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Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited by Philip…

Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited

by Philip Eade

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5483. Evelyn Waugh A Life Revisited, by Philip Eade (read 7 Jul 2017) This is a 2016 biography which as soon as I saw it I wanted to read, even though on 18 Nov 1983 I read Christopher Sykes biography, as well as having read the first volume of Waugh's autobiography--the only part he wrote--on 6 May 2009. I have read 16 books by Waught, though there are 15 books he published which I have not read. But I have read his major works. This biographyby Eade tells of his life and does not analize his work to any extent. Waugh was a genius but certainly was a weird person in some ways. His youth was misspent but after his second marriage he apparently led a mostly moral life--in contrast to his youthful pre-Catholic days--though of course he drank too much and he was beastly to many.. ( )
  Schmerguls | Jul 7, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was a good introduction to the author for me. I enjoyed the insights and look forward to reading his books and letters. ( )
  MareF | Feb 24, 2017 |
FEBRUARY 22 2017
Horrors of Waugh

In 1958, while on military training in Cyprus, Auberon Waugh accidentally shot himself in the chest with a machine gun. He was nineteen. Over the next ten days he fought for his life, having lost a lung, two ribs, part of his hand and his spleen. His mother Laura flew out immediately to be by his side. His father, Evelyn, preferred to remain at home. “I shall go out to travel home with Laura if he dies”, Waugh wrote detachedly to his friend Lady Diana Cooper. In the event, this was unnecessary; Auberon was brought back to England and installed at the Queen Alexandra Military hospital. Even so, it was a further week before Waugh managed to go and visit his son. By this point, Auberon had developed a chest infection due to a back abscess and again feared that death was near. “Dear Papa”, wrote Auberon on what he thought would be his deathbed. “Just a line to tell you what for some reason I was never able to show you in my lifetime, that I admire, revere and love you more than any man in the world.” The next month, with Auberon still too ill to be operated on, Waugh stopped his allowance of £25 a month. Auberon wept “bitter tears of rage”.

This is not the only instance of Evelyn Waugh’s unconventional approach to parenting documented in Philip Eade’s new biography. Whenever Laura fell pregnant – seven times in all, though only six of the children survived – his attitude was consoling rather than celebratory. “It is sad news for you that you are having another baby”, he wrote once – it evidently not having occurred to him that it was they who were having the baby. When his children came to school age, he openly rejoiced at the end of the holidays. He went out of his way to avoid spending Christmas with them when they were little, either staying in boarding houses or travelling abroad. There is also a famous story, not recounted by Eade, of his managing to procure a banana during the gourmet wasteland of the Second World War. The Waugh children had never seen the exotic fruit before – let alone tasted one – but their father, after showing it off proudly, covered it with cream and sugar and devoured the whole thing himself.

It would be anachronistic to judge Waugh solely by his fatherly standards; most men of his generation and class had little to do with their children. But it is illuminating to see how much his children adored him, despite his neglect and occasional cruelty. His daughter Meg, particularly, worshipped him, even offering to come back and live at home to be near him after she had grown up. His friends, likewise, were fiercely loyal, although Waugh teased and bullied and satirized them in life and in his novels. Eade’s fine biography does a good job of pinning down the particular puckish charisma that made Waugh so popular.
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A large part of this charm, of course, is his comic genius. Waugh is by far the funniest writer of his generation. Eade’s biography is peppered with humour; the letters, liberally quoted, are full of jokes and witty observations. Even when he was unhappy he managed to be funny. On his thirtieth birthday, having been turned down in marriage by Teresa Jungman, he wrote to a friend “I celebrated by . . . going to the cinema in the best 1/6 seats. I saw a love film about two people who were in love; they were very loving and made me cry”.

Waugh’s letters to Teresa Jungman are one aspect of Eade’s biography that is entirely original; they had not been seen before. Another is the unpublished memoir by Evelyn Gardner, Waugh’s first wife, who left him for another man after less than two years of marriage. Eade uses these sources sensitively and judiciously, as he does with all his others. His biography is very much about the life rather than the work; although the novels are mentioned, Eade does not go in for any textual analysis.

The reverse is true for Ann Pasternak Slater, whose book uses Waugh’s novels as a way into his life. A renowned Waugh scholar, Slater examines the novels in turn. Her work sheds light on how Waugh’s Catholicism influenced his work; her chapter on Brideshead Revisited is particularly strong. She explains, for example, that “On Good Friday the doors of the tabernacle, where the Host – representing the body of Christ – is kept, are left open because there is no Host to be protected. Its void symbolizes Christ’s absence from the world between His death on Good Friday, and Resurrection on Easter Sunday”. Gems such as this – previously unknown to me, brought up Catholic – illuminate details of the text that otherwise could go unremarked upon. She makes one appreciate Waugh’s craft as a writer, drawing attention to themes and devices.

Yet one cannot help feeling that her admiration for his work clouds her judgement of his character. For Slater, Waugh is uncomplicatedly heroic, fighting not only for England in the war but “in defence of embattled Christendom”, as though he is a Crusader. She exonerates him utterly from the charge of snobbery which is often – and with a fair degree of justification – levelled against him, and which Eade is wise enough to keep his counsel on.

Taken together, these two books admirably reinstate Waugh as the pre-eminent novelist of his era. His talent for deft characterization, mesmeric storytelling and constant originality is rightly celebrated by both writers. In a letter proposing to Laura, Waugh wrote: “I can’t advise you in my favour because I think it would be beastly for you, but think how nice it would be for me. I am restless & moody & misanthropic & lazy & have no money . . . In fact it’s a lousy proposition”. Perhaps; but one thing is for sure: he would have made her laugh.

The Spectator
50 years on, here comes Evelyn Waugh's nicer side
Mark Amory
16 July 2016

A Life Revisited, as the modest, almost nervous, title suggests, mainly concerns Evelyn Waugh’s life with comments on but no analysis of his books. There have been at least three major biographies already, as well as large volumes of diaries, letters and journalism and many slighter volumes. There is more to come. Waugh’s grandson, Alexander, who has defied current trends by writing a fine book on the males of the family, is editor-in-chief of The Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh, with the first of 43 volumes coming out next year. He has also collected an unrivalled archive containing unpublished notes, letters and interviews, and commissioned this book for the 50th anniversary of his grandfather’s death.

