Evelyn Waugh remains one of my favorite novelists, not only for his style, but for his acid wit and powers of observation about eternal human hypocrisy.
Brideshead Revisited, published in 1945, recounts the story of an upper-crust British Catholic family and the tribulations of their children, Bridey, Julia, Sebastian, and Cordelia in the 1920s and 1930s. The book was made into an outstanding series for British TV in the 1980s, and probably is the very best rendition of any novel in TV form.
Waugh became a Roman Catholic in 1930 and thereafter enjoyed the usual sneers and asides from the establishment literary set who were soaked in liberalism, communism, and materialism—not much different from today. He was not exactly the model of what one might expect.
The American Spectator ran a delightful little article about Waugh recently on the anniversary of his conversion to Catholicism.
As the writer notes:
He was a short-tempered, rude, cranky, insulting, bibulous, intentionally unkind and insensitive man who didn’t much like his children and who, increasingly deaf in his later years, frequently carried with him an ear trumpet, nearly two feet long and comically old-fashioned, that he would raise to his ear when he was speaking and lower when he was spoken to.
How can you not love a guy like that?
He concludes with this little gem:
Indeed, his conversion didn’t seem to seriously alter what one critic termed his “famously rebarbative personality.” The story is told of a courageous woman who once approached the great writer and said, “Mr. Waugh, how can you behave as you do, and still call yourself a Christian?”
“Madam,” Waugh replied. “Were it not for my religion, I would scarcely be a human being.”