Further Reading

Other Books by Waugh

  • Martin Stannard, Evelyn Waugh: The Early Years (1903-1939) (1986)
    The academic biography, heavy with research, critical appreciations and textual analysis of manuscripts. Stannard writes interestingly but a touch slightingly on the early novels.
  • Martin Stannard, Evelyn Waugh: No Abiding City (1939-1966) (1992)
    Unlike many other recent biographers of literary figures, Stannard refuses to take for granted either the presumed security of his subject's reputation or wide reading in the works on the part of the reader. He can also seem dismissive, remote, overly concerned with language and unwilling to be amused. This tone serves Waugh ideally. Two essential volumes, but now apparently out-of-print.
  • Selina Hastings, Evelyn Waugh: A Biography (1994)
    Reliable and thorough, Hastings proves especially strong tracing her subject's social climbing progress, from schoolboy in the lower middle-class suburbs of Golders Green to ear-trumpet-bearing country squire.
Criticism on Waugh
  • George McCartney, Confused Roaring: Evelyn Waugh and the Modernist Tradition (1987)
  • Robert Murray Davis, Evelyn Waugh, Writer (1981)
  • Robert Murray Davis, Evelyn Waugh and the Forms of his Time (1989)
  • William Myers, Evelyn Waugh and the Problem of Evil (1991)
  • David Pryce-Jones, ed. Evelyn Waugh and his World (1973)
  • Martin Stannard, ed. Evelyn Waugh: The Critical Heritage (1984)
Other critical works
  • Malcolm Bradbury, The Modern British Novel (2001)
    A fine overview of fiction in Britain from a committed champion of Waugh.
  • Cyril Connolly, Enemies of Promise (1938)
    A unique piece of work out-of-print as a single title but available across the two volumes of The Modern Movement and The Two Natures. In the first part Connolly surveys his peers, the contemporary novelists he so wanted to join. Part Two: he considers the diversions that might draw a novelist away from his work and gives the world the immortal line "there is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall". In the famous final part our hero relives his youth at Eton. Perfectly turned prose throughout and interesting literary judgements, such as accusing Waugh's early novels of betraying an 'ignorance of life' when, as George Orwell correctly pointed out, he could tell by reading Connolly's writing that its author 'inclined to stoutness' and had never done any real work in his life.
  • Alvin B Kernan, The Plot of Satire (1965)
    Good on the 'circularity' of Decline and Fall.
  • Wyndham Lewis, Men Without Art (1934)
    As scrappy and disorganised as everything else he wrote, but includes his manifesto on 'the Great Without' admired in a review by Waugh.
  • Alan Munton, English Fiction of the Second World War (1989)
    This useful title looks critically at Sword of Honour and the lack of a 'representative' novel to emerge from the British experience of World War II.
  • Jose Ortega y Gasset, The Dehumanization of Art (1925), translation (1948)
    Following a similar line of thought to Lewis, a more lucid and less messianic enquiry into 'externalism'.
  • Sean O'Faolain, The Vanishing Hero (1956)
    A study of novels in the 1920s and their Pennyfeather-like protagonists.
Compare and contrast...
  • (Percy) Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957)
    Anglo-Canadian-American self-proclaimed Renaissance man. Both a painter and a writer, Lewis founded the arts movement known as Vorticism and listed himself, along with T S Eliot, Ezra Pound and James Joyce, as the fourth of "the men of 1914" who ruled in literary modernism. A fierce opponent of interior monologue and the new portrayal of human consciousness in Joyce, Woolf and Proust, his life and works are characterised by ill temper, contempt for others and an ineradicable sympathy for Fascist thinking. Together with defining experience of battle in the First World War, Lewis shared these characteristics with the French writer Louis-Ferdinand Celine, but his episodes of black comedy, casual violence and his general concentration on externalities such as sight and speech align him equally closely with Waugh. The Revenge for Love (1938), a cerebral thriller which swipes at art forgery and sitting-room socialism, is his most accessible work but Tarr (1918, revised 1928), set in Paris, and the Bloomsbury-bashing The Apes of God (1930) are more interesting. His chunky critical work Men Without Art (1934) offers many highlights, including a defence of Lewis' literary method admired by Waugh and a cherishably sour response to Huxley's Point Counter Point ("no book opening upon this tone of vulgar complicity with the dreariest of suburban library readers could... become anything but a dull and vulgar book"). Some Sort of Genius (2000) by Paul O'Keeffe has joined Jeffrey Meyers' biography The Enemy (1980) whilst a contemptuous dismissal of the man and his works can be found occupying the penultimate chapter of John Carey's excellent The Intellectuals and the Masses (1992).
  • Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
    English novelist most famous for his futuristic satire Brave New World and The Doors of Perception, a short account of his experiences with the hallucinogenic drug mescalin. (Its title is from William Blake and caught the attention of Jim Morrison.) The themes of these two books - pleas for open-mindedness, paternalistic coercion by agents of control, curiosity with new ideas and experiences, atmosphere of persecution - have proven to be more fashionable now than at the time of his writing and continue to sustain his reputation. Patronised by T S Eliot and parodied by Cyril Connolly, Huxley's early fiction is nevertheless comic and intelligent, with a pervading bitterness. Although his exhibitionistic intellectual display occasionally comes across like someone recycling encyclopedia entries, his formative novels - the bleak Antic Hay in particular - are well worth investigating.
  • Anthony Powell (1905-2000)
    English novelist. Although his major achievement is the twelve-volume novel sequence A Dance to the Music of Time Powell began writing as a contemporary of Evelyn Waugh. His five novels published before the Dance - all in the Thirties - are characterised by circular conversations, underlying melancholy and a mood of listless enervation the critic Walter Allen fittingly described as 'aesthetic disdain'. These early works owe clear debts to Hemingway, Firbank and Lewis but it is Waugh who is the inescapable presence. Indeed, Waugh's novels overshadow not only those of Powell but also his stature as a novelist. This situation is dealt with in his fascinating Journals, filled with condescending judgements about his (invariably deceased) literary contemporaries, their lives and works.
  • Cyril Connolly (1905-1973)

