Deadly Satire, Saving Grace
The Faith & Work of Evelyn Waugh
by James E. Person, Jr.
As a writer, he could be deliciously cruel. In a book review, he once said that to behold one unfortunate writer’s fumbling attempts to use “our rich and delicate language is to experience all the horror of seeing a Sevre vase in the hands of a chimpanzee.” Of one of his friend Graham Greene’s novels, he wrote that “its selection as the Book of the Month will bring it to a much larger public than can profitably read it.”
As a man, he could be equally cruel. He bestowed upon family members as well as sworn enemies such nicknames as “Fat Fool” and “Hellswine.” He wrote of his own children, “I can only regard children as defective adults, hate their physical ineptitude, find their jokes flat and monotonous. . . . The presence of my children affects me with deep weariness and depression.” Typical was his comment on his son Auberon: “Bron is clumsy and disheveled, sly, without intellectual, aesthetic or spiritual interest.”
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James E. Person, Jr. is the author of Russell Kirk: A Critical Biography of a Conservative Mind (Madison Books), as well as Earl Hamner: From Walton's Mountain to Tomorrow (Cumberland House Publishing), and is a longtime book reviewer. He has written on Kirk and on Evelyn Waugh for Touchstone.
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