Professor Martin Stannard's introduction to the Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh
Described by the Times Literary Supplement as being destined to "become one of the great monuments of twenty-first century literary scholarship", the Complete Works project is working with Oxford University Press to print all of Waugh's extant writings and graphic art: novels, biographies, travel writing, short fiction, essays, articles, reportage, reviews, letters (about 85% of which are currently unpublished), diaries, poems, juvenilia, parerga, drawings and designs in 43 beautifully crafted volumes. It's quite an undertaking - and a very exciting one.
The project revolutionises Waugh studies and will also influence twentieth-century literary and cultural studies more broadly. The expert editors of our new volumes will place Waugh’s works within their rich literary and historical context, enabling us to greatly expand our knowledge of the range and complexity of Waugh's thinking and artistic practice, linking this to the work of his contemporaries in Britain, America and Europe. No other edition of a British novelist has been undertaken on this scale.
Our editors have been given permission by the Evelyn Waugh Estate to quote freely from the writer's published and unpublished materials, a privilege never before available to Waugh scholars.
The Complete Works project was initiated by Alexander Waugh, Waugh's grandson, who curates the massive Evelyn Waugh Archive at his home in Somerset. Alexander is the edition's General Editor. The late Professor David Bradshaw and I then became involved, submitting a successful bid to the Arts and Humanities Research Council to support the work.
As I am Principal Investigator, the project is based at the University of Leicester. Cutting-edge digital humanities technology, driven by our Co - Investigator Dr Barbara Cooke, is at the heart of what we are doing, using this website as a research tool and global seminar space for our editors, Waugh students and enthusiasts alike. Anyone who has anything to add to Waugh's story is encouraged to use the Waugh Forum and comment on the project blog, Waugh and Words. We have also pulled together the best Waugh resources on the web, and digitised some new ones ourselves, in order to make the best range of research and study materials available in one place.
In my early years at Leicester I edited Evelyn Waugh: The Critical Heritage (1984), and wrote a two-volume biography of Waugh (1986, 1992). Since then I've worked on other authors - Ford Madox Ford and Muriel Spark in particular - but it is a great delight to return to Waugh and we hope that all those who become involved with this research, at whatever level, will find equal pleasure in his writing. No matter how well-read you are in Evelyn Waugh, you're bound to discover reams of new material in our scholarly edition.
Although work proper on the edition began in 2009, the groundwork was laid long before, and the project is in many ways the culmination of half a century of Waugh studies. In 1967 Paul. A. Doyle published the first Evelyn Waugh Newsletter, which year by year amassed details of all the primary and secondary Evelyn Waugh material its contributors could find. This project would not have been possible without the work of Doyle and his colleagues, particularly Robert Murray Davis and Donat Gallagher, who are now editors on our new edition of The Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh.