Evelyn Waugh 1903–-1966
(Full name Evelyn Arthur St. John Waugh) English novelist, short story writer, travel writer, essayist, poet, critic, biographer, and journalist. See also Evelyn Waugh Literary Criticism (Introduction), and Volumes 1, 3, 8, 13, 107.
Evelyn Waugh is considered by many scholars to be one of the most talented and significant British writers of the twentieth century. Waugh is primarily known for his novels such as Brideshead Revisited and The Loved One, but also earned acclaim for his short stories. Waugh's novella, Decline and Fall, is his best-known work of short fiction.
Waugh was born in 1903 in Hampstead, London, to a literary family. His father, Arthur, was an editor and publisher; his older brother, Alec, also became a novelist. Waugh began attending Oxford in 1921 and started writing stories for literary magazines. The author, however, was forced to leave Oxford in 1924 without earning a degree. Following his departure from Oxford, Waugh taught briefly in private schools and also worked for awhile as a journalist for the Daily Express. In 1928, Waugh married Evelyn Gardener. During the same year, he also published a biography of the painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rosetti, as well as his novella, Decline and Fall, which marked the beginning of his career as a writer. In 1930 Waugh divorced his wife, traveled to Africa, and published his novel Vile Bodies, which earned critical acclaim. Waugh's extensive travels are reflected in some of his novels, including Black Mischief, A Handful of Dust, and Scoop. In 1936 Waugh received the Hawthornden Prize for his biography of the Elizabethan Jesuit martyr, Edmund Campion. By the early 1940s, Waugh had earned the reputation as one of the most respected satirists of his age. Shortly after the start of World War II, Waugh enlisted in the Royal Marines. Waugh continued writing during and after the war, but his works grew increasingly somber and reflected his increasing sense of despair about the decay of the modern world. Waugh's most famous and controversial work, Brideshead Revisited, which is about the decadence of a wealthy Catholic family during the 1920s, was published in 1945 and earned great critical acclaim. While on a voyage to Ceylon in 1954 he suffered a mental breakdown, which is detailed in his semi-autobiographical novel, The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. Waugh died in 1966 following a sudden heart attack at the age of 63.
Major Works of Short Fiction
Waugh's first collection of stories, Mr. Loveday's Little Outing and Other Sad Stories, was published in 1936. The title story—a witty tale with elements of the grotesque—is about an elderly asylum inmate who is released by a social reformer. Throughout the story, Waugh uses satire and black humor to mock pretensions of social scientists and experimenters. Waugh's satirical touch also is reflected throughout other stories in the volume. The stories include “Bella Fleace Gave a Party,” which is about an elderly aristocrat who throws an elaborate Christmas party that no one attends, and “Winner Takes All,” which deals with the misfortunes of a young man who is always overlooked due to favoritism shown to his elder brother. Waugh's next volume of short stories, Work Suspended, and Other Stories Written Before the Second World War, was most likely published for financial rather than artistic reasons. The collection includes seven stories that appeared in Mr. Loveday, “An Englishman's Home,” as well as the title story—a fragment of an unfinished novel. Many of these stories reappeared again in Tactical Exercise and in the 1982 collection Charles Ryder's Schooldays, and Other Stories. In 1998 all of Waugh's thirty-nine stories were issued in one volume.
In addition to short stories, Waugh also penned three novellas, Decline and Fall: An Illustrated Novelette, Scott-King's Modern Europe, and Love Among the Ruins. Decline and Fall, the story of a young innocent dismissed from Oxford, contains a similar brand of satire used in his early stories. Scott-King's Modern Europe is a satirical fable about a middle-aged classics master who clings to forgotten values in the postwar world of Neutralia. Love Among the Ruins, which details disappointments in the life of Miles Plastic, is a harsh attack against state interference in people's personal lives in the postwar world.
