ARTHUR EVELYN ST. JOHN WAUGH (/ˈɑːrθər ˈiːvlɪn ˈsɪndʒən
wɔː/ ; 28 October 1903 – 10 April 1966) was an English writer of
novels, biographies and travel books. He was also a prolific
journalist and reviewer of books. His most famous works include the
Decline and Fall (1928) and
A Handful of Dust (1934),
Brideshead Revisited (1945) and the
Second World War
The son of a publisher, Waugh was educated at
After the failure of his first marriage, Waugh converted to Catholicism in 1930. His traditionalist stance led him to strongly oppose all attempts to reform the Church, and the changes by the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) greatly disturbed his sensibilities, especially the introduction of the vernacular Mass . That blow to his religious traditionalism, his dislike for the welfare state culture of the postwar world and the decline of his health, darkened his final years, but he continued to write. To the public, Waugh displayed a mask of indifference, but he was capable of great kindness to those whom he considered to be his friends. After his death in 1966, he acquired a following of new readers through the film and television versions of his works, such as the television serial Brideshead Revisited (1981).
* 1 Family background
* 2 Childhood
* 3 Oxford
* 4 Early career
* 4.1.1 "He-Evelyn" and "She-Evelyn"
* 5 Years of celebrity
* 5.1 Recognition * 5.2 Conversion to Catholicism * 5.3 Writer and traveller * 5.4 Second marriage
* 6.1 Royal Marine and commando
* 6.2 Frustration, Brideshead and
* 7 Postwar
* 7.1 Fame and fortune * 7.2 Breakdown * 7.3 Late works * 7.4 Decline and death
* 8 Character and opinions
* 9 Works
* 9.1 Themes and style * 9.2 Reception * 9.3 Reputation * 9.4 Bibliography
* 10 Notes * 11 References * 12 Sources * 13 Further reading * 14 External links
Lord Cockburn , the Scottish judge, was one of Waugh's great-great-grandfathers.
Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh was born on 28 October 1903 to Arthur
Waugh (1866–1943) and Catherine Charlotte Raban (1870–1954), into
a family with English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish and
Distinguished forebears include Lord Cockburn (1779–1854), a leading
Scottish advocate and judge, William Morgan (1750–1833), a pioneer
of actuarial science who served the Equitable Life Assurance Society
for 56 years, and
Philip Henry Gosse (1810–1888), a natural
scientist who became notorious through his depiction as a religious
fanatic in his son Edmund\'s memoir Father and Son . Among ancestors
bearing the Waugh name, the Rev. Alexander Waugh (1754–1827) was a
minister in the Secession Church of Scotland who helped found the
London Missionary Society
Sherborne School and
New College, Oxford
GOLDERS GREEN AND HEATH MOUNT
In 1907, the Waugh family left Hillfield Road for Underhill, a house
which Arthur had built in North End Road,
Outside school, he and other neighbourhood children performed plays,
usually written by Waugh. On the basis of the xenophobia fostered by
the genre books of
Invasion literature , that the Germans were about
to invade Britain, Waugh organised his friends into the "Pistol
Troop", who built a fort, went on manœuvres and paraded in makeshift
uniforms. In 1914, after the
First World War
Family holidays usually were spent with the Waugh aunts, at Midsomer Norton , in a house lit with oil lamps, a time that Waugh recalled with delight, many years later. At Midsomer Norton, Evelyn became deeply interested in high Anglican church rituals, the initial stirrings of the spiritual dimension that later dominated his perspective of life, and he served as an altar boy at the local Anglican church. During his last year at Heath Mount, Waugh established and edited The Cynic school magazine.
Like his father before him,
Alec Waugh went to school at Sherborne,
and, it was presumed by the family that Evelyn would follow, but in
1915, the school asked Alec to leave, after a homosexual relationship
came to light. Alec departed Sherborne for military training as an
officer , and, while awaiting confirmation of his commission , wrote
The Loom of Youth (1917), a novel of school life, which alluded to
homosexual friendships at a school that was recognisably Sherborne.
The public sensation caused by Alec's novel so offended the school
that it became impossible for Evelyn to go there. In May 1917, much to
his annoyance, he was sent to
Waugh soon overcame his initial aversion to Lancing, settled in and established his reputation as an aesthete . In November 1917 his essay "In Defence of Cubism" (1917) was accepted by and published in the arts magazine Drawing and Design; it was his first published article. Within the school, he became mildly subversive, mocking the school's cadet corps and founding the Corpse Club "for those who were weary of life". The end of the war saw the return to the school of younger masters such as J. F. Roxburgh , who encouraged Waugh to write and predicted a great future for him. Another mentor, Francis Crease, taught Waugh the arts of calligraphy and decorative design; some of the boy's work was good enough to be used by Chapman and Hall on book jackets.
