Lukacs on Evelyn Waugh
There is a some terrific phrasing in John Lukacs’ description of Evelyn Waugh, who I regret to say I have not had the pleasure of reading as yet.
James E. Person, Jr.’s article observes that Lukacs:
Once described Waugh’s view of life and faith as “a faith in God which was not only stronger than a faith in man but which included the comprehension that the two cannot be entirely separated.” This faith included:
an understanding that the knowledge of the depravity of human nature is not enough (this is what separates Waugh from Céline, with the result that Waugh’s humor, unlike his mischief, is not necessarily black); a faith in a code of conduct which is noble rather than humanitarian, and self-sacrificing rather than merely brave; a belief in original sin which can be forgiving but which has surely nothing to do with evolution; a strict and narrow faith (faith, rather than trust) in heredity rather than in environment; an understanding that what people think and what they believe, even more than their material conditions, form their actions and their character.
Lukacs concluded that more people were coming to recognize Waugh’s genius because “the opposites of these beliefs have become so evidently bankrupt.”
Waugh loved with a fierce passion the land of his birth and its heritage of faith — not the England of the present but the old England: the England of the ancient faith, deference to the rightful authority of talent and achievement, and humble inns, the community of souls who lived close to the land — the same England celebrated by G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc before him. He hated with an equally fierce passion the modern society in which he lived, satirizing its individualism, social leveling, devil-take-the-hindmost commercialism, noise, rootlessness, and disbelief in anything that could not be experienced through the agency of the five senses.