During his lifetime Waugh's short stories enjoyed a measure of commercial and critical success. Contemporary reviewers admired the style and wit of his stories, but many considered his short works to be minor efforts from the pen of a great novelist. Some later critics dismissed the stories as insignificant. Waugh's biographer, Christopher Sykes, for example, considered them an unimportant literary feature in the author's life. Others consider the stories insightful because they anticipate themes and ideas developed in his longer fiction. Waugh's stories continue to be praised by readers for their cleverness, stylistic elegance, and ability to entertain. Waugh's novellas, however, have enjoyed more sustained critical attention. Decline and Fall is considered Waugh's first serious literary work. The work continues to elicit interest from scholars for the insight it provides into Waugh's development as an artist and for its literary merit. Some reviewers criticized Waugh's postwar novellas for their sharp satire. Novelist George Orwell, for example, found Scott-King's Modern Europe “lacking the touch of affection that political satire ought to have.” These late novellas are not considered Waugh's best works, but are noted for their dystopian quality and biting criticism of the corruption, decay, and moral and intellectual sterility of postwar Europe.
Decline and Fall: An Illustrated Novelette 1928
Mr. Loveday's Little Outing and Other Sad Stories 1936
Scott-King's Modern Europe (novella) 1947
Love Among the Ruins (novella) 1953
Tactical Exercise 1954
Charles Ryder's Schooldays, and Other Stories 1982
The Complete Stories of Evelyn Waugh 1998
The World to Come (poetry) 1916
Rossetti: His Life and Works (biography/criticism) 1928
Vile Bodies (novel) 1930
Black Mischief (novel) 1932
A Handful of Dust (novel) 1934
Ninety-Two Days: An Account of a Tropical Journey Through British Guiana and Part of Brazil 1934
Edmund Campion (biography) 1935
Waugh in Abyssinia (travel essay) 1936
Scoop (novel) 1938
Put Out More Flags (novel) 1942
Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder (novel) 1945
The Loved One (novel) 1948
Helena (novel) 1950
Men at Arms (novel) 1952
Officers and Gentlemen (novel) 1955
The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold...
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SOURCE: “Review of ‘Scott-King's Modern Europe,’” in New York Times Book Review, Vol. 1, No. 25, February 20, 1949, pp. 1, 25.
[In the following review of Scott-King's Modern Europe, Orwell argues that Waugh's work is conservative in outlook and lacks necessary elements of political satire.]
Mr. Evelyn Waugh's recent book, The Loved One, was an attack, and by no means a good-natured attack, on American civilization, but in Scott-King's Modern Europe he shows himself willing to handle his native Continent with at least equal rudeness. America worships corpses but Europe mass-produces them, is what he seems to be saying. The two books are indeed in some sense complementary to one another, though Scott-King's Modern Europe is less obviously brilliant than the other.
The book has a general resemblance to Candide, and is perhaps even intended to be a modern counterpart of Candide, with the significant difference that the hero is middle-aged at the start. Nowadays, it is implied, only the middle-aged have scruples or ideals; the young are born hard-boiled. Scott-King, age about 43, ‘slightly bald and slightly corpulent,’ is senior classics master at Granchester, a respectable but not fashionable public school. A dusty, unhonored figure, a praiser of the past, a lover of exact scholarship, he fights a steadily losing battle against what he...
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SOURCE: Review of Tactical Exercise, in The Canadian Forum, Vol. XXXV, No. 42, May, 1955, p. 44.
[In the following review of Tactical Exercise, Beattie calls the volume “minor Waugh,” arguing that many of the stories have gimmicky surprise endings. Nevertheless, Beattie concedes the tales are witty and entertaining.]
