Evelyn Waugh’s 119th Birthday

Evelyn Waugh was born on this date in 1903. His birthday is marked in several media announcements but this one on the website of satirist and radio commentator Garrison Keillor is the most detailed:

It’s the birthday of Evelyn Waugh, born in London, England in 1903. His family was affluent, and he was upset when he found out that he couldn’t attend the same prestigious school as his father and brother. He wasn’t allowed in because his brother, Alec Waugh, had a homosexual relationship, was dismissed from the school, and then wrote a book about it. So Evelyn went to a less prestigious school, where he thought all his classmates were unsophisticated. Then he went to Hertford, one of the Oxford Colleges, where he did art and wrote and drank, and neglected his academics. When someone asked him if he’d done any sports at college, he replied, “I drank for Hertford.” He left Oxford without a degree. He tried teaching and he hated it, he was in debt, so he attempted suicide by drowning himself in the ocean, but he got stung by a jellyfish so he ran back out. He decided to give his life another chance, and he wrote his first novel, Decline and Fall (1928). It’s about an innocent schoolteacher named Paul Pennyfeather who is expelled from Oxford for running across campus without his trousers, and has no choice but to become a schoolteacher. He’s surrounded by bigots, drunks, and pedophiles, and he almost marries the mother of one of his students, but it turns out she makes her money trafficking in brothels in South America. Evelyn Waugh went on to write many novels, including Brideshead Revisited (1945).

Evelyn Waugh said, “The human mind is inspired enough when it comes to inventing horrors; it is when it tries to invent a Heaven that it shows itself cloddish.”

The website Literary Hub also headed its daily announcements with a large photo of Waugh sitting at his desk with a cigar.  Here’s a link.


 

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