In his later years at Lancing, Waugh achieved success as a house captain, editor of the school magazine and president of the debating society , and won numerous art and literature prizes. He also shed most of his religious beliefs. He started a novel of school life, untitled, but abandoned the effort after writing about around 5,000 words. He ended his schooldays by winning a scholarship to read Modern History at Hertford College, Oxford , and left Lancing in December 1921.
Hertford College, Oxford ; Old Quadrangle
Waugh arrived in Oxford in January 1922. He was soon writing to old friends at Lancing about the pleasures of his new life; he informed Tom Driberg : "I do no work here and never go to Chapel". During his first two terms, he generally followed convention; he smoked a pipe, bought a bicycle, and gave his maiden speech at the Oxford Union , opposing the motion that "This House would welcome Prohibition". Waugh wrote reports on Union debates for both Oxford magazines, Cherwell and Isis , and he acted as a film critic for Isis. He also became secretary of the Hertford College debating society, "an onerous but not honorific post", he told Driberg. Although Waugh tended to regard his scholarship as a reward for past efforts rather than a stepping-stone to future academic success, he did sufficient work in his first two terms to pass his "History Previous", an essential preliminary examination.
The arrival in Oxford in October 1922 of the sophisticated Etonians Harold Acton and Brian Howard changed Waugh's Oxford life. Acton and Howard rapidly became the centre of an avant-garde circle known as the Hypocrites, whose artistic, social and homosexual values Waugh adopted enthusiastically; he later wrote: "It was the stamping ground of half my Oxford life". He began drinking heavily, and embarked on the first of several homosexual relationships, the most lasting of which were with Richard Pares and Alastair Graham. He continued to write reviews and short stories for the university journals, and developed a reputation as a talented graphic artist, but formal study largely ceased. This neglect led to a bitter feud between Waugh and his history tutor, C. R. M. F. Cruttwell , dean (and later principal) of Hertford College. When Cruttwell advised him to mend his ways, Waugh responded in a manner, he admitted later, was "fatuously haughty", from then on, relations between the two descended into mutual hatred. Waugh continued the feud long after his Oxford days by using Cruttwell's name in his early novels for a succession of ludicrous, ignominious or odious minor characters.
Waugh's dissipated lifestyle continued into his final Oxford year, 1924. A letter written that year to a Lancing friend, Dudley Carew , hints at severe emotional pressures: "I have been living very intensely these last three weeks. For the last fortnight I have been nearly insane.... I may perhaps one day in a later time tell you some of the things that have happened". He did just enough work to pass his final examinations in the summer of 1924 with a third-class. However, as he had begun at Hertford in the second term of the 1921–22 academic year, Waugh had completed only eight terms' residence when he sat his finals, rather than the nine required under the university's statutes. His poor results led to the loss of his scholarship, which made it impossible for him to return to Oxford for that final term, so he left without his degree.
Back at home, Waugh began a novel,
The Temple at Thatch , and worked
with some of his fellow Hypocrites on a film, The Scarlet Woman, which
was shot partly in the gardens at Underhill. He spent much of the rest
of the summer in the company of Alastair Graham; after Graham departed
SCHOOLMASTER AND INCIPIENT WRITER
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Waugh began at Heatherley's in late September 1924, but became bored with the routine and quickly abandoned his course. He spent weeks partying in London and Oxford before the overriding need for money led him to apply through an agency for a teaching job. Almost at once, he secured a post at Arnold House, a boys' preparatory school in North Wales , beginning in January 1925. He took with him the notes for his novel, The Temple at Thatch, intending to work on it in his spare time. Despite the gloomy ambience of the school, Waugh did his best to fulfil the requirements of his position, but a brief return to London and Oxford during the Easter holiday only exacerbated his sense of isolation.