This collection of stories and sketches is chronologically arranged. The first story Evelyn Waugh wrote when he was aged 7 years 1 month. It need never have been published; the Daisy Ashford aspect of Waugh we might at least have been spared. The other stories, which appeared originally between 1932 and 1953, are all amusing in diverse ways and to various degrees. The 1932 story “Cruise” comprises letters and postcards written by a middle-class ingenue on a Mediterranean cruise: rather dim wit, an occasional chuckle. “Bella Fleace Gave a Party” (1932) is richer in details of décor and temperament. It is the first of several stories in the book which are structurally alike, each leading the reader, more or less unexpectedly, to a surprise ending—a “gimmick” I believe it is called in other areas of the entertainment world—which sorts ill with the superb sophistication of the kind of story-telling we used to associate with the name of Waugh. Of these anecdotes by the Mayfair O. Henry the most interesting is the title story, “Tactical Exercise,” which must...
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SOURCE: “Four More Entertainments, 1942–1953,” in Evelyn Waugh: Portrait of an Artist, Chapman & Hall LTD, 1958, pp. 136–42, 152–57.
[In the following excerpt, Stopp discusses Scott-King's Modern Europe and Love Among the Ruins, which he finds to be sad but humorous, and lacking in brutality or sentimentalism.]
Scott-King's Modern Europe is a sad little story, finely wrought and economical in its effects, but sad. Superficially it owed its origin to a visit to Spain, where Mr Waugh joined in the celebrations in the summer of 1945 for the tercentenary of Vittoria, at Salamanca, and had his first experience of the machinery of official hospitality in the post-war world. But it contains his first reflections on the wider scene of mid-twentieth century Europe. Even without the footnote that ‘The Republic of Neutralia is imaginary and composite and represents no existing state’, we should recognize overtones of Jugoslavia and the Dalmatian coast, and the wider echoes of decay in European historical values everywhere. Combined with this is the radical uncertainty whether anything positive can ultimately have been achieved by a war which, appearing first through the medium of common-room wirelesses under a heroic and chivalrous disguise, became later ‘a sweaty tug-of-war between teams of indistinguishable louts’. Uncertainty of the achievement, certainty of the losses...
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SOURCE: “Africa, Europe, and the Dreary Future,” in The Satiric Art of Evelyn Waugh, University of Washington Press, 1966, pp. 148–56.
[In the following excerpt, Carens examines the postwar novellas Scott-King's Modern Europe and Love Among the Ruins, noting their bleak pessimism and defeatist sentiments.]
Two grim, short political satires with none of Scoop's ebullience or consolation—Scott-King's Modern Europe and Love Among the Ruins—followed the Second World War. The first of these recounts the visit of Scott-King, Classical Master at Granchester for twenty-one years, to a mythical totalitarian state called Neutralia. The second satire was in the tradition of Brave New World and 1984; Waugh's inverted Utopia depicted a fully socialized England of the near future. Both works are bleakly pessimistic in outlook.
The form of Scott-King's Modern Europe resembles that of Scoop; the opening and conclusion of the novel, which place Scott-King at Granchester, frame the confusions and distractions of his journey to the tercentenary of Bellorius, Neutralia's late Latin poet, in the same way that the Boot Magna sections of Scoop frame the terrors of William Boot's journey to Ishmaelia. Waugh himself has made the most penetrating analysis of Scott-King's Modern Europe. Explaining to an interviewer that he was...
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SOURCE: In an introduction to Decline and Fall, by Evelyn Waugh, Heinemann Educational Books LTD, 1966, pp. ix–xx.
[In the following introduction to Decline and Fall, Hollis places the novella in the context of Waugh's life and writings.]
The younger generation came in his last years to think of Evelyn Waugh as the very symbol of reaction. He appeared to them as a champion of a vanishing order, of whose survival he despaired. He wrote about peers and county families. He jeered at the crudities of Hoopers of lowly birth or of transatlantic adventurers like Rex Mottram who had invaded and annexed for themselves the privileges of British life. All foreigners were to him merely comic. In art he condemned the formlessness of modern painters. In literature he despised the poverty of vocabulary, the inattention to grammar, to coherence and to the structure of the sentence of the younger novelists. He was without hesitation in proclaiming that he had lived on into an age of total decay, in which he made a pose of being a man old beyond his years. To those who had known him for a life-time it was amusing to remember that it was as a leader of the so-called Bright Young Things—of those who were in revolt against the starchiness of their age—that he first made his name in the world. He was then hailed as the first spokesman of the rising generation, which was being criticized by its elders and...