All of which presents Philip Eade with a problem. How much knowledge can he assume? Should he include the best known stories and remarks? On the whole he does. I must admit that I read about the second world war hoping to find his reply to a general who complained of his having had a few drinks in the mess: ‘I told him I could not change the habits of a lifetime for a whim of his.’ Also the funniest letter he ever wrote, concerning the blowing up of a tree stump near the castle of the Earl of Glasgow is quoted in full. At the end Waugh wrote, ‘this is quite true’, and Eade commends Waugh’s flair for embellishment, but the present Lord Glasgow confirms that yes, it did actually happen pretty much like that.

So this reader, along with many others, followed a familiar story, nodding at some bits, uncertain whether other details are new or had just been forgotten. To know more turns out to be to forgive more. Yes, Waugh was a snob but a selective snob, not a sucker up to grand bores. Yes, he could be rude and cruel but he could also be kind and generous. He made many warm and lasting friends. Somehow his merciless self-knowledge makes his defects more acceptable. Anything you could say about him, he already knew.

Relations with his respectable publishing father and precociously successful novelist brother were worse than I knew. His loving mother remains a shadow in the background. Being bundled off to Lancing as a second choice was less than perfect, Oxford still merges with the golden glamour of Brideshead Revisited, and goodness they did drink a lot. More homosexual flings and in particular more about his lover Alastair Graham, who sent him a nude photograph of himself, just as people, often MPs, do nowadays. Poverty drove him to teach at a boys’ private preparatory school, where Dick Young, who inspired the character of Captain Grimes in Decline and Fall, an unashamed and indeed boastful paedophile, compels our attention and almost our approval by sheer vitality. That book and its success arrive in the nick of time to save him, but then he plunges into a disastrous and short-lived marriage. That broke up while he was scribbling Vile Bodies, an even greater success. Waugh’s unhappiness is thought by many to have contributed to his becoming a Roman Catholic, which is little discussed. Waugh met and fell in love with Teresa (‘Baby’) Jungman, also a Roman Catholic, and assumed that marriage was impossible. (I approached her in the late 1970s, asking if she still had Waugh’s letters to her. She said that she did not wish anyone to see them. I wrote again, as I do not think I did to anyone else, with all the persuasions I could think of about their interest and importance. She refused again with an otherwise amiable letter that began ‘Dear Blackmailer’.)

These letters and a memoir by Waugh’s first wife were available to Eade and fill out details of important relationships, but do not radically alter what we knew. Waugh’s successful novels continued. I don’t think that I knew that the first name for Lord Copper was ‘Ottercreek’, which made identification with Lord Beaverbrook easier. Travel books mingled with the novels. He was an amusing celebrity and his social circle widened to include Mitfords, Lygons and then Herberts, one of whom, Laura, became his wife, after he had obtained an annulment.

The second world war snapped many people’s lives in two. Waugh welcomed it and joined up in 1939 aged 36, and was called ‘Uncle’. This sounds friendly but Waugh has always been described as unpopular with the men; Eade, however, has found an interview with his loyal batman, who insists that ‘he was everything you’d expect an officer to be’. There have been accusations that Sir Robert Laycock, Waugh’s commander and military hero, disobeyed orders and jumped the queue to get away from Crete, while Waugh falsified his official account to cover up for him. Since then, points out Eade, ‘a substantial body of contrary evidence has been excavated’, which goes a long way towards refuting the accusations against Evelyn and his military mentor. There is another story which involves Laycock. Waugh still yearned for action and very much wanted to go to Syria with him. In the event he was left behind. This was contrived by Lord (Shimi) Lovat, a personal enemy, who said then and later that Laycock had never intended to take him. In fact Laycock was angry when he found out.

Waugh was given leave to write Brideshead Revisited, which was a huge success and remains his most popular book (A Handful of Dust is his most admired in literary circles). Hollywood beckoned and he spent some pleasant weeks there, meeting Charlie Chaplin and Walt Disney, ‘the two artists of the place’, though possibly he never intended to allow a film. Instead he studied Forrest Lawns, a cemetery, and chatted with a woman who gave ‘the personality smile to the embalmed corpse’, or The Loved One, as the resulting novel was called. Material for a book was extremely welcome, though the breakdown that led to The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold was frightening for him and his family. When he died in 1966 he was 62 and seemed to be worn out, an old man.
The Hudson Review
Winter 2017
Evelyn Waugh Revisited
by William H. Pritchard

“It is an exciting time to be working on Waugh,” writes Ann Pasternak Slater at the beginning of her excellent book on the writer. Exciting, since Waugh’s grandson, Alexander—who has already written a sharply amusing family memoir—is in charge of producing forty-two volumes of Waugh’s complete works, to be published sometime in the (near?) future by Oxford. Exciting also, she tells us, for the “growing, cohesive community of Waugh students and admirers” at conferences and other celebrations. What the old rascal would have made of The Evelyn Waugh Society we shall never know, though his quick and sardonic temper might well have been less than thrilled.

The arrival of a new biography is not likely to make hearts beat faster, since Waugh has been thoroughly and scrupulously biographed. Since Martin Stannard’s definitive enough two-volume work of twenty-five years ago, there have been two further substantial treatments, by Selina Hastings and Douglas Patey. Both pay serious attention to Waugh’s books as well as his life: Patey with special attention to Waugh’s political and religious ideas; Hastings with critical judgments that give a sense of what the man was like. The new biography by Philip Eade seems to have been written without more purpose than providing another readable account of the life. Eade tells us he wrote the book at the request of Alexander Waugh, who gave him full access to the Waugh archives. But although Eade dutifully lists what counts as new material—a cache of not very interesting letters Waugh wrote to “Baby” Jungman, a woman he was in love with after his first wife, “She-Evelyn,” left him; an interview the first wife gave sometime back; and some adjustments to previous accounts of Waugh’s army career—there is nothing revelatory that I could determine. Eade praises Selina Hastings’ “outstanding” biography, and the new book in no way supersedes it. Eade admits that he is not writing a “critical” biography that would reassess Waugh’s achievements as a writer; still his total absence of commentary on Waugh’s books—which is why we care about him anyway—seems a curious procedure. It’s also not clear from Eade’s previous two books, biographical in approach, that he has any special credentials as a literary critic. (He has been “a criminal barrister, English teacher and journalist.”) Eade’s book is smooth reading, but Selina Hastings’ was superbly so, and with incisive treatment of the works.

