The death in January of the British journalist (and Chronicles contributor) occasioned a startling outpouring of grief. The Daily Telegraph of London weighed in with five pages, and that was just on the next day. Every one of Waugh’s many admirers was permitted a remembrance—even in newspapers he had ridiculed, such as the Observer and the Guardian. The coverage was so effusive that Waugh’s friends were embarrassed. His longtime editor Richard Ingrams pronounced it “fulsome,” and novelist A.N. Wilson chided, “Gush, gush.”

American coverage was more restrained. The New York Times printed a first-rate obituary, while the Washington Post‘s was a disgrace. Waugh’s passing went unnoted on the websites of the American Spectator and National Review, although he had contributed to both publications. Their neglect was understandable; Waugh had been a stalwart cold warrior, but after communism’s collapse, he became an enemy of American cultural imperialism. He had kind words for Pat Buchanan, and—like all good people—was scathing in his denunciation of the war on Serbia.

Waugh’s reputation in America, to the extent that he had one, was of a minor novelist who abandoned that profession when he realized he would always be a footnote to his great father, Evelyn Waugh. In Britain, however, he was more famous than his father had ever been. His novels are all fine, but he stopped writing them not only because he considered the rewards not equal to his efforts but because he believed (quite rightly) that the “humane, bourgeois culture” which had supported literature had disintegrated.

Waugh never wavered in his belief that journalism was an honorable profession. He was an exemplar of a type that has all but disappeared in America (and Canada) and is fast disappearing in Britain: the honest hack. He wrote what he believed, without fear or favor, and had no time for the prostitution known as “movement conservatism.” One day, while driving a moped, he was so angered by a sign forbidding the consignment of dead animals to a reservoir that he attempted to run over a lizard so he could chuck it into the water. He fell off the moped into a reverie, which concluded in a statement of political philosophy: Parliament had been passing laws for 700 years and didn’t need any more. Politicians, regardless of affiliation, were busybodies—or worse. He was disgusted by the encouragement the British government gave to the genocide perpetrated by the Nigerian federal government against secessionist Biafra. This led to his first independent campaign for Parliament; his second was an attempt to shame Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe—formally accused of conspiring to murder a homosexual lover—into not running for reelection. (Thorpe lost; Waugh received 79 votes.)

Waugh pursued his vendetta against Thorpe in his Spectator column, from which his election manifesto was banned, and in his Private Eye column, which ran from 1972 to 1986. Here, Waugh created a new art form: In an ingenious (and largely successful) ploy to get around Britain’s notorious libel laws, he told such dreadful lies—about himself and everyone from the Royal Family to Harold Wilson to the Pope—that it made one gasp and stretch one’s eyes. He became one of the most feared men in Britain.

He was certainly the funniest. But he was also, as he said, “always joking and always serious.” His Private Eye columns, published as The Diaries of Auberon Waugh, are as profound an analysis of British decline as Roger Scruton’s. Like his father, however, he never repined—except, perhaps, about the Catholic Church. Unlike his father, he apostatized. A lapsed priest in his novel A Bed of Flowers declares, “When they announced that the Mass was no longer a sacrifice, it had become a meal, I realized that the institutional form of the Church had become an empty shell; if the Church survives, it survives in the individual consciousness only . . . I will never go through the mockery of a church service again.” For years, Waugh was a follower of Archbishop Lefebvre; he then despaired. We can only speculate about the state of his soul at the hour of his death—a death he seemed not to fear. His funeral took place in an Anglican church, but a Catholic priest presided. Heaven would be an emptier paradise without him.