The Life and Times of Evelyn Waugh: A Biography


Evelyn Waugh was a renowned English author and one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Born on October 28, 1903, in London, England, Waugh’s literary works were a reflection of the times he lived in, often exploring the themes of English society, religion, and war.

Waugh came from a family with a strong literary background. His father, Arthur Waugh, was a publisher and literary critic, and his elder brother Alec also became a successful writer. From a young age, Waugh was exposed to a world of literature and developed a keen interest in reading and writing.

After completing his education at Oxford University, Waugh embarked on a brief career in teaching and also worked as a journalist. However, it was his debut novel, “Decline and Fall,” published in 1928, that brought him widespread acclaim and established him as a prominent figure in the literary world.

Waugh went on to write numerous novels, often drawing inspiration from his personal experiences and observations. His most famous works include “Brideshead Revisited,” “Scoop,” and “A Handful of Dust.” He also wrote several travel books, essays, and biographies, showcasing his versatility as a writer.

One of the defining aspects of Waugh’s work was his satirical and often controversial approach towards his subject matter. He was known for his razor-sharp wit and dark humor, which he used to critique and satirize the English upper class and the society they represented. This unique style of writing earned him both praise and criticism, but it also made him one of the most distinctive voices in English literature.

Apart from his literary accomplishments, Waugh’s personal life was also marked by various ups and downs. He was married twice and had several affairs, including one with fellow writer Nancy Mitford. He also converted to Catholicism in 1930, a decision that greatly influenced his later works and was often reflected in his exploration of religious themes.

Waugh was also greatly impacted by World War II, serving in the Royal Marines and later as a commando. The war experience had a profound effect on him and can be seen in his writing, particularly in his novel “Sword of Honour,” which is considered one of the best works of literature to come out of the war.

Despite his success and critical acclaim, Waugh struggled with personal and financial difficulties throughout his life. He suffered from bouts of depression and alcoholism, which affected his health and writing. He also faced severe financial setbacks due to multiple failed business ventures and extravagant spending habits.

In later years, Waugh’s work received renewed recognition and appreciation, with “Brideshead Revisited” being adapted into a highly successful TV series in 1981. Today, his books continue to be widely read and studied, with his unique style of writing and exploration of social and religious themes remaining relevant and impactful.

Despite his tumultuous personal life, Evelyn Waugh left behind a rich and enduring literary legacy that has stood the test of time. His works continue to inspire and entertain readers around the world, making him one of the most celebrated and beloved writers of the 20th century. His life and times were a reflection of the society and culture he lived in, and his legacy will continue to shape and influence generations to come.