Evelyn Waugh's Life Of Being A Man, De Profundis

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As early as 1925 when he was still leading a down-and-out life as a schoolmaster, Evelyn Waugh wrote to his Oxford school friend Harold Acton: “I want to write a story about Silenus – very English & sentimental – A Falstaff forever babbling o’ green fields – but shall never have time. […] I am growing a moustache & learning to smoke a pipe and ride a horse and am altogether quite becoming a man. My love to you, De profundis. E” (18th February 1925; Letters, 32) These brief and casual-toned words indeed mark the very focus of his entire writing as well as life purposes in the years to come: his Silenus-minded but Falstaff-conscious ponderings on the fragility and transience of humankind, and how to be a “man”, first as a gentleman, then as a man in relation to God. Waugh at the time of writing to Acton was obviously de profundis (from the depths), not unlike Oscar Wilde while in imprisonment in Reading Goal writing to Lord Alfred Douglas recounting their earlier extravagant, flippant lifestyle and later on reflecting on his spiritual development through his ordeal and Christ’s teachings. “De profundis” comes from Psalm 130: “From the depths, I have cried out to you, O Lord”; in a similar manner, Waugh’s literary as well as biographical life was also one of a crying out to his Christ the Saviour from the depths and the abysses. This thesis, therefore, argues that there is a pursuit of “permanence” in Waugh’s personal life as well as in his works. In the opening quote is the Greek mythology that there is the ancient story of King Midas hunting in the forest for the wise Silenus, tutor of the wine god Dionysus. The King manages to capture Silenus at last and asks him what is the most desirable thing for humankind. In reply Silenus la... ... middle of paper ... ...its of newness in arts and in literature: “Picasso and his kind are attempting something new in the sense of something different in kind. […] Miss Stein […] is outside the world-order in which words have a precise and ascertainable meaning and sentences a logical structure. She is aesthetically in the same position as, theologically, a mortal-sinner who has put himself outside the world order of God’s mercy.” (ibid.) […] They may not necessarily be charming, as in the general perception that Guy is dumb and Lady Marchmain manipulative; yet Waugh defended for this new type of protagonists: “ ‘Crouchback’ (junior: not so his admirable father) is a prig. But he is a virtuous, brave prig.” (Letter to Anthony Powell, 5th July 1955; Letters, 503) Gentlemen and women without religiosity, on the other hand, are only the “vile bodies” and “bright young things” […]

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