Three books inscribed by Evelyn Waugh to Graham Greene, documenting one of the compelling relationships in 20th-century English literature.
Their initial relationship was cordial at best. The two overlapped at Oxford in 1922, but did not meet until 1937 when Greene, the editor of the upscale literary publication Night and Day, hired the perpetually impecunious Waugh to produce a weekly book page. Waugh kvetched – “the pay is rather disappointing but I am getting spliced & want as many regular jobs as I can get” – and asked that at the very least the books he was to review be sent directly to his home to enhance his library.
As their friendship developed, Waugh would return the favor but sending Greene inscribed first editions of his own works, such as these three volumes: The Loved One (1948), Black Mischief (1932), and Helena (1950). When the magazine went under, Greene asked his writers to excuse his commissions; Waugh would have none of it: “I received your telegram this morning after the enclosed article had been written. As it had been definitely commissioned... I am afraid I must hold you to your offer, whether you print it or not.”
Despite this rocky start, the two became close. Waugh reviewed Greene’s The Heart of the Matter: “...of Mr. Graham Greene alone among contemporary writers one can say without affectations that his breaking silence with a new serious novel is a literary “event”... [He] is a story-teller of genius.” Greene, pleased, sent a note of thanks: “You’ve made me very conceited – thank you very much. There’s no other living writer whom I would rather receive praise (or criticism) from.” And the two did exchange a fair amount of criticism over the years, frequently sourcing from politics and religion. Waugh was a staunch aristocrat, and Greene, a loyal socialist. Both were converts to Catholicism, but Greene did not believe in Hell and, given the number of affairs he had while married with married women, clearly did not consider the institution of marriage a sacred one.
This copy of The Loved One, Waugh’s send-up of Los Angelean culture inspired by a brief stay in the summer of 1947, during which he worked in Hollywood on the film adaptation of Brideshead Revisited for MGM. The book is one of 250 numbered copies signed by both Waugh and the illustrator, Stuart Boyle. The story, set in Forest Lawn Cemetery – a west coast spot to which Waugh was compulsively drawn – grew from a series of articles on “California burial customs” he wrote after his return to London. It satirically follows a young English poet who moves to Los Angeles to find success in Hollywood only to get mixed up in a love triangle with funeral cosmetician Aimee Thanatogenos and the sinister embalmer "Mr. Joyboy." Waugh inscribed this copy: Mr. Graham Greene’s copy.
Waugh inscribed Helena – the novel he considered his greatest literary achievement: For Graham love Evelyn Oct. 1st 1950. His readers regarded it as an career embarrassment. Waugh intended to write a new sort of biography of a saint, while narrating the story of Christianity’s origins. Unschooled in Jewish history broadly or in the life of Helena specifically, he was undaunted. He framed the narrative around the story of a girl, and branded it a reverentially religious text, though it’s clearly punctuated with a 20th-century sexual awareness. Reviewers recoiled, then attacked, with one comparing Waugh unfavorably with Greene: “Waugh has done nothing in this book that he has not done as well or better elsewhere... While Graham Greene’s characters make the frontal approach to Catholicism – undergoing the betrayal on the pier or the Pascalian agony in the shrubbery – Waugh’s converts generally get to Heaven the back way through having the right kind of nanny” (John Raymond in the New Statesman). All things considered, it would be difficult to overstate the poignancy of Waugh’s loving inscription to Greene in this copy.
Clearly Greene, an avid, life-long book-hunter, acquired his copy of Black Mischief second-hand – it bears the Book Society bookplate of one E.E. Cretchley, who also signed the book – and then solicited the inscription from Waugh, who obliged, Not for Crutchley [sic] / but for Graham / from / Evelyn. Black Mischief, falling between Decline and Fall, Vile Bodies, and the masterful A Handful of Dust, is often given short shrift in critical dialogues. In it, Waugh fictionalized his voyage to Abyssinia as recounted in Remote People (1931). It is his first novel set outside of London and Oxford, and the creation of the Kingdom of Azania and Emperor Seth forced Waugh to rely heavily on his powers of invention. Titled Accession in manuscript, it was changed at the request of Waugh’s American publisher John Farrar who pointed out that “accession as such means practically nothing in America.” Waugh, resigned, resplied, “Tell these troublesome yanks that the novel will be called Black Mischief and will be ready for them in about 3 weeks. It is extremely good.”
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for pricing and more information