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Robert Hickson

26 July 2015
Saint Anne

The Cleansing Pathos of Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One (1948):

Glimpses of Unworthy Life and Unworthy Deaths
--Epigraphs-A WarningThis is a purely fanciful tale, a little nightmare produced by the
unaccustomed high living of a brief visit to Hollywood [in early 1947]. Readers
whose pleasure in fiction derives from identifying the characters and scenes with
real people and real places will be disappointed. If in the vast variety of life in
America there is anyone at all like any of the characters I have invented, I can
only remind that person that we never met, and I assure him or her that, had we
done so, I would not have attempted to portray a living individual in a book where
all the incidents are entirely imaginary. As I have said, this is a nightmare and in
parts, perhaps, somewhat gruesome. The squeamish should return their copies
to the library or the bookstore unread. (Evelyn Waugh, The Loved One: An
Anglo-American Tragedy (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1948)my
emphasis added. These somewhat ironical words come from the author's own unpaginated introductory note and suspect warning. His poignant book is dedicated,
moreover, to his close friend, Nancy Mitford.)

'Miss [Juanita] del Pablo has been a particular protge of mine [i.e., of the
Englishman and movie script-writer, Sir Francis Hinsley] from the first [in
Hollywood]. I remember the day she arrived. Poor Leo bought her for her eyes.
She was called Baby Aaronson thensplendid eyes and a fine head of black
hair. So Leo made her Spanish. He had most of her nose cut off and sent her to
Mexico for six weeks to learn flamenco singing. Then he handed her over to me. I
named her. I made her an anti-Fascist refugee. I said she hated men because of
her torment by Franco's Moors [in the Spanish Civil War]. That was a new
angle then. It caught on. And she was really good in her way, you knowwith a
truly horrifying natural scowl. Her legs were never photognique but we kept
her in long skirts and used an understudy for the lower half in scenes of violence. I
was proud of her and she was good for another ten years' work at least. And
now there's been a change of policy at the top. We are only making healthy
films this year [in Hollywood] to please the Catholic League of Decency. So
poor Juanita has to start at the beginning again as an Irish colleen.'....Sir
Francis was charged with the metamorphosis. How lightly, ten years before, he
had brought her into existencethe dynamite-bearing Maenad of the Bilbao
water-front!...He read it [his newly proposed metamorphosis] aloud in
conference...; there were also present the Megalopolitan Directors of Law,
Publicity, Personality and International Relations. In all his career in Hollywood
Sir Francis had never been in a single assembly with so many luminaries of the
Grand Sanhedrin of the Corporation. They turned down his story without
debate....When the door closed behind him, the great men [of the Sanhedrin]

looked at one another and shook their heads. 'Just another has-been,' said the
Director of Personality. (The Loved One, pp. 7-8, 25-26my emphasis added)
In a thousand years or so [circa 2947], when the first archaeologists from beyond
the date-line unload their boat on the sands of southern California, they will find
much the same scene as confronted the Franciscan missionaries....Its history will
pass from memory to legend until,..., as we have supposed, the archaeologists
prick up their ears at the cryptic references in the texts of the twentieth century to
a cult which once flourished on this forgotten strand; [the cult] of the idol
Oscarsexless image of infertilityof the great Star Goddesses who were
once noisily worshipped there in a Holy Wood. [Moreover,] Without the
testimony of tombs the science of archaeology could barely exist, and it will be a
commonplace among the scholars of 2947 that the great cultural decline of the
twentieth century was first evident in the graveyard....
What will the archaeologists of 2947 make of all this and of the countless other
rarities of the place? What webs of conjecture will be spun by the professors of
comparative religion? We know with what confidence they define the
intimate beliefs of remote ages. They flourished in the nineteenth century. Then
G.K. Chesterton, in a masterly book, sadly neglected in Europe but honoured
in the U.S.A.The Everlasting Man [1925]gently exposed their fatuity. But
they will flourish again, for it is a brand of scholarship well suited to dreamy
natures who are not troubled by the itch of precise thought. What will the
professors of the future make of Forest Lawn [i.e., the elaborate Los Angeles
Cemetery and Memorial Park, which in The Loved One is called Whispering
Glades]? What do we make of it ourselves? Here is the thing, under our noses, a
first-class anthropological puzzle of our own period and neighborhood. What
does it mean?....
Dr. Eaton [the founder of Forest Lawn] has set up his Credo at the entrance. 'I
believe in a Happy Eternal Life,' he says. 'I believe those of us left behind should
be glad in the certain belief that those gone before have entered into that happier
Life.' This theme is repeated on Coleus Terrace: 'Be happy because they for whom
you mourn are happyfar happier than ever before.' And again in Vesperland:
'...Happy because Forrest Lawn has eradicated the old customs of Death and
depicts Life not Death.'
The implication of these texts is clear. Forest Lawn has consciously turned its
back on 'the old customs of death,' the grim traditional alternatives of Heaven
and Hell, and promises immediate eternal happiness to all its inmates....Dr. Eaton
is the first man to offer eternal salvation at an inclusive charge as part of his
undertaking service.
There is a vital theological point on which Dr. Eaton gives no ex cathedra
definition. Does burial in Forest Lawn itself sanctify, or is sanctity the necessary
qualification for admission? Discrimination is exercised....Suicides,...who, 'in the
old customs of death' would lie at the crossroads, impaled, [now] come [into

Forest Lawn, as well as into Whispering Glades] in considerable numbers and,

often, particularly in cases of hanging, present peculiar problems to the
[cosmetic] embalmer.
Embalming is so widely practiced in California [as of early 1947] that many
believe it to be a legal obligation....We are very far here from the traditional
conception of an adult soul naked at the judgment seat and a body turned to
corruption....These [traditional conceptions and symbolic presentations, even, for
sure, 'in the [graying] marble adipocere' (336)]...were done with a moral purpose
to remind a highly civilized people that beauty was skin deep and pomp
was mortal. In those realistic times Hell waited for the wicked and a long
purgation for all but the saints, but Heaven, if at last attained, was a place of
perfect knowledge. In Forest Lawn, as the builder claims, these old values are
reversed. The body does not decay; it lives on, more chic in death than ever
before...; the soul goes straight from the Slumber Room to Paradise, where it
enjoys an endless infancy....That, I think, is the message [of Forest Lawn and its
soothing inversions and reversals]. (Evelyn Waugh, Half in Love with Easeful
Death: An Examination of Californian Burial Customs, in The Essays and
Reviews of Evelyn Waugh (Edited by Donat Gallagher) (Boston: Little, Brown and
Company, 1984), pp. 331, 334-335, 335-337my emphasis added.)
One participates in a work of art when one studies it with reverence and
understanding. (Evelyn Waugh, The Diaries of Evelyn Waughedited by
Michael Davie (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1976), pp. 788-789
Waugh's Easter 1964 Diary EntryFor Waugh, this insight also applies, and
more importantly so, to one's Participation in the Mass. Funeral Rites, too!)
While recently re-readingafter almost forty-five yearsEvelyn Waugh's The Loved One, his
piercing 1948 novel set in the United Statesin Southern California, in and around Los Angeles and
HollywoodI gratefully came to realize for the first time the deep and purifying pathos artfully
expressed in that often disturbing, but carefully nuanced, textespecially when one also becomes
gradually aware of what is missing. For, there are certain sacred elements that are not there amidst the
poignant suicides and the human cremations and the self-deluded evasions of Death. Despite Waugh's
unmistakably Catholic perspective and allusions, we are only implicitly led to consider altogether the
Four Last Things.
That is to say, there is a certain presence of absencein G.K. Chesterton's profound
paradoxical wordssuch as the absence of a traditional Catholic Requiem Mass and the absence of a
traditional Catholic burial, with the reverent interment of a body, as distinct from the remains of a
deliberate cremation. Part of Waugh's literary art is to draw us to consider what is intimately missing

