Evelyn Waugh (1903–66) is a writer who will be read as long as there is anyone interested in English literature. His early novels have a comic spirit all their own. In contrast, Brideshead Revisited (1945) and Sword of Honour (1952–61) capture England at a time in her history when peace was giving way to war and the old social order was vanishing. Waugh was a voice speaking for the past, going against the grain of modernity, and this brought into question what kind of a man could he be.

Literary reputations are a form of higher gossip, dictated by all sorts of imponderable factors, and one of the more imperative is to have people talking about you and your work. Waugh took care to present himself as a crusty old buffer, and even unfriendly...


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