You are here:   Brideshead Revisited > Waugh's Saving Grace

Fourteen years after its first publication in 1945, Brideshead Revisited was reissued with a preface by the author. By this stage of his life, Evelyn Waugh had mastered a particular tone of quizzical hardness which was but one of the aristocratic affectations of this son of a middle-class publisher. Looking back on the moment of the book's composition during a period of leave from military service following a minor injury, Waugh contemplated it with the appearance of dispassion:

It was a bleak period of present privation and threatening disaster — the period of soya beans and Basic English — and in consequence the book is infused with a kind of gluttony, for food and wine, for the splendours of the recent past, and for rhetorical and ornamental language, which now with a full stomach I find distasteful.

Certainly, the prose style of Brideshead is not, at all moments, under close authorial control. One recalls, with a shudder, some of the dialogue between Charles Ryder and Julia Flyte towards the end of the novel.

However, the many references to wine in Brideshead do not show Waugh merely wallowing in the blissful memory of prewar delights. No doubt there was a touch of wallowing. But there was also some authorial shaping, to the point where the language and appreciation of wine become closely associated with what Waugh claimed to be the deep theme of the novel, namely the operation of divine grace.

View Full Article

Post your comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.