Waugh

The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The liturgical calendar was something I was only vaguely aware of when I entered the Catholic Church 16 years ago.  Yes, I knew about some of the bigger religious holidays, but the extent to which all time is organized in accord with religious memorials, solemnities and feasts escaped me.

Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy was something of a wake-up call.  One of Waugh's quirks was to order the events in the book to the liturgical calendar, rather than by giving specific days and months.  This book really opened my heart to the richness of what the Church offers.

The Lord of Spirits podcast pushed me further, helping me to recognize that the world can be viewed with both secular and spiritual lenses.  As time has passed, I'm more quick to push the secular ones aside and take a glance at the Unseen as well as the Seen.

So of course the momentous news that Roe v. Wade had finally been decisively repudiated came on day of religious significance - and one that will no doubt have more significance going forward.

The ruling had been leaked, but to what end?  Was it genuine?  Would it hold?  Apparently it did, and for much of the day I struggled to adjust myself to the new reality.  I am only a little younger than Roe v. Wade, and have grown up in its long, dark shadow.  I've watched society become ever more obsessed with personal pleasure at any cost, and I've seen the act of abortion go from being considered a lesser evil to a positive good.

This is nothing short of demonic.  There are few perversions so profound, so stark as convincing mothers to slaughter their unborn children so that they can better enjoy life.  At least in pagan times, children were offered up to the gods in exchange for timely rains or abundant harvests - matters of communal survival.

Today, the payoff is a few extra packages from Amazon or a week's vacation through Airbnb.  Put simply, humans have become really cheap dates for the dark powers.

That changed yesterday, and while it was a great victory, the struggle is not over.  It will new enter a new phase as the Enemy tries new methods and attempts to break up the coalition that achieved it.

Still, as the calendar reminds us,  there is a time for everything.  I will spend the next few days contemplating the great goodness of God, and how fortunate we all are to see this day.


What are the German Catholics up to now?!

Whenever he came across Catholics who were in favor of abortion, or wanted to ordain women as priests, my father would nod sagely and say:  "You know, there's a term for people who feel like you - Protestant."

Apparently a bunch of Catholic bishops in Germany have decided that the way to put more people in pews is to stop being Catholic.

Which is weird, because all the "reforms" being trotted out are already available in the German Evangelical (i.e. Lutheran) Church.

What's interesting is that this is generating a backlash amongst the Catholic hierarchy of global proportions.

By the way, none of this is in any way new.  One doesn't even have to go back to Martin Luther - a century ago the same bromides were being advocated to "modernize" Christianity.  One of the amusing things about reading G.K. Chesterton or Evelyn Waugh is that the would-be reformers of past years sound just like the ones of today.

The difference of course is that we've had a century to see where that leads.  The fruit of the trees is plain to see, and it's a wasteland of unfaith and depravity.  The same Protestant church I mentioned a few weeks ago has a new message on its jumbo-tron style sign out front:  "You are enough."  The words appear amidst sunlit clouds, implying that God is the one saying this.

Which is absurd, because if we are enough, who needs God?  Why go to church?  Why donate?  I'm enough, so I can sleep in or maybe stream the service between binging on Netflix.

The whole point of Easter is that we aren't enough.  If everything's okay, if God loves me no matter what, why did Christ have to suffer death and then conquer it through the Resurrection?

One gets the sense that a great many German clerics never really bought into any of the Church's teachings.  Perhaps they assumed that the Church would fall prey to modernity and that by now women would be in wearing priestly vestments and they could be having licit homosexual relationships (since that's also always a key feature of "modernization").

There is a certain irony here, because Pope Francis - who is the least dogmatic Pontiff in generations - is being driving into the same corner as the hard-liners.  He also wants to change the Church, but I'm fairly certain he does not want to go down in history as the Pope who lost Germany for the second time.


The new old concept of a "general strike"

When you study history enough, nothing seems new.  It's always an echo of an earlier time.

Recently I was reminded of the old notion of a "general strike," wherein the working classes would simultaneous refuse to work.  I've not lived through any, but the 1926 general strike in Great Britain features in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.

The main character, Charles Ryder, was too young to have fought in the Great War, but he and his peers eagerly embraced the opportunity to test their manhood, even though the strike only lasted little over a week.

Of course, even aristocrats were made of sterner stuff back then.  The degree to which our standard of living has improved is staggering to think about.  Setting aside electronic gizmos or medical advances, the fact that we can control room temperature to the exact degree is a staggering (and generally ignored) achievement.

What is interesting is that as great as the gap between rich and poor, noble and commoner was back then, it is far greater now.  It is possible for the wealthy to live in an entirely self-contained world, beyond the reach of the unwashed masses.  This renders them completely indifferent to the fate of those outside their (sometimes literal) bubble.

Waugh lamented the end of the great manor houses and their supporting retainers and tenants because as much as it may have galled observers that the yeoman farmers pulled their forelock to the landlord, the fates and circumstances of both were intimately linked.

That's no longer the case, and it's fascinating to see people so removed from day-to-day life that even simple tasks elude them.  To give an alarming example, upon purchasing a new car, my daughter was given a series of brightly-illustrated documents explaining regular maintenance was and how often it should be done.  This was in addition to the owner's manual, and was clearly designed to help the mechanically ignorant.

