Evelyn Waugh: The Restless Years

Duncan McLaren has embarked on a new chapter in his online history of Waugh. This is the period of 1930-37 between the breakup of his first marriage and the celebration of his second. He has posted the first installment, as described in his introduction below as Cycle One:

When Evelyn went off to Africa in October 1930, it was the beginning of a two-year cycle that would repeat itself three times before he settled down again at Piers Court with his second wife, Laura. By and large, Waugh kept a diary when he was on the move but didn’t when he was back in England.

Cycle One
EW was in Africa for a few months. […] He came back to England, wrote up the travel book Remote People and then the novel Black Mischief, both of which drew heavily on his African ADVENTURE.

What had changed? Important things had not changed. He was still in unrequited love with Teresa Jungman. The ditching of Diana Guinness et al was consolidated, ditto Alastair Graham. But his new buddies were the Lygon girls of Madresfield Court in Worcestershire, Ladies Mary, Dorothy and Sibell.

Cycle Two
Off again in December 1932, this time to South America. […] Back in England he wrote up the travel book NInety-Two Days and then the novel A Handful of Dust, both of which drew heavily on his Amazonian ADVENTURE. […]

Cycle Three
[…] He got back on track by travelling to Abyssinia again in August 1935. He came back to England, wrote up the travel book Waugh in Abyssinia (this necessitated a third, shorter trip to Africa to tie up loose ends) and then the novel Scoop, both of which drew heavily on his African ADVENTURE.

While writing Scoop, Evelyn and Laura got married and moved to Piers Court and a complete change of lifestyle. Evelyn’s itinerant and romantic days were over. I’ve already told the story of his life at Piers Court in some detail. I’m now going to fill in what happened in the seven years outlined above.

As with the sections on ‘THE EVELYNS’ and ‘PIERS COURT PAPERS’, I’m going to dive in to certain places and events and attempt to do them justice. Maybe, in due course, the whole period will be covered equally, but that would require a sustained effort on top of specific intensive efforts and it remains to be seen whether I do that.

The first installment is devoted to the period Waugh spent at Madresfield. McLaren credits the book by Paula Byrne, Mad World for its valuable contribution to the knowledge of this period but also offers many new insights based on his own research. And as usual, he lapses into imaginary conversations involving Waugh and his acquaintances. Here’s a link to the new article which will also link you to related postings.

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