'Only when one has lost all curiosity about the future has one reached the age to write an autobiography.' Waugh begins his story with heredity, writing of the energetic, literary and sometimes eccentric men and women who, unknown to themselves, contributed to his genius. Save for a few pale shadows, his childhood was warm, bright and serene. The Hampstead and Lancing schooldays which followed were sometimes agreeable, but often not. His life at Oxford - which he evokes in Brideshead Revisited - was essentially a catalogue of friendship. His cool recollection of those hedonistic days is a portrait of the generation of Harold Acton, Cyril Connolly and Anthony Powell. That exclusive world he recalls with elegant wit and precision. He closes with his experiences as a master at a preparatory school in North Wales which inspired Decline and Fall.
Evelyn Waugh was born in Hampstead in 1903, second son of Arthur Waugh, publisher and literary critic, and brother of Alec Waugh, the popular novelist. He was educated at Lancing and Hertford College, Oxford, where he read Modern History. In 1928 he published his first work, a life of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and his first novel, Decline and Fall, which was soon followed by Vile Bodies (1930), Black Mischief (1932), A Handful of Dust (1934) and Scoop (1938). Waugh travelled extensively and also wrote several travel books, as well as a biography of Edmund Campion and Ronald Knox. Other famous works include his Sword of Honour trilogy, and Brideshead Revisited (1945).