and why.
If we hold to a certain Criterion of our Catholic Faithto include a reflection on the Four Last
Thingswe come to notice what is not there in variously presented and purported friendships, in the
proffered and partly reciprocated human affections, in the religious reverence expressed by the Guru
Brahmin and the Hindu Love Song, in the Guru's romantic and spiritual guidance, and in the facing
of death with its likely consequences. We also notice the absence of living children in the story. But,
this all seems to be in accordance with Evelyn Waugh's artistic design and his implied moral purpose.
For, there is, unmistakably, a terrible absence present in Hollywood and in the elaborate
Mortuaries and Cemeteries that are shown to us gradually, and sometimes suddenly. And we now see
some of this same nonchalance, indifference, and spiritual presumption seeping into parts of the
Catholic Church todayespecially the Modernist-Occupied Parts of the Churchalmost seventy years
later. Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One may therefore help us to gainor regainfresh and fortifying
perspectives and understanding of these inescapable matters of moment to man. We may also even
come to realize that an earlier part of the currently permeating Drug Culture was to be seen in 19471948 in California by those who were languidly, even slothfully, half in love with easeful death.1
If the reader would first again read and closely consider the four sequenced Epigraphs presented
above, he would find a worthy framing for this essay, thereby also better enabling us to savor Evelyn
Waugh's own nuanced presentations of conversation in their special, indeed unique, settings. It is my
purpose to show us how Waugh has deftly presented the loneliness and the yearnings of that society, the
insecurity and the insufficiency of the Hollywood studio-business and its frigid inhuman
manipulations, all of which trenchantly test the human heart and one's own fundamental hope.
Because Waugh originally subtitled his book An Anglo-American Tragedy, we should not forget
the denotation of tragedy amidst his sustained satire and effective ironies. A tragedy presupposes a
certain objective moral order in the universe, while also reminding us that a man may unknowingly set
in motion fearsome and fateful affairs whose fuller consequences he does not foresee and cannot finally
control. Moreover, when a tragical moral agent receives a glimpse of what may all too destructively
come to transpire, he does not have enough time to correct the missteps. One has a sense of
constriction, often of desperation, as time is running out. Hence the pity and the fear in his audience,
1 Evelyn Waugh, The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1948), p. 96.
Quoting a poem, John Keats Ode to a Nightingale, Stanza 6, Dennis Barlow, the hero of the novel, later speaks these
poignant words in person to Aime Thanatogenos, the young woman whom he comes to love, and then to lose.

and the effectiveness of the tragic catharsis.

There can be no tragedy in an aleatory or in an absurd universethat is, in a random
universe. There must be some recognizable moral order and moral standarda sort of Law or
Manufacturer's Instructionswhich may be more or less freely transgressed, thereby producing a
pollution or a guilty impurity in need of expiation, an expiation which often requires a sacrifice, as
well as the candid and courageous acknowledgement of dishonorable shame. One's own death or
destruction is often involvedand the disproportion of the punishment pierces the human heart
certainly the heart of an attentive (and partly knowledgeable) onlooker.
Moreover, since mendacity as well as hypocrisy is also vividly presentand is often permeating
in a true tragedy (as distinct from a mere misfortune), we must at least consider the meaning of a
lie and the primary social consequence of the lie. A lie, at root, is a deliberate falsehood; and the
main social effect of a lie is that it breaks trust. And, intimate trust, once broken, is so hard to repair.
Even if trust is gradually restored, it is often too lateeven when there is mercy present and also a
true and deep forgiveness from the heart. Such are some of the essential elements and qualities of
tragedy, and we must suppose that Evelyn Waugh would want us to retain that disciplined knowledge,
even amidst his own purported little nightmare, which is also sometimes a shocking and gruesome
satire, as he has warned us.
There are three distinct, but interrelated, groups that Evelyn Waugh presents and investigates in
the novel: (1.) the English colony (both the long-resident and the temporary expatriates) to be found in
and around Los Angeles (and Hollywood); (2.) the Hollywood Movie-Studio Set (screenwriters,
actresses, and senior executives, as well as the technicians and bureaucrats); (3.) The Mortician Culture
and the Arts of their trade, both in the Pets' Cemetery and in the Larger Cemetery (on the pattern of
Forest Lawn Park) which is purportedly for sympathetic human beings, as well as plutocrats. In this
essay, therefore, we shall also now try, where possible, to approach these thematic matters in this same
sequence, while attempting to show how Waugh himself deftly interweaves these three groups of
associates (English expatriates or exiles, the Hollywood Film Network, and the Morticians and
Cosmetic Embalmers), and especially a few of the more distinctive kinds of characters among them all.
Moreover, if one has belatedly read his later 1964 Preface to the final 1965 edition of The Loved
Oneone year before he himself was so suddenly to die on Sunday, 10 April 1966the reader will be
prepared to grasp the first paragraph of the novel. For, Waugh did not take well to the heat and semi5

aridity of the Los Angeles region, nor to the sprawling, nondescript ugliness of Los Angeles itself as
he experienced it in the first few months of 1947. Echoes of this memory and vivid perception are in
the novel's first paragraph:
All day the heat had been barely supportable but at evening a breeze arose in the
West, blowing from the heart of the setting sun and from the ocean, which lay
unseen, unheard behind the scrubby foothills. It shook the rusty fringes of palmleaf and swelled the dry sounds of summer, the frog-voices, the grating cicadas,
and the ever present pulse of music from the neighboring native huts.
In that kindly light the stained and blistered paint of the bungalow [cf. the
neighboring native huts] and the plot of weeds [once a swimming pool] between
the veranda and the dry water-hole lost their extreme shabbiness, and the two
Englishmen [the elderly screenwriter Sir Francis Hinsley; and the novel's young
hero and poet, Dennis Barlow], each in his rocking chair, each with his whisky
and soda and his outdated magazine, the counterparts of numberless fellowcountrymen exiled in the barbarous regions of the world, shared in the brief
illusory rehabilitation. (3-4my emphasis added) 2
Much is compactly conveyed in these first two paragraphs, but only implicitly, though resonantly
and memorably. When one re-reads them after reading the entire novel, one will understand my
intended meaning better, I thinkeven by the tones of Waugh's chosen diction: e.g., the barely
supportable heat; scrubby foothills which blocked both the sight and sound of the ocean waves; the
dry sounds of summer; frog-voices; grating cicadas; the ever present pulse of [native] music,
native huts; the kindly light in the breeze at evening; the stained and blistering paint; the
shabbiness; exiled in the barbarous regions; a brief illusory rehabilitation.
The first two chapters of Waugh's The Loved One convey the enervating and corrupting, moral
and physical atmosphere which prepares us for the fuller pathos of the tale, and already adds to it, by
way of a sudden suicide.
But first we must see how Waugh deftly conveys the pretentiousness and imposture of one of the
leaders of the exiled British colony in and around Los Angeles, Ambrose Abercrombie, whom we shall
also see more fully exposed at the very end of the novel, as he tries to keep up the good appearances.
Speaking to young Dennis Barlow, who temporarily dwelt with him, Sir Francis Hinsley said:
Ambrose Abercrombie will be here shortly....I don't know why. He left a
message he would come....Sir Francis Hinsley's momentary animation left
2 Evelyn Waugh, The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1948the first
edition), pp. 3-4my emphasis added. Henceforth, all references to be to this edition, and placed above, in parentheses,
in the main body of this essay.

him....His was a weak, sensitive, intelligent face, blurred somewhat by soft

living and long boredom....I never was good at anything new [to include those
of Hopkins once (4)the difficult innovative poetry of Jesuit Father Gerard
Manly Hopkins].....My best subjects [as a writer himself] were 'The English
Parson in English Prose' or 'Cavalry Actions with the Poets'that kind of thing.
People seemed to like them once. Then they lost interest. I did too. I was
always the most fatigable of hacks. I needed a change [i.e., to go away from
England and I chose to travel to southern California and reside there, in order to
work in Hollywood]. I've never regretted coming away. The climate suits me.
They are a very decent, generous lot of people out here and they don't expect
you to listen. Always remember that, dear boy. It's the secret of social ease [and
an easeful death?] in this country. They talk entirely for their own pleasure.
Nothing they say is designed to be heard. (4-5my emphasis added; italics in
the original)
Such is the presentation of superficiality and banality and boredom already, and then Ambrose
Abercrombie arrives and says:
Evening, Frank. Evening, Barlow....It's been another scorcher, eh? Mind if I
take a pew?.... Sir Ambrose wore dark grey flannels, an Eton Rambler tie, an I
Zingari [the Gypsies Amateur Cricket Club] ribbon in his boater hat. This was
his invariable dress on sunny days; whenever the weather allowed it he wore a
deer-stalker cap and an Inverness cape. He was still on what Lady Abercrombie
fatuously called the right side of sixty but after many years of painfully
trying to look youthful, he now aspired to the honours of age. It was his latest
quite vain wish that people should say of him: Grand old boy. (5-6my
emphasis added)
Through Abercrombie's further words we first come to see his fuller perfunctory character, and it
is not pretty:
Been meaning to look you up for a long time. Trouble about a place like this
one's so darn busy, one gets in a groove and loses touch. Doesn't do to lose touch.
We limeys have to stick together. You shouldn't hide yourself away, Frank, you old
I remember a time when you [Ambrose] lived not so far away.[said Sir Francis
Did I? 'Pon my soul I believe you're right. That takes one back a bit. It was before
I went to Beverly Hills [a swanky place, too!]. Now, as you know, we're in Bel
Air. But to tell the truth I'm getting a bit restless there. I've got a bit of land on
Pacific Palisades [nearer the coastline of the Pacific Ocean]. Just waiting for
building costs to drop. Where was it I used to live? Just across the street,
wasn't it?
Just across the street, twenty years ago or more ago [circa 1925-1927], when this
[now] neglected district was the centre of fashion, Sir Francis, in prime middle7

