an extremely unoriginal one. The namernof the unfortunate hero may vary, but asrna kind of modern version of the rake’srnprogress this tale of a divided self andrnwhat became of it has been told about arnnumber of very successful, very famous,rnvery original artists. To name onh’ three:rnJohn Wiin told it at Lord Byron’s expense,rnEdmund Wilson at Charles Dickens’,rnand Ernest Newman at FranzrnLiszt’s. If lives like these arc in somernsense failures, and if Evelyn Waugh’s lifernwas a harrowing tragedy, what have thernrest of us to hope for?rnWell. Like More’s Utopians, we, andrnno doubt Martin Stannard, can alwaysrnhope for good digestions, permanentrnemployment, a well-funded pension, andrna comfortable old age. Evelyn Waughrnchose to live more adventurously, andrnStannard’s immense, informative, industriouslyrnassembled book is decidedlyrnout of sympathy with its subject and hisrnchosen way of life. By any ordinary, nonutopianrnstandard Waugh was immenselyrnsuccessful, not only as a writer, but inrnshaping circumstances to his desires. Arnman of great vitality, he earned everyrninch of his place in the world, and a fine,rncapacious place it was, too. He sufferedrnintermittently from melancholy; he despisedrnsocialism; and the Church disappointedrnhim—none of which killed him.rnEvelyn Waugh died of the natural andrnuntragic conditions known as wearinessrnand old age, both of them prematurernin his case, but both brought on by thernpunishing life he chose to lead. Andrnneither finished him off, one notices,rnuntil he had completed his masterpiece,rnthe trilogy Sword of Honour.rnWhv would a biographer who isrnprepared to spend so much timernon an author be so careful to keep hisrnsubject’s religion, politics, and social ambitionrnat arm’s length? Why be so readyrnto agree with his subject’s critics? AfterrnPinfold appeared, J.B. Priestley, an industrious,rnprosperous, but minor writerrnof left-wing sympathies, attacked Waughrnas Pinfold, saying that Pinfold wasrnhaunted by the voices of Waugh’s ownrnbad conscience, telling him he was arnfake. Stannard calls Priestley’s piece arnsilly article, and quotes from Waugh’srnmasterly reply; but he omits its mostrntelling passages, discounts Waugh’s ownrnexplanations of his experience, and inrnfact agrees with Priestley. He discoversrnWaugh’s unconscious in the novel andrnhears “a barrage of self-hatred” in Pinfold’srnvoices—a boring reading of a funny,rnmoving novel.rnPerhaps in this egalitarian age MartinrnStannard has no wish to make himselfrnobnoxious to colleagues or reviewers.rnPerhaps he is sincere in his disapproval.rnYet so conventional an approach to arnwriter like Waugh shows a lack of enterprise.rnBy now Waugh’s attitudes presentrnno threat to anyone’s ambition orrnself-esteem, and his notorious snobberyrnis far too easy a target in an age so smuglyrnproud of its social virtue. In Waugh’srnyouth it was natural for a writer of hisrnbackground and education to gravitaterntoward the fashionable end of society,rnas it was for his successors to ape the accentsrnand attitudes of the working class.rnThat is why, in his later years, flauntingrnhis social habits proved an easy way ofrnbaiting critics. Besides, although he enjoyedrnsmart company, Evelyn Waugh—rnas Stannard’s evidence shows—had no illusionsrnabout his status as a self-madernmiddle-class man of letters, and seemsrnto have been proud of it and of his selfsufficiency.rnIt is hard to gauge Stannard’s opinionrnof this aspect of Waugh’s life. Sometimesrnhe falls into a kind of reflexivernsnobbery of his own by tending to acceptrnat face value the condescending assessmentsrnoffered by some of Waugh’srnupper-class friends. Stannard presentsrnAlfred Duff Cooper, who called Waughrna common little man, as an enviablernman of the world. Yet Cooper, on thernrecord as Stannard presents it, was a violent,rnlecherous, and brutal man, a second-rnrate politician and a negligible writerrnwho, as a social climber, left Waughrnstanding. Waugh assessed him prettyrnaccurately. Another example: sincernacknowledgment to Waugh’s family isrnconspicuously missing from the book, itrnemerges that for private information andrncomment, especially about Waugh’srnchildren, the author must be drawingrnupon gossip from someone, probably arnwoman, who knew the family. The tonernof these passages is superior, knowing,rnand censorious. Many of them make intolerablernintrusions upon lives that arcrnnow none of Stannard’s business, andrnsome of them, to my certain knowledge,rnpresent questionable versions of charactersrnand events. Waugh’s aristocraticrnwomen friends were part of his publicityrnapparatus, and he of theirs. None ofrnthose friendships can have been uncomplicated,rnnone of the judgments givenrnentirely reliable.rnNonetheless, the chief casualty ofrnStannard’s approach is neither the authorrnnor his family, but his work. Byrntreating literature as contingent uponrnpsychology, the psychologizing literaryrnbiography always tends to diminish thernimportance of a writer’s work. Readingrnthe work according to his version of thernlife, Stannard reaches eccentric conclusions:rnWork Suspended, Helena, and Pinfoldrnare better, more interesting worksrnthan Brideshead and Sword of Honour.rnAnd because this kind of biography readsrnthe author’s weaknesses in his writing, itrnleaves both novel and novelist equallyrndisabled as witnesses. Only the biographerrnemerges unscathed from these proceedings.rnYet the whirligig of time issues in revenges.rnIn 1952 Waugh, in a characteristicrnfit of high spirits, mounted a campaignrnagainst a visit by Tito. Stannardrnthinks this, like Waugh’s description ofrnpostwar England as an occupied country,rnwas the act of a crazy man, and in somernindignation mounts his own pulpit tornsay so. Current events, however, havernvindicated the novelist. Like otherrnpostwar arrangements that Waughrnjudged unfavorably, Tito’s Yugoslaviarnhas passed away, and that is why anrnopen-minded reading of Scott-King’srnModern Europe or Sword of Honour willrnprovide a better understanding ofrnWaugh’s position than his biographer’srnaccount.rnIt is so much better either to know asrnlittle of writers as we usually know of scientists,rnor else to know them as we knowrnour friends, with charity, generosity, andrnforbearance. That way we avoid a host ofrnvulgar fallacies and inferences, includingrnthe biographical fallacy that a book isrnabout its author, not about its ostensiblernsubject matter, which in Waugh’s casernis religion, society, and civilization. Forrnmost of us who never met him, EvelynrnWaugh is a name that we attach to somernof the greatest prose written in English,rnand to a set of fictions that trace whatrnShakespeare called the form and pressurernof the time with prophetic accuracy.rnThe character we attach to that name isrnitself a fiction. If we were to try to formrnan idea of the real man from his books,rnwe would have to say that he was a happyrnman, gifted and fortunate beyondrnmost of our imaginings. Whether suchrna life would be judged happy within thernterms of Utopian debate is doubtful; thatrnit was a happy life in the onlv real worldrnany of us knows is unquestionable. – crnlULY 1993/31rnrnrn