By contrast, Ann Pasternak Slater is nothing if not critical, her book a march through the novels from Decline and Fall to the Sword of Honour war trilogy. With her husband, the poet Craig Raine, she edits Areté, a lively, pointed English periodical that isn’t afraid to stick its neck out. When, in her discussions of the novels, she addresses a mistaken claim made by another critic, she turns briskly on it with “Not so,” before administering her own corrective. On more than one occasion, she consults Waugh’s manuscript to one of the novels, and her lengthy discussion of the ins and outs of the war books is informed in a scholarly as well as critical manner. At the outset, she proposes that Waugh is “the most consistent of our great comic novelists,” though “maverick and unpredictable.” I presume that “our” great comic novelists are Jane Austen and Dickens for starters (does anyone read Fielding anymore?), and there is splendid comedy in Mrs. Oliphant’s Carlingford Chronicles and in the Grossmiths’ Diary of a Nobody. But the major names of English novelists from the last century—Conrad, D. H. Lawrence, Ford (perhaps), Virginia Woolf—don’t yield much in the comic direction. In that direction, Waugh’s contemporaries, Ivy Compton-Burnett, Henry Green, and, especially, Anthony Powell, offer sustaining humorous pleasure, and Kingsley Amis is—by these eyes if not by every pair—a major comic writer. But Pasternak Slater’s claim for Waugh is well founded, and she sets out to substantiate it, quoting from the end of his last book, the incomplete autobiography, when, after a botched attempt at drowning himself, Waugh writes: “Then I climbed the sharp hill that led to all the years ahead.”

Probably the major question in critically appraising Waugh’s fiction is how to weigh the earlier part of it as compared with the later. “Early” means Decline and Fall (1928), Vile Bodies (1930), Black Mischief (1933), A Handful of Dust (1934), Scoop (1938), and Put Out More Flags (1942). There may be added to these The Loved One (1948) and The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (1957). “Later” consists of the unfinished Work Suspended (1942), Brideshead Revisited (1946), Helena (1950), and the war trilogy collected as Sword of Honour (1965). A crude but acceptable way to characterize the two Waughs is by the prevailing style of each phase. The voice of the early novels is detached, delighting in the outrageous behavior of his characters, brisk, offbeat, full of mocking and parodic sentences. Waugh’s acceptance of the different worlds of these novels is colored by disdain and wicked humor that often approaches travesty and farce. By contrast, the later Waugh’s voice is predominantly sober, eschewing the flashy inventions of narrative treatment. It presents a world whose foundation should be the truth of Catholic Christianity but more often denies or neglects what really matters in human life.

Edmund Wilson was the first critic who drew a sharp line between early and later Waugh by vastly preferring the early. His first essay, in 1944, titled “The Art of Evelyn Waugh,” took us briefly and admiringly through the early novels; then, after having read Brideshead two years later, Wilson regretted Waugh’s abandoning of the “comic convention” in the latter reaches of that novel and particularly at its end, with the conversion of both Lord Marchmain and the skeptical narrator, Charles Ryder. A “Catholic tract,” Wilson called it, and probably no one could have less sympathy for such a tract than the sturdy atheist Wilson. Perhaps the most crucial motive of Ann Pasternak Slater’s book is her attempt to put things right by making a case for the greatness of “Catholic” Waugh’s creation in Brideshead and the war trilogy. Her emphasis can be seen in the number of pages devoted to later rather than earlier Waugh, roughly 200 for the later, 100 for the earlier. It’s not that she doesn’t appreciate Comic Waugh, but she may have felt the earlier novels had been more sympathetically dealt with than the later ones. Thus Decline and Fall, which Kingsley Amis thought Waugh’s masterwork, is allotted nine pages; Brideshead gets thirty, suggesting that Decline and Fall has already been well scouted, Brideshead not so well.

Overall I concurred with Pasternak Slater’s judgments about the novels from Decline and Fall to Put Out More Flags. The latter she finds underrated in comparison with its predecessors, and she is right to pick out the great comic sequence about the displaced children, the Connollys, whom Basil Seal brilliantly palms off on unsuspecting neighbors; then when they prove ghastly, makes money by taking them back and beginning over. Scoop she sees as Waugh’s “happiest and most intricately constructed novel,” and she is resourceful in making a case for Black Mischief as a book whose canvas has vastly expanded over its predecessors, and whose “tangle of modernism and barbarity” Waugh’s narrative explores. Vile Bodies she makes heavier weather of than I should do, referring to it as one of Waugh’s “grimmest” novels and employing “grim” and “grimmest” more than once. Yet the scene, one among a number, that remains most vivid to me is one in which the “hero,” Adam Fenwick-Symes, looking to speak to his prospective father-in-law Colonel Blount, stumbles across the filming of the life of John Wesley, where he meets a man “dressed in a surplice, episcopal lawn sleeves and scarlet hood and gown, smoking a cigar”:

“Just what in hell do you want,” said the Bishop.

“I came to see Colonel Blount.”

“Well you can’t son. They’re just shooting him now.”

“Great Heavens. What for?”

“Oh, nothing important. He’s just one of the Wesleyans, you know—we’re trying to polish off the whole crowd this afternoon while the weather’s good.”

Adam found himself speechless before this cold-blooded bigotry.

“Creative Fantasy” is a weak term to characterize the nature of this scene, but it needs to be distinguished from satire, if by satire we mean some pointed criticism of human behavior. Early Waugh was too anarchic to be a moral satirist; it’s the outrageous character of “cold-blooded bigotry” that makes the scene so brilliant.

In her few pages on Decline and Fall, Pasternak Slater admires its “insouciant iconoclasm and cheerful irreverence,” but in the two pages subheaded Style she avoids direct inspection of passages where that style is at its most individual. For example, on the opening page describing the festivities at Scone College of the Bollinger Club, members of which are about to debag the hapless hero, Paul Pennyfeather, an impersonal narrator informs us with high enthusiasm about former “contentious” parties given by the club:

There is tradition behind the Bollinger; it numbers reigning kings among its past members. At the last dinner, three years ago, a fox had been brought in in a cage and stoned to death with champagne bottles. What an evening that had been!

