Two religious bloggers have posted extended discussions of Waugh’s works. The Rad Trad has written an essay entitled “The Age of Hooper”. This opens with Waugh’s own introduction of Hooper and his foibles to the readers of Brideshead Revisited:
“…Hooper was no romantic. He had not as a child ridden with Rupert’s horse or sat among the camp fires at Xanthus-side; at the age when my eyes were dry to all save poetry—that stoic, red-skin interlude which our schools introduce between the fast flowing tears of the child and the man—Hooper had wept often, but never for Henry’s speech on St. Crispin’s Day, nor for the epitaph at Thermopylae. The history they taught him had had few battles in it but, instead, a profusion of detail about humane legislation and recent industrial change. Gallipoli, Balaclava, Quebec, Lepanto, Bannockburn, Roncevales, and Marathon—these, and the Battle in the West where Arthur fell, and a hundred such names whose trumpet-notes, even now in my sere and lawless state, called to me irresistibly across the intervening years with all the clarity and strength of boyhood, sounded in vain to Hooper. He seldom complained.”
The passage comes from the Prologue to the novel. The blogger goes on to trace the elements of “Hooperism” in many present day Roman Catholics. For example:
I do not know what young Catholics today actually learn, but my brief experience with teenage preparation for Confirmation suggests that it is nothing much beyond vague sentimentalities about God’s love….Hooper would be barely sensible to the shipwrecks of Paul, the exile of Athanasius, the trial of Formosus, the conversion of Augustine, and the death of Joan of Arc. Annoyance and sentimentality are the only passions left to the Hoopers of the world. Greatness is quite literally unimaginable to them, whether that greatness be heavenly or hellish; Paradise is bland and the Inferno desolate. Heroism and hedonism alike hold no appeal for Hooper.
The essay concludes with an interesting consideration of how early Christians were inspired by the writings of Virgil and supposes that would be unlikely to happen today.
Another blogger on the religious-historical website EdgeInducedCohesion.blog has recently posted reviews of two of Waugh’s books (Scoop and Decline & Fall) and earlier posted one on Put Out More Flags. These contain some interesting insights. Here’s an example from POMF:
This is decidedly dark material for a comic novel. That said, it is very funny, if one has a sardonic and cynical sense of humor. Since I do, the novel was easy to read and quite entertaining in a somewhat unpleasant way. … If you like biting and satirical British novels showing corrupt human nature in wartime, this is a suitable black comedy to read, and reread, in moments of extreme cynicism
Finally, writing in the Cincinnati Enquirer, professor of theology Kenneth Craycraft reminds readers of the origins of the feast day of Christ the King which is celebrated on the last Sunday before Advent. That was 26 November this year. The commemoration was created by Pope Pius XI in 1925 to remind Christians of the importance of putting religious beliefs above those of nationalism which had resulted in the carnage of WWI. Similar motivations also inspired literary works of the same era, as explained in the Enquirer article:
Pope Pius was not alone in his diagnosis of the moral crises in the events leading up to the war, and the immediate aftermath of it. Novelists such as Ernest Hemingway (“The Sun Also Rises”), Erich Maria Remarque (“All Quiet on the Western Front”), and Evelyn Waugh (“Vile Bodies”) wrestled with the emptiness of the rising secular ethos that led to the war, and which continued in the vacuous excesses after. Indeed, Waugh’s “bright young things” and Hemingway’s “lost generation” illustrated the unmoored cynicism of those that had endured the trench-warfare horror described through Remarque’s jaded and psychologically wounded soldiers. They drift from one meaningless folly to another, with no sense of transcendent purpose. Whether through indifference or disillusionment, the rudderless post-war generation cried out for a restoration of meaning to human striving.