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On this day in 1903 the writer Evelyn Waugh was born.
“The greatest novelist of my generation” is how Graham Greene, a great novelist himself, described him. Some of the best-written and best-loved books of the 20th century came from his pen: Brideshead Revisited, Decline and Fall, Scoop, and The Loved One are some.
Although his upbringing was fairly ordinary, through his Oxford education, Waugh developed a taste for the aristocracy and the life of country houses and London clubs. Many of his books are fanciful embroiderings on his own experiences. He served with distinction throughout the Second World War and a few years later suffered a mental breakdown; much of these events appear in his writings as well. In later years his physical health deteriorated and he died at home of a heart attack aged 62, after morning mass. A good end for a staunch Catholic. In everyday life Waugh’s combination of wit, rudeness and kindness put many people in disarray.
Such directness puts me in mind of the old anonymous ditty:
O, do not be discouraged, when
You find your hopes brought down,
And when you meet unwilling men
Heed not their gloomy frown.
Yield not to wild despair;
Press on and give no quarter,
In battle all is fair;
We’ll win, for we had orter.
Today I pray that I will be able to treat everyone with respect and if necessary, suffer fools gladly.
Photo credit: The Carl Van Vechten Photographs collection at the US Library of Congress