The Huntington Library in San Marino, California (12 miles west of Los Angeles) has announced the acquisition of a major collection of rare editions and manuscripts of Evelyn Waugh. The collection, consisting of some 250 books and 135 letters and manuscripts, is the gift of Loren and Frances Rothschild. Loren is a longtime book collector and member of the library’s board of trustees.
According to the Los Angeles Times, among the letters in the collection are a number relating to libel concerns about Waugh’s 1948 satire The Loved One, which was based on Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale, just north of Los Angeles. Other interesting items include the manuscript of his 1934 travel book Ninety-Two Days which was dedicated to his friend Diana Cooper, a satiric journal he wrote at age 13, and a 1923 copy of The Broom, a short-lived Oxford publication that contains a story by Waugh. Waugh’s hand-corrected manuscript of his first novel Decline and Fall is included in the collection. Its title page contains several possible alternative titles, including Picaresque: The Making of an Englishman and Facing Facts: A Study in Discouragement, as well as various permutations of these suggestions. Waugh told his friend and fellow novelist Anthony Powell that another title he had considered was Untoward Incidents, based on a phrase used by the Duke of Wellington to describe the destruction of the Turkish fleet at Navarino in a time of peace. The collection also contains a 17-page annotated typewritten manuscript of “The Hopeful Pontiff,” an essay about Pope John XXIII.
Professor John Wilson of Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, editor of Evelyn Waugh Studies and founder of the Evelyn Waugh Society, described the Rothschilds’ gift as establishing the Huntington Library as the second leading center of Waugh studies in the world. According to Professor Wilson, cited in the library’s press release, the Huntington’s collection is now surpassed only by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, which acquired Waugh’s library and many of his possessions and manuscripts in several batches from 1961 to 1991. Other institutions with Waugh holdings include the British Library, the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, the New York Public Library, Georgetown University, Leeds University, Leicester University, and Notre Dame University.
A sample of the collection can be viewed in the slide show that accompanies the LA Times article.