Pain as is Seldom Seen in Men: 1924–30
Evelyn Waugh’s life from the end of his student days at Oxford to the publication of his first novel will have for many readers a quality of déjd lu. The world of Decline and Fall is in large part the world that Waugh inhabited in those years, though the book has an economy and speed of action, with lurches from catastrophe to triumph and back, that are art’s blissful alternative to the banal ploddings of life. The major unrecognized element of Waugh’s life in this period (to which the fiction alerts one only by its mere existence) is writing. He left Oxford without a degree and passed several years in dead-end jobs or attempting unsuitable careers. He continued his avoidance of the literary world of his father and brother; he seemed not to want to be a writer. And yet he wrote, and wrote a lot. He started a novel, The Temple at Thatch, in 1924. To his father’s pleasure and no doubt surprise, he became suddenly enthusiastic about the nineteenth-century group of English painters calling themselves the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and wrote a long essay about them, P.R.B., that was privately published, with a spatter of misprints, by Alistair Graham (who was ‘trying out’ a career as a printer of fine editions) in 1926. Also in 1926, Waugh’s short story ‘The Balance’ was published in an anthology, Georgian Stories, edited by Alec Waugh. In 1927, a commissioned short story, ‘The Tutor’s Tale’, was published in a collection called The New Decameron and Waugh also wrote the introduction to Thirty-Four Decorative Designs by Francis Crease.
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- 2.See Vane Ivanovic, LX. Memoirs of a Yugoslav ( New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977 ) p. 262.Google Scholar