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SOURCE: In Evelyn Waugh: A Biography, Little, Brown and Company, 1975, pp. 78–82, 162–64.
[In the following excerpt from his biography of Waugh, Sykes discusses Waugh's short stories as well as Mr. Loveday's Outing and Other Sad Stories, which Sykes believes is “not an important feature in Evelyn's literary life.”]
[Waugh's] earliest work had not only shown little promise but no firm indication of what sort of writer, if a writer at all, he was likely to become. The greatest literary critic imaginable would be unable to identify from the text alone the authorship of Anthony Who Sought The Things That Were Lost as that of Evelyn Waugh. The only characteristic of his later work to be found in that essay in preciosity is a certain boldness of approach, but this boldness is vitiated and almost cancelled by the evident vagueness of intention.
The most interesting of his early writings is ‘The Balance,’ subtitled ‘A Yarn of the Good Old Days of Broad Trousers and High Necked Jumpers.’ Though it cannot be described as good, a literary detective might possibly discern its authorship from internal evidence. It contains dialogue, and though the most important single dialogue in the book is inept, some of it has a glimmer of Evelyn's later sparkle. It is difficult to say what the story is about as the narrative line is self-consciously complicated in the endeavour to...
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SOURCE: “‘Bella Fleace Gave a Party’ or, The Archetypal Image of Waugh's Sense of Decay,” in Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 15, No. 1, Winter, 1978, pp. 69–73.
[In the following essay, Blayac argues that as a metaphor for changing social conditions “Bella Fleace Gave a Party” ranks among Waugh's best works of short fiction.]
In his somewhat controversial biography of Evelyn Waugh, Christopher Sykes tentatively discards some of the writer's early novels as uneven and immature;1 he is even more censorious of the short stories which, except for “Mr. Loveday's Little Outing” and “Period Piece,” he repeatedly finds fault with.2 They are, he suggests, repetitive, impersonal, and occasionally marred by too close an imitation of well-known stories or writers. As a case in point, Mr. Sykes writes that “Bella Fleace Gave a Party”3 “is supposed to be based on an incident which did actually happen: an ambitious hostess, it was related, gave a party but the invitations were not posted. The legend or fact was very well known in those days and by 1936 had grown ‘something musty.’ Many readers must have known the end of the story from the beginning.”4 Mr. Sykes' summary, focussing on the trivial and the superficial, will hardly do justice to a short story whose essential meaning he fails to grasp. For us, Waugh used the largely drawn upon...
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SOURCE: In Evelyn Waugh, Writer, Pilgrim Books, Inc., 1981, pp. 32–9, 70–2.
[In the following excerpt, Davis compares and contrasts Waugh's early short fiction, exploring his techniques and influences.]
Waugh's undergraduate fiction, except for “Anthony: Who Sought Things That Were Lost,” was written in first person and consisted largely of parochial anecdotes. “The Balance,” sub-titled “A Yarn of the Good Old Days of Broad Trousers and High Necked Jumpers,” shows him working toward but not entirely trusting a technique by which he could present as objectively as possible his own subjective reactions and thus transmute autobiography into fiction. From the devices of the film he adapted techniques by which he was able, sporadically, to achieve authorial distance from the characters and to present selected glimpses of physical action economically and vividly.
The plot of “The Balance”1 is not particularly remarkable: Adam Doure, an art student recently down from Oxford, has his romance with Imogen Quest broken off as a result of her mother's objection. In rather self-conscious despair he resolves to commit suicide, sells his books to raise money, and goes to Oxford with the object of saying a dignified, Petronian farewell to his friends. However, only Ernest Vaughan, talented but thoroughly debauched, is able to accompany him, and the farewell dinner...
