. 'EVELYN WAUGH
F must, I am afraid, be some twenty-four years ago that I first met Evelyn Waugh, when we were both young undergraduates at Oxford University ; those were the rather highly-coloured post-first-war years, when everyone was in a state of reaction from the tragic time before, wearing loud clothes and talking and living a bit loud into the bargain ; well, universities are splendid places for cutting one's wisdom teeth, even though one's carccr is remarkable for nothing else. I think we first noticed each other because, in the fashions 9f the day. he had a suit of plus fours that was not far off sky-blue. while I had one that was almost sea-green Those suits saw some amusing adventures; I can remember one evening when the Proc. tor and his bulldogs, that is, to use the military
language with which we are now.
a I I conversant, when the ProvostMarshal and the C.M.P.s of the University — b u t here, perhaps, amnesia is the best policy
We remained good friends all through our time at the university. as indeed we have done ever since : there were serious moments as well as the others, when we attended AngloCatholic services, which started new trains of thought In our minds (Waugh never became an Anglo-Catholic: he has an extremely logical Scotch mind. which would not accept the Anglican corimromise), or held long discussions in typical undergraduate style with our friend Christopher Hopis The three of us. have now made the same journey The other two used also to argue with Francis Fortescue Urquhart (Sligger). the Catholic Dean of Balboa whose remarks they would bring back to . mc ; one Saturday evening they rewarded his wisdom by serenading him outside his rooms till he could bear it no longer (neither is blessed with an ear for music). and ordered them to bed.
THEN, after we had gone down, A Evelyn told me he was writing a hook, and in order to achieve some retirement rot this. was loving in a caravan in an Oxfordshire village It is a fact that the first efforts of talented writers are nearly always a failure, and I expect few people now remember the hook on Rossetti which he theo published ; when one thinks of certain rather swan-laced criticisms that have since been levelled at his work. it is amusing to think that one of the reviewers of his first book objected to Miss Evelyn Waugh's " unfortunate prudery:" Decline and Fall followed fairly soon. and he had found fame. though not ease, for he has told mo that he finds writing a constant effort ; he is not one of those from whom words flow easily.
Since then, however, the output has been steady, varying in quality, but on the whote of a very high standard ; his work has also been of much richer variety than is usually credited to him. Like most men who know their own mind, he has at times been in the wars for his outspoken habits, whether describing the ills to which our flesh is heir, or the sloppiness of so much modem political thought; Black Mkchid exposed him to attack from the angle of mid-Victorian sensibility. while Waugh in Abyssinia. one of the only well-informed books about that regrettable campaign, in which, in spite of his firsthand knowledge, he is a little too indulgent to the Italian case, won for him the humourless• fury of the .Bloomsbury Left
Between these books lies his life of Blessed Edmund Campion. one of the finest pieces of hagiography that English Catholic letters have so far produced. a tale of intense suffering and • heroism in
which the reader is spared no painfuldetail: but at the same time written with an economy of language which reminds one of Newman in historical mood ; it is dedicated to -Fr. Martin D'Arcy. S.J.. now provincial of the Jesuits, who received him into the Church in 1930.
WHEN the second world-war broke out Waugh obtained a commission in the Royal Marines, and saw much service with the Commandos ; the story of his adventuites remains to he written, but it may well be that for the moment the public has had enough of " guns and drums." His later books show. however, at times with deep satire. an inside knowledge of Army life. He once told me of a good story against himself. how. when as a newlyjoined subaltern he was being 'pia through his drill by the sergeant-major, the latter sadly asked him to remember he was handling a rifle and not a cigar. This last war was mainly fought by vuenrdeder htobwirtyh-efrvemaannadgedI htoayseeeneseverii vice with so active a unit. especially as his worst enemy could not accuse him of bean,"p athletic, bet all the better luck to him lot the gallant effort.
Evelyn Waugh is on the short side
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