June 29, 2007

Waugh's Rebellion

The New Yorker has a review of the new book about the Waugh family including Evelyn. The normal New Yorker caveat applies in that it was written by anti-Catholic Joan Acocella (only Peter Boyle there is fair to the Church), but it was interesting to see how the perceived seed of First World War, excessive sentiment, was reacted against by the succeeding generation:
...it should be added that Evelyn’s rebellion against Arthur is merely one instance of the most notorious generation gap of the twentieth century, the antagonism between the young people of the nineteen-twenties—known in England as the Bright Young Things—and their parents, whose values, the children felt, had led to the pointless slaughter that was the First World War. In an essay that Evelyn wrote while still in high school, he announced this generation’s coming: “They will be above all things clear sighted. The youngest generation are going to be very hard and analytical and unsympathetic. The young men of the nineties”—Arthur’s generation—“subsisted upon emotion. They poured out their souls like water and their tears with pride; middle-aged observers will find it hard to see the soul in the youngest generation. But they will have—and this is their justification—a very full sense of humor.” His prophecy was correct.
* * *

Waugh was loyal to the generation of the twenties—in English fiction, he was its leader—but he soon began worrying about its morals. Alec recalled that after receiving She-Evelyn’s fatal letter Evelyn said to him, “The trouble about the world today is that there’s not enough religion in it. There’s nothing to stop young people doing whatever they feel like doing at the moment.”

No comments: