Evelyn Waugh

Waugh, Evelyn Arthur St. John

Evelyn Arthur St. John Waugh (ēv´lĬn, sĬn´jən wô), 1903–66, English writer, considered the greatest satirist of his generation. Educated at Oxford, he was briefly an art student and a teacher but spent much of his time traveling. He served with distinction in World War II. Waugh burst upon the literary scene with a group of hilarious novels satirizing 20th-century life with savage and sophisticated wit; they include Decline and Fall (1928), Vile Bodies (1930), and A Handful of Dust (1934). He was even more mordantly satiric in Black Mischief (1932) and Scoop (1938), both treating Africa, and Put Out More Flags (1942), a fictional comment on the English war effort. His most popular novel, Brideshead Revisited (1945), recounts the spiritual regeneration of a wealthy Catholic family. In a novella, The Loved One (1948), he examined the mortuary customs of Hollywood, Calif.

Collectively known as The Sword of Honour Trilogy, his three World War II novels, Men at Arms (1952), Officers and Gentlemen (1955), and The End of the Battle (1961), display Waugh's customary ironic wit tempered by a mood of melancholic elegy and are among the finest fictional portrayals of the conflict. In addition to these and other works of fiction, he wrote amusing travel books, biographies of Rossetti (1928) and Edmund Campion (1935), and the autobiographical A Little Learning (1964). All reflect his superb command of the English language. Though labeled an archconservative snob by some critics, Waugh was essentially a moralist who devoted himself to attacking social institutions and customs with impersonal scorn.

See his letters, ed. by M. Amory (1980); correspondence with Nancy Mitford (1997), ed. by C. Mosley; biographies by his brother Alec (1968), M. Stannard (2 vol., 1987–92), S. Hastings (1995), J. H. Wilson (1996), D. W. Patey (1998), D. Wykes (1999), and P. Byrne (2010); studies by J. F. Carens (1966), P. A. Doyle (1969), W. J. Cook (1971), D. Lodge (1971), D. Price-Jones (1973), and H. Carpenter (1990).

Waugh's older brother, Alec Waugh (Alexander Raban Waugh), 1898–1981, was the author of numerous novels and travel books. Among his best-known works are The Loom of Youth (1918), Island in the Sun (1956), and The Fatal Gift (1973).

Waugh's son, Auberon Alexander Waugh, 1939–2000, was a novelist, journalist, and critic known for his satiric wit, curmudgeonly attitudes, and sparkling prose. Many of his ferociously clever and contrarion columns were published in Britain's Spectator and Private Eye. His five novels include The Foxglove Saga (1960) and Consider the Lilies (1968). He wrote of himself and his family in Will This Do?, his 1998 autobiography.

See N. R. Galli, ed., Four Crowded Years: The Diaries of Auberon Waugh, 1972–1976 (1976) and A. Galli-Pahlavi, ed., Diaries of Auberon Waugh, 1976–1985: A Turbulent Decade (1985).

Auberon's son, Alexander Evelyn Michael Waugh, 1963–, has been a composer and music critic. Turning to writing later in his career, he has penned such works as Time (2000) and God (2002). His Fathers and Sons: The Autobiography of a Family (2007) is a witty and moving study of five generations of Waughs.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Evelyn Waugh: Selected full-text books and articles

The End of the Battle By Evelyn Waugh Little, Brown, 1961
The Creative Element: A Study of Vision, Despair, and Orthodoxy among Some Modern Writers By Stephen Spender H. Hamilton, 1953
Librarian’s tip: Chap. IX "The World of Evelyn Waugh"
The Columbia History of the British Novel By Deirdre David; Michael Seidel; John J. Richetti; John Bender Columbia University Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: "Satire between the Wars: Evelyn Waugh and Others" begins on pg. 867
Encounters: An Anthology from the First Ten Years of Encounter Magazine By Stephen Spender; Irving Kristol; Melvin Lasky J Basic Books, 1963
Librarian’s tip: "An Open Letter to the Hon. Mrs. Peter Rodd (Nancy Mitford) on a Very Serious Subject" begins on pg. 169
Cyclopedia of World Authors By Dayton Kohler; Frank N. Magill Harper & Row, 1958
Classics and Commercials: A Literary Chronicle of the Forties By Edmund Wilson Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1950
Librarian’s tip: "Never Apologize, Never Explain: The Art of Evelyn Waugh" begins on p. 140
Evelyn Waugh: A Literary Biography By John Howard Wilson Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996
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