In the summer of 1925, Waugh's outlook briefly improved, with the
prospect of a job in
During the following two years Waugh taught at schools in Aston
Clinton (from which he was dismissed for the attempted drunken
seduction of a school matron) and
Notting Hill in London. He
considered alternative careers in printing or cabinet-making, and
attended evening classes in carpentry at Holborn Polytechnic while
continuing to write. A short story, "The Balance", written in an
experimental modernist style, became his first commercially published
fiction, when it was included by
Chapman and Hall in a 1926 anthology,
Georgian Stories. An extended essay on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
was printed privately by Alastair Graham, using by agreement the press
Shakespeare Head Press in
"He-Evelyn" And "She-Evelyn"
Canonbury Square, where Waugh and Evelyn Gardner lived during their brief marriage
In December 1927, Waugh and Evelyn Gardner became engaged, despite
the opposition of Lady Burghclere, who felt that Waugh lacked moral
fibre and kept unsuitable company. Among their friends, they quickly
became known as "He-Evelyn" and "She-Evelyn". Waugh was at this time
dependent on a £4-a-week allowance from his father and the small sums
he could earn from book reviewing and journalism. The Rossetti
biography was published to a generally favourable reception in April
J. C. Squire in
The Observer praised the book's elegance and
wit; Acton gave cautious approval; and the novelist
Decline and Fall was completed, Duckworths objected to its
Chapman and Hall agreed to publish it. This was
sufficient for Waugh and Gardner to bring forward their wedding plans.
They were married in St Paul's Church, Portman Square, on 27 June
1928, with only Acton,
Alec Waugh and the bride's friend Pansy
Pakenham present. The couple made their home in a small flat in
In September 1928,
Decline and Fall was published to almost unanimous
praise. By December, the book was into its third printing, and the
American publishing rights were sold for $500. In the afterglow of
his success, Waugh was commissioned to write travel articles in return
for a free Mediterranean cruise, which he and Gardner began in
February 1929, as an extended, delayed honeymoon. The trip was
disrupted when Gardner contracted pneumonia and was carried ashore to
the British hospital in
YEARS OF CELEBRITY
Waugh's first biographer, Christopher Sykes , records that after the
divorce friends "saw, or believed they saw, a new hardness and
bitterness" in Waugh's outlook. Nevertheless, despite a letter to
Acton in which he wrote that he "did not know it was possible to be so
miserable and live", he soon resumed his professional and social
life. He finished his second novel,
Vile Bodies , and wrote articles
including (ironically, he thought) one for the
Vile Bodies, a satire on the
Bright Young People of the 1920s, was
published on 19 January 1930 and was Waugh's first major commercial
success. Despite its quasi-biblical title, the book is dark, bitter,
"a manifesto of disillusionment", according to biographer Martin
Stannard. As a best-selling author Waugh could now command larger
fees for his journalism. Amid regular work for
CONVERSION TO CATHOLICISM
On 29 September 1930, Waugh was received into the Catholic Church.
That shocked his family and surprised some of his friends, but he had
contemplated the step for some time. He had lost his Anglicanism at
Lancing and had led an irreligious life at Oxford, but there are
references in his diaries from the mid-1920s to religious discussion
and regular churchgoing. On 22 December 1925, Waugh wrote: "Claud and
I took Audrey to supper and sat up until 7 in the morning arguing
about the Roman Church". The entry for 20 February 1927 includes, "I
am to visit a Father Underhill about being a parson". Throughout the
period, Waugh was influenced by his friend Olivia Plunket-Greene, who
had converted in 1925 and of whom Waugh later wrote, "She bullied me
into the Church". It was she who led him to Father Martin D\'Arcy , a
WRITER AND TRAVELLER
Emperor Haile Selassie , whose coronation Waugh attended in 1930 on the first of his three trips to Abyssinia
On 10 October 1930, Waugh, representing several newspapers, departed for Abyssinia to cover the coronation of Haile Selassie . He reported the event as "an elaborate propaganda effort" to convince the world that Abyssinia was a civilised nation that concealed that the emperor had achieved power through barbarous means. A subsequent journey through the British East Africa colonies and the Belgian Congo formed the basis of two books; the travelogue Remote People (1931) and the comic novel Black Mischief (1932). Waugh's next extended trip, in the winter of 1932–1933, was to British Guiana (now Guyana) in South America, possibly taken to distract him from a long and unrequited passion for the socialite Teresa Jungman . On arrival in Georgetown , Waugh arranged a river trip by steam launch into the interior. He travelled on via several staging-posts to Boa Vista in Brazil, and then took a convoluted overland journey back to Georgetown. His various adventures and encounters found their way into two further books: his travel account Ninety-two Days, and the novel A Handful of Dust , both published in 1934.
