Gerard Kilroy has posted an essay in which he traces Waugh’s inspiration for his book Edmund Campion and its publishing history. Kilroy is author of a recent biography of Edmund Campion and co-editor of the OUP’s projected Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh volume of Waugh’s Campion book. Kilroy explains how Waugh was encouraged to write the book by Martin D’Arcy, to whom he dedicated it. This was at the time that D’Arcy was overseeing the establishment of Campion Hall at Oxford. Waugh pledged the proceeds of the book to that project. The essay also considers Waugh’s friendships with Katharine Asquith and Mary Herbert (mother of his second wife) and how they influenced his writing. It also reviews the various editions of Edmund Campion in which Waugh (as was his habit) made changes up until a 1961 edition, a few years before his death. There is, in addition, an interesting discussion of how Waugh’s work on the Campion book influenced his later book Robbery Under Law in which he described the history of the church in Mexico. It concludes with this:
If the book transformed the lives of others, it had the greatest effect on Waugh himself. An invisible thread connects it to Brideshead Revisited, Helena, Ronald Knox, Men at Arms, Officers and Gentlemen and Unconditional Surrender, also published in 1961, the year Waugh made his final change to the end of the ‘Preface’. Now Campion is heard as if ‘he were walking at our elbow’. The change from ‘at our side’ [1946 edition] suggests that Waugh now felt him as a more insistent presence, not just a heavenly companion, but even more an inspiration for action.
The essay is thoroughly researched and contains detailed footnotes. One suspects that this may be a dry run for an introduction to Kilroy’s CWEW edition of the book, for which no publication date has yet been announced. The essay is entitled “Evelyn Waugh’s Edmund Campion: ‘Walking at our elbow'” and is posted on the website of the Jesuits in England (thinkingfaith.org).