age, was then the only knight in Hollywood, the doyen of English society, chief
script-writer of Megalopolitan Pictures and President of the Cricket Club. Then
the young, or youngish, Ambrose Abercrombie used to bounce about the lots [at
the movie studios] in his famous series of fatiguing roles, acrobatic, heroic
historic, and come almost nightly to Sir Francis for refreshment. English titles
abounded now in Hollywood, several of them authentic, and Sir Ambrose had
been known to speak slightingly of Sir Francis as a Lloyd George creation. The
[swift] seven league boots of failure had carried the old and the ageing man
far apart. Sir Francis had descended [from chief script-writer] to the Publicity
Department and now held rank, one of a dozen, as vice-President of the Cricket
Club. His swimming pool [at his residence and veranda] which had once flashed
like an aquarium with the limbs of long-departed beauties [i.e., feminine moviestars] was empty now and cracked and overgrown with weed.
Yet there was a chivalric bond between the two [Sir Francis and Ambrose].
How are things at Megalo [i.e., Megalopolitan Pictures]? asked Sir Ambrose.
Greatly disturbed. We are having trouble with Juanita del Pablo.
Luscious, languid and lustful?
Those are not the correct epithets. She isor was'surly, lustrous, and
sadistic.' I [Sir Francis] should know because I composed the phrase myself. It
was a 'smash-hit,' as they say, and set a new note in personal publicity.....
Sir Ambrose, in accordance with local custom, had refrained from
listening....Sir Ambrose had a more adventurous past but he lived existentially. He
thought of himself as he was at that moment, brooded fondly on each several
excellence and rejoiced. (6-7, 8, 10my emphasis added)
The compassionate and loyal deep-heartedness of Sir Ambrose Abercrombie is a touching thing,
is it not? So chivalric. What a man! With a touch of irony, the novel's own narrator notices this, too!
Near the end of the novelafter Sir Francis had committed suicide by hanging himself, and after
another desolate character, a young cosmetic mortician, had also taken her own lifethe poet Dennis
Barlow was trying to help out another man who was in trouble, Mr. Joyboy, the fianc of the suicide.
Earlier, while still working at a pets' cemetery, Barlow had decided to take up theological studies and
then to become a religious minister, both because of a special vocation he felt, which seemed genuine,
and also because of his understandable desire to increase his own status in the community. But
chivalric Ambrose Abercrombie found out about this, and came to visit Barlow with a few proposals.
In Waugh's narrator's words, young Denis, at one point,
Went out alone into the pets' cemetery [where he still worked after having left the
Hollywood studio] with his own thoughts which were not a thing to be shared

with Mr. Joyboy [in his grief]. Thus musing he was disturbed by a once familiar
visitor. It was a chilly day and Sir Ambrose Abercrombie wore tweeds, cape and
deer-stalker cap, the costume in which he had portrayed many travesties of
English rural life. He carried a shepherd's crook.
Ah, Barlow, he said, still hard at it?
One of our easier mornings [at the pets' cemetery]. I hope it was not a
bereavement which brought you here.....
He [Ambrose] paused and gazed curiously about him at the modest monuments
[to the various pets]. Attractive place you've got here. Sorry to see you're
You received one of my cards?
Yes, got it here. Thought at first it must be someone playing rather a poor kind of
joke. It's genuine, is it?
From the depths of his plaid he produced a card and handed it to Dennis. It read:
'Squadron Leader [in the British Forces in World War II, in the Air Transportation
Command, but as a Non-Aviator] the Rev. Dennis Barlow begs to announce that
he is shortly starting business at 1154 Arbuckle Avenue, Los Angeles. All nonsectarian services expeditiously conducted at competitive prices. Funerals a
specialty. Panegyrics in prose or poetry. Confessions heard in strict confidence.
Yes, quite genuine, said Dennis.
Ah, I was afraid it might be.
Another pause. Dennis said: The cards were sent out by an agency, you know. I
didn't suppose you would be particularly interested.
But I am particularly interested. Is there somewhere where we could go and
Wondering whether Sir Ambrose was to be his first penitent, Dennis led him
indoors....At length, Sir Ambrose said: It won't do, Barlow. You must allow me
an old man's privilege of speaking frankly. It won't do. After all you're an
Englishman. They're a splendid bunch of fellows out here, but you know how it
is. Even among the best you find a few rotters. You know the international
situation as well as I do. There are always a few politicians and journalists simply
waiting for the chance to take a knock at the Old Country. A thing like this is
playing into their hands. I didn't like it when you started work here [at the pets'
cemetery]. Told you so frankly at the time. But at least this is a more or less
private concern. But religion's quite another matter. I expect you're thinking of
some pleasant country rectory at home. Religion's not like that here. Take it
from me, I know the place.
It's odd that you should say that, Sir Ambrose. One of my chief aims is to raise
my status.

Then chuck it, my dear boy before it's too late. Sir Ambrose spoke at length of
the industrial crisis in England, the need for young men and dollars, the uphill
work of the film community in keeping the flag flying. Go home, my dear boy.
That is your proper place.
As a matter of fact, said Dennis, things have rather changed with me
[especially after the death of his beloved young Aime by suicide, and] since that
[religious] announcement was made. The Call I heard has grown fainter....But
there are certain practical difficulties. I have invested all my small savings in my
[California] theological studies.
I expected something of the kind. That is where the Cricket Club comes in. I
hope the time will never come when we are not ready to help a fellow countryman
in difficulties. (155-158my emphasis added)
Ambrose then discloses his proposal, as well as his own strategic anticipation:
We had a committee meeting last night [at the Cricket Club] and your name was
mentioned. There was complete agreement. To put it in a nutshell, my boy, we will
send you home.
First class?
Tourist. I'm told it's jolly comfortable. How about it?
No drawing room in the train?
No drawing room in the train.
Well, said Dennis, I suppose that as a clergyman I should have had to
practice certain austerities.
Spoken like a man, said Sir Ambrose. We signed it last night. (158-159my
emphasis added)
By way of such interchanges of speech, Evelyn Waugh conveys many facets of moral character
and fakery. And we thereby learn to be more attentive to his narrator's nuanced ironies.
At the very beginning of the novelafter Ambrose Abercrombie had himself departed in the night
by automobile from his odd and snooping visit to Sir Francis and Dennis Barlow (the poet)Sir
Francis, while imparting his generous and good counsel, first alertly said to Barlow:
He's heard something. That was what brought him here....If exclusion from
British society can be counted as martyrdom, be prepared for the palm and
the halo. You have not been to your place of business today? [i.e., at the pets'
cemetery, where Barlow now worked, shortly after his contract at Megalo studio
had ran out three weeks ago(10)]....It is one of the numberless compensations
of my exile that I never need read unpublished verses....Take them away, dear boy,
prune and polish [your set of poems] at your leisure....I should [now] not