Back from South America, Waugh faced accusations of obscenity and
blasphemy from the Catholic journal
The Tablet , which objected to
passages in Black Mischief. He defended himself in an open letter to
Archbishop of Westminster , Cardinal
Francis Bourne , which
remained unpublished until 1980. In the summer of 1934, he went on an
Among Waugh's growing circle of friends were Diana Guinness and Bryan
Guinness (dedicatees of
Vile Bodies ),
Lady Diana Cooper and her
Duff Cooper ,
Nancy Mitford who was originally a friend of
Evelyn Gardner's, and the Lygon sisters . Waugh had known Hugh
Patrick Lygon at Oxford; now he was introduced to the girls and their
On his conversion, Waugh had accepted that he would be unable to remarry while Evelyn Gardner was alive. However, he wanted a wife and children, and in October 1933, he began proceedings for the annulment of the marriage on the grounds of "lack of real consent". The case was heard by an ecclesiastical tribunal in London, but a delay in the submission of the papers to Rome meant that the annulment was not granted until 4 July 1936. In the meantime, following their initial encounter in Portofino, Waugh had fallen in love with Laura Herbert. He proposed marriage, by letter, in spring 1936. There were initial misgivings from the Herberts , an aristocratic Catholic family; as a further complication, Laura Herbert was a cousin of Evelyn Gardner. Despite some family hostility the marriage took place on 17 April 1937 at the Church of the Assumption in Warwick Street, London.
As a wedding present the bride's grandmother bought the couple Piers
Court, a country house near Stinchcombe in Gloucestershire. The
couple had seven children, one of whom died in infancy. Their first
child, a daughter, Maria Teresa, was born on 9 March 1938 and a son,
Auberon Alexander , on 17 November 1939. Between these events, Scoop
was published in May 1938 to wide critical acclaim. In August 1938
Waugh, with Laura, made a three-month trip to
SECOND WORLD WAR
ROYAL MARINE AND COMMANDO
Waugh left Piers Court on 1 September 1939, at the outbreak of the
Second World War
Waugh's daily training routine left him with "so stiff a spine that
he found it painful even to pick up a pen". In April 1940, he was
temporarily promoted to captain and given command of a company of
marines, but he proved an unpopular officer, being haughty and curt
with his men. Even after the German invasion of the Low Countries (10
May–22 June 1940), his battalion was not called into action.
Waugh's inability to adapt to regimental life meant that he soon lost
his command, and he became the battalion's Intelligence Officer. In
that role, he finally saw action in Operation Menace as part of the
British force sent to the
Battle of Dakar in West Africa (23–25
September 1940) in August 1940 to support an attempt by the Free
French Forces to overthrow the Vichy French colonial government and
Charles de Gaulle
In November 1940, Waugh was posted to a commando unit, and, after
further training, became a member of "
Layforce ", under Colonel (later
Robert Laycock . In February 1941, the unit sailed to the
Mediterranean , where it participated in an unsuccessful attempt to
Bardia , on the Libyan coast. In May,
Layforce was required
to assist in the evacuation of
FRUSTRATION, BRIDESHEAD AND YUGOSLAVIA
Waugh's elation at his transfer soon descended into disillusion as he
failed to find opportunities for active service. The death of his
father, on 26 June 1943, and the need to deal with family affairs
prevented him from departing with his brigade for North Africa as part
Operation Husky (9 July–17 August 1943), the Allied invasion of
In September 1945, after he was released by the army, he returned to
Piers Court with his family (another daughter, Harriet, had been born
at Pixton in 1944) but spent much of the next seven years either in
London, or travelling. In March 1946, he visited the Nuremberg trials
, and later that year, he was in Spain for a celebration of the 400th
anniversary of the death of
Francisco de Vitoria , said to be the
founder of international law . Waugh wrote up his experiences of the
frustrations of postwar European travel in a novella, Scott-King\'s
Modern Europe . In February 1947, he made the first of several trips
to the United States, in the first instance to discuss filming of
Brideshead. The project collapsed, but Waugh used his time in
Hollywood to visit the Forest Lawn cemetery , which provided the basis
for his satire of American perspectives on death,
The Loved One . In
1951 he visited the
In between his journeys, Waugh worked intermittently on Helena , a
long-planned novel about the discoverer of the
In 1952 Waugh published Men at Arms , the first of his
semi-autobiographical war trilogy in which he depicted many of his
personal experiences and encounters from the early stages of the war.
Other books published during this period included When The Going Was
Good (1946), an anthology of his pre-war travel writing, The Holy
Places (published by the
From 1945 onwards, Waugh became an avid collector of objects,
particularly Victorian paintings and furniture. He filled Piers Court
with his acquisitions, often from London's
Portobello Market and from
house clearance sales. His diary entry for 30 August 1946 records a
By 1953, Waugh's popularity as a writer was declining. He was perceived as out of step with the Zeitgeist , and the large fees he demanded were no longer easily available. His money was running out and progress on the second book of his war trilogy, Officers and Gentlemen , had stalled. Partly because of his dependency on drugs, his health was steadily deteriorating. Shortage of cash led him to agree in November 1953 to be interviewed on BBC radio, where the panel took an aggressive line: "they tried to make a fool of me, and I don't think they entirely succeeded", Waugh wrote to Nancy Mitford. Peter Fleming in The Spectator likened the interview to "the goading of a bull by matadors".
Early in 1954, Waugh's doctors, concerned by his physical
deterioration, advised a change of scene. On 29 January, he took a
ship bound for Ceylon , hoping that he would be able to finish his
novel. Within a few days, he was writing home complaining of "other
passengers whispering about me" and of hearing voices, including that
of his recent BBC interlocutor, Stephen Black. He left the ship in
In 1956, Edwin Newman made a short film about Waugh. In the course of doing so, Newman learned that Waugh hated the modern world and wished that he had been born two or three centuries sooner. Waugh disliked modern methods of transportation or communication, refusing to drive or use the telephone, and writing with a quill pen. Waugh also expressed the view that American news reporters could not function without frequent infusions of whisky and that every American had been divorced at least once.
Restored to health, Waugh returned to work and finished Officers and
Gentlemen. In June 1955 the
Daily Express journalist and reviewer
Nancy Spain , accompanied by her friend Lord Noel-Buxton, arrived
uninvited at Piers Court and demanded an interview. Waugh saw the pair
off and wrote a wry account for The Spectator, but he was troubled by
the incident and decided to sell Piers Court: "I felt it was
polluted", he told Nancy Mitford. Late in 1956, the family moved to
the manor house in the
Gilbert Pinfold was published in the summer of 1957, "my barmy book",
Waugh called it. The extent to which the story is self-mockery,
rather than true autobiography, became a subject of critical debate.
Waugh's next major book was a biography of his longtime friend Ronald
Knox , the Catholic writer and theologian who had died in August 1957.
Research and writing extended over two years during which Waugh did
little other work, delaying the third volume of his war trilogy. In
June 1958, his son Auberon was severely wounded in a shooting accident
while serving with the army in
Although most of Waugh's books had sold well, and he had been well-rewarded for his journalism, his levels of expenditure meant that money problems and tax bills were a recurrent feature in his life. In 1950, as a means of tax avoidance , he had set up a trust fund for his children (he termed it the " Save the Children Fund", after the well-established charity of that name ) into which he placed the initial advance and all future royalties from the Penguin (paperback) editions of his books. He was able to augment his personal finances by charging household items to the trust or selling his own possessions to it. Nonetheless, by 1960, shortage of money led him to agree to an interview on BBC Television, in the Face to Face series conducted by John Freeman . The interview was broadcast on 26 June 1960; according to his biographer Selena Hastings, Waugh restrained his instinctive hostility and coolly answered the questions put to him by Freeman, assuming what she describes as a "pose of world-weary boredom".
In 1960, Waugh was offered the honour of a CBE but declined, believing that he should have been given the superior status of a knighthood . In September, he produced his final travel book, A Tourist in Africa , based on a visit made in January–March 1959. He enjoyed the trip but "despised" the book. The critic Cyril Connolly called it "the thinnest piece of book-making that Mr Waugh has undertaken". The book done, he worked on the last of the war trilogy, which was published in 1961 as Unconditional Surrender.
DECLINE AND DEATH
Waugh's grave in Combe Florey, adjacent to but not within the Anglican churchyard.
As he approached his sixties, Waugh was in poor health, prematurely aged, "fat, deaf, short of breath", according to Patey. His biographer Martin Stannard likened his appearance around this time to that of "an exhausted rogue jollied up by drink". In 1962 Waugh began work on his autobiography, and that same year wrote his final fiction, the long short story Basil Seal Rides Again. This revival of the protagonist of Black Mischief and Put Out More Flags was published in 1963; the Times Literary Supplement called it a "nasty little book". When the first volume of autobiography, A Little Learning, was published in 1964, Waugh's often oblique tone and discreet name changes ensured that friends avoided the embarrassments that some had feared.
Waugh had welcomed the accession in 1958 of
Pope John XXIII
In 1965, a new financial crisis arose from an apparent flaw in the terms of the "Save the Children" trust, and a large sum of back tax was being demanded. Waugh's agent, A.D. Peters, negotiated a settlement with the tax authorities for a manageable amount, but in his concern to generate funds, Waugh signed contracts to write several books, including a history of the papacy, an illustrated book on the Crusades and a second volume of autobiography. Waugh's physical and mental deterioration prevented any work on these projects, and the contracts were cancelled. He described himself as "toothless, deaf, melancholic, shaky on my pins, unable to eat, full of dope, quite idle" and expressed the belief that "all fates were worse than death". His only significant literary activity in 1965 was the editing of the three war novels into a single volume, published as Sword of Honour.
