It was 75 years today that Evelyn Waugh completed his draft of Brideshead Revisited and sent it off to the typist. According to Robert Murray Davis (Evelyn Waugh, Writer, Chapter 6), Waugh had first mentioned writing another novel in October 1942 (Diaries, p. 529). Since his return from Crete, he had been moving around from one inconsequential army position to another. This continued in 1943 during which his father died in January and in September he again comments that “I want to get to work again” (p. 548). The story began to come together when he visited his friend Hubert Duggan at his deathbed in October. He helped arrange Duggan’s reconciliation with the Roman Catholic Church and after that, began to think in earnest about writing the novel. In November during parachute training he cracked his fibula, requiring rest and recuperation. In January 1944 he formally applied for leave based on a “plan for a new novel which will take about 3 months to write” (p. 557, n. 1).
He set up his writing venue at the Easton Park Hotel in Chagford, Devon, and spent most of his time there writing the book. In the end it took a bit longer than he expected but the army extended his leave to accommodate him. His wife joined him at Chagford after he had finished drafting on 8 June (Corpus Christi Day, 1944),* and they spent the next week correcting the typescript as it was returned to them (p. 568). On 16 June he left for London where he delivered the typescript to his publisher, sending another copy to a reader in Oxford to be vetted for religious howlers. On 20 June, he instructed his agent to send that copy to the US publishers.
Waugh rejoined his army unit a few days later with not much expectation of any meaningful activity. But then fate intervened when Randolph Churchill requested him on 28 June to join his mission to Marshall Tito’s forces in Yugoslavia. He was on an airplane in that direction by 4 July 1944 (p. 568-69), leaving behind, for the time being, the text of Brideshead to be seen through preparation by his agents and publishers.
*NOTE: Prof Gerard Kilroy says that Waugh “dated the ‘End’ of his manuscript of Brideshead: ‘[Eve of Corpus Christi, 1944]’.” See previous post. That would be 7 June in 1944. In his diary, Waugh wrote on 24 June 1944: “On Corpus Christi Day 1944, having been to communion at Gidleigh, I finished the last version of Brideshead Revisited and sent it to be typed.” (p. 568). It was probably the case that when he finished writing the day before, he considered the manuscript was completed but on returning from communion some additional changes occurred to him. Corpus Christi Day falls on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday (which is, in turn the Sunday after Whitsun). In 1944, Whitsun was 28 May, Trinity Sunday was 4 June and Corpus Christi Day was 8 June.