understand them and I might [even] be led to question the value of a sacrifice
which I now applaud [i.e., your leaving the drudgery and bondage at Megalo
studio in Hollywood, and not renewing your contract there]. You are a young
man of genius, the hope of English poetry. I have heard it said and I devoutly
believe it. I have served the cause of art enough by conniving at your escape
from a bondage to which I myself have been long happily reconciled....
I am your memento mori [remember death, be mindful of death!]....That's what all
of us are [a dribbling dog], you know, out here. The studios keep us going with
a [blood] pump [an artificial one, as with that blood-injected Russian dog's
head]. We are still just capable of a few crude reactionsnothing more. If we
were ever disconnected from our bottle, we should simply crumble. I like to
think that it was the example of myself before your eyes day after day for
more than a year that inspired your heroic resolution to set up in an
independent trade. You have had an example and perhaps now and then precept.
I may have counselled you in so many words to leave the studio [in Hollywood]
while you still could....And my advice, I think, was to return to Europe. I never
suggested anything so violently macabre, so Elizabethan, as the work you chose
[as a pets' mortician at Happier Hunting Grounds, the Pets' Cemetery in Los
Angeles, very nearby the artificial Hollywood paradise and Memorial Park of
Whispering Glades where Sir Francis will soon himself be so incongruously
buried]. (13-15my emphasis added)
Soon, however, we shall see Sir Francis himself to be involuntarily excluded as an expendable,
and cast off as a superfluous man. For, he is now being explicitly considered by the Hollywood
Mogulsby the Megalopolitan Directors themselves (25), as just another has-been. (26) The
way he was then treated is full of pathos, and Evelyn Waugh, with great art, knows how to convey it.
After his fateful meeting and conference with the Megalo Directors at Megalopolitan Studios,
Sir Francis remained at home and for several days his secretary came out daily to
take dictation....Then there came a day when his secretary failed to arrive. He
telephoned to the studio. The call was switched from one administrative office to
another until eventually a voice said: Yes, Sir Francis, that is quite in order.
Miss Mavrocordato [his secretary] has been transferred to the Catering
Well, I must have somebody.
I'm not sure we have anyone available right now, Sir Francis.
I see. Well, it is very inconvenient but I'll have to come down and finish the work
I am doing in the studio. Will you have a car sent for me?
I'll put you through to Mr. Van Gluck.
Again the call went to and fro like a shuttlecock until finally a voice said:
Transportation Captain. No, Sir Francis, I'm sorry, we don't have a studio

automobile here right now.

Already feeling the mantle of Lear about his shoulders [cf. an allusion to King
Lear's piercing phrase about the acts of his seemingly ingrate children: Monster
Ingratitude!] Sir Francis took a taxi to the studio. (26-27my emphasis added)
It gets worse. And, like the weather outside, what happens then is barely supportable (3)
especially the false and fruity tones (34) that Sir Ambrose simpered out on the day following Sir
Francis Hinsley's unexpected death (32).
Before Megalo had finally sacked poor Frank (35), Sir Francis had pathetically arrived at the
impersonal studio by taxi, still feeling the mantle of Lear about his shoulders (27):
He nodded to the girl at the desk with something less than his usual urbanity.
Good morning, Sir Francis, she said. Can I help you?
No, thank you.
There isn't anyone in particular you were looking for?
No one.
The elevator girl looked inquiringly at him. Going up?
Third floor, of course.
He walked down the familiar featureless corridor, opened the familiar door
and stopped abruptly. A stranger sat at his desk.
I'm so sorry, said Sir Francis. Stupid of me. Never done that before. He
backed out and shut the door. Then he studied it. It was his number. He had made
no mistake. But in the slot which had borne his name for twelve yearsever
since he came [in his descent] to this department from the script-writers'
there was now a card typewritten with the name Lorenzo Medici. He opened the
door again. I say, he said. There must be some mistake.
Maybe there is too, said Mr. Medici, cheerfully. Everything seems kinda
screwy around here. I've spent half the morning clearing junk out of this
room. Piles of stuff, just like someone had been living herebottles of medicine,
books, photographs, kids' games. Seems it belonged to some old Britisher who's
just kicked off.
I am that Britisher and I have not kicked off.
Mighty glad to hear it. Hope there wasn't anything you valued in the junk.
Maybe it's still around somewhere.
I must go and see Otto Baumbein.
He screwy too but I don't figure he'll know anything about the junk. I just pushed

it out in the passage [into the featureless corridor]. Maybe some janitor...
Sir Francis went down the passage to the office of the assistant director. Mr.
Baumbein is in conference right now. Shall I have him call you?
I'll wait.
He sat in the outer office where two typists enjoyed long, intimately amorous
telephone conversations. At last Mr. Baumbein came out. Why, Frank, he said.
Mighty nice of you to look us up. I appreciate that. I do really. Come often,
I wanted to talk to you, Otto.
Well, I'm rather busy right now, Frank. How say I give you a ring next week
I've just found Mr. Medici in my office.
Why, yes, Frank. Only he says 'Medissi,' like that; how you said it kinda sounds
like a wop and Mr. Medici is a very fine young man with a very, very fine and
wonderful record, Frank, who I'd be proud to have you meet.
Then where do I work?
Well, see here, that's a thing I want very much to talk to you about but I haven't
the time right now, have I, dear?
No, Mr. Baumbein, said one of the secretaries. You certainly haven't the time.
You see. I just haven't the time. I know what, dear, try fix it now for Sir Francis
to see Mr. Erikson. I know Mr. Erikson would greatly appreciate it.
So Sir Francis saw Mr. Erikson, Mr. Baumbein's immediate superior, and
from him learned in blunt Nordic terms what he had in the last hour darkly
surmised; that his long service [just on twenty-five years (31)] with
Megalopolitan Pictures, Inc. had come to an end.....Sir Francis left Mr.
Erikson and made his way out of the great hive.... Did you find who [sic] you
were looking for? [the secretary asked] as he made his way out into the sunshine.
(27-32my emphasis added)
Inhuman. So impersonal and congealed. And soon Sir Francis was to die.
We soon hear from one of the English expatriates at the Cricket Club that Young Barlow had
found him. (32) After Ambrose Abercrombie belatedly arrived and gave his own perfunctory
interpretation of events, and of Sir Francis himself, Waugh ends his chapter deftly, as follows:
As he [Sir Ambrose of the false and fruity tones (34)] spoke the sun sank below
the bushy western hillside. The sky was bright but a deep shadow crept over the
tough and ragged grass of the cricket field, bringing with it a sharp chill. (36
my emphasis added)

Such a thing can good literature compactly do.

And then Waugh perhaps recalling his own recent shocks of maturity as a Commando Officer in
World War IIbegins his next chapter with an important depiction of Dennis Barlow:
Dennis was a young man of sensibility rather than of sentiment. He had lived his
twenty-eight years at arm's length from violence, but he came of a generation
which enjoys a vicarious intimacy with death. Never, it so happened, had he
seen a human corpse until that morning when, returning tired from night duty
[at the pets' cemetery, the Happier Hunting Ground (38)], he found his host
[Sir Francis] strung to the rafters. The spectacle had been rude and momentarily
unnerving; perhaps it had left a scar somewhere out of sight in his
subconscious mind. But his reason accepted the event as part of the established
order. Others in gentler ages had had their lives changed by such a revelation;
to Dennis it was the kind of thing [deliberate suicides] to be expected in the world
he knew and, as he drove to Whispering Glades [that great necropolis (38), and
specifically in order to make funeral arrangements for Sir Francis, his generous
friend] his conscious mind was pleasantly exhilarated and full of curiosity. (37-38
my emphasis added)
For, as Waugh had revealed at the beginning of the previous chapter,
Dennis Barlow was happy in his work [at the neighboring Happier Hunting
Ground]. Artists are by nature versatile and precise; they only repine when
involved with the monotonous and the makeshift. Dennis had observed this
during the recent war; a poetic friend of his in the Grenadiers was enthusiastic to
the end, while he himself [Dennis] fretted almost to death as a wingless [nonflying] officer in Transportation Command. He had been dealing with Air
Priorities at an Italian port when his first, his only book came out. Dennis was
offered the post of personal assistant to an Air Marshal. He sulkily declined,
remained in Priorities and was presented in his absence with half a dozen
literary prizes. On his discharge he came to Hollywood to help write a life on
[the poet] Shelley for the films.
There in the Megalopolitan studios he found reproduced, and enhanced by the
nervous agitation endemic to the place, all of the gross futility of [military] service
life. He repined, despaired, and fled.
And now he was content [at the Happier Hunting Ground]; adept in a worthy trade
[as a pet-mortician], giving satisfaction to Mr. Schultz [the owner], keeping Miss
Poski guessing. For the first time he knew what it was to explore an avenue [for a
story]; his way was narrow but it was dignified and umbrageous and it led to
limitless distances. (22-23my emphasis added)
And now he would move on, even with some rare elation, to see and to explore Whispering
Glades, which will provide him with some new adventureshence risksand one irreparable personal
loss. However, Dennis Barlow would first have to face and learn to defend himself against the language

