So many books to read, so little time.

Tory Historian on Evelyn Waugh

with 4 comments

My friend Tory Historian has a great post about Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. A very nice discussion of one of my favorite books. She focuses on the character of Anthony Blanche, and his warning to the protagonist, Charles Ryder, about the corrupting power of English charm, especially as it is embodied in the Flyte family. She takes these thread from the novel, and weaves a discussion of the television program made from the book. I have actually never seen the TV show, which various of my friends have liked.

(I previously had this (about Waugh’s definition of conservatism) and this (about somebody misreading and misunderstanding Waugh) on ChicagoBoyz.)

Are there any other Waugh devotees around here?


Written by lexingtongreen

October 28, 2008 at 4:28 am

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. LE


    However, as to Brideshead, I very much prefer the Sword of Honour trilogy, Black Mischief and Put out more flags. All these are part of my Quantum Library.

    There is a 2nd Waugh, the late Auberon Waugh (son), a talented Daily Telegraph journo who died relatively young. He has written a sort of autobiography “Will this do” which contains a very interesting description of EW as a father. Out of print, but if you like EW, get it.

    Finally, for anyone really intersted in Catholicism EW (a convert) is an interesting study. EWs views are very conservative and an excellent antidote to the namby pamby pseudo stuff one often gets today.


    October 28, 2008 at 8:57 pm

  2. Brideshead and Sword of Honor, as I see them, are really two versions of the same book. Both are Waugh’s artistic reworking of his World War II experience. Brideshead is extremely closely woven, a very well wrought novel. But the tradeoff is that it’s focus is narrow. Sword of Honor is sprawling, with various weak points, and some parts better than others. It captures the war experience more completely, but sacrifices some of the unity and almost poetic compression of Brideshead. Brideshead is a small masterpiece, Sword of Honor is a huge near-masterpiece. I could not really choose between them. They complement each other.

    Both are part of my Quantum Library, too.

    I would put Black Mischief a rung lower, and Put Out More Flags a little lower yet. But, since Waugh and Orwell are my two favorite authors, anything by Waugh is near the top of the heap in my opinion.

    Waugh’s Catholicism is poorly understood by his biographers, who are English and hence iike typical English people (to paraphrase Sen. Obama’s expression) they are bigoted against Catholics and Catholicism more than they seem to be aware of. The exception is the biographer Douglas Lane Patey. His life of Waugh is better than Stannard or Hastings. He has a much better understanding of Waugh as a professional writer, and how he made a living at it, he has a good assessment of Waugh’s writing and its quality, and best of all he has a good understanding of Waugh’s religious faith, which he describes fairly and sympathetically, without reducing it to a vulgur psychoanalytic datum.

    Agreed that Waugh was an old-fashioned, tough-minded Catholic. That approach is alive and well, but you have to go looking for it these days. Of course, one person who embodies, though with a dose of pastoral courtesy and kindness, is the current Pope.

    Lexington Green

    October 28, 2008 at 10:34 pm

  3. LG

    In my comment I should have mentioned Helena (which most critics do not much like) and the Lives of Edmund Campion and Ronald Knox.

    I d say my list wd be: Sword, Flags, Mischief, Brideshead, Helena. Never mind, I rate the author very highly, too.

    Bios: Didn t much like the Hastings bio, written partly in women`s magazine English and too gossipy for me. Thx for pointing out Douglas Lane Patey, I ll look that up.

    The connection you make between the Holy Father and Waugh is a highly interesting one though I wonder what the former wd make of the latter. And yet, the Pope is such a well read man that I certainly wd not dare say what he may have read or not.


    November 1, 2008 at 12:52 pm

  4. Fabius: I have read Helena and Campion, but have not yet read Knox. I liked Campion a lot better than Helena.

    As a true Waugh fan, you must look at Patey.

    I am sure Benedict has heard of Waugh, since he is extremely well-read and attuned to cultural matters. Whether he has read Waugh or has an opinion about his work I do not know, but I would like to know.

    I recall reading about Cardinal Montini, who later became Paul VI, having to fend off people in official Catholic circles who wanted to condemn Graham Green for his book The Power and the Glory. Montini, in something I read, took a more sophisticated and, I believe, correct view of the matter. I mention this to point out that the literary English converts were well known figures.

    Lexington Green

    November 2, 2008 at 4:44 am

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