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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Evelyn Waugh would be 104....


He's "no longer with us" on earth in the physical sense, but I hope he has found a heavenly reward. Today is his birthday.

Here is another favorite passage of mine from Brideshead Revisited. Charles Ryder, the protagonist, is talking about his early faith, or lack thereof. It is about the 1st inkling we get that the book is really a more about the Catholic faith, and the many degrees of embracing the faith that are to be found.

"Sebastian always heard his mass, which was ill-attended. Brideshead was not an old-established centre of Catholicism. Lady Marchmain had introduced a few Catholic servants, but the majority of them, and all the cottages, prayed, if anywhere, among the Flyte tombs in the little grey church at the gates.

Sebastian's faith was an enigma to me at that time, but not one which I felt particularly concerned to solve. I had no religion. I was taken to church weekly as a child, and at school attended chapel daily, but, as though in compensation, from the time I went to my public school I was excused church in the holidays. The masters who taught me Divinity told me that biblical texts were highly untrustworthy. They never suggested I should try to pray. My father did not go to church except on family occasions and then with derision. My mother, I think, was devout. It once seemed odd to me that she should have thought it her duty to leave my father and me and go off with an ambulance, to Serbia, to die of exhaustion in the snow in Bosnia. But later I recognized some such spirit in myself. Later, too, I have come to accept claims which then, in 1923, I never troubled to examine, and to accept the supernatural as the real. I was aware of no such needs that summer at Brideshead.

Often, almost daily, since I had known Sebastian, some chance word in his conversation had reminded me that he was a Catholic, but I took it as a foible, like his teddy-bear. We never discussed the matter until on the second Sunday at Brideshead, when Father Phipps had left us and we sat in the colonnade with the papers, he surprised me by saying: 'Oh dear, it's very difficult being a Catholic.'
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(Photo of Waugh taken in 1940 by Carl Van Vechten)

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7 comments:

On the side of the angels said...

Love Brideshead Revisited - Cordelia's speech on Sebastian's future always brings me to tears...

changing subject: think you'd better see this:
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/ukcorrespondents/holysmoke/october2007/abortionwar.htm#comments

swissmiss said...

Haven't read much of Waugh, but like the teddy bear line :) Can't believe a man wrote it.

Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Don't ya just love it? We sudied it as our first book for our Catholic Women's Book Club.

gemoftheocean said...

I adore Brideshead. It's my all-time favorite novel.

gemoftheocean said...

Oh, and OTSOTA - I also love Cordelia's thoughts about Sebastian's future. I love how every main character in there has a different attitude to the church (including the mistress!) -- and it's fun to see where you think you would fit. I always thought I was closest to Cordelia in attitude. Nothing's a perfect match, but she'd be the closest. "Our Blessed Lady doesn't care if my gym shoes are to the left or the right of the slippers" [or whatever it was] -- but terribly upset that the Blessed Sacrament wouldn't be in the house if they closed the chapel. In other words, she was faithful but didn't let the martinets bully her around. Great sense of humor and joie de vivre too. A little more of a sobersides when older - but still a good egg.

Karen

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

The greatest English writer of the 20th century.

Graham Greene, O.M., thought so too.

gemoftheocean said...

Very much agree Dr. Peter.

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