and mind-sapping vapidity of the uniformly reassuring Mortuary Hostesses. There would also come
into his life Corpse Beauticians and Mortuary Cosmeticians and a Master of the Embalmer's Art, Mr.
Joyboy, and that one special and distinctive Female Embalmer, Miss Aime Thanatogenos, whom
Dennis comes to love.
An attentive reader will come to learn many things just by savoring the almost uniformly
enervating, therapeutic and evasively euphemistic language soothingly used by the Whispering Glades
Professional (with only an occasional lapse into crudeness). Mostly importantly, one will thereby come
to see and better understand their artificial (and evasive) ways of dealing with human death. More
poignantly and personally, Dennis will be himself faced with another shock: the death of the beloved
herself by suicideand the suicide would be by an injection, and injection of cyanide, selfadministered (150). Weary, conflicted, increasingly languid, desperate, Aime was, it would seem
almost half in love with easeful death.3
But, compared with the other hostesses and beauticians and embalmers, Aime has a distinctive
character and a poignantly yearning, romantic heart not at all cynical, despite the privations of her life
during childhood. She is especially touched by poetry and its inimitable ways of expressing the deep
trials and yearning aspirations of the lonely human heart.
Preparing us to meet her in the novel, and to come to know her better, Waugh's narrator conveys
the more uniform or standard product of female hostesses and secretaries which were to be so
ubiquitously experienced in those years in the United States, not only in California.
For example, one hostess says soothingly to Dennis Barlow during his visit to Whispering Glades
in order to plan the obsequies for Sir Francis: I'll leave our brochure with you. And now I must hand
you over to the cosmetician.4 (53) To which the Narrator responds, conveying Barlow's own private
3 See also, in this poignant connection with a purportedly easeful death, the haunting Epigraph of James Burnham's
profound book, Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism (New York: The John Jay
Company, 1964). Although Burnham does not give the explicit source for his stirring Epigraph, it is to be found in full in
Edmund Spenser's lengthy 16th-century poem, Fairie Queen (Book I: Canto IX, Stanzas 38 and 40). Because the 16thcentury Renaissance English is somewhat difficult to understand for those not accustomed to its syntax and diction, I
shall here give only a few of the lines from these two stanzas: Is [it] then uniust [unjust] to each his due to give?/ Or
[to] let him die, that loatheth living breath?/Or [to] let him die at ease, that liveth here uneath [i.e., with
difficulty]?/....Sleep after toyle, port after stormie seas,/ Ease after war, death after life does greatly please. (I:Canto
IX: Stanzas 38, 40excerpts, with my emphases added). Such may have been Aime's illusion or temptation. And a
temptation wouldn't be a temptation if it weren't attractive! The alluring sophistries of Despair. So meretricious again!
4 Waugh had introduced us to this young lady earlier, and, even then, the narrator was to add a revealing shock: Denis
passed through and opening the door marked Enquiries [at Whispering Glades] found himself in a raftered banqueting
hall. The 'Hindu Love-song was here also, gently [and easefully] discoursed from the dark panelling. A young lady rose
from a group of her fellows to welcome him, one of that new race of exquisite, amiable, efficient young ladies whom


She left the room and Dennis at once forgot everything about her. He had seen
her before everywhere. American mothers, Dennis reflected, presumably knew
their daughters apart, as the Chinese were said subtly to distinguish one from
another of their seemingly uniform race, but to this European eye the Mortuary
Hostess was one with all her sisters of the air-liners and the reception desks,
one with Miss Poski at the Happier Hunting Ground [the Pets' Cemetery]. She
was the standard product. A man could leave such a girl in a delicatessen shop
in New York, fly three thousand miles and find again in the cigar store in San
Francisco, just as he would find his favorite comic strip in the local paper; and she
would croon the same words to him in moments of endearment and express
the same views and preferences in moments of social discourse. She was
convenient; but Dennis came of an earlier civilization with sharper needs. He
sought the intangible, the veiled face in the fog, the silhouette at the lighted
doorway, the secret graces of a body which hid itself under formal velvet. He did
not covet the spoils of the rich continent, the sprawling limbs of the
swimming-pool, the wide-open painted eyes and mouths under the arc-lamps.
But the girl who now entered [Aime Thanatogenos, the Cosmetician] was unique.
Not indefinably; the appropriate distinguishing epithet leapt to Dennis' mind the
moment he saw her: sole Eve in a bustling hygienic Eden, this girl was a
decadent. (53-54my emphasis added)
We may soon come to see that this vulnerable and tempted young woman was, in a limited way,
an analogue to Eve, but, despite her suffering and its pathos, she was not like Maria, Mater Gratiae.
Here is how Waugh presents Dennis Barlow's first meeting with Aime:
She wore the white livery of her calling; she entered the room, sat at the table and
poised her fountain pen with the same professional assurance as her predecessor's,
but she was what Dennis had vainly sought during a lonely year of exile [in
He hair was dark and straight, her brows wide, he skin transparent and untarnished
by the sun. Her lips were artificially tinctured, no doubt, but not coated like her
sisters' and clogged in all their delicate pores with crimson grease; they seemed
to promise instead an unmeasured range of sensual discourse. Her full-face was
oval, her profile pure and classical and light. Her eyes greenish and remote,
with a rich glint of lunacy.
Dennis held his breath. When the girl spoke it was briskly and prosaically.
he had met everywhere in the United States. She wore a white smock and over her sharply supported left breast was
embroidered the words Mortuary Hostess....'You are sure that they will be able to make him [i.e., Sir Francis]
presentable [after his terrible way of dying , by suicide, suspended and very distorted]?' [asked Dennis]. ' We had a
Loved One last month who was found drowned. He had been in the sea a month and they only identified him by his
wrist-watch. They fixed up that stiff,' said the hostess disconcertingly lapsing from the high diction she had
hitherto employed, 'so he looked like it was his wedding day. The boys up there [ the cosmeticians and embalmers]
surely know their job. Why if he sat on an atom bomb, they'd make him presentable.''' (41-42, 47my emphasis added)


What did your Loved One pass on from?

He hanged himself.
Was his face much disfigured?
That is quite usual. Mr. Joyboy [himself raised as a Baptist, is yet unmarried and
also still living with his mother alone] will probably take him [Sir Francis] in hand
personally. It is a question of touch, you see, massaging the blood from the
congested areas. Mr. Joyboy has very wonderful hands.....This cosmetician,
however, [then] seemed to draw another thickness of veil between herself and
her interlocutor [Dennis] (54-55, 57my emphasis added)
Later, after the prepared-for obsequies for Sir Francis Hinsley, Dennis unexpectedly met Aime on
Lake Islanda remote and restful place within the large Park of Whispering Gladesas he was
composing a poem:
Dennis sat up and saw the girl from the mortuary....Oh, she said, pardon me.
Aren't you the friend of the strangulated Loved One in the Orchid Room? My
memory's very bad for live faces. You did startle me. I didn't expect to find
anyone here?
Have I taken your place?
Not really....But it's usually deserted at this time so I've taken to come here after
work and I suppose I began to think of it as mine. I'll go some other place.
Certainly not. I'll go. I only came here to write a poem.
A poem.
He had said something. Until then she had treated him with that impersonal
insensitive friendliness in that land of waifs and strays. Now her eyes widened.
Did you say a poem?
Yes, I am a poet, you see.
Why, but I think that's wonderful. I've never seen a live poet before. (87-88
my emphasis added; italics in the original)
Being obviously touched by her modesty and guilelessness and pure sense of wonder, Dennis
after she again says I think it's a very, very wonderful thing to be a poet (88)warmly responded:
But you have a very poetic occupation here.
He spoke lightly, teasing, but she answered with great gravity. Yes, I know. I
know I have really. Only sometimes at the end of the day when I'm tired I feel
as if it was all rather ephemeral....[M]y work is burned sometimes within a few
hours [in the crematorium]. At the best it's put in the mausoleum, and even there it

deteriorates, you know. I've seen painting there not ten years old that's completely
lost tonality. Do you think anything can be great art which is so
You should regard it as being like acting or singing or playing an instrument.
Yes, I do. But nowadays they can make a permanent record of them, too, can't
Is that what you brood about when you come here alone?
Only lately. At first I used just to lie and think how lucky I was to be here.
Don't you think that any more?
Yes, of course, I do really. Every morning and all day when I am at work.
It's just in the evenings that something comes over me [as with Sir Francis]. A
lot of artists are like that. I expect poets are, too, sometimes, aren't they?
I wish you'd tell me about your work, said Dennis.
But you've seen it yesterday.
I mean about yourself and your work. What made you take it up? Where did you
learn? Were you interested in that sort of thing as a child? I'd really be awfully
interested to know. (88-90my emphasis added)
In order to convey more of the innocence and pathos of Aime's own account, I shall now attempt
to make a judicious selection from her trusting open-hearted words to Dennis, who was an
understanding and sensitive poet himself, and still then with his young heart (163):
I've always been Artistic, she said. I took Art at College as my second subject
one semester. I'd have taken it as first subject only Dad lost his money in
religion so I had to learn a trade.
He lost money in religion?
Yes, the Four Square Gospel [a movement of Evangelical-Revivalist Christianity
that emphatically and extensively used the Mediaalso around Los Angeles, too].
That's why I'm called Aime, after Aime McPherson [d. 1944the Evangelist].
Dad wanted to change my name after he lost the money. I wanted to change it
too but is rather stuck....Once you start changing a name [as in Hollywood?],
you see, there's no reason ever to stop. One always hears one that sounds better.
Besides you see poor Mother was an alcoholic....
What else did you take in College?
Just Psychology and Chinese. I didn't get on so well with Chinese. But, of
course, these were secondary subjects, too; for Cultural background.
Yes, and what was your main subject?

