of death. I took off my clothes and began swimming out to sea. Did I really intend to drown myself? That was certainly in my mind". He left a note with his clothes, a quotation from Euripides about the sea washing away all human ills. A short way out, after an attack by jellyfish, he abandoned the attempt, turned round and swam back to the shore. He did not, however, withdraw his resignation from the school, returning instead to London.
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