It’s the exclamatory close that caps the already sensational stoning of the fox and hints at the high originality of Waugh’s style in his first novel. A bit later, at prize day at the prep school in Wales where Paul teaches for a short time, a Welsh band, imported for the occasion, is described thus:

Ten men of revolting appearance were approaching from the drive. They were low of brow, crafty of eye and crooked of limb. They advanced huddled together with the loping tread of wolves, peering about them furtively as they came, as though in constant terror of ambush; they slavered at their mouths, which hung loosely over their receding chins, while each clutched under his ape-like arm a burden of curious and unaccountable shape.

“Cheerful irreverence,” Pasternak Slater’s term, hardly does justice to the creative fiction of these sentences that work—in T. S. Eliot’s words about Ben Jonson’s plays—“not by hitting off its object, but by creating it.” Such “enhancing” of the object, as Eliot remarks about Dryden’s satire, makes that object “great . . . by transforming the ridiculous into poetry.”

Equally brilliant is Waugh’s pacing of the narrative, a rhythm admit­tedly difficult to describe. One instance, at the Prize Day festivities where Margot Beste-Chetwynde shows up accompanied by one “Chokey,” a black man provoking commentary by the assembled such as Mrs. Clutterbuck, who calls it “an insult to our own women to bring a nigger here.”

“Niggers are all right,” said Philbrick [another employee of the school]. “Where I draw the line is a Chink, nasty inhuman things. I had a pal bumped off by a Chink once. Throat cut horrible, it was, from ear to ear.”

“Good gracious,” said the Clutterbuck governess; “was that in the Boxer rising?”

“No” said Philbrick cheerfully, “Saturday night in the Edgware Road. Might have happened to any of us.”

What makes this “go” is the brisk movement from the Boxer rebellion (nineteenth-century China) to London’s Edgware Road, hardly an exotic place. When I teach the novel, I read this aloud to my class, who may not quite believe that this writing and the professor admiring it could say or approve of such things. There is no reason why Pasternak Slater should have singled out these particular passages from Decline and Fall for commentary; it’s just that her very efficient concentration on structural and thematic components of the novel neglects such wayward, startlingly original examples of Waugh’s creative comedy that call out for more attention.

Composed in 1938, Work Suspended, whose title announces its nature, would be the beginning of the style he employed in his fiction and journalism for the rest of his life. Pasternak Slater calls it, in a good phrase, “the Augustan manner.” One registers it in the stateliness of the following sentences describing the house in London which a writer of detective stories, John Plant, inherits upon the death of his father, “a painter in a by then outmoded style”:

Now, I supposed, the house would be sold; another speculator would pull it to pieces, another great, uninhabitable barrack would appear, like a refugee ship in harbour; it would be filled, sold, emptied, resold, refilled, re-emptied while the concrete got discoloured and the green wood shrank, and the rats crept up by thousands out of the Metropolitan Railway tunnel; and the trees and gardens all round it disappeared one by one until the place became a working-class district and at last took on a gaiety and life of some sort; until it was condemned by government inspectors and its inhabitants driven further into the country and the process began all over again.

Waugh abandoned the novel after two chapters, but there is no reason to think that a masterwork would have resulted, since the second chapter compared to the first seems relatively trivial.

The thirty pages Pasternak Slater devotes to Brideshead Revisited are partly directed at refuting Edmund Wilson’s assertion about the end of the novel, in which the agnostic narrator, Charles Ryder, suddenly falls on his knees and prays at Lord Marchmain’s last rites (Marchmain having feebly crossed himself, thus, presumably, saving his soul). Wilson remarks sarcastically, “What has caused Mr. Waugh’s hero to plump on his knees isn’t the cross but Lord Marchmain’s aristocratic prestige.” Pasternak Slater insists rather that “revelation” is the point of the novel, and that both Ryder and the reader are slowly, sometimes unwillingly, brought to this realization. She assumes that most of Waugh’s readers are non-believers, so would be taken in by Ryder’s pre-conversion skepticism; such “rational,” “reasonable” readers are precisely in a position similar to Ryder’s (“Poor agnostic” she calls him), and so his revelation is equally ours.

This just doesn’t seem to me to be true, since I don’t find myself “identifying” with the earlier Ryder, nor do I experience “revelation” when he falls on his knees. One needn’t agree with Wilson that Waugh has given in to his unrequited love for aristocracy; instead he has fallen for the Beautiful Prose his earlier work in the comic convention scorned. Here is Ryder after he has realized his love for Julia Marchmain—“This haunting magical sadness which spoke straight to the heart and struck silence”:

The sun had sunk now to the line of woodland beyond the valley; all the opposing slope was already in twilight, but the lakes below us were aflame; the light grew in strength and splendour as it neared death, spreading long shadows across the pasture, falling full on the rich stone spaces of the house, firing the panes in the windows, glowing on cornices and colonnade and dome, drawing out all the hidden sweetness of colour and scent from earth and stone and leaf, glorifying the head and golden shoulders of the woman beside him.

I suppose you could claim that this later style was a development over the earlier one that immortalized the stoned fox, the Welsh band, and the Edgware Road, but it seems to me rather a forced, quite awkward attempt to do the highfalutin’, “poetic” manner about romantic love. The five months in which Waugh wrote Brideshead weren’t long enough to bring forth a convincing “serious” style to replace the earlier comic one. Like Charles Ryder’s sudden conversion, it doesn’t ring true to the nature of Waugh’s genius.

Of the hundred pages Pasternak Slater devotes to the war trilogy, I will say little except to call it the heart of her book and her appreciation of Waugh. For fullness of presentation, sharpness of argument, I don’t see that it will be bettered. As with Brideshead, she shows, but this time more convincingly, the intertwining of Guy Crouchback’s unfolding story and the novel we’re reading about him. Perhaps the most problematic of the three books is the middle one: Officers and Gentlemen, as Dryden said of Paradise Lost, has its “flats.” (Kingsley Amis in an adverse review pointed out some of them.) Pasternak Slater speculates that the narrative, which seems to “fizzle out” at one point, does so at the moment in Waugh’s life when he experienced the hallucinations he would treat memorably in The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, which followed hard upon Officers and Gentlemen. But she suggests there is a strong connection between the trilogy’s ultimate ending—which offers neither fulfillment nor abject defeat—and what we experience over the course of the long narrative. She calls this unfulfillment “the leitmotif of the trilogy” and declares, justly it seems to me, “the reader’s narrative expectations are as implacably thwarted as the novel’s characters’, in their respective hopes of high comedy, heroic promotion, and honorable death.” But, she writes, it’s insufficient to call the outcome of the trilogy “unfulfillment” merely, since it reveals rather “the delusion of moral aspirations.” In that sense Sword of Honour is the “Catholic” novel that movingly completes thirty-three years of novel writing.
Waugh on the Merits
by Paul V. Mankowski
First Things
October 2017

Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh was born in 1903 to upper-middle-class Anglicans who lived in a suburb of London. He attended a boarding secondary school (Lancing College), read history at Oxford, published his first book (a biography of the painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti) at age twenty-four, then his first novel a year later. Waugh married that same year (1928), divorced after two years, and converted to Catholicism. After the first marriage was declared null, he married a Catholic by whom he had seven children. He served honorably but ineffectively as an infantry officer in World War II, and was to publish thirteen novels, as well as seven travel books, three biographies, a volume of autobiography, and numerous essays and book reviews. Lionized in the 1920s as a trendy man of fashion, he became increasingly conservative in politics and churchmanship and notorious for his truculent contempt for the sham enthusiasms of modernity. He died on Easter Sunday, 1966, at his house in Somerset.

In addition to works published in his lifetime, Waugh left behind several hundred pages of diaries and thousands of letters. And in reading these we become aware that sometime between the ages of fifteen and seventeen, he acquired an almost freakishly mature mastery of English prose. For the remainder of his life, he was all but incapable of writing a boring sentence. Even in his commonplace and perfunctory communications—business correspondence, military reports, letters to agents and headmasters—Waugh wrote a clean, elegant, beautifully precise English that is appetizing in the most unpromising circumstances. Just as it’s unsettling to be reminded that Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier was a set of keyboard exercises composed “for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning,” it’s remarkable how much eerily flawless craftsmanship Waugh displays even when the occasion of his writing is casual or mundane.

The most outstanding characteristic of Waugh’s prose is its lucidity. Every sentence is clear. Even where his subject matter is thorny, I don’t believe I’ve ever had to read a sentence twice over to get its meaning. His friend and fellow novelist Graham Greene remarked that what struck him about Waugh’s writing was its transparency, that you could see all the way to the bottom, as with the Mediterranean in days gone by. This transparency is partly attributable to perfect syntax—grammatical solecisms are almost nonexistent—and partly to Waugh’s care in choosing the right word, the word that not only conveys but illuminates. Sometimes Waugh employs a recondite word from his compendious vocabulary, but never an obscure word for the sake of its obscurity. As a boy I learned the meaning of many words I had never before encountered from the perfect fit they were given by Waugh in a single memorable phrase. Reading Waugh, you don’t need a dictionary at your elbow; the sentence provides sufficient light on its own.

Waugh also had a genius for conveying spoken English matched only, perhaps, by James Joyce. Like Joyce, he lets us hear the speakers through their dialogue—their accents; their treble or contralto, their coughs, stammers, and lisps; their whining or their barking—and he does this with almost no departure from standard spelling. We recognize cockneys without resort to dropped aitches and Scotsmen without resort to tripled r’s; we recognize them because the speeches Waugh gives them convince us that only this cockney or only this Scotsman could utter them. Their language informs us about his characters’ class, age, education, and provenance with a certainty that makes further description superfluous. So too their brief speeches give us a glimpse into his characters’ souls that clumsier authors would require many pages of narrative to communicate.

Almost miraculous in this respect is Waugh’s first novel, titled Decline and Fall, whose minor characters, though mere props in a farce, have a kind of inevitability and immortality: Once having read the lines Waugh gives them, you can’t imagine their ever saying anything else. Something imperishable has been created out of nothing. You feel you’d know Dr. Fagan and Lady Beste-Chetwynde were you to overhear them in a bus. The quality persists in Waugh’s later works, but only sporadically and only in the minor characters.

A third characteristic of Waugh the prose stylist is the concord between the rhythm of the paragraph and its meaning—a concord that is easier to perceive than it is to analyze. By the operation of some deep poetic instinct, the rise and fall of the narrative augment and reinforce the sense of the words that underlie it. Here is one example, from the travel book When the Going Was Good, describing an encounter with a young American on a lake steamer on the way to the Congo:

I offered him a drink and he said “Oh no, thank you,” in a tone which in four monosyllables contrived to express first surprise, then pain, then reproof, and finally forgiveness. Later I found that he was a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Mission, on his way to audit accounts at Bulawayo.

As with Edward Gibbon, every sentence in Waugh has a kind of architectural perfection; as did Gibbon, Waugh knew how to maximize the blunt impact of the monosyllabic word by its well-timed departure from a stream of elegant polysyllables. Waugh strove for economy of expression, such that the structural elements of this prose would each carry as much weight as possible. He frequently compared the writer’s craft to that of a cabinetmaker or carpenter, and saw the joinery of words as an indispensable task of artisanship. In a 1949 letter to Thomas Merton—who had sent him a draft of his book The Waters of Siloe—Waugh criticizes the monk for shirking this chore:

In the non-narrative passages, do you not think you tend to be diffuse, saying the same thing more than once. I noticed this in The Seven Storey Mountain and the fault persists. It is pattern-bombing instead of precision bombing. You scatter a lot of missiles all round the target instead of concentrating on a single direct hit. It is not art. Your monastery tailor and boot-maker would not waste material. Words are our materials.

Waugh loathed the pretense of artists as members of a secular priesthood, and insisted that exalted art did not exist apart from the humble craftsmanship that was a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition of its existence.

Yet the differences between Waugh and Thomas Merton were not limited to prose style, and this brings me to my second subject: Evelyn Waugh the Catholic. Both Merton and Waugh were converts to Catholicism, yet it would be difficult to find coeval coreligionists with more sharply contrasting approaches to their faith. Merton, the monk with the irrepressible ego, put the self on center stage to an extent that stood classical monasticism on its head; Waugh prized his religion precisely because it was objective, was doctrinally immutable, and by its inflexible demands aimed at mortifying the querulous self and its appetites. The English Jesuit Martin D’Arcy, who instructed Waugh prior to his conversion, remarked that he’d never known a convert for whom the truth of Catholic teaching was more closely scrutinized and, once accepted, more central to his faith.