Only, of course, we went into history and theory too. I wrote my thesis on
'Hairstyling in the Orient.' That was why I took Chinese. I thought it would help,
but it didn't. But I got my diploma with special mention for Psychology and
.[After the unexpected invitation to help an old Colonel Komstock's restoration
in the mortuary at Whispering Glades:] Well, I didn't know quite what to think.
I'd never seen a dead person before because Dad left Mom before he died, if
he is dead, and Mother went East to look for him when I left College and [she]
died there. And I had never been inside Whispering Glades as after we lost our
money mother took to New Thought and wouldn't have it that there is such as
thing as death.....
It's only in the last year that I've come really to love the work [as a mortuary
cosmetician at Whispering Glades]. Before that I was just glad to serve people
who couldn't talk. Then I began to realize what a work of consolation it was.
It's a wonderful thing to start every day knowing that you are going to bring
back joy into one aching heart. Of course mine is only a tiny part of it. I'm
just a handmaid to the morticians but I have the satisfaction of showing the final
result and seeing the reactions [to my attempt to give consolation]. I saw it with
you yesterday. You're British and sort of unexpressive but I knew just what
you were feeling.
Sir Francis was transfigured certainly.
It was when Mr. Joyboy came he sort of made me realize what an institution
Whispering Glades really is. Mr. Joyboy is kinda holy. From the day he came
the whole tone of the mortuary became greatly elevated. I shall never forget how
one morning Mr. Joyboy said to one of the younger morticians: 'Mr. Parks, I must
ask you to remember you are not at the Happier Hunting Ground [the Pets'
Cemetery nearby, where Dennis Barlow was employed]....I don't suppose you'd
ever heard of that. It's a dreadful place here where they bury animals.
Not poetic?
I was never there myself but I've heard about it. They try to do everything the
same as us. It seems kinda blasphemous.
And what do you think about when you come here alone [to this Lake Island]
in the evenings?
Just Death and Art, said Aime Thanatogenos simply.
Half in love with easeful death.
What was that you said?
I was quoting from a poem.

'For many a time

I have been half in love with easeful death.
Call'd him [Death] soft names and many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain...'
....You like it? [said Dennis] Why it's beautiful. It's just what I've thought so
often and haven't been able to express. 'to make it rich to die' and 'to cease upon
the midnight with no pain.' That's exactly what Whispering Glades exists for
isn't it? (90-96my emphasis added; italics (with no pain) in the original)
And thus will Aime die. But our sympathy for her will notnor the piercing pathos.
Dennis himself more and more grew to fall in love with herand so did Mr. Joyboy, in a certain
sense. Aime then had her own aching and conflicted heart, and so she pathetically sought advive from
the Guru Brahmin, for
There was a spiritual director, an oracle in these parts who daily filled a
famous column in one of the local newspapers. Once, in the days of family piety,
it bore the title Aunt Lydia's Post Bag; now it was The Wisdom of the Guru
Brahmin, adorned with the photograph of a bearded and almost naked sage. To
this exotic source resorted all who were in doubt or distress. (100my
emphasis added)
So, too, Aimeand a later piece of Guru Brahmin's abrupt advice led toindeed unknowingly
precipitatedher painless death by injection.
We later find out that the Guru Brahmin's real name is Mr. Slump, but he doesn't work here
after tomorrow (100), as Aime was informed on the telephone. However, she was also told:
You could try Mooney's Saloon. That's where the editorials mostly go evenings.
And his real name is Slump?
That's what he tells me, sister.
Mr. Slump had that day been discharged from his paper. Everyone in the office
had long expected the event except Mr. Slump himself, who had taken the story of
his betrayal to several unsympathetic drinking places. (100my emphasis)
Mr. Slump was another one of the seeming Expendableslike Sir Francis.
When, in her desperation about her future marriage (either with Dennis or with Mr. Joyboy), and


after just speaking with the indifferent Mr. Joyboy himself by phone, Aime reached Mr. Slump by
phone at Mooney's Saloon, she told him her predicament and finally said to him: Well...what am I to
do? And Slump then abruptly answered:
Do! I'll tell you what to do. Just take the elevator to the top floor. Find a nice
window and jump out. That's what you can do. There was a little sobbing gasp
and then a quiet Thank you. (147)
Back at her little apartment-home nearby Whispering Glades, Aime tried to face her sorrow and
deep discouragement:
Among the instruments and chemicals which are the staples of feminine wellbeing, lay the brown tube of barbituates which is the staple of feminine repose.
Aime swallowed her dose, lay down and awaited sleep. It came at length
brusquely, perfunctorily, without salutation or caress. There was no delicious
influx, touching, shifting, lifting, setting free and afloat the grounded [if not
yet shipwrecked] mind. At 9:40 P.M. She was awake and distraught, with a
painful dry sense of contraction and tension about the temples...; suddenly it was
5:25 A.M.....
She met no one during the brief walk from her apartment to Whispering Glades.
The Golden Gates were locked from midnight to morning, but there was a sidedoor always open for the use of the night-staff. Aime entered....Her mind was
quite free from anxiety. Somehow, somewhere in the blank black hours she had
found counsel; she had communed perhaps with the spirits of her ancestor, the
impious and haunted race who had deserted the altars of the old gods, had
taken ship and wandered, driven by what pursuing Furies through what mean
streets and among what barbarous tongues! Her Father had frequented the Four
Square Gospel Temple [where they purportedly spoke in tongues]; her Mother
drank. Attic voices [epic and tragic?] prompted Aime to a higher destiny
[hence sacrifice? As with Iphigenia in Aulis, in Boeotia?]; voices...which spoke to
her more sweetly [but deceitfully!] of the still Boeotian water-front [and the
becalmed Attic fleet of Agamemnon impatiently wanting to sail to Troy and to the
Trojan War], the armed men all silent in the windless morning, the fleet
motionless at anchor, and Agamemnon turning away his eyes [from the prophetic
priest Calchas and then from his daughter, Iphigenia, whom he was then to
sacrifice, in order, putatively, to placate the offended gods]; [and the voice also]
spoke of Alcestis and proud Antigone [the pure and pious, tragic Greek heroines].
The East lightened....these first fresh hours alone are untainted by man. The lie
abed in that region [in southern California]. In exaltation Aime watched the
countless statues glimmer, whiten and take shape while the lawns changed from
silver grey to green. She was touched by warmth....
Aime walked swiftly down the gravelled drive to the mortuary entrance....She
took the elevator to the top story where everything was silent and empty save for
the sheeted dead. She knew what she wanted and where to find them; a wide21

mouthed blue bottle and a hypodermic syringe. She indited no letter of farewell
or apology. She was far removed from social custom and human obligations
[much less obligations and gratitude to God]. The protagonists Dennis and Mr.
Joyboy were quite forgotten. The matter was between herself and the deity [sic]
she served.
It was quite without design that she chose Mr. Joyboy's work-room for the
injection. (148-150my emphasis added)
That same Mr. Joyboy to whom she was then engaged to marry, had recently let her down and
showed his unmistakable indifference, as well as his flippancy and superficialityand shabbiness. In
her isolation of soul and confusion and need for human warmth and compassion, she had called him at
home, where he lived with his cranky mother and her parrot, Sambo, who had just recently died:
She turned to the telephone and dialled Mr. Joyboy [after Dennis had brought her
home and left].
Please come over, I'm so worried.
From the ear-piece came a babel, human and inhuman, and in the midst of it a
still small voice saying, Speak up, honey-baby. I can't quite get you.
I'm so miserable.
It isn't just easy listening to you, honey-baby. Mom's got a new bird and she's
trying to make him talk. Maybe we better leave whatever it is and talk about it
Please, dear, come right over now, couldn't you?
Why, honey-baby, I couldn't leave Mom the very evening her new bird arrived,
could I? How would she feel? It's a big evening for mom, honey-baby. I have to be
here with her.
It's about our marriage.
Yes, honey-baby, I kinda guessed it was. Plenty of little problems come up.
They all look easier in the morning. Take a good sleep, honey-baby.
I must see you.
Now, honey-baby, I'm going to be firm with you. Just you do what Poppa says
this minute or Poppa will be real mad at you.
She rang off and once more resorted to grand opera; she was swept up and
stupefied in the gust of sound. It was too much. (144-145my emphasis added)
When a momentary silence return, Aime then made her fateful telephone call to the Guru
On the morning of Aime's death, Dennis' rival in love, Mr. Joyboy (151) arrived at the Happier
hunting Ground to speak with Dennis. Mr. Joyboy was now panicked. He was also condemnatory and
aggressive with Dennis and said it was all his fault. Dennis replied: This is no time for recrimination,


Joyboy. Let me merely point out that you are the man publicly engaged to her....Of course I never
thought her wholly sane, did you? (153my emphasis added) Later in the day, Dennis spoke with
him again, after he had calmed down a little:
Some hours later the mortician [Mr. Joyboy] returned.
You have regained command of yourself? Sit down an listen attentively. You
have two problems, Joyboy, and let me emphasize that they are yours. I am in no
way implicated. I resign all rights in the girl. You are in possession of the corpse
of your fiance and your career is threatened. You are a well-know man in your
profession and you would never live down the scandal. You have then two
problemsto dispose of the body and to explain the disappearance. You have
come to me for help and it so happens that in both of these things I and only I can
help you.
I have here at my disposal [at the Happier Hunting Ground] an excellent
crematorium....All we have to do is collect our Loved One, if you will forgive
the expression, and bring her here. Tonight after working hours will be the time.
Secondly, to explain the disappearance. Miss Thanatogenos had few
acquaintances and no relatives [not even a brother or a sister]. She disappears on
the eve of her wedding. It is known that I once favoured her with my attentions.
What could be more plausible than that her natural good taste should have
triumphed at the last moment and she should have eloped with her earlier lover?
All that is necessary is for me to disappear at the same time. No one in Southern
California, as you know, ever inquires what goes on beyond the mountains. She
and I perhaps may incur momentary condemnation as unethical. There the matter
will end.
For some time I have felt oppressed by the unpoetic air of Los Angeles. I have
work to do and this is not the place to do it. It was only our young friend who
kept me hereshe and penury.....On his last evening in Los Angeles Dennis
knew that he was singularly privileged. The strand was littered with bones and
wreckage. He was adding his bit; something that long irked [vexed and
wearied] him, his young heart. He was carrying back instead a great,
shapeless chunk of experience [especially about those half in love with easeful
deaththus also sloth and spiritual death], the artist's load; bearing it home
[to England] to his ancient and comfortless shore to work on it [that load, that
shapeless chunk of experience] hard and long, for God knew how long [for
almost 20 years perhaps 1947-1966]it was the moment of vision for which a
lifetime is often too short. (159-161, 163-164my emphasis added)
Hilaire Belloc also new of those nourishing moments of memory and those moments of vision
for which a lifetime is often too shortbut these moments are sometimes also, sub Gratia Divina, a
gracious Foretaste, a Praegustatum. Even sometimes of Beatitude. Thus from the tears of sorrow to the
tears of joy.

In his final edition of The Loved One in 1965,5 Waugh added a few evocative and morally
modest changes to the same, penultimate paragraph of the original 1948 edition as was just fully quoted
on the previous page above. He now more poignantly said: On this last evening in Los Angeles Denis
knew he was a favorite of Fortune. Others, better men than he, had foundered here and perished.
The strand was littered with their bones. He was leaving it not only unravished but enriched. He
was adding his bit to the wreckage; something that had long irked him, his young heart....
What Evelyn Waugh had perceived in Southern California in early 1947, and gradually came to
understand more fully, we now get more glimpses of in the laxer culture of the Catholic Church, also
about Death and the purportedly more easeful attainment of Beatitude now.
Therefore, I wish to convey two personal experiences that reminded me of Evelyn Waugh's The
Loved One, a novel which I first read in 1970 and read only onceuntil very recently (early July 2015)
when I understood it much more and more maturely. One of the shocking experiences occurred in
August of 1988, and the other only a few years ago (2012 or 2013) at a nearby Catholic College.
The Catholic mother of a Catholic woman I knew died late in the summer of 1988, but the
woman's father, in addition to telling her that sad fact, unexpectedly stipulated to her that he wanted
only her and her four siblings to come to her mother's obsequiesand not any of the spouses of those
five children, nor any of their own children, of any size.
In deep grief, the daughter departed alone to go to her mother's wake and funeral and burial. After
a week, she returned and I happened to see her and to speak with her. She looked very solemn, even
somewhat morose.
How was the Funeral Mass? was one of the first questions I asked her. For I knew that her
family attended the Novus Ordo Liturgies, in which there is no longer a traditional Requiem Mass, but
only a Mass of the Resurrection, as it is called. Thus, I was concerned, during that time of loss and
grief, that the New Mass was reverently done, and with no embarrassing innovations. Even more
shockingly and suddenly, the daughter said, with downcast eyes: There was no Funeral Mass. Why
was there no Mass? Because there was no Corpus. My mother was cremated.

5 Evelyn Waugh, The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy (Boston: Little, Brown and CompanyBack Bay Books,
Paperback, 2012-- The text of this edition follows...an edition of 1965,which was the last to be overseen by the
author.), p. 146my emphasis added.


In 1988, such a thinga Catholic cremationwas still a grave shockand especially when it
was permitted, and even now promoted, in a morally and liturgically conservative upper-middle-class
familyas was the case with her family, apparently.
I never found out the fuller reasons for this cremation, and I hesitated to ask such a personal
question. But, the shock has remained. And I wondered what that daughter (and mother of many
children) told her own children in light of their Catholic Faith.
If we move forward a quarter of a century to 2013, there came another analogous shock and
dislocation. For, at a nearby rather conservative Catholic College a Memorial Mass was held for a
former employee of the College who had been a career Naval Officer and who was a very important
addition to that College after his retirement from the Navy. (I had known this man personally, and I
only knew him as a professed and faithful Catholic; and thus I attended this Memorial Mass, which was
conducted very soon after he had died.)
In the nave of the College chapel, near the sanctuary rail, there was a small table, on top of which
a small urn was placed which contained his ashes, the result of his deliberate and explicit wishes to be
cremated, according to his own sons, who emphatically assured me of this. Moreover, they said, he did
not choose to be buried beside their mother, his wife, who had predeceased him, but, rather, he wanted
his own solitary ashes to be cast upon the waves by a naval vesselhence probably one going to sea
out of Norfolk, Virginia or nearby.
What would Evelyn Waugh have said about all of this?
In his 1965 Sword of Honour War Trilogy, Evelyn Waugh presents a Traditional Requiem Mass
and the burial of a father. It is the Mass said for Guy Crouchback's own father:
When he [Guy Crouchback, who is the genuine hero of the Trilogy] returned to
the Transit Camp, he found a telegram from his sister, Angela, announcing that his
father had died suddenly and peacefully....
The village was there [at the church] in force; many neighbors....and the
headmaster of Our Lady of Victory. The nuns' choir was in the organ loft. The
priests, other than the three who officiated, lined the walls of the chancel. Uncle
Peregrine [his father's brother] had seen that everyone was in the proper place.
Box-Bender [Guy's brother-in-law, and the non-Catholic husband of Guy's sister
Angela] kept his eyes on Angela and Guy, anxious to avoid any liturgical
solecism. He genuflected with them, sat, then, like them, knelt, sat again, and
stood as the three priests vested in black emerged from the sacristy, knelt again
but missed signing himself with the cross. He was no bigot. He had been to Mass