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SOURCE: “Old Young Waugh,” in The New York Times, November 14, 1982, p. 25.
[In the following review of Charles Ryder's School Days and Other Stories, Donaldson states that while the collection is of mixed quality, “Mr. Loveday's Little Outing,” and “Bella Fleace Gives a Party” deserve praise.]
There is a story told by Max Beerbohm of how, on his way to his club to find a review that contained a new story by Henry James, he ran into the great man himself. James asked him to accompany him to some art exhibition and instinctively Beerbohm refused. Trying to decide afterwards why he had done so, he came to the conclusion that even for the company of the Master, he could not bear to delay the anticipated pleasure of reading his story.
When asked to review Charles Ryder's Schooldays, a volume including a manuscript by Evelyn Waugh found in his agent's office a couple of years ago and 11 short stories, including an alternative ending to A Handful of Dust, I accepted in something of the spirit of Beerbohm. In spite of a pile of manuscripts overdue for delivery lying on my own desk, I could not wait to lay hands on this splendid trophy. And when I received the book and found that the 11 stories had been published in England many years ago in the collections Mr. Loveday's Little Outing and Work Suspended, I still felt rather as someone might who was...
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SOURCE: “Books of the Times,” in The New York Times, November 22, 1982, p. 16.
[In the following review of Charles Ryder's Schooldays and Other Stories, Broyard finds the work completely without merit.]
With the exception of Put Out More Flags, I think I've liked all of Evelyn Waugh's fiction, and so it saddens me to report that Charles Ryder's School Days and Other Stories, most of which were published in a limited edition in 1936, is not very good.
Perhaps the most conspicuous example of the difference between Waugh at his best and worst is the piece called “By Special Request,” which is an alternative ending to A Handful of Dust. At the end of that novel, Tony Last was disillusioned by the affair of his wife, Brenda, with a man named Beaver, and he went off on a trip to South America, where he was held prisoner in the jungle by an illiterate old man who forced him to read Dickens aloud, over and over again, presumably to the end of his life.
For reasons he doesn't give, Mr. Waugh chose to tamper with that unimprovable ending. In “By Special Request,” Tony merely goes on an idle cruise to places like Haiti and returns home to find that Brenda has been abandoned by Beaver and wishes to give up her flat in London and to live again with Tony in the country. She insists on his canceling the lease on the flat, but unknown to her,...
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SOURCE: “Waugh Reshapes ‘Period Piece,’” in Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 21, No. 1, Winter, 1984, pp. 65–8.
[In the following essay, Davis argues that a comparison of the original typescript and the final version of Waugh's frame story “Period Piece” reveals that his revisions, extended the story and added depth and resonance to it.]
Evelyn Waugh's story “Period Piece” is one of his most complex in narrative method—it uses a frame tale, a narratee, and a literary and social context in which the most cynical narrative and social monstrosities are accepted as the norm—and one of his most interesting thematically, for it anticipates by a quarter of a century the resolution of the dynastic plot of Sword of Honour. Furthermore, it is the only Waugh short story for which a manuscript or typescript has been discovered, and a comparison of carbon typescript and printed versions shows how carefully Waugh reconsidered questions of style, character, and narrative strategy.
In the frame tale, Miss Myers reads to her employer, Lady Amelia, a work of “strong” modern fiction. Lady Amelia finds the novel anemic, “painfully reticent,” and unduly concerned with vulgar probability, and she offers in contrast an anecdote from her experience that comprises the central section of “Period Piece.” In that story, Billy Cornphillip, wealthy and dull, marries the...
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SOURCE: “Evelyn Waugh's ‘Ryder by Gaslight’: A Postmortem,” in Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 31, No. 4, Winter, 1985, pp. 399–409.
[In the following essay, Meckier posits that, although “Ryder by Gaslight” is well-written, Waugh was correct not to publish it.]
