Author Evelyn Arthur St. John Waugh was born October 28, 1903 in London, England, and died April 10, 1966 near Taunton, Somerset. He was the son of a publisher, and went to Lancing College and later Hertford College, Oxford. Waugh did not graduate from Oxford, however. He worked for a short time as a schoolmaster before writing full time.
When he was seven, he was a day pupil at Heath Mount preparatory school. He already had many interests by this point, and had already written and finished “The Curse of the Horse Race”, which was his first story that he ever wrote. He spent six years at the school, and he felt he was quite clever during this time; rarely was he ever distressed or overawed by any of the lessons. He was physically pugnacious and incline to bully some of the weaker students. One of which was a future society photographer named Cecil Beaton (someone who never forgot the experience).
In the year 1924, he began writing “The Temple at Thatch”, the first attempt he made as an adult to write full-length fiction. He worked on it for the next year, but after his buddy Harold Acton said something unfavorable about it, Waugh burned it. His severe judgment did not make Waugh decide not to be a writer, it just made him question if he could make it as a novelist. Over time, he was able to get his self-confidence back and finish “Decline and Fall”, his first novel; it was published in the year 1928 and did very well.
Most information about this novel comes from Waugh’s later reminiscences and journal entries about it. Main themes seem to be madness and black magic. Some of the ideas were later incorporated into “The Balance”, a short story first published in the year 1925. It mentions a country house called “Thatch”.
In the year 1927, he met Evelyn Gardner (who is Lord and Lady Burghclere’s daughter). By the end of that year, they became engaged, despite Lady Burghclere’s disapproving; feeling that he kept poor company and did not have enough moral fiber.
Between their friends, they were known as “He-Evelyn” and “She-Evelyn”. He had to live on the four pounds his father gave him each week and whatever he could make reviewing books. They married in 1928, on June 27, and the beginning of their marriage was overshadowed by them having little money and Gardner’s being in poor health. The divorce was annulled in the year of 1936. It made him hard and more bitter.
He wanted to get remarried, but had to accept the fact that he could not while Evelyn Gardner was still living. This is due to his converted to Catholicism and why he annulled the marriage, which he later got on the grounds of lack of real consent. Following his initial encounter with Laura Herbert, in Portofino, he fell in love with her. By letter, he proposed to her in spring time of 1936. Her family did not approve at first, and one of Laura’s cousins was Evelyn Gardner. They married on April 17, 1937. This second marriage ended with his death in the year 1966. With her, he had seven children.
Waugh wrote travel books, novels, and biographies; he worked as a journalist and a reviewer of books. He writes the “Sword of Honour” series, as well as many other books. The “Sword of Honour” series is about Guy Crouchback, who tries to serve his country in World War Two and is based on Evelyn’s own experience at that time. He served with British armed forces, first with the Royal Marines, and then with the Royal Horse Guards.
From the year 1945 on, he was an avid collector of objects, mainly furniture and paintings from the Victorian era that he would fill his Piers Court House with. A lot of times, he would get them from house clearing sales or from the Porobello Market in London. He was able to be shrewd and prescient about it. His collection of Victorian paintings acquired great value. In the year 1949, he started writing about painting in knowledgeable articles and reviews.
He was perceptive as a writer, using the experiences and the varied people he met in his fiction and it was usually to humorous effect. His own detachment was such that he was able to fictionalize his mental breakdown, which he had in the early part of the fifties. His breakdown was during his decline as a writer, at a time when he commanded too much money for stories that did not make very much money in return. It was caused, in part, by the alcohol and drugs that he would take having taken their toll on him.
“Sword of Honour” has been turned into a television drama, from a screenplay written by William Boyd. “Brideshead Revisited” was turned into a television serial, in the year 1981.
“Men at Arms” is the first novel in the “Sword of Honour” series and was released in the year 1952. Guy Crouchback takes a post in the Royal Corps of Halberdiers, as he is determined to fight in the war. He has his spirits high, but sees no action. On the West African coastline, he has his first campaign, which is an abortive deal. It ends with an act that blots his Halberdier copybook.
“Officers and Gentlemen” is the second novel in the “Sword of Honour” series and was released in the year 1955. Guy gets attached to a commando unit, to try to contribute to the efforts in the war, because of his idealism and eagerness. The unit is get training on Mugg, a Hebridean isle; it is a place where whiskey flows like water and respect is to be given to the laird.
The comedy found in Mugg is followed quickly by Crete’s bitterness, where there is much chaos and there is a tough evacuation that must happen without fail.
“Unconditional Surrender” is the third novel in the “Sword of Honour” series and was released in the year 1961. Guy Crouchback, works mainly desk jobs in Britain from the years 1941 until 1943. He celebrates his fortieth birthday. He feels the futility of the second world war because of the German invasion with Russia and Britain’s later alliance with the Soviets. American soldiers are all over the place in London. Virginia has to sell her furs after falling on some hard times recently.
Books in order of publication by series:
Sword Of Honour Books
|Men at Arms||(1952)|
|Officers and Gentlemen||(1955)|
|Unconditional Surrender aka The End of the Battle||(1961)|
|Decline and Fall||(1928)|
|A Handful of Dust||(1934)|
|Put Out More Flags||(1943)|
|The Loved One||(1948)|
|The Holy Places||(1952)|
|Love Among the Ruins||(1953)|
|Tactical Exercise aka The Wish||(1954)|
|Basil Seal Rides Again||(1963)|
Short Story Collections
|Mr. Loveday’s Little Outing||(1936)|
|The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold||(1957)|
|Charles Ryder’s Schooldays||(1982)|
|The Complete Short Stories||(1997)|
|The Complete Stories of Evelyn Waugh||(1998)|
|Saint Edmund Campion||(1935)|
|Waugh in Abyssinia||(1936)|
|Robbery Under Law||(1939)|
|When the Going Was Good||(1946)|
|The Life of Ronald Knox||(1959)|
|The Life of the Right Reverend Ronald Knox||(1959)|
|A Tourist in Africa||(1960)|
|A Little Learning||(1964)|
|The Diaries of Evelyn Waugh||(1976)|
|A Little Order||(1977)|
|Letters of Evelyn Waugh||(1980)|
|The Essays, Articles and Reviews of Evelyn Waugh||(1984)|
|Mr. Wu and Mrs. Stitch||(1991)|
|The Letters of Evelyn Waugh and Diana Cooper||(1992)|
|The Sayings of Evelyn Waugh||(1996)|
|The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh||(1996)|
|The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh||(2001)|
|Two Lives: Edmund Campion: Scholar, Priest, Hero and Martyr AND Life of Ronald Knox||(2002)|
|The Coronation of Haile Selassie||(2005)|