John Wilson: Fellowship Recipient

John Wilson: Fellowship Recipient

My name is John Wilson. I’m an associate professor of English at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania. And I’m working on a topic called “Evelyn Waugh in the Military and the Church.” Waugh converted to Roman Catholicism in 1930, and then he served in the second World War from 1939 to 1945. I think he entered the war on patriotic motives and wanted to serve his country. And as the war continued, he grew more and more disappointed in the English effort, particularly the alliance with the Soviet Union. And so his Catholicism, I think, became more and more important to him, and a sort of substitute for the patriotism that he’d grown up with in his childhood. And so after the war, after 1945, he wrote about his military experience, and he also wrote about his belief as a Catholic. And the Catholic belief, I think, becomes more and more important. The war experience was the thing that became the inspiration, or the thing that gave him a new understanding of Catholicism, I think. So they do go together, to some extent, though they’re very different subjects. Well, here I’m reading Waugh’s correspondence with his literary agent, A. D. Peters. It’s an extraordinary collection, in 17 boxes of letters and files and carbon copies and memos. All sorts of things; receipts for cigars, which Waugh insisted on receiving from America. And those things, a few of them had been published, but not very many. It’s really something that’s incomparable, I’d say, as a source for what Waugh was interested in writing about, and what Peters advised him to write about, and what various editors and other people said about his writing and suggested that he might want to write about. These are actually exciting days in Waugh studies because Alexander Waugh, his grandson, is planning a complete edition of all of Evelyn Waugh’s works. And so everyone will have to come to the Ransom Center to do their research on the manuscripts. And Alexander has suggested that I might edit A Little Learning, which is Waugh’s autobiography, his last full book, and so I want to look at that manuscript before I leave. I’ll probably have to come back another time to work on it, because there’s always more to be done.

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