London: Chapman & Hall Ltd., 1945. First edition. 12mo. (7 1/2 inches tall), original red cloth with gilt spine, original dust jacket. Very slight dulling to spine ends of bright, sharp boards, minor chipping to ends and corners of clean, unclipped dust jacket. A near-fine copy. Item #902
"TO KNOW AND LOVE ONE OTHER HUMAN BEING IS THE ROOT OF ALL WISDOM" First trade edition of Evelyn Waugh's most enduring novel—an excellent copy in the unrestored original dust jacket. Written early in 1944 and animated by a wistful portrait of undergraduate life at Oxford University in the 1920’s, Brideshead Revisited was a stylistic pivot from the biting satire which had characterized Waugh’s earlier work. "Several of the themes and characters introduced here take on darker hues as the story progresses, but the early days, as Waugh depicts them, are cloudless and golden" (Russell Shaw, Revisiting Brideshead Revisited). The novel capped a personal transformation as well: "Waugh completed the metamorphosis from ultramodern to ultramontane and in doing so passed from fashion to anti-fashion" (Joseph Pearce, Literary Converts). The book consists of four parts: Prologue: Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder, Book One. Et in Arcadia Ego, Book Two. A Twitch upon the Thread, Epilogue: Brideshead Revisited (dated, "Chagford, February-June, 1944."). The inner flap of the dust jacket contains Waugh's note of Warning: "Brideshead Revisited is not meant to be funny. There are passages of buffoonery, but the general theme is at once romantic and eschatological." Waugh describes his book as "ambitious, perhaps intolerably presumptuous; nothing less than an attempt to trace the the workings of the divine purpose in a pagan world, in the lives of an English Catholic family, half-paganized themselves, in the world of 1923-1939."
This first trade edition (which sold out within a week after it appeared on May 28, 1945) was preceded only by Chapman and Hall's special advance issue of just 50 copies printed in plain paper wrappers for Waugh's private distribution in late 1944. Waugh's nostalgia for the 1920's and 30's struck a chord with readers as the world began to emerge the Second World War and Brideshead was published in multiple English and American editions by the end of 1945. Brideshead Revisited "sold exceedingly well on both sides of the Atlantic. In England, the Tablet acclaimed it ‘a book for which it is safe to prophesy a lasting place among the major works of fiction.’ In America, Time described Waugh as a stylist unexcelled among contemporary novelists" (Joseph Pearce). With Waugh’s epigraphic Author’s Note on the verso of the title page: "I am not I: thou art not he or she: they are not they. E.W." and the British War Economy statement: "Produced in Complete Conformity with the Authorized Economy Standards." Ahearn, 19b. Shaw, Revisting Brideshead Revisited (in The Catholic World Report, August 2020). Pearce, Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief.