Monday, December 19, 2011

British Humor (Waugh style)

The Foxglove Saga
The Foxglove Saga 

Looking back at all the people I have insulted, I am mildly surprised that I am still allowed to exist.  -  Auberon Waugh

Auberon Waugh's first novel, The Foxglove Saga, is a comic novel very much in the style of his father's earlier books and the result is very successful. Its hero, Martin Foxglove, is an abominably flawless paragon. While at school Martin chooses a set of friends considered inappropriate by his family and he abandons his Christian faith. His story and that of his friends, particularly the ugly, middle-class Kenneth Stoat and the unfortunate Martin O'Connor, makes for a slyly humorous and sometimes sadly funny novel.  I do not claim to have understood all of the sardonic details that Waugh includes but the story has plenty of references that are clear to anyone familiar with twentieth century British literature, especially if the name Waugh is below the title. The comic attitude of the book seems to be that any official machinery—the school, the hospital, the Army—can be made to go wrong by individual determination and lying. I would suggest that it is not Mr. Waugh who is amoral and cruel, but the machinery in which his characters are caught. Anarchism of this sort is viable, if not as a basis for life, at least for a comic novel and in his creation Auberon compares well with his more famous father as his first novel continues the family tradition of irrevent humor.

The Foxglove Saga by Auberon Waugh. Simon & Schuster, New York. 1961 (1960)


Parrish Lantern said...

Never been a great fan of the world of Waugh, but can appreciate the humour & loving the quote you start with.

James said...

Thanks for the comment. I've enjoyed Waugh (the father) ever since I first read Brideshead. Decline and Fall is one of the best comic novels I have ever read.