Eade Biography in Literary Review

Ian Sansom, novelist and Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Warwick, has reviewed the new Waugh biography in the current Literary Review. He is a bit more upbeat than some of the earlier reviewers:

Unexpectedly, yet perhaps inevitably, Evelyn Waugh is becoming more likeable as the years go by. Fifty years dead now, the vile, rude, snobbish, cigar-chomping, ear trumpet-brandishing, banana-gobbling bigot is slowly becoming, in distant memory and from a comfortable distance, a bit of an old sweetheart. The more one reads about him, the more one likes him….One can even perhaps begin to forgive the authors of biographies of Evelyn Waugh… For better or for worse, the endless exploring of the novels has now largely been superseded by the endless exploring of the life – and Philip Eade now adds yet another biography to the vast, teetering pile. The good news is that Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited represents a sort of tipping point: Eade’s even-handedness gently but firmly nudges Waugh’s work centre stage again.

So, rather the reverse of what several recent reviewers thought. Sansom mentions all of Waugh’s previous biographers, including Frederick Stopp, John Howard Wilson and, most recently, Duncan McLaren, who most of the others have overlooked. (Jeffrey Heath may also qualify but I think he was previously mentioned.) But in terms of what new material Eade’s version has to offer, it comes down to a bit more about Waugh’s homosexual relationships and some references to his unpublished letters to Teresa Jungman, who rejected his advances. After citing some of this material, Sansom concludes:

The best we can do is leave the poor man alone. But first read this book.

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