Sunday, February 10, 2008

Consigned to the Flames VI: Evelyn Waugh

From Evelyn Waugh's diary of Friday, October 10, 1919
This morning I tore out and destroyed all the first part of this diary about the holidays. There was little worth preserving and a very great deal that could not possibly be read and was really too dangerous without being funny.
Considering how open and unashamed (and funny) are the portions of Evelyn Waugh's diaries that have appeared in print, it's natural to speculate about what tales of teenage enormities he may have destroyed that day. If his grandson Alexander Waugh's guess is accurate, however, the excised portions dealt primarily with his frustration with--and embarrassment about--his absurdly theatrical father. Most likely, it seems, we lost little by Evelyn's temporary squeamishness.

Of more interest is this tidbit, also gleaned from Alexander Waugh's Fathers and Sons: The Autobiography of a Family (2004), regarding Evelyn's first attempt at a full-length novel, written when he was an aimless twenty-one:
During his second term The Temple of Thatch was returned to him in the post by a trusted friend, with a letter stating that he had not in the least enjoyed it. Evelyn consigned the manuscript to the flames of the school boiler.
Whereas the missing diary entries seem ultimately unlamentable, the novel, though almost certainly not good, would be interesting to see, if only because of its subject, black magic--an art in which both Evelyn and, later, his son Auberon dabbled jokingly as part of their perpetually performed suite of effects designed to discomfit their schoolmasters.

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