Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fires of Youth

This wood engraving, showing a Bright Young Thing against a background of flames, with one foot in the cradle and the other in the grave, was published in the London Mercury in October 1923, under the title Youth. It is initialled in the block, E.W.

 Edward Wadsworth? Ethelbert White? Edward Wolfe?
The answer is—none of the above. The E.W. in question is in fact the novelist Evelyn Waugh, five years before the publication of his first novel, Decline and Fall. 
Arthur Evelyn St John Waugh (1903-1966) was at this time a dissolute undergraduate at Oxford University, which he would leave the following year without a degree. In September 1924 Waugh enrolled in the Heatherley School of Art, but left before the end of the year to become a schoolmaster (an episode chronicled with exquisite comedy in Decline and Fall). Apparently Waugh initially saw his future in the visual arts rather than the written word. His own art collection in the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin, includes two copies of this engraving, catalogued under the title Fires of Youth.


Philip Wilkinson said...

H'm, interesting. Why is his right leg in a paper bag? Perhaps he should be debagged. Sorry.

Neil said...

I think that may be what shops now call a Bag for Life....