THE ESSAYS, ARTICLES AND REVIEWS OF EVELYN WAUGH by Donat Gallagher

THE ESSAYS, ARTICLES AND REVIEWS OF EVELYN WAUGH

KIRKUS REVIEW

More for Waugh scholars than for admirers of his fiction, this massive volume brings together nearly 50 years of book-reviews, newspaper columns, letters-to-the-editor, and essays. The earliest pieces, 1917-1930, include some mild society-satires, stern musings on Youth ("this crazy and sterile generation"), an essay on Waugh specialty Rossetti (a recurring subject throughout)--as well as an impressive paean to Henry Green's "neglected masterpiece" Living, with a sideswipe at literary critics. ("They are young ladies, not outstandingly brilliant at anything, who have failed to make a success with poultry.") The 1930s bring Waugh's conversion to Catholicism, with the first of his many tetchy religious polemics; even more knowingly abrasive are his political commentaries--praising Italy's action in Ethiopia, arguing the "many redeeming virtues" of slavery, but insistently distinguishing his conservatism from fascism; the period's book-review standouts are bouquets for Wodehouse, brickbats for Huxley ("the old Golden Bough trouble at its worst"), and keen recognition of Georges Bernanos' talent. And the postwar years are largely dominated by longer, less pithy restatements of Waugh's Catholic/ conservative viewpoints: grapplings with the not-quite-orthodox Catholic fiction of Graham Greene; attacks on Tito's anti-Christian regime; arguments against Vatican modernizations in the 1960s; put-downs of Hollywood, including a sketch for The Loved One; and, as always, tight-lipped scoldings of the Young--from literary rabble-rouser John Wain to ill-bred oafs who no longer change into evening dress for dinner. Throughout, there's less sharp humor than one might expect. (Most nastily amusing: a send-up of dense, distorting foreign journalists.) The subject-matters are often narrow, idiosyncratic, or merely the stuff of workaday-journalism. But connoisseurs of the graver Waugh styles will find stretches of elegant prose in every decade; and Gallagher's extensive introductory material (plus a ten-page list of the articles not included here) helps to make this a substantial addition to the Waughreference shelf.
Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1984
ISBN: 0316926434
Page count: 662pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1984




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