Research Stories

The complete works of Evelyn Waugh

Waugh of Words

In 2013, the University of Leicester and Oxford University Press began a hugely ambitious research project to publish the complete works of Evelyn Waugh in a massive edition of 43 volumes. Funded through an £822,482 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, this will be the most exhaustive collation of work by a British novelist ever undertaken. No fewer than 23 editors are working on the project, collaborating digitally and drawing on archives on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Complete Works will include not only Waugh’s fiction and non-fiction (some with previously excised content) but also all his surviving correspondence, unexpurgated diaries, works written at school and university and miscellanea such as poems. This lavish edition will also include Waugh’s graphic art; he was a skilful artist and for some time considered that his true calling and his writing merely a sideline.

Around 10,000 of Waugh’s letters survive, of which only about 15% have been published. The Complete Works will devote eight of its volumes to correspondence (intercalated with the diaries) including letters that Waugh received from such notable figures as John Betjeman, Graham Greene and Nancy Mitford.

In love and Waugh

Among the significant discoveries of the project was a huge cache of letters from Waugh to Teresa Jungman, a 1920s society beauty who is believed to have inspired Lady Julia Flyte in Brideshead Revisited. Long believed destroyed, these were located by Alexander Waugh, curator of his grandfather’s archive and estate and General Editor of the Complete Works. Evelyn Waugh proposed to Jungman in 1933 and her rejection led him to seek solace in North Africa where he wrote the bitter A Handful of Dust.

Far from being an elitist project by literary academics, The Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh is working to promote Waugh’s books among the reading public and make his writing more accessible. A series of events, both public and academic, accompany the project. Monthly reading groups are working their way through the author’s prodigious output while Waugh-related events are becoming a regular feature of Literary Leicester, the University’s annual celebration of the written word.

Professor Martin Stannard from our School of English is Principal Investigator and Co-Executive Editor of the project. (Professor David Bradshaw of Oxford University was Co-Executive Editor with Martin until his untimely death in September 2016.) Dr Barbara Cooke from our School of English is Research Associate. The Project Partners are the British Library; the Bodleian Library; the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds; the Estate of Evelyn Waugh; the Harry Ransom Centre, University of Texas at Austin; the Huntington Library, California; OUP; and the University of Milan.

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