Truly posthumous writings, by the author himself, raise different questions than writings about him issued after his death.1 One could ask, for example, which, if any, of the strictly posthumous materials—letters, diaries, and a chapter of Charles Ryder's Schooldays—did Waugh wish succeeding generations to see?2 “Ryder by Gaslight” poses subtler problems than the diaries or letters: namely, does one help or hinder a novelist's growing posthumous reputation by printing a story he seems to have considered a misfire?
Michael Sissons, who gave “Ryder by Gaslight” to the Times Literary Supplement, conjectures that Waugh never went on with the story because “the time wasn't ripe” or else A. D. Peters, his literary agent, talked him out of proceeding.3 Be that as it may, Waugh, by not printing the piece, was consigning it to oblivion with a deliberateness impossible for him to exert upon his diaries and letters. Taking up the matter of posthumous writings, therefore, means behaving as Waugh's literary executor.
In the case of...
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SOURCE: In Evelyn Waugh: The Early Years 1903–1939, W. W. Norton & Company, 1986, pp. 114–19, 296–99, 344–49.
[In the following excerpt, Stannard discusses some of the short stories as they relate to Waugh's development as a writer and his career as a novelist.]
The ‘novel’ which had begun as a ‘cinema film’ was knocked into shape as a long, avant-garde short story. ‘I have finished my story’, [Waugh] noted on 26th August, ‘which I have called “The Balance” and took it to be typed. It is odd but, I think, quite good.’1 Christopher Sykes states that it was, in fact, rather bad. That is unfair. The tale, of course, lacks the accomplished touch of Waugh's later stories and he himself thought it second-rate. It has never been reprinted. But, at the lowest estimate, it is an arresting piece of experimental writing and was recognised as such when it appeared. From a biographical viewpoint it is even more intriguing. As his first sustained attempt at fiction, written during a protracted period of misfortune, completed less than two months after the aborted suicide, it represents an effort (as earlier with ‘Anthony’) to rationalise his disordered life through artistic expression.
‘The Balance’ draws heavily on personal experience. It is the only piece of Waugh's fiction which included the Oxford book auction, the Art School setting or...
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SOURCE: “Decline and Fall,” in Evelyn Waugh, Continuum, 1988, pp. 25–36.
[In the following excerpt, Crabbe praises Decline and Fall as hysterically funny and very appealing, while exploring the depth and complexity of Waugh's plot and structure.]
Decline and Fall, Waugh's first novel, is for those who love farce, one of the funniest of English novels. The constant appearance, disappearance, and reappearance in another identity of the characters puts one immediately in mind of the opening and closing doors and the circular structures of plot that characterize farce. Although Waugh's approach is often oblique and ironic rather than straightforward and broadly humorous, it is stunningly effective. Even now, more than fifty years after its original publication, Decline and Fall is readily available in bookstores and libraries, and each succeeding generation learns to laugh at the Candide-like existence of Paul Pennyfeather.
Although Waugh had hoped Decline and Fall would be a real money maker, it was not. It was, however, very well received by the reviewers, and it brought his name before a much larger audience than his biographical study, Rossetti, could ever have done. The Observer found it “richly and roaringly funny,”1 and J. B. Priestley noted that “Mr. Waugh has done something very difficult to do, he has created a...
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SOURCE: “The Failure of Imagination: Waugh's School Stories,” in Evelyn Waugh and the Forms of His Time, edited by Virgil Nemoianu, The Catholic University of American Press, 1989, pp. 178–88.
[In the following excerpt, Davis examines an untitled early fragment of a story and “Charles Ryder's Schooldays” in an attempt to discern the autobiographical nature of Waugh's stories.]