On Easter Day, 10 April 1966, after attending a
Latin Mass in a
neighbouring village with members of his family, Waugh died of heart
failure at his
In the biographic Mad World (2009), Paula Byrne said that the common
As an instinctive conservative, Waugh believed that class divisions, with inequalities of wealth and position, were natural and that "no form of government ordained by God as being better than any other". In the post-war "Age of the Common Man", he attacked socialism (the "Cripps–Attlee terror") and complained, after Churchill's election in 1951, that "the Conservative Party have never put the clock back a single second". Waugh never voted in elections; in 1959, he expressed a hope that the Conservatives would win the election, which they did, but would not vote for them, saying "I should feel I was morally inculpated in their follies" and added: "I do not aspire to advise my sovereign in her choice of servants".
Waugh's Catholicism was fundamental: "The Church ... is the normal state of man from which men have disastrously exiled themselves." He believed that the Catholic Church was the last, great defence against the encroachment of the Dark Age being ushered in by the welfare state and the spreading of working class culture . Strictly observant, Waugh admitted to Diana Cooper that his most difficult task was how to square the obligations of his faith with his indifference to his fellow men. When Nancy Mitford asked him how he reconciled his often objectionable conduct with being a Christian, Waugh replied that "were he not a Christian he would be even more horrible".
Waugh's conservatism was aesthetic as well as political and
religious. Although he praised younger writers, such as
Throughout his literary works,
THEMES AND STYLE
Wyke observes that Waugh's novels reprise and fictionalise the principal events of his life, although in an early essay Waugh wrote: "Nothing is more insulting to a novelist than to assume that he is incapable of anything but the mere transcription of what he observes". The reader should not assume that the author agreed with the opinions expressed by his fictional characters. Nevertheless, in the Introduction to the Complete Short Stories, Ann Pasternak Slater said that the "delineation of social prejudices and the language in which they are expressed is part of Waugh's meticulous observation of his contemporary world".
The critic Clive James said of Waugh: "Nobody ever wrote a more unaffectedly elegant English... its hundreds of years of steady development culminate in him". As his talent developed and matured, he maintained what literary critic Andrew Michael Roberts called "an exquisite sense of the ludicrous, and a fine aptitude for exposing false attitudes". In the first stages of his 40-year writing career, before his conversion to Catholicism in 1930, Waugh was the novelist of the Bright Young People generation. His first two novels, Decline and Fall (1928) and Vile Bodies (1930), comically reflect a futile society, populated by two-dimensional, basically unbelievable characters in circumstances too fantastic to evoke the reader's emotions. A typical Waugh trademark evident in the early novels is rapid, unattributed dialogue in which the participants can be readily identified. At the same time Waugh was writing serious essays, such as "The War and the Younger Generation" in which he castigates his own generation as "crazy and sterile" people.
Waugh's conversion to Catholicism did not noticeably change the nature of his next two novels, Black Mischief (1934) and A Handful of Dust (1934), but, in the latter novel, the elements of farce are subdued, and the protagonist, Tony Last, is recognisably a person rather than a comic cipher. Waugh's first fiction with a Catholic theme was the short story "Out of Depth" (1933) about the immutability of the Mass. From the mid-1930s onwards, Catholicism and conservative politics were much featured in his journalistic and non-fiction writing before he reverted to his former manner with Scoop (1938), a novel about journalism, journalists, and unsavoury journalistic practices.
In Work Suspended and Other Stories Waugh introduced "real"
characters and a first-person narrator, signalling the literary style
he would adopt in
Brideshead Revisited a few years later. Brideshead,
which questions the meaning of human existence without God, is the
first novel in which
In Brideshead, the proletarian junior officer Hooper illustrates a theme that persists in Waugh's postwar fiction: the rise of mediocrity in the "Age of the Common Man". In the trilogy Sword of Honour (Men at Arms, 1952; Officers and Gentlemen, 1955, Unconditional Surrender, 1961) the social pervasiveness of mediocrity is personified in the semi-comical character "Trimmer", a sloven and a fraud who triumphs by contrivance. In the novella "Scott-King\'s Modern Europe " (1947), Waugh's pessimism about the future is in the schoolmaster's admonition: "I think it would be very wicked, indeed, to do anything to fit a boy for the modern world". Likewise, such cynicism pervades the novel Love Among the Ruins (1953), set in a dystopian, welfare-state Britain that is so socially disagreeable that euthanasia is the most sought-after of the government's social services. Of the postwar novels, Patey says that The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (1957) stands out ″a kind of mock-novel, a sly invitation to a game″. Waugh's final work of fiction, "Basil Seal Rides Again" (1962), features characters from the prewar novels; Waugh admitted that the work was a ″senile attempt to recapture the manner of my youth″. Stylistically this final story begins in the same fashion as the first story, ″The Balance" of 1926, with a "fusillade of unattributed dialogue".
