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  1. Evelyn Waugh
  2. Review: Philip Eade, 'Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited'
  3. About Evelyn Waugh
  4. The Trouble With Evelyn Waugh - Washington Free Beacon

By the s Waugh himself was almost entirely at variance with the outside world. He loathed Britain's centrally planned economy and its prevailing political culture, fogeyishly arguing that he refused to vote because it was presumptuous to advise the Queen on her Parliament.

Evelyn Waugh

But there were changes afoot that were closer to his heart and which hurt him severely. In the last years of his life the Church began a process of modernisation which left his personal theological position looked upon as eccentric and his long reputation as amusing, provocative company had suffered a blow after receiving reports that age had made him what he most feared, a 'bore'.

He died in , his standing as a writer partially eclipsed by his brother Alec, whose novel Island in the Sun had received a contemporary acclaim largely denied to the later work of Evelyn's. Thankfully this uneven level of regard was not to last. Waugh's presence holds fast, to the extent that he holds a strong claim to be the single most important influence over the modern British novel. His name is often summoned up by publishers and reviewers, casually acknowledging its importance as a point of reference, in discussing contemporary fiction.

It might indicate a comedy of manners, possibly dealing with the class system and social awkwardness, or polite restraint edging towards an upsurge of death or manic violence. It may also mean a lush, sensuous evocation of lost youth, bathing the past in a soft refulgent glow and sniping unhappily at the present. It may just as validly invoke bleakly comic insights chronicling lives of worthless hedonism. But most importantly, a comparison with Waugh is rarely pejorative. At worst his name is a signal of snobbery and a supercilious manner displayed in the writing but most often, when applied to an author's technical facility, high praise can only be a short distance away.

For aspirant writers Waugh is a good artistic model whose prose is unlikely to lead an imitator into overreaching stylistic embarrassments. And although he rightly appeals to those interested in lexical skill, verbal clarity and that transparent elegance he deploys so well, Waugh's stylistic achievements should also be admired because they announce a true modernist innovator.

This is a point worth supporting with the evidence. While the principal figures of literary modernism like Joyce, Proust, Faulkner and if we must Virginia Woolf were using interior monologue to render consciousness and drawing upon the developments in psychoanalysis and fashionable philosophers such as Henri Bergson, at the same time a number of other writers - such as Wyndham Lewis, Anthony Powell, Aldous Huxley and Ronald Firbank - were concentrating on the external, speech and sight.

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The modern artist, he argued, had become tired of a literature that "laden with human matter Published when Waugh was 24, the book was immediately celebrated for its vicious satire and biting humour. See all episodes from In Our Time. Professor David Bradshaw at the University of Oxford.

Professor John Bowen at the University of York.

Review: Philip Eade, 'Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited'

Popular culture, poetry, music and visual arts and the roles they play in our society. This episode is related to British novels adapted into films. This episode is related to Debut novels. Every episode of In Our Time is available to download. Download the best of Radio 3's Free Thinking programme. Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas.

Vile Bodies (1930) by Evelyn Waugh - Radio Drama (1970)

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The cataclysm imbued many writers of the era with a deep pessimism about the fate of modern civilisation. Like his close contemporary and friend Graham Greene about whom Brennan has written a similarly themed study , Waugh came to experience his profound cultural pessimism as a spiritual crisis, which ended in his conversion, in , to Catholicism.

All of Waugh's subsequent writings, Brennan proposes, are devoted to the exploration and elaboration of aspects of his Catholic faith, which provided him with "an inspiring source of narrative creativity, intellectual scepticism and spiritual solace". Waugh was a famously prickly character.

About Evelyn Waugh

Near the end of the book, Brennan acknowledges his subject "has always attracted passionate detractors. Both his writings and his caricature public persona of an irascible, tweed-suited 'old fogey' have been accused of snobbishness, elitism, boorishness, cruelty, misanthropy and racism.

Though not at all a hagiographer, Brennan is not a detractor. He chooses not to dwell on his subject's less than admirable social views, or the fact that Waugh was capable of being, in the words of Stephen Fry another admirer of his fiction , "a howling shit".

The Trouble With Evelyn Waugh - Washington Free Beacon

This is perhaps fair enough in a work concerned with the theological dimension of Waugh's writing, but it gives an odd cast to the book's mixture of biography and criticism, because it downplays the paradoxes of his character. Brennan treats Waugh's faith as sincere, which it certainly was, but in treating it respectfully he also presents it uncritically. Yet one of the fascinating things about Waugh, which Brennan's argument only hints at, is the apparent contradiction between his professed piety and his temperamental irascibility.

This is a literary issue as much as a psychological one.