Coping with Modern Times

On the religious weblog Patheos, Tod Worner (blogging as “A Catholic Thinker”) has posted an articleĀ entitled “How Evelyn Waugh Taught Me to Cope with Modern Times.”Ā The title, on its face, seems intended to be ironic, since Waugh himself never managed to cope with modern times. Ā WornerĀ proceeds through some of the Ā passages of Brideshead Revisited in an attempt to explain how Waugh’s writings helped him. These mainly relate to Charles Ryder’s conversion to Roman Catholicism, suggesting that it was his religion that helped Waugh cope with modern times (at least until that religion itself began to modernize in the 1960s with the Second Vatican Council).

The passages quoted are primarily from the beginning and end of the novel where Charles recalls the effect Brideshead had on him, quoting several times the statement, “I have been here before.” As Ā Worner describes it:

Charles Ryder, atop that hill, was abruptly awash in clarity. He was immersed in the memories of Truth, Goodness & Beauty. He relived moments of unexpected dignity and unmerited grace. He sensed a Right and a Wrong which, for him, began at Brideshead and coursed more and more visibly through a world that scoffed at such notions. And it made his current world both sadā€¦and hopeful.Ā This is how Evelyn Waugh taught me to cope with modern times.

At least one of the quotes in the articleĀ contains text that was deleted by Waugh in his 1960 edits intended to tone down “rhetorical and ornamental language” that heĀ found on reflection was embarrassing. These edits did not find their way into U.S.Ā versionsĀ of the novel until 2012 when Little, Brown published a revised and reset edition. The edits in this case do not, however, affect Worner’s conclusions.

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