Of Waugh's early books,
Decline and Fall was hailed by Arnold Bennett
In the latter 1930s, Waugh's inclination to Catholic and conservative polemics affected his standing with the general reading public. The Campion biography is said by David Wykes to be "so rigidly biased that it has no claims to make as history". The pro-fascist tone in parts of Waugh in Abyssinia offended readers and critics and prevented its publication in America. There was general relief among critics when Scoop, in 1938, indicated a return to Waugh's earlier comic style. Critics had begun to think that his wit had been displaced by partisanship and propaganda.
Waugh maintained his reputation in 1942, with Put Out More Flags,
which sold well despite wartime restrictions on paper and printing.
Its public reception, however, did not compare with that accorded to
Brideshead Revisited three years later, on both sides of the Atlantic
Ocean. Brideshead's selection as the American
In "Fan Fare", Waugh forecasts that his future books will be unpopular because of their religious theme. On publication in 1950, Helena was received indifferently by the public and by critics, who disparaged the awkward mixing of 20th century schoolgirl slang with otherwise reverential prose. Otherwise, Waugh's prediction proved unfounded; all his fiction remained in print and sales stayed healthy. During his successful 1957 lawsuit against the Daily Express, Waugh's counsel produced figures showing total sales to that time of over four million books, two thirds in Britain and the rest in America. Men at Arms, the first volume of his war trilogy, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1953; initial critical comment was lukewarm, with Connolly likening Men at Arms to beer rather than champagne. Connolly changed his view later, calling the completed trilogy "the finest novel to come out of the war". Of Waugh's other major postwar works, the Knox biography was admired within Waugh's close circle but criticised by others in the Church for its depiction of Knox as an unappreciated victim of the Catholic hierarchy. The book did not sell well—"like warm cakes", according to Waugh. Pinfold surprised the critics by its originality. Its plainly autobiographical content, Hastings suggests, gave the public a fixed image of Waugh: "stout, splenetic, red-faced and reactionary, a figure from burlesque complete with cigar, bowler hat and loud checked suit."
In 1973, Waugh's diaries were serialised in
The Observer prior to
publication in book form in 1976. The revelations on his private life,
thoughts and attitudes created controversy. Although Waugh had removed
embarrassing entries relating to his Oxford years and his first
marriage, there was sufficient left on the record to enable enemies to
project a negative image of the writer as intolerant, snobbish and
sadistic, with pronounced fascist leanings. Some of this picture, it
was maintained by Waugh's supporters, arose from poor editing of the
diaries, and a desire to transform Waugh from a writer to a
"character". Nevertheless, a popular conception developed of Waugh as
a monster. When, in 1980, a selection of his letters was published,
his reputation became the subject of further discussion. Philip Larkin
, reviewing the collection in
The publication of the diaries and letters promoted increased
interest in Waugh and his works and caused publication of much new
material. Christopher Sykes's biography had appeared in 1975, between
1980 and 1998 three more full biographies were issued and other
biographical and critical studies have continued to be produced. A
collection of Waugh's journalism and reviews was published in 1983,
revealing a fuller range of his ideas and beliefs. The new material
provided further grounds for debate between Waugh's supporters and
detractors. The 1982
Stannard concludes that beneath his public mask, Waugh was "a
dedicated artist and a man of earnest faith, struggling against the
dryness of his soul".
For a listing of Waugh's works, see Evelyn Waugh bibliography .
* ^ Some biographers have recorded his forenames as "Evelyn Arthur St. John", but Waugh gives the "Arthur Evelyn" order in A Little Learning, p. 27. The confusion may in part be attributable to differences in the forename order between Waugh's birth and death certificates. The former specifies "Arthur Evelyn St. John," and the latter "Evelyn Arthur St. John." * ^ In 1993 a blue plaque commemorating Waugh's residence was installed at Underhill, which by then had become 145 North End Road, Golders Green. * ^ A biography of Roxburgh (who went on to be first headmaster of Stowe School ) was the last work given a literary review by Waugh, in The Observer on 17 October 1965. * ^ "Cruttwell" is a brutal burglar in Decline and Fall, a snobbish Member of Parliament in Vile Bodies, a social parasite in Black Mischief, a disreputable osteopath in A Handful of Dust and a salesman with a fake tan in Scoop. The homicidal Loveday in "Mr. Loveday's Little Outing" was originally "Mr. Cruttwell". See Hastings, pp. 173, 209, 373; Stannard, Vol. I pp. 342, 389 * ^ Earlier, Laura had borne a daughter, christened Mary, on 1 December 1940, but she lived only a few hours. * ^ See, for example, "Rossetti Revisited", 1949 (Gallagher (ed.), pp. 377–79; "Age of Unrest", 1954 (Gallagher (ed.), pp. 459–60; "The Death of Painting", 1956 (Gallagher (ed.) pp. 503–07 * ^ Excerpts from the text of the broadcast, on 16 November 1953, are given in the 1998 Penguin Books edition of The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, p. 135–143 * ^ See Time magazine's "All Time 100 Novels"; The Observer critics' "100 greatest novels of all time"; Random House Modern Library's "100 Best Novels".
