Saturday, February 18, 2006

Evelyn Waugh, Curmudgeonly Catholic

Some of my favorite articles from First Things are profiles of interesting Catholics. This double book review by George Weigel from 1993 is on the British novelist and Catholic convert Evelyn Waugh. Some quotes from Waugh about his faith, taken from the article:

I always think to myself: "I know I am awful. But how much more awful I should be without the Faith." One of the joys of Catholic life is to recognize the little sparks of good everywhere, as well as the fire of the saints.

Civilization-and by this I do not mean talking cinemas and tinned food, nor even surgery and hygienic houses, but the whole moral and artistic organization of Europe-has not in itself the power of survival. It came into being through Christianity, and without it has no significance or power to command allegiance. . . . It is no longer possible, as it was in the time of Gibbon, to accept the benefits of civilization and at the same time deny the supernatural basis on which it rests. . . . Christianity . . . is in greater need of combative strength than it has been for centuries.

And this biographical gem:

In 1940, Waugh was charged with neglecting his duties during a training exercise; part of the charge filed against him was that he had been seen smoking a cigar and drinking claret. When pressed on this during a Court of Inquiry in 1945, he admitted to having been smoking a cheroot and drinking Burgundy, but demanded of the Court why he should be "run-in by an officer so ill-bred that he could not distinguish between these totally different things."

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