Significant Evelyn Waugh collection donated to the Huntington

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<i>This post has been corrected, as indicated below.</i>

On Thursday the Huntington Library announced a significant donation: a collection of Evelyn Waugh books, manuscripts and correspondence. The gift will make the Huntington the second leading center of Waugh studies in the world.

Waugh, born in 1903 in London, was one of the best-known satirists of the early 20th century. His first novel was “Decline and Fall” in 1928, followed by the novels “Vile Bodies” (1930), “Black Mischief” (1932), “A Handful of Dust” (1934), and “Scoop” (1938).

Waugh’s hand-corrected manuscript of “Decline and Fall” is included in the collection. On its title page he jotted down possible alternatives titles: “Picaresque,” “The Making of an Englishman” and “A Study in Discouragement.”


The collection was donated by Loren and Frances Rothschild; Loren Rothschild is a trustee of the library. This is his first donation of materials. The collection comprises 135 letters and manuscripts and 250 rare books and reference volumes.

Television watchers of a certain age will remember the not-satiric side of Waugh for “Brideshead Revisted,” the 1981 BBC series that broadcast on American public television. The show, about upper-class British young men in the early 20th century, lacked Waugh’s earlier satiric bite.

That was Waugh’s intent. The author, who passed away in 1966, said the book was “nothing less than an attempt to trace the workings of the divine purpose in a pagan world, in the lives of an English Catholic family, half-paganized themselves, in the world of 1923–39. It is not meant to be funny, but instead is intended for those who look to the future with black forebodings and need more solid comfort than rosy memories.”

In 1930, Waugh had converted to Roman Catholicism. Among these writings in the collection is a 17-page annotated typed manuscript of “The Hopeful Pontiff,” an essay by Waugh on Pope John XXIII.

Among the more than 100 letters in the collection are a number of unpublished letters relating to concerns about Waugh’s 1948 satire “The Loved One,” which was based on the Forest Lawn cemeteries. The book was published without any legal trouble.

Other interesting items include a copy of his travel book “Ninety-two Days” inscribed to his friend Diana Cooper, a satiric journal he wrote at 13, and a copy of a 1923 Oxford publication that contains a story of Waugh’s.


Known for its collection of valuable rare books, including a Gutenberg Bible and an illustrated “Canterbury Tales,” the Huntington has recently been beefing up its 20th century collections. It currently holds the archives of ribald Los Angeles poet Charles Bukowski, science fiction author Octavia Butler, British satirist Kingsley Amis, playwright Christopher Isherwood, “Wolf Hall” author Hilary Mantel, Conrad Aiken, Henri Coulette, Joseph Hansen, Kent Haruf, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Robert Mezey, Robert Silverberg, Ann Stanford, Dunstan Thompson, and Wallace Stevens.

In a release about the donation, David Zeidberg, Avery director of the Library at the Huntington, said, “Loren is the kind of collector who becomes a lifelong scholar of his passions. He has wonderful instincts for identifying books and manuscripts that will prove to be of significant value to scholars as well as collectors.”

[For the Record, 11:30 a.m. PST Jan. 16: An earlier version of this post said Waugh had converted to Roman Catholicism “in later life.” He converted in 1930, the year he turned 27.]


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