* ^ DeCoste, Mr D. Marcel (28 June 2015). The Vocation of Evelyn
Waugh: Faith and Art in the Post-War Fiction. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.
ISBN 978-1-4094-7084-7 .
* ^ Waugh, A Little Learning, pp. 3–10
* ^ Stannard, Vol I p. 12
* ^ Hastings, p. 3
* ^ Stannard, Vol. I pp. 22–25
* ^ Stannard, Vol. II p. 357
* ^ Waugh, Auberon (2007). "Waugh, Alexander Raban (1898–1981)".
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edition. Retrieved 12
May 2016. (subscription required)
* ^ Note in Catherine Waugh diary, quoted by Hastings, p. 17
* ^ Patey, p. 4
* ^ Hastings, pp. 19–20
* ^ Waugh, A Little Learning, pp. 34–35
* ^ Stannard, Vol I pp. 34–35
* ^ Hastings, pp. 27–28
* ^ A B C Stannard, Vol. I p. 40
* ^ Waugh, A Little Learning, p. 86
* ^ Hastings, p. 44
* ^ Hastings, pp. 30–32
* ^ Hastings, p. 33
* ^ A B Stannard, Vol I pp. 42–47
* ^ Waugh, A Little Learning, pp. 44–46
* ^ Hastings, pp. 39–40
* ^ "WAUGH, EVELYN (1903–1966)". English Heritage. Archived from
the original on 20 August 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
* ^ Gallager (ed.), pp. 6–8
* ^ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q Stannard, Martin (2007).
"Evelyn Arthur St John Waugh (1903–06)". Oxford Dictionary of
National Biography, online edition. Retrieved 30 October 2010.
* ^ Waugh, A Little Learning, pp. 160–61
* ^ "Portrait of a Head", first published in The Observer, 17
October 1965, reprinted in Gallagher (ed.), pp. 638–39
* ^ Sykes, p. 25
* ^ Sykes, pp. 32–33
* ^ Slater (ed.), pp. xvi and 535–47
* ^ Sykes, p. 35
* ^ Amory (ed.), p. 7
* ^ Stannard, Vol. I pp. 67–68
* ^ Waugh, A Little Learning. p. 182
* ^ Gallagher (ed.), p. 640
* ^ Amory (ed.), p. 10
* ^ Hastings, p. 85
* ^ Stannard, Vol. I pp. 83–85
* ^ Waugh, A Little Learning, pp. 179–81
* ^ Stannard, Vol. I p. 90
* ^ Waugh, "A Little Learning", p. 175
* ^ Stannard, Vol. I pp. 76–77
* ^ Sykes, p. 45
* ^ Amory (ed.), p. 12
* ^ Hastings, p. 112
* ^ Stannard, Vol. I pp. 93–96
* ^ Waugh, A Little Learning, pp. 210–12
* ^ Hastings, pp. 116–34
* ^ Stannard, Vol. I p. 112
* ^ Waugh, A Little Learning, pp. 228–30
* ^ Hastings, pp. 148–49
* ^ Stannard, Vol. I pp. 145–47
* ^ Patey, pp. 19–20
* ^ Stannard, Vol. I p. 505
* ^ Doyle, Paul A. (Spring 1971). "Some Unpublished Waugh
* Amory, Mark, ed. (1995). The Letters of Evelyn Waugh. London:
Phoenix. ISBN 1-85799-245-8 . (Originally published by Weidenfeld and
Nicolson, London 1980)
* Byrne, Paula (2010). Mad World:
* Ker, Ian Turnbull (2003), The Catholic Revival in English Literature (1845–1961). Newman, Hopkins, Belloc, Chesterton, Greene, Waugh. Notre Dame (Indiana): University of Notre Dame Press, pp. 149–202.
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