Evelyn Arthur St John Waugh 1903-66 was born in Hampstead, London, the younger brother of Alec Waugh. He was educated at Lancing and Hertford College, Oxford, where he read modern history but with little application. He became a schoolmaster (1925-27), and attempted suicide. The experience gave him the material for Decline and Fall (1928), his first and immoderately successful novel which had been preceded only by PRB; an essay on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (privately printed in 1926) and a biography of Dante Gabriel Rossetti published earlier in 1928. The novel made him the talk of the town for, its comic genius apart, it was obviously a roman à clef (which means a novel with a key - I didn't know either DBH).
After a brief and unsuccessful marriage, he spent a few years travelling. He contributed variously to newspapers, particularly the Daily Mail, published the social satire Vile Bodies (1930) and two travel books, Labels (1930) and Remote People (1931). In 1930 he became a Roman Catholic, an event which he regarded as the most important in his life. Between 1932 and 1937 he visited British Guiana (Guyana), Brazil, Morocco and Abyssinia (Ethiopia), and he cruised in the Mediterranean.
After he married Laura Herbert (1937) he settled at Piers Court, Stinchcombe, Gloucestershire, and published Scoop (1938), a newspaper farce in which the wrong correspondent is sent to cover the civil war in the African Republic of Ishmaelia. Further travels to Hungary and Mexico followed before the outbreak of World War II, which Waugh spent in a variety of postings as a junior officer. During the war he published four books, including Put Out More Flags (1942) and Brideshead Revisited (1945), a nostalgic, highly-wrought evocation of halcyon days at Oxford. This period also inspired 'The Sword of Honour' trilogy - Men at Arms (1952), Officers and Gentlemen (1955) and Unconditional Surrender (1961) - in which he described, in parallel to his ownexperience, the significance to men and women of the ordeal of crisis of civilization which received its climax in World War II. Other books published during this period include The Loved One (1947), Helena (1950) and The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (1957), a painfully personal but fictionalized account of a middle-aged writer's mental collapse.
In 1964 he published A Little Learning, intended as the first of several volumes of an autobiography he never completed. He was revered as a wit and a stylist and one of the 20th century's greatest comic novelists. The Diaries of Evelyn Waugh were published in 1976; his Letters, edited by Mark Amory, in 1980. He was the father of Auberon Waugh.
Christmas Day 1924
I have decided to try and grow a moustache because I cannot afford any new clothes for several years and I want to see some changes in myself. Also if I am to be a schoolmaster it will help to impress the urchins with my age. I look so intolerably young now that I have had to give up regular excessive drinking.