Evelyn Waugh

Evelyn Waugh

A Life Revisited

Book - 2016 | First edition.
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NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE GUARDIAN , SUNDAY TIMES AND FINANCIAL TIMES

Fifty years after Evelyn Waugh's death, here is a completely fresh view of one of the most gifted -- and fascinating -- writers of our time, the enigmatic author of Brideshead Revisited.

Graham Greene hailed Waugh as 'the greatest novelist of my generation', and in recent years his reputation has only grown. Now Philip Eade has delivered an authoritative and hugely entertaining biography that is full of new material, much of it sensational.

Eade builds upon the existing Waugh lore with access to a remarkable array of unpublished sources provided by Waugh's grandson, including passionate love letters to Baby Jungman - the Holy Grail of Waugh research - a revealing memoir by Waugh's first wife Evelyn Gardner ("Shevelyn"), and an equally significant autobiography by Waugh's commanding officer in World War II.

Eade's gripping narrative illuminates Waugh's strained relationship with his sentimental father and blatantly favoured elder brother; his love affairs with male classmates at Oxford and female bright young things thereafter; his disastrous first marriage and subsequent conversion to Roman Catholicism; his insane wartime bravery; his drug-induced madness; his singular approach to marriage and fatherhood; his complex relationship with the aristocracy; the astonishing power of his wit; and the love, fear, and loathing that he variously inspired in others.

One of Eade's aims is 'to re-examine some of the distortions and misconceptions that have come to surround this famously complex and much mythologized character'.'This might look like code for a plan to whitewash the overly blackwashed Waugh,' comments veteran Waugh scholar Professor Donat Gallagher; 'but readers fixated on atrocities will not be disappointed . . . I have been researching and writing about Waugh since 1963 and Eade time and again surprised and delighted me.'

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.
ISBN: 9780805097603
Branch Call Number: 823.912 Waugh-E
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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