This week’s issue of The Bay Area Reporter, voice of the LGBT community in the San Francisco Bay region, has a review of Philip Eade’s biography of Waugh. This is by Brian Bromberger who begins with a quick categorization of Eade’s book:
When novelist Evelyn Waugh died of a sudden heart attack at 62 on Easter Sunday, 1966, his literary reputation was in decline, his work seen as nostalgic and retrograde compared to the countercultural post-modernist writers then in ascendance. But as journalist Philip Eade argues in his new biography of Waugh, …he is now celebrated as one of the greatest English satirical authors and novelists of the 20th century… Eade, however, is more concerned with rehabilitating Waugh’s character, which because of his complexity, is a far more dubious task… [and] the success of this reappraisal is middling at best. Waugh may be a stunning writer, but he was not a very nice man.
This is followed by an accurate and well written summary of Eade’s book. Indeed, this is one of the best written summaries to appear so far. Bromberger concludes his review with a nod to the paper’s primary audience:
The straight Eade, while more forthcoming about Waugh’s early homosexuality than previous biographers, doesn’t offer any explanation why he abandoned relationships with men. LGBT readers will be struck with how gay Waugh seemed in his attitudes and mannerisms throughout his life. It would be fascinating for a gay writer to interpret Waugh, but Eade’s comprehensive book will probably be the primary biography of Waugh the man (but not the writer) for years to come.
Bromberger himself, however, had already offered his own interpretation, via Alastair Graham, of Waugh’s sexuality based on Eade’s text:
Evelyn’s marriage to the beautiful Evelyn (called Shevelyn) Gardner… lacked bedroom chemistry, and in her memoir she thought he was “homosexual at the base,” proceeding to have a very public affair with another man, humiliating Evelyn. He reunited with Alastair [Graham] for awhile, but that ended when Evelyn, looking for respectability and entrance into aristocratic circles, became, in Alastair’s estimation, a boring snob. From then on, Waugh focused only on women, marrying Laura Herbert, an 18-year-old Catholic daughter of an explorer, in 1937.
It seems unfair, in these circumstances, to complain that Eade has ignored this issue. Alastair Graham’s opinion would appear to be the best place to start with the more detailed analysis Bromberger hopes to see.