Evelyn Waugh

Braybrooke, Neville

BOOKS The spectacle of a literary craftsman EVELYN WADGH THE EARLY YEARS 1903-1939 Martin Stannard W. W. Norton, $24.95, 537 pp. Neville Braybrooke Evelyn Waugh once acknowledged his debt...

...In 1928 when he brought out his study of Rossetti, he referred to it as no more than a text elucidating certain aesthetic principles about craftsmanship...
...He corrects facts and dates in Christopher Syke's earlier but still highly valuable biography, and, unlike Sykes, has been in touch with Evelyn Gardner...
...For him there was a direct link between wholeness and holiness...
...Where Mr...
...In January 1930, on the eve of a trip abroad, he told a reporter that he hoped to come back with sufficient sketches to mount an exhibition in the summer and, if it was successful, abandon writing for good...
...At his bank he was constantly overdrawn and he often relied on his literary agent to come up with a loan...
...But some passages must have Waugh turning in his grave...
...From his earliest days at Lancing he had assumed that there was an inherent pattern in life, and the writers that he came most to admire were those whose books were carefully structured, each chapter being subject to the whole...
...In Men at Arms Guy Crouchback argues that the supernatural is real, and that what most people call "real" is a mere shadow...
...The opening pages of Decline and Fall had already been favorably tried out on contemporaries and within two months he completed the novel...
...Then there is the conflict between the selfeffacing artist and the ambitious man of the world...
...Volume one of Martin Stannard's projected two-volume life of Evelyn Waugh covers the period 1903 to 1939...
...How odd those two sentences seem together...
...To draw attention to this aspect now shows that Mr...
...Stannard's account of Evelyn's attempt to drown himself in 1925 ends: "He swam into a shoal of jellyfish and was stung back to reason...
...The reason was money...
...Evelyn Gardner the niece of Lord 602 Carnarvon and an income was a necessity if he was to marry her...
...But in the company of friends he was modest about his achievements, preferring instead to talk about theirs...
...A great deal of light, too, is thrown on his methods of composition...
...It was not, he emphasized to Harold Acton, a work of literature...
...There are also some flashes of wit, which Waugh would have admired...
...Stannard observes: "Waugh worked on his manuscript like a cabinet-maker inserting inlay...
...In a letter of 1932 quoted here he instructs his agent to suggest a fee of 30 pounds per review to The Spectator, but to be willing to settle for 25 pounds (over 400 pounds by today's standards...
...The supernatural order, he declares, " is not something added to the natural order, like music or painting . . . It is everyday life...
...By the same token he regarded himself as an artist craftsman, and in 1936, in the columns of The Tablet, he extended the same definition to P.G...
...Even during his agnostic period at Oxford, art was for him a surrogate religion...
...Strictly speaking Men at Arms, which was not published until 1952, lies chronologically outside this first volume...
...The clash of opposites in his character is well brought out here...
...With what pleasure he had watched him cut concealed dovetails...
...Supernatural reality became more and more the only true register of meaning...
...Yet as he grew older, and encouraged by his second wife, Laura Herbert, whom he married in 1937, temporal matters came for him to count for less and less...
...A diary entry from his schoolmastering period reads: "Next Thursday I am to visit a Father Underhill about being a parson...
...In 1960, when he was finally persuaded to appear on television and asked by his interviewer why he did so, his reply was pointed and brief "Poverty...
...With the critics it was different: they existed to be baited and needed to be kept in their place...
...He was also responsible for many hidden acts of kindness to fellow authors...
...Besides, he had fallen in love with the Hon...
...One concerns his eccentric friend Conrad Russell, who is described as a man having "quantities of disposable wealth to waste on presents for Lady Diana [Cooper...
...Stannard is at his best is in his examination of Waugh's search for order...
...Later, after his reception into the church, he would say that what had won him over was not so much the splendors of the liturgy, but "the spectacle of the priest as [a] craftsman" on the steps of the altar...
...Her comments about her marriage to Waugh are both instructive and charitable...
...Although the task had proved easier than he had supposed, he still looked back with nostalgia to the days which he had spent under a brilliant and dedicated cabinet-maker...
...Stannard has spent ten years on researching the book...
...How Waugh suffered by being brought up on the edges of Golders Green...
...Waugh was a master at handling the press and a keen publicity-seeker...
...At Lancing and Oxford, Evelyn showed no signs of wanting to follow his father and elder brother into the world of letters...
...It was a gracious and a generous admission...
...He was not beyond reviewing his own books Labels, for instance and when discussing the work of other novelists would sometimes introduce his own name as a means of self-advertisement...
...To the latter everything is of supreme importance handmade shoes, ties from Chavet and a fashionable London address...
...Stannard is on the right lines for volume two...
...As a penniless schoolmaster he saw no future for himself and his alternative choice, which was to design furniture, would involve a long apprenticeship...
...When he wrote of Rossetti as a mystic without a creed, or as a Catholic without the consolation of the church, he was drawing a portrait of himself as a young man...
...Wodehouse...
...Neville Braybrooke Evelyn Waugh once acknowledged his debt to William Gerhardie in these words: "As no doubt you realized, I learned a great deal of my trade from your novels...
...603...
...Referring to Scoop, Mr...
...So, too, did the television presenters...
...The entire royalties on Edmund Campion, he gave in perpetuity to Campion Hall, the home of the Jesuits in Oxford...
...A first-rate craftsman" was his summing up...
...Waugh, it seems in retrospect, drifted into authorship: "I held out until I was twentyfour . . . than I was sucked under...
...Last night I was very drunk...
...In the case of the Catholic press, after his conversion in late 1930, he was willing to accept from Catholic editors what he described to Graham Greene as joke-wages...
...He was of course using the term trade with the medieval guild system in mind...

Vol. 114 • October 1987 • No. 18


 
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