Seventy years ago today, Chapman & Hall published Brideshead Revisited, written by Evelyn Waugh while he was on leave from the British Army during World War II. The book became Waugh’s most popular, and the 1981 British television adaptation remains perhaps the finest film adaptation of any book.
One of the reasons for the novel’s enduring popularity is its beautiful prose, of which Waugh later became somewhat embarrassed. But the novel also offers an acute diagnosis of the ills of the modern age and suggests a cure for those ills. The sickness Waugh described has only worsened since 1945, and nowadays even some high-ranking members of the Church Waugh joined disagree with his cure. Still, people continue to read, and to love, Brideshead.
If you’ve never read Brideshead, read it. If you’ve never seen the TV series, watch it. And if you’ve done both, pick up a copy of the best book on Waugh I know, Evelyn Waugh and the Modernist Tradition, by Chronicles’ own George McCartney.
Thomas Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He writes from Cleveland, Ohio.