Bright Young Thing's copy of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited at book sale

Fine Books and Manuscripts
9 Nov 2016
London, Knightsbridge

A rare, specially issued, first edition of Evelyn Waugh's most popular novel, Brideshead Revisited, is to be sold at Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts Sale in London on 9 November. It is estimated at £4,000-6,000.
The book belonged to the 1920s' 'Bright Young Thing', Lady Pansy Pakenham, and was one of 50 copies the author had printed and bound at his own expense in 1944. Waugh sent these to his close friends in advance of the novel's publication, asking for comments some of which he incorporated into the first commercial edition of the book published in 1945.
Waugh knew Pansy Pakenham from the mid-1920s when she had shared a flat with Evelyn Gardner, later to become the novelist's first wife. This was the era of the 'Bright Young Things', the generation that grew up in the shadow of the First World War and whose decadent behaviour and determination to live for the moment alarmed their parents and scandalised society. This mixture of hedonism and challenge to social convention was both satirised and celebrated in Waugh's second novel Vile Bodies published in 1930 and forms the backdrop to the early chapters of Brideshead Revisited.
Pansy Pakenham - sister of the social campaigner Lord Longford - married the portrait painter Henry Lamb in 1928 and largely turned her back on London society settling in rural Wiltshire. Her comments on Brideshead Revisited were not entirely encouraging. She wrote to Waugh: "You see English Society of the 20s as something baroque and magnificent on its last legs.... I fled from it because it seemed prosperous, bourgeois and practical and I believe it still is."
The sale also features Pakenham's copy of Waugh's biography of the 16th century Catholic martyr, Edmund Campion, from an edition of 50 printed for private circulation in 1935. It is estimated at £800-1,200. Like Waugh himself, Pakenham was a convert to Roman Catholicism and an obvious recipient of Edmund Campion which was awarded the Hawthornden Prize in 1936.
Finally, an author's presentation copy of Waugh's 1942 novel Work Suspended inscribed "Pansy with love from Evelyn/Christmas 1942 'Nous ne sommes pas heureux à notre age'" is offered at an estimate of £800-1,200. The quotation which translates into English as 'We are not happy with our times' is seemingly borrowed from Cyril Connolly's Enemies of Promise (1938) in which he attributes the sentiment to King Louis XIV. Work Suspended was written in 1939, the year after the publication of Connolly's book, but not published until 1942.

Senior Specialist at Bonhams Book Department, Luke Batterham, said, "Waugh wrote Brideshead Revisited in the first half of 1944 while on special leave of absence from the Army. Convinced of the book's qualities but cautious about the reaction of his contemporaries to a novel so different from his earlier work, Waugh took the precaution of seeking the opinion of friends and made substantial changes as a result. Pansy Pakenham's objection, however, went to the heart of the novel and unsurprisingly was not heeded."


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