Sunday, 28 October 2012

Decline & Fall by Evelyn Waugh

Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh, more commonly known as Evelyn Waugh, was born on this day in 1903. A writer of novels, biographies and travel books, he was also a prolific journalist and reviewer. Waugh's best-known works include Decline & Fall (1928), A Handful of Dust (1934) and Sword of Honour (1952–61) - a series of novels set during the Second World War. Modern day audiences are probably best acquainted with Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited (1945) which was turned into television series in 1981 staring Jeremy Irons, and in 2008, a film staring Emma Thompson. 

Image courtesey of National Portrait Gallery © Cecil Beaton Studio Archive, Sotheby's London

We have several of Waugh's books in our collection, including one of his first publications, Decline & Fall' which was released in 1928. It is a satirical novel, dripping with black humour and based on the author's experience both as a student at Oxford and as a teacher in Wales. Waugh was asked to suppress some words and phrases from the first publication and these were not reinstated until the 1962 edition. It may be a somewhat controversial and challenging novel, but when we picked up our copy of the Decline and Fall, we were first struck with the rather fetching patterned jacket, and illustrations done by Waugh himself.  We recommend you read it, but failing that then just read the introduction which has an extensive disclaimer by Waugh ending with the immortal, statement "IT'S MEANT TO BE FUNNY.".

Evelyn Waugh, Decline & Fall:  an illustrated novelette, London: Chapman & Hall Ltd., 1931(JMR1008, Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture)

To find out more about Evelyn Waugh, we recommend the Ransom Centre at the University of Texas which holds his art collection, including portraits of the man himself. To see other books in MoDA's collection, click here

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