of calculated play-acting. A society thatnhas lost or is losing its roots necessarilynseeks such sensationalism in order tonachieve what Eric Gill called “the subhumanncondition of irresponsibility.”nThe silly passions of that brightnyoung set he caught in their poses werennever interesting in and of themselves.nWaugh knew from the beginning thatnthe silly passions and the silly peoplenwere signs of a decaying society. Whennasked if his books were intended to bensatirical, he honestly replied “No.”nKnowing that satire flourishes in anstable society which presupposes homogeneousnmoral standards, he rightly repliednthat satire had “‘no place in thenCentury of the Common Man where vicenpays lip service to virtue. The artist’snonly service to the disintegrated societynof today is to create little independentnsystems of order of his own. I foresee innthe dark ages opening that the scribesnmay play the part of monks after the firstnbarbarian victories.” His works arencomic with the desperate sense of warningnwhich comedy in a dark age projects.n”The beauty of his malice” and othernsuch phrases used to describe his worknonly serve to limit it, making it comparablento that of Aldous Huxley.nWaugh’s novels did not produce a sensenof shame in his shameless readers: theynfound him “deliciously amusing,” andelicious irony in itself. Their commonnidiocies defended them from discoveringntheir barbarism.n”Empiric Economic Man . . . The Individualnlet loose,” in Auden’s words, isnthe image of man in the 20th century,nand in his splendid isolation he drivesn”himself about creation/In the closedncab of occupation.” Our civilization isnhomicidal, Maritain remarked, becausenin the social order “the modern citynsacrifices person to the individual.”nGrimes, in Decline and Fall speaks fornthe individual let loose. “I don’t believenanyone can be unhappy for long providednone does what one wants when one wantsnto.” One can hear vividly the spoiled,npetulant, self-serving tone of voice floatingnover the bright chatty noise at ArchienShwert’sparty. For Waugh this new individualnis nothing more than what henwears, whom he knows and what he possesses.nAt his core there is nothing—anhollow man. not an empty one; thenempty man waits to be filled. Sincenthis new individual was all surface, henlent himself naturallv to one of thenLike a physician in the midst of disease,nhe successfully separated himself fromnit in order to diagnose it. This is notnescapism; it requires a kind of heroismnwhich appears to the unaware as cantankerousness.nSuch detachment isnreally a sign of the confidence thatncomes from belief. “In order not to ben”Thanks to all this evidence, we can see by his own words that ‘Waugh was a perfectlynawful man.”n—Inquiryn”His handicap was an excessively developed sense of honor.”n~New York Times Book Reviewntechniques at which Waugh excelled.nBecause of his excellent taste, he wasnable to discriminate sharply among surfacesnas a connoisseur tests wines. Puffsnof air come from the pricks; the irmernlife is hollow and without values. Secularnreligions hurried to fill the void,ncommunism more successfully than thenothers because, as Chesterton remarked,nit had the malicious wisdom to turn intona system what everywhere else is a sortnof colossal blunder. When the individualnis at the core a handful of dust, fear—nhis sense of the awesome—is trivialized.n”Here we go round the prickly pear.”nIn The Loved One even dignity in deathnis not permitted. Tony in A Handfulnof Dust is quite perplexed by the attitudenof the Vicar. ‘I only wanted to seenhim about the [funeral] arrangements.nHe tried to be comforting. It was verynpainful . . . after all the last thing onenwants to talk about at a time like thisnis religion.”nihis is a good place to begin tonunderstand Waugh’s independent systemnof order. While it was independent,nit was not original. His belief in a traditionalnorder sustained him; he did notnallow the modern era to define him,nand this was the wisest decision he evernmade for his writing. Because of thatnbelief, he retained his right to interpretnevents without coming to terms withnthe age. He lived “entirely in the past.”nnnscandalized.” Flannery O’Connor wrote,n”one has to have a whole view ofnthings.” This perspective gave Waughna center of coherence, and it made hisnwork coherent. His writings are a fundamentallynreligious assault (sometimesnsavage and violent) on modernism, becausenit failed to nourish itself from thenbasic roots of Western civilization.nAbove all else, the Catholic Church—n”a complete way of life”—was for himnthe chief bulwark against the cripplingnheresies of modernism. He committednhimself to the Church without reservationn(daily Mass, the whole bit), recognizingnthat he had found the one thingnthat gave meaning to everything else.n”The question should be ‘What am Ingiving to God?’ Nothing less than completenabandonment is any good.” MurielnSpark, a novelist he admired, had onenof her characters put it in a way Waughnwould have applauded:nWell, either religious faith penetratesneverything in life or it doesn’t. Therenare some experiences which makennonsense of all separation of sacrednfrom profane—they seem childish.nEither the whole of life is unifiednunder God, or everything falls apart.nThe major writers of our centurynhave had a deep sense of things fallingnapart: Eliot, Yeats, Pound, Faulkner,nHemingway, Fitzgerald. Having thatnperception during the modern period isnSeptember/October 1981n