"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Friday, March 07, 2003 There'll always be an England
A favorite Spectator cover
The Catholic tastes of Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene, "polar opposites united by religion," are considered in an outstanding essay in the Guardian by Mark Lawton:
Vast ranks of English mass-goers in the 1950s and 60s had Brideshead Revisited and The End of the Affair as their bibles. The impending birth centenaries of Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) and Graham Greene (1904-1991) remind us of a period when English fiction of the highest rank was almost wholly a Catholic form...
...It's perhaps hard to imagine a time when the Vatican was a glamorous and popular spiritual destination. But, in the 1930s, an estimated 12,000 Anglicans a year were "going over to Rome" as the social lingo had it. And two of the new additions to the Pope's ranks during this period were Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene.
Waugh reportedly struggled theologically with the fact that the same God could be prayed to by a toff like himself and an Irish labourer (a "bog Catholic" in the high RC slang of the time.) But, researching a Radio 4 play about Greene, Waugh and Catholic writing to mark the twin centenary, it came to seem extraordinary to me that the same faith - or, indeed, the same room - could ever have contained these two writers.
...Waugh certainly played by the rules, producing so many children that a son was christened Septimus, as if to show Rome that they were counting. Graham Greene, in contrast, often seems to have relished the Vatican's lists of banned acts as a challenge. While Waugh maintained a faithful, gamely procreative marriage, Greene spent more of his life with mistresses than with his wife. One of his biographers has claimed that the writer particularly liked to commit adultery behind the high altar in Italian churches, though this has been disputed...To put it simply, Waugh worshipped and obeyed his God, while Greene goaded and cheeked the deity in which he believed.
During my research, at least two well-read friends worried for me that it was futile to attempt a double drama about Greene and Waugh because it was simply not possible that either could ever have tolerated the other's presence. But this proved to be rather touchingly untrue. A friendship stretched from the 1930s -when Greene invited Waugh to write for his magazine Night and Day, a short-lived "English New Yorker" - until Waugh's death in 1966. In one of the final letters from Combe Florey, the usually formal and reticent correspondent tells the other novelist: "I am deeply fond of you."