before. He wanted to do whatever was required of him. Across the aisle the Lord
Lieutenant [of the county] was equally undrilled, equally well disposed.
Silence at first; the Confiteor was inaudible even in the front pew....Then the nuns
sang the Kyrie. Guy followed the familiar rite with his thoughts full of his father.
In memoria aeterna erit justus: ab auditione mala non timebit. The first phrase
was apt. His father had been a just man; not particularly judicious, not at all
judicial, but just in the full sense of the psalmist.... Did it [the auditio mala]
mean simply that the ears of the dead were closed to the discords of life? Did it
mean they were immune to malicious gossip? Few people, Guy thought, had ever
spoken ill of his father. Perhaps it meant bad news. His father had suffered as
much as most menmore perhapsfrom bad news of one kind or other; never
fearfully. Not long for purgatory, his confessor had said of Mr. Crouchback. As
the nuns sang the Dies Irae with all its ancient deprecations of divine wrath, Guy
knew that his father was joining his voice with theirs:
Ingemisco, tamquam reus:
Culpa rubet vultus meus
Supplicanti parce, Deus;
That would be his prayer, who saw, and had always seen, quite clearly the
difference in kind between the goodness of the most innocent of humans and the
blinding, ineffable goodness of God. Quantitative judgements don't apply, his
father had written [in his personal letter to his son, Guy]. As a reasoning man Mr.
Crouchback had known that he was honourable, charitable and faithful; a man by
all the formularies of his faith should be confident of his salvation; as a man of
prayer he saw himself as totally unworthy of divine notice. To Guy, his father
was the best man, the only entirely good man, he had ever known.
Of all the people in the crowded church, Guy wondered how many came as an act
of courtesy, how many were there to pray that a perpetual light should shine upon
Mr. Crouchback? Well, he reflected, 'The Grace of God is in Courtesy' [cf.
Hilaire Belloc's poem]; in [non-Catholic] Arthur Box-Bender glancing sidelong to
be sure he did the right thing, just as in the prelate who was holding his candle in
the chancel, representing the bishop....'Quantitative judgments don't apply.'
The temptation of Guy, which he resisted as best he could, was to brood over his
own bereavement and deplore the countless occasions of his life when he failed
his father. There would be ample time in the years to come for these selfish
considerations. Now, praesente cadavere [in the presence of the corpse], he was
merely one of the guard who were escorting his father to judgement and to
The altar was censed. The celebrant sang: ...Tuis enim fidelibus, Domine, via
mutatur, non tollitur... Changed not ended reflected Guy. It was a huge
transition for the old man who had walked with Felix [his beloved dog] along the
cliffs [of the sea] at Matcheta huge transition, even, for the man who had knelt
so rapt in prayer after his daily Communionto the everlasting mansion
prepared for him in heaven.
The celebrant turned the page of his Missal from the Preface to the Canon. In

the hush that followed the sacring bell Guy thanked God for his father and
then his thought strayed to his own death, that had been so near in the crossing
from Crete [to Egypt in World War II], that might now be near in the mission
proposed for him by the nondescript colonel....Guy's prayers were directed to,
rather than for, his father. [For, Guy's father was worrying now perhaps [for his
son, Guy, and for his his son's spiritual apathy, acedia] in that mysterious transit
campPurgatorywhich he must pass on his way to rest and light]....Perhaps
his father was at that moment clearing the way for him. Show me what to do
and help me to do it, he [Guy] prayed.
Arthur Box-Bender had been to Mass before. After the last Gospel,...the priest
left the altar....The Absolution was sung, then priest and deacon walked
around the catafalque, first sprinkling it with holy water, then censing it. The
black cope [of the priest] brushed against Box-Bender's almost black suit. A drop
of [holy] water landed on his cheek. He did not like to wipe it off.
The pall was removed, the coffin borne down the aisle [the nave]. Angela,
Uncle Peregrine, and Guy fell in behind it and led the mourners out....The nuns
sang the Antiphon and then filed away from the gallery to their convent. The
procession moved down the street from the new church to the old, in silence
broken only by the tread of the horse, the creaking of harness, and the turning of
the wheels of the farm cart which bore the coffin; the factor walked at the old
mare's head leading her.
It was a still [Autumn] day; the trees were dropping their leaves in ones and
twos...Guy thought for a moment...and, by contrast, remembered boisterous
November days when he and his mother [now long deceased] had tried to catch
leaves in the avenue...in his wholly happy childhood. Only his father had
remained to watch the transformation of that merry little boy into the lonely
captain of Halberdiers who [now] followed the coffin.
On the cobbled pavements the villagers whose work had kept them from church,
turned to see the cart roll past. There was not room for many to stand in the
little burying ground.
The nuns had lined the edges of the grave with moss and evergreen leaves and
chrysanthemums, giving it a faint suggestion of Christmas decoration. The
undertaker's men deftly lowered the coffin; holy water, incense, the few prayers,
the silent Paternoster, the Benedictus; holy water again; the De profundis. Guy,
Angela, and Uncle Peregrine came forward, took the sprinkler in turn and added
their aspersions. Then it was ended. (Evelyn Waugh, Sword of Honour (London:
Chapman & Hall, 1965)A Final Version of the Three Novels: Men at Arms
(1952); Officers and Gentlemen (1955); and Unconditional Surrender (1961), pp.
594, 600-605my emphasis added)
In his two-page 1964 Preface (pp. 9-10) of this final 1965 Edition of Sword of Honour, Evelyn
Waugh added some other poignanciesas he had also done in his final 1964 Preface to The Loved
One; An Anglo-American Tragedy (1948). In his 1964 Preface to his Sword of Honour, written less that
two years before he was suddenly to die at 62 years of age on Easter Sunday in 1966, he wrote:

On reading this book [again] I realized that I had done something quite outside my
original intention. I had written an obituary of the Roman Catholic Church in
England as it had existed for many centuries. All the rites and most of the
opinions here described are already obsolete....It never occurred to me, writing
Sword of Honour that the Church was susceptible to change. I was wrong and I
have seen a superficial revolution in what then seemed permanent. Despite the
[Catholic] faith of many of the characters, Sword of Honour was not specifically a
religious book. Recent developments [even before the end of Vaticanum II in
1965] have made it, in fact, a document of Catholic usage [customs and culture] of
my youth. (Evelyn Waugh, Sword of Honour (1965), pp. 9-10my emphases)
One of the last entries in Evelyn Waugh's Diaries will also draw us into some pathos, as did his
artful writing and revelation of reality in The Loved One. But the pathos presented is now concerning
the Catholic Churchnot the life and death of Aime Thanatogenos, nor the meretricious and often
perfidious life of Hollywood, nor the mortuary services at Whispering Glades or the Happier Hunting
When we consider now Evelyn Waugh's poignant and deep-hearted Diary entry for Easter 1965,
only a year before his death on Easter Sunday 1966, we may also better come to understand how he
likely would have looked upon Catholic Cremations and the absence of a solemn Requiem Mass
and the Dies Irae, with its more adequate non-presumptuous consideration of the Last Four Things.
For, Waugh knew the grave and subtle dangers of laxity and spiritual presumption (a sin against hope)
and the deadliness of sinful sloth (tristitia de bono spirituali), one of the least regarded of the Seven
Deadly Sins. Especially in old age when, perhaps, one is also half in love with an easeful death.
Evelyn Waugh's Easter 1965 Entry in his Diary said the following:
A year in which the process of transforming the liturgy has followed a planned
course. [One year before, on Easter 1964, Waugh had also farsightedly written:
'Participate'the cant worddoes not mean a row [noisy disturbance] as the
Germans [the Rhine Group] suppose. One participates in a work of art when one
studies it with reverence and understanding. (p. 789)] Protests avail nothing. A
minority of cranks, for and against the innovations, mind enormously. I don't think
the main congregation cares a hoot. More than the aesthetic changes which rob the
Church of poetry, mystery and dignity, there are suggested changes in Faith and
morals which alarm me. A kind of anti-clericalism is abroad which seeks to reduce
the priest's unique sacramental position [in persona Christi, in loco Christi].
The Mass is written of [now] as a social meal in which the people of God
perform the consecration. Pray God I will never apostatize but I can only now go
to church as an act of duty and obediencejust as a sentry at Buck House
[Buckingham Palace] is posted with no possibility of his being employed to
defend the sovereign's life. Cardinal Heenan [of Westminster] has been double28

faced in the matter. I had dinner with him deux in which he expressed complete
sympathy with the conservatives and, as I understood him, promised resistance to
the innovations which he is now pressing forward. How does he suppose the
cause of participation is furthered by the prohibition of kneeling at the Incarnatus
in the Creed? [i.e., Incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine et Homo
factus est.] The Catholic Press has made no opposition. I shall not live to see
things righted. (Evelyn Waugh, The Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, p. 789my italics)
Such intimate sorrow did he know, as well as the perils of acedia. Requiescat in pace aeterna.
--Finis- 2015 Robert Hickson