It’s important to stress that Waugh, himself an artist, was not attracted to the Catholic Church by any aesthetic appeal. As he remarked, the hymns, the great cathedrals, the ancient titles, the liturgy written in the heyday of English prose—all were the property of the Church of England. Had he been guided by his own taste, he would have remained an Anglican. The appeal of the Catholic Church was simply her universal claim to authority, which, once found valid, required submission of mind and will, without regard to whether and to what extent it was gratifying or irksome. The faith Waugh embraced could be called “impersonal,” if by that term we mean not hostile to the person but sternly indifferent to the cravings and pleas of the ego. C. S. Lewis wrote that the Real is that which says to us, “Your preferences have not been considered.” So too for Waugh, it was the fact that the Church had not consulted him, or any other creature, in the formulation of her doctrines that made her claim plausible. It’s telling that, when changes were proposed in the celebration of the Mass during the 1960s, Waugh rejected the accusation that defenders of the Latin Mass were either conservatives or aesthetic thrill-seekers, citing his own conversion as evidence:

I was not at all attracted by the splendour of great ceremonies—which the Protestants could well counterfeit. Of the extraneous attractions of the Church which most drew me was the spectacle of the priest and his server at low Mass, stumping up to the altar without a glance to discover how many or how few he had in his congregation; a craftsman and his apprentice; a man with a job which he alone was qualified to do. That is the Mass I have grown to know and love.

Waugh does not deny that the Catholic Church has aesthetic splendors to offer; what he denies is that such splendors provide a reliable basis for accepting the Church’s claims as true. The feelings such splendors produce are sporadic and transitory, and those who wallow most deeply in them will feel cheated and distraught on the day their magic fails. Rather it is the ordinary daily Mass, the opus operatum, performed and assisted at out of duty rather than desire, that points to the objective reality of a universal immutable faith: Your preferences have not been considered.

One of Waugh’s lesser-known short stories is instructive in this respect. Its title, “Out of Depth,” makes reference to the hero’s being out of his depth in his collision with black magic, and simultaneously to the De profundis clamavi—the incipit of Psalm 130: “out of the depths I cry to thee, O Lord.” In the tale, the hero Rip, a languidly sybaritic bachelor, is thrust forward five hundred years into the future, to find London nothing but a marshland marked by hummocks and wattle huts inhabited by grunting white savages—a mirror image, in fact, of the Thames valley as it was 2,500 years prior to his adventure. Dazed and disoriented by the vanishing of everything familiar to his senses, he sees imperial conquerors from Africa making their way up the Thames in a launch (“a large mechanically propelled boat, with an awning and a flag; a crew of smart Negroes, all wearing uniforms of leather and fur though it was high summer; a commander among the Negroes issuing orders in a quiet supercilious voice”). Rip is taken downstream with some other natives to a mission compound. The story concludes as Rip regains awareness of his surroundings. Waugh writes:

And then later—how much later he could not tell—something that was new and yet ageless. The word “Mission” painted on a board; a black man dressed as a Dominican friar . . . and a growing clearness. Rip knew that out of strangeness, there had come into being something familiar; a shape in chaos. Something was being done. Something was being done that Rip knew; something that twenty-five centuries had not altered; of his own childhood which survived the age of the world. In a log-built church at the coast town he was squatting among a native congregation; some of them in cast-off uniforms; the women had shapeless, convent-sewn frocks; all round him dishevelled white men were staring ahead with vague, uncomprehending eyes, to the end of the room where two candles burned. The priest turned towards them his bland, black face.

“Ite, missa est.”

In part, “Out of Depth” is a dig at Hilaire Belloc’s view that “The Faith is Europe and Europe is the Faith.” In part, it is a sly reference to Macaulay’s famous tribute to the perpetuity of the Catholic Church given in his 1840 review of Leopold von Ranke’s History of the Popes:

She may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s.

Yet there’s more to Waugh’s story than a poke at Belloc or a nod to Macaulay. In Rip’s projection into the future, all the political, cultural, and social solidities of twentieth-century Europe have disappeared; every complacency has been demolished. The contingencies of history have made conquering races out of the conquered, and new empires carry their civilizing schemes to the barbarian wilds that were once Piccadilly and Grosvenor Square. Only the spiritual realities remain unchanged, realities that are symbolized by the Mass, but that include the moral and evangelical efforts of the missionaries, which are as deathless as the Church herself. We’re not to imagine Rip as a pious, churchgoing Catholic—quite the contrary—yet the unsensational gestures and rhythms of the low Mass provide, across the centuries, a touchstone of intelligibility: as Waugh puts it, “a shape in chaos.”

A shape in chaos. This is the key phrase in “Out of Depth.” The story is not a lament that Western civilization will decay into savagery. The point, rather, is that the sophisticated man-about-town and the grunting, scurrying savage are equally engaged in endeavors that are vain, transient, and, from the viewpoint of eternity, meaningless. External circumstances may flatter the one and humiliate the other, but in Waugh’s perspective, the bushman and theatergoer are both immersed in a maelstrom of futility against which the Catholic faith is an unchanging, if dimly understood, still point and touchstone of the good, the true, and the beautiful. It’s not that London’s glitterati might become the great-great-grandsires of savages; to the extent they are disconnected from the true Church, the worldlings are already savages themselves.

Throughout his professional life, Waugh was both admired and feared for the lethality of his tongue and pen. Some have suggested that his practice of satire was incompatible with the Christian vocation. When Waugh was asked, “Are your books meant to be satirical?” he answered:

No. Satire is a matter of period. It flourishes in a stable society and presupposes homogeneous moral standards—the early Roman Empire and eighteenth-century Europe. It is aimed at inconsistency and hypocrisy. It exposes polite cruelty and folly by exaggerating them. It seeks to produce shame. All this has no place in the Century of the Common Man where vice no longer pays lip service to virtue. The artist’s only service to the disintegrated society of today is to create independent little systems of order of his own. I foresee in the dark age to come that the scribes may play the part of monks after the first barbarian victories. They were not satirists.

