Birthday: October 28, 1903
Died At Age: 62
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Also Known As: Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh
Born Country: England
Born in: West Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Famous as: Writer
Spouse/Ex-: Laura Herbert, Evelyn Gardner (m. 1929 - annulled 1936)
father: Arthur Waugh
mother: Catherine Charlotte Raban
siblings: Alec Waugh, Alexander Raban Waugh
children: Auberon Waugh, Harriet Mary Waugh, James Waugh, Margaret Evelyn Waugh, Maria Teresa Waugh, Mary Waugh, Michael Septimus Waugh
Died on: April 10, 1966
place of death: Combe Florey, United Kingdom
City: London, England
Cause of Death: Heart Failure
education: Lancing College
awards: James Tait Black Memorial Prize
Who was Evelyn Waugh?
Evelyn Waugh was an English author, journalist, educator, and book critic. Regarded as one of the most brilliant novelists of his time, Waugh is widely known for his satirical works. In his initial days as a writer, he went on several solo trips. His observations on those trips became the base of many of his early works. Eventually, his failed first marriage, his induction into Catholicism, and his military experiences during World War II, became the subjects of his later works. One of his most prominent works, 'Brideshead Revisited' (1945), was adapted into a 'BBC' series posthumously. Some of his other acclaimed works were ‘Decline and Fall’ (1928), ‘A Handful of Dust’ (1934), and the war trilogy ‘Sword of Honour’ (1952–1961).
Childhood & Early Life
Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh was born on October 28, 1903. He was the younger son of publisher Arthur Waugh and Catherine Charlotte Raban. He grew up with his elder brother, Alexander Raban Waugh.
By the time Waugh's education began at 'Heath Mount' preparatory school, he had already completed writing his first story, 'The Curse of the Horse Race.' He was the founder and editor of the school magazine 'The Cynic.'
Waugh's first published work was an essay titled 'In Defence of Cubism' (November 1917) for the arts magazine 'Drawing and Design.'
Waugh then completed his higher education from 'Lancing College,' Sussex, and 'Hertford College,' Oxford. At ‘Lancing,’ he was the secretary of the debating society. Later, his scholarship was canceled due to poor grades, and hence, Waugh had to drop out.
Waugh then started his novel, 'The Temple at Thatch,' and later joined 'Heatherley School of Fine Art,' London.
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Waugh soon got bored at 'Heatherley' and quit the course. However, his eventual financial crisis made him work at a preparatory school called 'Arnold House' in North Wales (January 1925).
In 1925, Waugh got a job offer as Scottish writer Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff's secretary in Italy. Sure of his appointment, he resigned at 'Arnold House.' Unfortunately, his appointment was not finalized, and around the same time, the early chapters of his novel were also rejected. Waugh contemplated suicide but dropped the idea.
Waugh then taught at schools and simultaneously pursued alternative careers in printing and cabinet making. He also started attending evening classes in carpentry at 'Holborn Polytechnic.'
Waugh's short story 'The Balance' was included in a 1926 anthology named 'Georgian Stories.' Published by 'Chapman and Hall,' this was his first commercially published fiction. Back then, he was a printer trainee at the 'Shakespeare Head Press' in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Waugh then got an opportunity to write the biography of British artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti for 'Duckworths.' He also started writing 'Decline and Fall.'
Waugh had quit teaching. His income from part-time writing and journalism was barely enough for survival. In 1927, he began a relationship with Evelyn Gardner, which was opposed by her parents, Lord and Lady Burghclere. The couple was popularly known as "He-Evelyn" and "She-Evelyn."
First Marriage & Rise to Fame
'Duckworths' panned Waugh's 'Decline and Fall,' but 'Chapman and Hall' published it. This gave him the confidence to plan his wedding with Gardner. Despite strong opposition, the two finally got married on June 27, 1928.
Their initial struggles with lack of money and Gardner's health issues ended to an extent in September 1928, when 'Decline and Fall' garnered huge accolades. The success brought Waugh a Mediterranean cruise trip and an opportunity to write travel articles.
Waugh's marriage hit the rocks when, to his shock and dismay, Gardner left him for their mutual friend, John Heygate. Waugh filed for a divorce.
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According to Waugh's first biographer, Christopher Sykes, the divorce had made him bitter. However, he became a best-selling author after his second novel, 'Vile Bodies,' published on January 19, 1930, became a huge commercial success.
Waugh earned a handsome income from regular jobs at 'The Graphic,' 'Town and Country,' and 'Harper's Bazaar.'