    English literary journalist. Like Powell, Connolly was an Oxford contemporary; unlike him, he never became the novelist he so yearned to be. Something of an English equivalent of the American critic Edmund Wilson, only a good deal more likeable, his appeal is captured perfectly in William Boyd's foreword to the Selected Works. Clive Fisher (1995) and Jeremy Lewis (1997) have both written excellent biographies but best of all is Michael Shelden's Friends of Promise (1989), a chronicle of the famous British cultural magazine Horizon. Waugh makes amusing cameo appearances in all three of these books, while Connolly turns up as Everard Spruce in the Sword of Honour novels and as a comic butt throughout The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh.
  • Kingsley Amis (1922-1995)
    English novelist. Amis achieved enormous success with Lucky Jim, a superbly funny comic novel that towered over the rest of his career. For its perceived political intentions literary history has lumped it in with the 1950s 'Angry Young Men' movement but it stands on its own and is the kind of book one either loves or hates. Amis admired Waugh but the feeling was not reciprocated: Anthony Powell, a friend of both, has recorded that Waugh pronounced his surname wrongly and called him "Little Kingsley". Aside from the fiction the series of character sketches comprising his Memoirs are enjoyably gossipy and mean-spirited while The Amis Collection contains some ineffective political rants but also some good writing, especially the interesting pieces on Waugh (Amis was a belligerent Brideshead-hater). See also his son Martin's Experience (2000) and Zachary Leader's Life Of (2006).
  • Tom Sharpe (1928- )
    English novelist. Schooled like Waugh at Lancing in Sussex, Sharpe worked in South Africa for ten years before being deported in 1961. His first two novels draw on his experiences there and are typically regarded as his best work. In fact his masterpiece is Porterhouse Blue, which was televised in the 1980s by Malcolm Bradbury. This is a masterly chronicle of petty power struggles within the closeted universe of a fictional Cambridge college: it lashes at both progressive thinking and adherence to ritual before ending with an unpleasant coda that recalls A Handful of Dust.

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