Evelyn Waugh

Regarded by Many to be the Most Brilliant Satirical Novelist of His Day

Born Evelyn Arthur St. John Waugh, on October 28th, 1903 in London England. A well-known and popular English writer that many consider to be the most brilliant satirical novelist of his day. He was born to Arthur Waugh and Catherine Charlotte Raban, a family with English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish and Huguenot origins. He had some very distinguished forebears including Lord Cockburn, a leading Scottish advocate and judge. William Morgan, a pioneer of actuarial science and Philip Henry Gosse, a natural scientist. Evelyn’s first school lessons were given at home by his mother. And it was with her that he formed a particularly strong bond. The relationship with his father was a little more distant. His father had a much closer bond with his brother Alec, and this led to Evelyn often feeling excluded.

New chapter

He was educated at Lancing College, Sussex as well as at Hertford College, Oxford. He started out as an art student and also spend some time as a schoolmaster. Until he devoted himself to solitary observant travel and writing novels. It didn’t take long for him to earn a wide reputation for his sardonic wit and technical brilliance. In 1927, he became engaged to Evelyn Gardner and they were married in St Paul’s Church, Portman Square on 27th June 1928. There were only a few other people present so it was a very low key affair. Money was very tight in the first few months of their marriage, until Waugh’s writing career took off. Problems arose in the form of an extra marital affair, and after confessing a mutual friend had become her lover, the couple filed for divorce on 3rd September 1929. He longed to be married with a wife and children, and after falling in love with Laura Herbert they were married on 17th April, 1937. The couple had seven children, one of whom died in infancy. He served in the Royal Marines and the Royal Horse Guards, during World War II. In 1944, he joined the British military mission to the Yugoslav Partisans. When the war was over he settled into retirement in the west of England, until he died on April 10th, 1966, in CombeFlorey, near Taunton Somerset. Most of Waugh’s novels were drawn from first-hand experience and were unusually highly wrought and precisely written. Many of his writing before 1939 has been described as satirical. Some of the most noteworthy are:

  • Decline and Fall – 1928
  • Vile Bodies – 1930
  • Black Mischief – 1932
  • A Handful of Dust – 1934
  • Scoop – 1938
  • The Loved One – 1948

Waugh’s writing took a more serious and ambitious turn during the war. Brideshead Revisited (1945), for example, is a study of the workings of providence and the recovery of faith among members of a Roman Catholic landed family. Helena (1950), is a novel about the mother of Constantine the Great. In this book he recreates one moment in Christian history in order to make a particular theological point. The trilogy he wrote that included Men at Arms (1952), Officers and Gentlemen (1955) and Unconditional Surrender(1961), is an analysis of the character of World War II. Particularly, the struggle between good and evil and the struggle between civilisation and barbarism.