EVELYN WAUGH by Martin Stannard


The Later Years, 1939-1966
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 The second and final installment of Stannard's monumental, definitive biography (Evelyn Waugh, 1987) of one of the 20th century's most accomplished--and, apparently, misanthropic-- writers. Stannard (English/Univ. of Leicester) incorporates hundreds of previously unpublished documents and unreported interviews in picking up Waugh's tale on the eve of WW II. Britain plunges into the war, and Waugh wangles his way into one of the elite (i.e., aristocrat-led) military units. Thus, army life did nothing to temper Waugh's all-pervasive hauteur. His military career, however, was little short of disastrous, as the writer--surly, snobbish, and almost perpetually soused--was deemed unfit to command a regiment, a fact that rankled and eventually embittered him. With war's end, Waugh's most subtly wrought novel, Brideshead Revisited, was published to widespread acclaim both in Britain and the US. Royalties poured in, and the author was launched on a spendthrift's path to penury. The Loved One, a satire of America's bizarre funerary fashions, proved an even greater success in 1948, and soon Waugh was moving in exalted circles. His fellow-Catholic author Graham Greene was an intimate; Thomas Merton confided in him; Ian Fleming's wife, Ann, according to Stannard no slouch herself at backbiting, kept Waugh supplied with vicious gossip. An especially engrossing section here deals with Waugh's bout with psychosis, during which he heard voices accusing him of worthlessness and perversity. Stannard's depiction of his subject's unconventional home life is equally revealing. A no-holds-barred yet ultimately moving portrait of a major literary talent. (Photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-393-03412-7
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1992