The Mysterious Life of Evelyn Waugh: A Biography


Evelyn Waugh was an English writer who carved out a unique path in the world of literature. He was known for his dark humor, sharp wit, and satirical take on societal norms. Over the span of his life, he wrote several acclaimed novels, including “Brideshead Revisited” and “A Handful of Dust,” that continue to be popular even today.

Born in 1903 to a family of writers, Waugh grew up surrounded by literature. His father, Arthur Waugh, was a well-known publisher and critic, and his brother, Alec Waugh, also became a successful novelist. However, Evelyn initially struggled to find his footing in the world of writing and dabbled in various fields such as teaching and journalism.

It was in 1928, with the publication of his first novel “Decline and Fall,” that Waugh finally gained recognition as a writer. The book was a satirical take on his experiences as a teacher, and it marked the beginning of his signature style of comedy and social commentary.

In the following years, Waugh continued to write prolifically, with many of his works being adapted into films and TV series. However, it was his magnum opus, “Brideshead Revisited,” published in 1945, that cemented his place in the literary world. The novel, which explores themes of religion, class, and forbidden love, was a commercial and critical success and is considered by many to be his finest work.

But behind the success and acclaim, Evelyn Waugh lived a mysterious and, at times, tumultuous life. He was known for his eccentricities and often appeared aloof and detached from society. In fact, even his friends and family found it challenging to understand him.

Waugh’s life was also marked by a series of failed relationships and marriages. His first marriage, to Evelyn Gardner, ended in a bitter divorce, and his second marriage to Laura Herbert was also strained. It wasn’t until his final marriage to Laura’s cousin, Audrey, that he found some semblance of stability.

Moreover, Waugh’s personal life was further complicated by his deep-seated Catholic beliefs, which he struggled to reconcile with his vices and flaws. This internal turmoil is reflected in many of his works, particularly in “Brideshead Revisited.” Despite his complex relationship with religion, Waugh was fiercely devoted to his faith and even traveled to exotic places like Africa and South America as a Catholic missionary.

In addition to his writing, Waugh was also known for his love for travel and adventure. He explored many parts of the world, often on his own, and his experiences fueled his writing. This love for travel is evident in his novel “Scoop,” which is a scathing commentary on the world of journalism.

In his later years, Waugh’s health began to decline, and he was beset by several ailments. He continued to write and even received many prestigious awards, including the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel “Helena.”

Evelyn Waugh passed away in 1966 at the age of 63, leaving behind a body of work that continues to captivate readers all over the world. His enigmatic personality and unconventional life have only added to the intrigue surrounding his writings. Even today, Waugh remains a literary icon, and his works are regarded as timeless classics.

In conclusion, Evelyn Waugh’s life was a curious mix of triumphs, failures, and inner turmoil, all of which shaped his unique writing style. He remains a literary enigma, inspiring generations of writers with his sharp satire and wry humor. Though his life may be shrouded in mystery, his contribution to the world of literature is undeniable, and he will always be remembered as one of the most talented writers of his time.