13 August 2020, The Tablet

Septimus Waugh on his gentle, melancholic father, Evelyn


Septimus Waugh on his gentle, melancholic father, Evelyn

Evelyn Waugh and his wife, Laura, in 1937
Photo: PA

 

Evelyn Waugh is often portrayed as a selfish and cantankerous father. By contrast, the youngest of his seven children remembers him as a gentle, melancholic man whose chief pleasure lay in parodying his condition

My father died on Easter Sunday, 10 April 1966, when I was 15 years old. Whereas he had converted to Catholicism from a High Church Anglican background, I was born a Catholic and accepted Catholic doctrine as something to be learned and obeyed in ­whatever form it might take.

When I was six years old and undergoing instruction for First Confession and First Holy Communion, I discovered a great wheeze on my travel between convent and home. I would spend money given to me for the bus fare on sweets, having declared to the bus driver that my parents had failed to give me any money for the fare. This appeared to have been a successful ruse for a few weeks until, finally, two black-robed inspectors turned up at the house to demand of my parents why they had been failing to give their child money for his bus fares. I was, of course, hauled in to give an explanation for my behaviour, and admitted the theft of the money for sweets. But I announced that they could not touch me because I had confessed it, done penance and received absolution. That was good enough for my father. I think his lack of action encouraged in me a belief in the efficacy of truth.

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