The publication of Evelyn Waugh's biography, diaries, letters, and collected journalism over the past ten years had confirmed without much altering the suspicion of earlier readers that there is in his novels a very clear and at the same time uneasy relationship between what he lived and what he imagined. His heroes, all the way from Pennyfeather to Pinfold, obviously share some of their creator's experiences, and just as obviously Waugh isolated and inflated some of his own fears and fantasies into such diverse types as Adam Fenwick-Symes, Basil Seal, and Guy Crouchback. The conversion of fact into fiction or, more recently, the embodiment of psychic patterns in the fiction has furnished material for a kind of high-level gossip (which Waugh would by no means have deplored) or even for studies of the way in which his imagination worked. However, Waugh's efforts to escape into realism, into a more or less direct presentation of the persona of the everyday, discursive-prosewriting self, throw considerable light on his mind...
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SOURCE: “Decline and Fall: ‘Grimes, You Wretch!’” in From Grimes to Brideshead: The Early Novels of Evelyn Waugh, Bucknell University Press, 1990, pp. 37–57.
[In the following excerpt, Garrett explores the nature of the humor in Decline and Fall, praising Waugh's use of language and narrative structure.]
In September 1927, staying with his parents at Underhill and still working on Rossetti, Waugh observed in his diary: “How I detest this house and how ill I feel in it. The whole place volleys and thunders with traffic. I can't sleep or work. I … have begun on a comic novel.”1 Sometime later he read the first ten thousand words to Anthony Powell, and at some point he read the early chapters to Dudley Carew as well:
What he read to me that night, sitting in the chair where Arthur was wont to proclaim that beautiful Evelyn Hope was dead, were the first fifty or so pages of Decline and Fall. A happiness, a hilarity, sustained him that night, and I was back giving him my unstinted admiration as I did at Lancing. It was marvellously funny and he knew that it was. As was his habit in those old, innocent days, he roared with laughter at his own comic invention.2
According to Powell, the novel was originally called Picaresque: or the Making of an Englishman. But, Powell recalled,...
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SOURCE: “Decline and Fall,” in The Ironic World of Evelyn Waugh: A Study of Eight Novels, Northern Illinois University Press, 1992, pp. 32–51.
[In the following essay, Beaty analyzes the ironic tone of Decline and Fall.]
For Decline and Fall, in manuscript subtitled “The Making of an Englishman,” Waugh invents a complex of shocking disparities through which to demonstrate the reeducation of his central character, Paul Pennyfeather, whose initial beliefs about the world are shattered by his experiential discoveries of its actual nature. The series of riotous picaresque adventures that strip away Paul's illusions about honor, love, society, education, the church, the law, the prison system, and even human nature detail his fall from blissful naiveté to a painful awareness of evil. Although exposure to the chaos of modern life forces him to question the behavioral codes of his stable, upper middle-class background—precepts which he confidently assumed to be adequate and appropriate for coping with any difficulties—the conflict between idealism and disillusionment is never wholly resolved. Ultimately he comes to realize that since neither approach offers the complete truth about life each must, as in Hegelian dialectics, be used to temper the other. The novel as a whole may therefore be viewed as an ironic parody of the Bildungsroman—one which, neither debasing the genre nor treating...
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Hastings, Selina. Evelyn Waugh. London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1994, 723 p.
Regarded as one of the most reliable and factually accurate biographies about Waugh.
McCartney, George. Confused Roaring: Evelyn Waugh and the Modernist Tradition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. 191 p.
Consideration of Waugh's interest in modernism, along with discussions about Waugh's novellas and short stories.
Stannard, Martin. Evelyn Waugh: The Early Years (1903–1939). New York: Norton, 1986. 330 p.
Includes discussions of Decline and Fall and Waugh's early stories.
Additional coverage of Waugh's life and career is contained in the following sources published by the Gale Group: Concise Dictionary of British Literary Biography, 1914–1945; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 85–88; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 22; Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vols. 1, 3, 8, 13, 19, 27, 44, 107; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vols. 15, 162, 195; DISCovering Authors; DISCovering Authors: British; DISCovering Authors: Canadian; DISCovering Authors Modules: Most-studied Authors, Novelists, Popular Fiction and Genre Authors; Major 20th-Century Writers,...
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