Like any author, Waugh bridled at having his works pigeonholed so as to be approved or rejected with reference to a single category; on these grounds, he is justified in rejecting the label of satirist. From our vantage point, however, we can smile at Waugh’s claim that in his time (he wrote those words in 1946) vice no longer paid lip service to virtue. More to the point, Waugh the writer indisputably engages in the exaggeration of polite cruelty and folly, which on his own terms must be reckoned satire, however subsidiary he would rank satire among his artistic intentions. The attempt to illustrate Waugh’s satiric art is beset by a disadvantage. His satire was not, like Dorothy Parker’s, expressed in epigrams or pithy one-liners. It cannot be separated from the context from which it emerged so as to be repeated at a dinner party. His literary wit finds its poise in the balance of character, circumstance, and sudden felicity of language.

I want to argue that Waugh could not have been a great satirist were he not a Catholic, and, more controversially, that his satire had its source in appropriation of the truths of Catholicism rather than in extenuation of its precepts. Most fundamentally, it was Catholicism that made “Waugh the insular and class-conscious bully” into an internationalist taking the side of the underdog. His satire was subversive, and deliberately so. It is essential to grasp that his satire subverts the social and political tyrannies of our time.

There is, I admit, a good deal of subjectivity here. Both parties to a dispute may view themselves as David up against Goliath, and one man’s needle may be another man’s cudgel. We find in literary satire the same spectrum of moral and artistic value displayed in political cartoons. The best caricaturists help us see a new truth in an arresting and witty way. The worst—think of Julius Streicher of Der Stürmer and Boris Efimov of Pravda—strive to make their target not so much an object of ridicule as an object of hatred. Their exaggerations are indifferent to truth or falsehood and make a clandestine appeal to complacency—that is, they help us take pride in our bigotries and thus reinforce our vices. By the same token, satire may be used to fortify our contempt for some disfavored class, but it may have—and with the best authors does have—an emancipating element.

Consider the following passage in Waugh’s 1942 novel Put Out More Flags. It takes place in a Bloomsbury garret in which communist artists and atheist graduate students are gathered at the outbreak of World War II. They are unsure whether, as good Marxists, they should join the fight against Nazi Germany (and thus become unwilling defenders of bourgeois Britain), or else ignore the conflict entirely (and to that extent assist Hitler by weakening the war effort and spreading despondency). Waugh writes:

There was a young man of military age in the studio; he was due to be called up in the near future. “I don’t know what to do about it,” he said, “Of course, I could plead conscientious objections, but I haven’t got a conscience. It would be a denial of everything we’ve stood for if I said I had a conscience.”

“No, Tom,” they said to comfort him. “We know you haven’t got a conscience.”

“But then,” said the perplexed young man, “if I haven’t got a conscience, why in God’s name should I mind so much saying that I have?”

Note that Waugh does more than get off a jest at the expense of Marxist intellectuals. He exposes and illuminates a radical flaw in Marxist orthodoxy, and that so concisely that it would take many pages of philosophical exposition to make the same point. We aren’t moved to hate or despise leftists by this spoofing, yet we are inoculated against a great deal of nonsense by the wit displayed in the deftly revealed incongruity. Perhaps it’s also worth mentioning that in the 1940s, Marxism enjoyed a great deal of prestige—certainly more than did Catholicism—among educated elites. Yet it’s the Catholic David, whose faith has taught him what the word “conscience” means, who pulls the whiskers of the Stalinist Goliath.

As Dr. Johnson said, “A man had rather have a hundred lies told of him than one truth which he does not wish should be told.” Anarchists hate to be exposed as autocrats. I think in this connection of Waugh’s “Open Letter” to Nancy Mitford, in which he affected to find fault with her proposed model of an upper-class English family. Waugh objected that her portrait was inaccurate in that it included too few children. “Impotence and sodomy are socially OK,” he wrote, “but birth control is flagrantly middle class.”

Of course Waugh was only feigning sympathy with Mitford’s project and feigning a social rather than a moral objection to contraception. His inflexible Catholic convictions, as everyone understood, were provocatively masqueraded as class consciousness. The outrage that greeted this remark—or better, the humorlessness of the outrage—proved that Waugh’s shaft had found its mark. He had hit on a truth—namely, the ill-hidden bad conscience of heathen England—it did not wish should be spoken.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Christian satirist—so I would argue—is that he places himself under the same moral judgment as his targets. That is, he acknowledges a single system of morality governing the satirist and the satirized and holds himself responsible to the same precepts. I believe few critics of Waugh have adequately emphasized the extent to which his satire cuts most deeply at his own pretensions and illusions. This is most evident in the semi-autobiographical novels, such as The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold and the Sword of Honour trilogy, but detectable in nearly all his fiction. Consider the following excerpt from Helena, Waugh’s historical novel about the mother of the emperor Constantine. She was the wife of the Roman general Constantius Chlorus, and Waugh fancifully makes her the daughter of King Coel of Colchester. On a military mission to Britain, Constantius takes notice of Helena and asks her father for her hand. Coel is transformed from a mossy minor prince to become the upper-class Edwardian father, alarmed at the prospect of a southern European for a son-in-law. As did all fathers in similar situations, he tries to dissuade the suitor by pleading ignorance of his antecedents. “I daresay we seem old-fashioned in Britain, but we still care a great deal for such things.”

At last Constantius spoke. “You have a right to the information you seek, but I must beg you to respect my confidence. When I tell you, you will understand my hesitation. I would have preferred you to accept my word, but since you insist—” he paused to give full weight to his declaration—“I am of the Imperial Family.”

It fell flat. “You are, are you?” said Coel. “It’s the first time I’ve ever heard of there being such a thing.”

“I am the great-nephew of the Divine Claudius. . . . Also,” he added, “of the Divine Quintilius, whose reign, though brief, was entirely constitutional.”

“Yes,” said Coel, “and apart from their divinity, who were they? Some of the emperors we’ve had lately, you know, have been”—very literally—“nothing to make a song about. It’s one thing burning incense to them and quite another having them in the family. You must see that.”

“Apart from their divinity, who were they?” An unsurpassably devastating verdict on the insularity, snobbery, and narcissistic delusions of the British upper class—and it comes from the pen of a Waugh. The capacity to make oneself the target of one’s own mockery is, though not exactly humility, a kind of second cousin to humility, and points to the universalizing moral scope of a satire that instructs and does not merely deride. In his writing, Waugh made use of both Christian and un-Christian satire; I would argue that a blanket condemnation and blanket exoneration are equally misguided, and that each specimen should be judged on its merits.

