The Reporter
Issue 493, 27 October 2003
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Waugh manuscript gets first public showing


Waugh's manuscriptA rare and valuable collection of handwritten manuscripts by the celebrated English novelist Evelyn Waugh, including his proclaimed novel Vile Bodies, are on public display for the first time at the Brotherton Library.

Since Waugh’s death in 1966, the large majority of his manuscripts have been held at the University of Texas but Vile Bodies was mysteriously missing from their collection. The significance of this text (recently filmed by director Stephen Fry as Bright Young Things) lies with the detailed alterations Waugh made throughout his first draft. News that his wife was having an affair was thought to have caused a sudden change in mood to the story. However, without the manuscript such claims were hard to justify.

Waugh’s biographer Professor Martin Stannard, who came to Leeds to open the exhibition, spent years hunting down the manuscript. He discovered that the original had been given to Lady Diana Mosley and her first husband, Bryan Guinness as a gift and was still in Bryan Guinness’ possession. It was later acquired by private collectors Fay and Geoffrey Elliot, who have now donated their archive to the Brotherton Library, where items from their collection will be on public display until January.

Jan Wilkinson, Chris Sheppard with Geoffrey and Fay ElliotProfessor Stannard found that Waugh’s personal life had indeed contributed to changes in his writing. “The existence of the Vile Bodies typescript was particularly interesting for the purpose of composition,” he said. “Extraordinarily, many phrases deleted and replaced by others appeared unaltered in the printed text: the inked-in corrections were often ignored.”

Other works dating back to his childhood efforts on an alternative school magazine will accompany Waugh’s manuscript.

Chris Sheppard, head of special collections at the Brotherton library said: “The recovery of the Vile Bodies manuscript provides an insight into the mind of Waugh. It contains an array of alterations and personal messages which have never been seen in public before. For example, Vile Bodies opens with the humorous message, ‘Bright young people and others, kindly note that all characters are wholly imaginary (and you get far too much publicity already whoever you are).’”

For further information, see the press release


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