Evelyn Waugh

Evelyn Waugh

A Life Revisited

Book - 2016 | First edition
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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.
Publisher: New York : Henry Holt and Company, 2016
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780805097603
0805097600
Branch Call Number: 823.912 WAU 2016
Characteristics: xxvi, 403 pages, 24 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, genealogical tables ; 25 cm

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dennismmiller
Feb 22, 2017

A friend once described Evelyn Waugh as possessing "an odious, indeed a psychopathic character". Waugh listed his own faults in a letter to his eventual wife - "I am restless & moody & misanthropic & lazy & have no money except what I earn and if I got ill you would starve" - on his suitability for marriage, "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." Yet Graham Greene declared the author of Brideshead Revisited, the Sword of Honour trilogy, and Vile Bodies "the greatest novelist of my generation", an opinion echoed by Robert Henriques, who called Waugh "the best writer of our generation, both morally and in ways I can't define." Waugh himself understood the complementarity of his famously difficult personality and his craft: "Humility is not a virtue propitious to the artist. It is often pride, emulation, avarice, malice - all the odious qualities - which drive a man to complete, elaborate, refine, destroy, renew, his work until he has made something that gratifies his pride and envy and greed. And in doing so he enriches the world more than the generous and good, though he may lose his own soul in the process. That is the paradox of artistic achievement."

Eade's biography of Waugh charts this paradox as it follows him from his troubled childhood, to his schooldays when he first "declared war on dullness", through to Oxford with the Aesthetes and London with the Bright Young Things, his initial literary success, disastrous first marriage, and subsequent conversion to Catholicism, his happy second marriage and service as a commando in World War II, the writing of his later masterpieces, struggles with alcohol, mental breakdown, semi-retirement and death. Eade is less interested in Waugh's literary output than in the people and personalities that surrounded him, although given the extent to which Waugh used (and often abused) friends and acquaintances as models for characters in his work this is understandable - even moreso if considered in the light of Waugh's notorious contempt for critics.

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