Catholicism & Criticism
On September 29, 1930, Waugh embraced Catholicism. Subsequently, Waugh covered the coronation of Haile Selassie in Abyssinia and completed the travelogue 'Remote People' (1931), the comic novel 'Black Mischief' (1932), the travel account 'Ninety-two Days' (1934), and the novel 'A Handful of Dust' (1934).
The Catholic journal 'The Tablet' criticized some parts of 'Black Mischief,' saying it was obscene and blasphemous. To defend himself, he wrote an open letter to the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Francis Bourne, which was published in 1980.
Waugh's book on Jesuit martyr Edmund Campion, published in 1935, too, was criticized for being forthright pro-Catholic and anti-Protestant. However, he received the 'Hawthornden Prize' for the work.
In August 1935, Waugh covered the Second Italo-Abyssinian War for the 'Daily Mail.' His report was published under the title 'Waugh in Abyssinia' (1936). The pro-Italian tone of the book was criticized by many.
In 1933, while on a Greek islands cruise, Waugh met Gabriel Herbert, explorer Aubrey Herbert's eldest daughter. Later, he met her sister, Laura.
As per Catholic vows, Waugh could not marry while Gardner was still alive. He loved Laura and wanted to marry her. Therefore, in October 1933, he filed for the annulment of the marriage.
Despite some initial family opposition, Waugh and Laura finally got married on April 17, 1937 in London. They had seven children, of whom one died as an infant.
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Waugh's novel 'Scoop,' published in May 1938, earned massive critical acclaim.
Waugh was drafted into the 'Royal Marines' in December 1939 during World War II. That was when he tried to change his writing style and adopted the first-person narrative. However, he eventually stopped working on it for a while.
Waugh's grueling military training gave him a stiff spine, making him unable to continue his writing work. In April 1940, he received a temporary promotion when he was made a captain, but he proved to be an unpopular officer.
Waugh lost his rank and became the intelligence officer of his battalion. In November 1940, he was recruited to the commando unit and eventually posted under the command of Colonel Robert Laycock.
Waugh chronicled his war experiences in 'Put out More Flags' (1942), which demonstrated his literary style from the 1930s.
In May 1942, Laycock ordered Waugh's transfer to the 'Royal Horse Guards.'
His father's death and other family affairs did not let Waugh join his brigade for 'Operation Husky' (July 9–August 17, 1943). Despite his bravery, his unruly conduct caused his dismissal.
Bored of his idleness, Waugh took up parachute training at 'Tatton Park,' Cheshire, during which his fibula fractured. While recovering, he wrote 'Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder' (1945), his first overtly Catholic novel, and received acclaim from all spheres.
Waugh retired from his military services in September 1945 and recorded his experiences in 'Scott-King's Modern Europe.'
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Later Career & Decline
In February 1947, Waugh traveled to the U.S. to discuss the film adaptation of 'Brideshead.' Though the project was shelved, Waugh stayed in the U.S. to research for his next work, 'The Loved One,' a satire on American perspectives on death.
By 1953, Waugh's popularity had declined. He was again in a financial crisis that stalled the second book of his war trilogy, 'Officers and Gentlemen.'
Waugh's health, too, deteriorated due to his drug addiction. According to his doctor's advice, he traveled to Ceylon in January 1954, to finish his novel.
Waugh was hallucinating and hearing voices. He believed that the Devil had possessed him. His medical reports suggested that he had bromide poisoning. A change in his medicine routine treated the issue. Waugh fictionalized the experience in 'The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold' (1957).
In 1956, journalist and author Edwin Newman made a short film on Waugh's life.
After recovery, Waugh finished 'Officers and Gentlemen.' His next major book was the biography of Ronald Knox, the famous Catholic writer and theologian, who was also his long-time friend. However, Waugh was not writing actively. Hence, the third volume of his war trilogy got delayed.
In 1960, Waugh declined the honor of a ''CBE,'' saying he deserved a knighthood.
In September, Waugh released his last travel book, 'A Tourist in Africa.' His final part of the war trilogy, 'Unconditional Surrender,' was published in 1961.
In 1962, Waugh started his autobiography, and finished the short story 'Basil Seal Rides Again,' published the same year. The first volume of his autobiography, 'A Little Learning,' was published in 1964.
In 1965, Waugh edited and compiled his war trilogy into a single volume, 'Sword of Honour.'
Death & Legacy
Waugh died of a heart failure on April 10, 1966. He was cremated outside the Anglican churchyard of the 'Church of St Peter & St Paul,' Combe Florey.
'BBC' posthumously adopted 'Brideshead Revisited' as a series starring Jeremy Irons.
Waugh's grandson, Alexander, recorded the family legacy in his book 'Fathers and Sons.'