Evelyn Arthur St. John Waugh (, – , ) was an English , brother of and father of . He is generally regarded as one the the greatest figures in English literature in the 20th century.
Born in , Waugh was the son of a noted editor and publisher, , and was brought up in middle class circumstances in London. His only brother was the writer . He was educated at , a minor English with a High Church Anglican emphasis and then at (), which he left in with a third-class degree. At Oxford, he was known as much for his artwork as his writing, although he also threw himself into a vigorous social scene populated by both and nobility, in which one of the vogues was queerness. Waugh had at least two gay affairs during this time, (this in addition to amours with other boys at Lancing), before beginning to date women in the late 1920s. In he taught at a private school in Wales and claims to have attempted by swimming out to sea (turning back, however, when stung by a ). He was also dismissed from another teaching post for "drunkenness"
He was apprenticed to a cabinet-maker and worked briefly as a , before he had his first great literary success in 1928 with his first completed novel, Decline and Fall. Other novels about England's "Bright Young Things" followed, and all were well received by both critics and the general public. He entered into a rather brief and unsuccessful marriage in 1929 to the Hon. Evelyn Gardner. (Their friends called them he-Evelyn and she-Evelyn). The marriage was annulled in 1936. His second marriage, in 1937, to the Roman Catholic Laura Herbert, daughter of , was more successful, lasting for the rest of his life and producing six children.
Waugh's fame continued to grow between the wars, based on his of contemporary English society, written in a prose which was both approachable and innovative. (A chapter, for example, writen entirely in the form of a dialogue of telephone calls). His conversion to in introduced a more serious undertone to his writing, and his faith, whether implicit or explicit, underlies all of his later work.
The period between the wars also saw extensive travels around the Mediterranean and Red Sea, Spitsbergen, Africa and South America. The numerous travel books which resulted are not regarded as among his better work. A compendium has been issued under the title When The Going Was Good.
World War II
With the advent of , Waugh used "friends in high places", such as - son of - to find him a service commission. Though thirty-six years of age with poor eyesight, he was commissioned in the in 1940. Few can have been less suited to command troops. He lacked a common touch. Though personally brave, he did not suffer fools gladly. There was some concern that the men under his command might shoot him instead of the enemy. Promoted to Captain, Waugh found life in the Marines dull.
Waugh participated in the failed attempt to take from the in late 1940. Following a joint exercise with No.8 (Army), he applied to join them and was accepted. Waugh took part in an ill-fated commando raid on the coast of . As special assistant to the famed commando leader, , Waugh showed conspicuous bravery during the fighting in in , supervising the evacuation of troops while under attack by dive bombers.
Later, Waugh was placed on extended leave for several years and reassigned to the . During this period he wrote . He was recalled for a military/diplomatic mission to in 1944 at the request of his old friend Randolph Churchill. He and Churchill narrowly escaped capture/death when the Germans undertook , and had paratroops and glider borne storm troops attack the headquarters where they were staying. An outcome was a formidable report detailing 's persecution of the clergy. It was "buried" by Foreign Secretary as being largely irrelevant.
Much of Waugh's war experience is reflected in his . The trilogy - and indeed all his work after the 30s - is one of the best books about World War II.