Volume 71, Issue 2, Spring 2019
‘There was something gentlemanly about your painting’
Art and Beauty’s Truth in Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited
While criticism of Evelyn’s Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited has generally focused on the novel’s Catholic themes, it has often overlooked the author’s exploration of certain correlative artistic values that that are both sustained by the Christian vision and integral to the development of a humane and soul-enriching culture. That culture for Waugh was necessarily grown out of an identifiable past and evoked by artistic representations of divine grace and human potential. This essay argues that Charles Ryder’s eventual Catholic conversion remains indispensable to the novel’s fulfillment of its author’s vision. This critical denouement, however, also serves to affirm the grace that is revealed throughout by the protagonist’s instinctive veneration for traditions besieged by a soulless and secular modernism. In this way, worldly beauty is intricately entwined with a life of virtue and can thus be seen as adjacent to those values hitherto singularly ascribed by critics of Brideshead to the Catholic mission.