Judging on the basis of merit is a distinctive virtue of Philip Eade’s new biography, titled Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited. Building on the achievements of Waugh’s earlier biographers, Eade retells the story of Waugh’s life primarily from the standpoint of relationships: father, mother, brother, schoolmasters, schoolfellows, wives, lovers, military superiors, children, and the many, many individuals of all ranks whom Waugh outraged or enchanted vividly enough to leave behind a report of the collision. Eade worked with the advantage of several documentary sources that the passage of time and changes in notions of literary propriety have made newly available to investigators, most notably the account of their marriage by Waugh’s first wife, and the diaries of his commanding officer during the Battle of Crete. It is to our advantage that Eade presents his material with a scholar’s eye: respectful of conflicting testimony, balanced in judgment, alert to bias in his sources, with a measured sympathy for Waugh and for the claims of those he failed or wounded. His biography restores, to some extent, many damaged reputations, and damages, to a lesser degree, a few others.

With commendable moderation and, I think, insight, Eade permits the severest judgments on the character of Waugh—and they were severe—to be those attested by Waugh himself, whereas the evidence for virtues contrary to his self-constructed image of truculent misanthropy comes from the first-person testimony of recipients of his silent but exceptional and exceptionally frequent acts of generosity. One gets the sense throughout his work that Eade has set his hounds to sniff out the documents and interviews that give the truth, even if unsensational, rather than the racy or amusing anecdote; yet in the end his evenhandedness serves to sharpen rather than blur the likeness he has crafted. In sum, Eade succeeds in giving a convincing picture of a complex man—one more interesting, in human terms, than the portrait the artist gave us of himself.

I conclude with a passage that touches on Waugh’s early manhood and continues in various ways to resonate throughout his life. It occurs in the novel Decline and Fall, when Paul Pennyfeather, expelled from his Oxford college, seeks employment as a schoolmaster and is granted an interview by Dr. Augustus Fagan, headmaster of Llanabba School in Wales:

“ . . . I understand, too, that you left your university rather suddenly. Now—why was that?”

This was the question that Paul had been dreading, and, true to his training, he had resolved upon honesty.

“I was sent down, sir, for indecent behaviour.”

“Indeed, indeed? Well, I shall not ask for details. I have been in the scholastic profession long enough to know that nobody enters it unless he has some very good reason which he is anxious to conceal.”

Dr. Fagan’s sublime cynicism is never more than half a degree below room temperature and is expressed by unhurried, syntactically flawless disgust; his squalid criminal enterprises seem impelled more by boredom than venality. In moral terms, he is the point-by-point antithesis of Gervase, the saintly aristocrat and father of Guy Crouchback in the Sword of Honour trilogy. As creations, these equally urbane and imperturbable English gentlemen stand at the beginning and toward the end of Waugh’s authorial life, yet the virtuous elder Crouchback is one of the very few minor characters in Waugh’s repertory who fail to amuse. Endowed from boyhood with the ability to give pain and give delight, Waugh found it a lifelong task to learn how to edify; neither by his pen nor in his personal life did he wholly succeed. It is a testament to his character, and his faith, that he tried at all.
  meadcl | Jan 27, 2017 |
Acq 12/25
  pheditor | Dec 30, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
My previous knowledge of Evelyn Waugh was his authorship of “Brideshead Revisited” which was the television event of the early 1980s, which starred Jeremy Irons in one of his first big roles.

I was curious to learn more about Evelyn Waugh’s life, which was why I put in for an Early Reviewers copy of “Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited”. I also read and very much liked Philip Eade’s earlier biography of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

I found this biography to be very detailed, and while I learned more about the author’s life and family, I felt it difficult to get through, with so many names and places I was not familiar with. This book, for me, was a slow read, but it did inspire me to want to watch “Brideshead” once more and perhaps to look for and read some more of Waugh’s work.

One thing that disappointed me was that Waugh’s family tree as well as photographs of him, his family, friends, and important places were all omitted, most likely because this was a review copy.

This book is recommended to those who are fans of Evelyn Waugh and his works. It is chock full of details, some titillating, some rather boring, but it is a carefully woven narrative of the life of one of the great English authors. ( )
  chrisac | Oct 5, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805097600, Hardcover)

On the fiftieth anniversary of Evelyn Waugh’s death, here is a completely fresh view of one of the most gifted―and fascinating―writers of our time

Graham Greene hailed Evelyn Waugh as “the greatest novelist of my generation,” and in recent years Waugh’s reputation has only grown. Now, half a century after Waugh’s death in 1966, Philip Eade has delivered a hugely entertaining biography that is both authoritative and full of new information, some of it sensational.

Drawing on extensive unseen primary sources, Eade’s book sheds new light on many of the key phases and themes of Waugh’s life: his difficult relationship with his embarrassingly sentimental father; his formative homosexual affairs at Oxford; his unrequited love for various Bright Young Things; his disastrous first marriage; his momentous conversion to Roman Catholicism; his unconventional yet successful second marriage; his checkered wartime career; and his shattering nervous breakdown. Along the way, we come to understand not only Waugh’s complex relationship with the aristocracy, but also the astonishing power of his wit, and the love, fear, and loathing that he variously inspired in others.

Waugh was famously difficult, and Eade brilliantly captures the myriad facets of his character even as he casts new light on the novels that have dazzled generations of readers.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 06 Jun 2016 18:30:32 -0400)

"On the fiftieth anniversary of Evelyn Waugh's death, here is a completely fresh view of one of the most gifted--and fascinating--writers of our time Graham Greene hailed Evelyn Waugh as "the greatest novelist of my generation," and in recent years Waugh's reputation has only grown. Now, half a century after Waugh's death in 1966, Philip Eade has delivered a hugely entertaining biography that is both authoritative and full of new information, some of it sensational. Drawing on extensive unseen primary sources, Eade's book sheds new light on many of the key phases and themes of Waugh's life: his difficult relationship with his embarrassingly sentimental father; his formative homosexual affairs at Oxford; his unrequited love for various Bright Young Things; his disastrous first marriage; his momentous conversion to Roman Catholicism; his unconventional yet successful second marriage; his checkered wartime career; and his shattering nervous breakdown. Along the way, we come to understand not only Waugh's complex relationship with the aristocracy, but also the astonishing power of his wit, and the love, fear, and loathing that he variously inspired in others. Waugh was famously difficult, and Eade brilliantly captures the myriad facets of his character even as he casts new light on the novels that have dazzled generations of readers"--… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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