Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Evelyn Waugh:

An Inventory of His Collection in the Art Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Waugh, Evelyn, 1903-1966
Title: Evelyn Waugh Art Collection
Dates: 1822-1953, undated (bulk 1911-1953)
Extent: 4 boxes, 2 flat file folders, 4 paintings (3 framed), 1 sculpture (293 items)
Abstract: The Waugh Art Collection consists of artwork by and related to Waugh from his own archives.
Language: English
Access:

Open for research. A minimum of twenty-four hours is required to pull art materials to the Reading Room.




Acquisition:

Purchase (R3624), 1967

Processed by:

Helen Young, 2003

Repository:

The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center


Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh, born October 28, 1903, was the second son of Arthur, a managing director of Chapman & Hall, Publishers, and Catherine Raban Waugh. Reading and writing played a significant role in the home-life of young Evelyn, whose older brother Alec also became a well-known writer. Waugh began writing and illustrating short stories at the age of four, and at the age of nine he and a group of friends produced a creative magazine for their Pistol Troop club.

In addition to his youthful interest in writing, Waugh developed a strong interest in religion. When his brother's escapades made it impossible for Waugh to follow the family tradition of attending Sherbourne prep school, his father found a place for him at Lancing, a school with a strong religious tradition. During his tenure at Lancing, Waugh studied under Francis Crease, who helped him refine his technique of medieval-style illumination. He performed well in his studies, developed into something of a social bully, decided that he was an atheist, and earned a scholarship to Hertford College, Oxford.

When Waugh entered Oxford in 1922 he found his new freedom to be intoxicating. He soon found himself part of a crowd similar to the one he later described in Brideshead Revisited (1945), which included Harold Acton. While at Oxford, he adopted the pseudonym of Scaramel, and became well known for his caricatures and designs for magazines including the Broom, the Isis, and the Cherwell. He did very little studying and left after two years with many experiences and debts, but no degree. He considered a career in art, and enrolled at the Heatherley School of Art in September 1924 but left at the end of the year and took a series of low-paying teaching positions. In 1927 he began to write steadily and launched himself into a successful career.

The critical success of his first book, a biography, Rossetti: His Life and Works (1928), and the popular success of Decline and Fall (1928) brought Waugh to the attention of the reading public. The financial success of Decline and Fall made it possible for Waugh to marry Evelyn Gardner, called She-Evelyn by their friends. The marriage was short lived, but served as a backdrop for several of Waugh's later works, including Vile Bodies (1930) and Labels: A Mediterranean Journal (1930). Also in 1930, Waugh converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism.

For the next several years Waugh spent his time writing short stories, travel books, a biography of Edmund Campion, and several more novels including Black Mischief (1932), A Handful of Dust (1934), and Scoop (1938). He obtained an annulment of his first marriage and in 1937 married Laura Herbert, with whom he had seven children.

1939 brought the start of World War II and Waugh took the earliest opportunity to join in the defense of England. As part of the Home Guard in 1940 he participated in the fiasco of the Battle of Crete which was the basis for Put Out More Flags (1942). Waugh was not a good leader, despite fearless action in the face of battle, and in 1943 he resigned from his Commando unit. In 1944 he was sent to Yugoslavia as part of a mission to shore up Tito's partisan efforts in the German held territory. During this mission he completed his best known and most controversial work, Brideshead Revisited (1945).

Discharged from the military in 1945, Waugh continued to write and travel. He went to Hollywood in 1947 to work on a screenplay for Brideshead, which fell through when he refused to give up the final say on the script. While he was in California he found a rich source of material: Forest Lawn Memorial Park. This lavish funeral home inspired Waugh to write The Loved One (1948), one of his funniest and most popular books.

Waugh continued to write, though he became increasingly reclusive. Growing health problems related to a lifetime of heavy drinking, smoking, and the use of sedatives to induce sleep, limited public appearances. On a cruise in 1956 he suffered a bout of paranoid hallucinations which formed the centerpiece of his most autobiographical novel, The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (1957). Waugh lived until 1966, ending his writing career with the publication of The Sword of Honor trilogy (1965).

Although Waugh had more success as a writer, he continued his art work, providing the illustrations for his novels Decline and Fall, Black Mischief, and Love Among the Ruins, as well as creating dust jacket designs for many of his own works and for works by other authors.


Dictionary of Literary Biography -- Volume 15: British Novelists, 1930-1959, part 2, M-Z. Bernard Oldsey, ed. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1983.

Hastings, Selina. Evelyn Waugh: A Biography. Great Britain: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1994.


The Waugh Art Collection consists of artwork by and related to Waugh from his own archives. The collection is organized into two Series: I. Works by Evelyn Waugh, and II. Works by Other Artists. Titles are transcribed from the items; cataloger’s titles appear in brackets.

Series I., Works by Evelyn Waugh, is arranged chronologically. There are 127 works in this group, 121 of which are original. These include bookplates, Christmas cards, illustrations for his novels Decline and Fall and Love Among the Ruins, sketchbooks with studies from the Heatherley School of Art, drawings from childhood, prayers and religious text in the style of illuminated manuscripts, and cover designs for The Oxford Broom. The individual drawings in the two sketchbooks are described in Alain Blayac's "Evelyn Waugh's Drawings" in The Library Chronicle (1974).

Series II., Works by Other Artists, is listed alphabetically by creator. These are works from Waugh's personal collection and include a trompe l'oeil by Martin Battersby depicting various memorabilia from Waugh's career, two paintings by Rebecca Solomon, a copy of Allan Ramsay's portrait of George III, sketchbooks and albums, as well as a few drawings by unidentified artists.


Portraits of Waugh are included in several other collections in the Art Collection: Zdzislaw Czermanski (70.67.14), Portrait Busts Collection (Paravacini's 1945 sculpture from Waugh's collection; 83.82), Colin Spencer (73.157.6), and Feliks Topolski (62.255).

A wealth of Waugh materials is held in other areas of the Ransom Center. The Art Collection has in its Cruikshank Collection Waugh's printing block and corresponding wood engraving of George Cruikshank's Mr. Parsons Unshelled (an illustration for Charles Dickens' Sketches by Boz, 1850). Among the Manuscripts Collection's Waugh materials are additional drawings by Waugh; also of note is an unusual large handmade volume by John Bingley Garland (1791-1875) that contains collages of hand-colored religious and botanical images surrounded by calligraphic biblical quotations and narratives. There are also Waugh holdings in the Film Collection, the Library, Photography Collection, Personal Effects Collection, Scrapbook Collection, Sound Recordings Collection, and the Vertical File Collection.

For additional information, see "Evelyn Waugh's Drawings" by Alain Blayac in The Library Chronicle, N.S. no.7 (1974): 42-57, and A Catalogue of the Evelyn Waugh Collection at the Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin by Robert Murray Davis (New York: Whitson, 1981).