What is more, several letters soon followed, reminding her that oil changes weren't optional and that the warranty could be voided if these tasks weren't carried out in a timely manner.

I suspect there are people now of age who are so coddled that they have no idea what goes into maintaining an automobile.  So far as they knows, you turn it on and it goes.

What adds to the irony is that this same generation fancies itself the most conscientious, most moral, most exquisitely sensitive people that have ever lived.  They ceaselessly boast about the past injustices based on race, class or gender, and yet they have even less understanding of these things than the people they condemn.

Even the most stuck-up duke understood the proper care of horses, and would often take a personal hand in the care of particularly prized steeds.  Similarly, the ladies of the estate had an extensive knowledge of fabric and the techniques used to secure it.  Otherwise, how would they know quality garments from rags?

To put it another way, being an elite required extensive knowledge of the signifiers necessary to be elite.

That knowledge seems entirely lacking today.

This in turn means that our elites are also uniquely vulnerable to a general strike.  Not knowing how to do an oil change is one thing.  Not knowing that it is required creates a whole new level of dependency.


Paganism in the 21st Century

Since for Catholics like me, the Christmas liturgical season is just getting started, I have no need to modify my Christmas wishes to all of you by adding "belated."  I can simply wish you a "Merry Christmas" like normal, since there are almost two weeks of Christmas left to go.

This may seem like a strange time to bring up paganism, but I can't think of a more appropriate circumstance given the state of the world today.

Christmas itself has been warped into a retail holiday, something even irreligious people observe by taking time away from work, gathering with friends and family, and of course exchanging gifts.

There was a time within my memory that people who were not Christian (or were part of one of the more obscure heretical sects) pointedly did not celebrate Christmas, and that was why "Christmas Concerts" became "Winter Concerts" or "Holiday Concerts."  But I digress.

Driving home from the early Mass yesterday, a new thought occurred to me.  For many years I believed that pagans were just superstitious and that when they offered sacrifices, cut upon animals to gaze upon the entrails and approached oracles, it was one giant con by the elites against the rubes.  Thanks to The Lord of Spirits Podcast, I now understand that those 'gods' were real insofar as they could influence events and offer advice.

This is why ancient Israel was constantly tempted to break their covenant with God and participate in pagan rituals - they actually worked!

Of course another reason was that the pagan code of ethics was generally more permissive of sin - in fact it regarded some sins as virtues.  Some of the pagan philosophers advocated humility, but in practice the bigger the ego, the bigger your following.  Yes, they saw a relationship between hubris and nemesis, but so long as you kept sacrificing to the gods, nemesis could be kept at bay.

At least that was the thinking.

In any event, my revelation was this: growing up, I wondered why people would truly become Wiccan in light of the fact that it was mostly made-up and the practitioners I knew didn't seen happy or well off - the two traditional signs of divine favor across almost all cultures.

And then it hit me: their prayers were in fact being answered, and in exactly the way they wanted.

The Wiccans I knew seemed to want three things from their faith.  First, they wanted to get back at their traditional (often Dutch Reformed) parents.  Wicca was about as bad as they could be.

Second, they wanted absolute sexual license, and this they got.  The Goddess (or whoever) absolutely blessed them with frequent and (in theory) very intense erotic encounters. 

Finally, they wanted a moral framework that absolved them of guilt while placing their will and desires at the center of what is great and good.  This may seem like a repetition of the second point, but every Wiccan I've known (even the "incel losers" for you modern cool kids) was into the 'pansexual' component of their faith.

What these people did not get were stable, wholesome relationships, or inner peace, or a sense of true salvation or prosperity, or any of the markers that I would seek.  They got drama, and lots of it and they seemed to feed off of it.  I'm not sure how they turned out, though I know a few who 'grew out of it' and returned to Christ.

My point is that while they didn't explicitly articulate those goals, those were their goals and their prayers for those goals were in fact answered.  Whether you choose to believe it was through behavioral choices or the offices of a Fallen Angel masquerading as "The Goddess" (or a combination of both, which is my belief), that's fine, but the outcome is unmistakable.

This was yesterday morning.  Yesterday evening I got word that one of my relatives had renounced Christianity and become pagan.  Right over the holidays!  How splendid.

The reason was she placed a premium on approving sexual license.  The homosexual and transsexual agendas are very important to her (she is neither, btw), and she felt that Christianity was wrong to condemn these behaviors.  Instead, she came up with a theory of reincarnation where people are reborn into the wrong bodies and struggle to reconcile the difference.

I give her points for not doing the Anglican thing and just ignoring the Biblical texts that contradict her views.  She's at least being honest in that respect.

But I think one can see what else is going on - that when faced with a conflict between current societal views (which are less than 25 years old) and ancient laws of faith, she throws the faith away.

This is how the Israelites consistently strayed - they wanted to fit in.  There was no logic to their actions, just as there is no logic in play here.  It's a religion made up on the fly and molded to justify whatever social pressures arise.

This malleability of faith features prominently in the writings of G.K. Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh and (in a more veiled form) those of J.R.R. Tolkien.  (It's interesting that the great villains of Middle Earth are Fallen Angels - Sauron, Saruman, and the Balrogs.)

Needless to say, we will pray for her and hope to bring her back to Christ.  I think many people have to stray and take a hard look at the alternatives to the Church before they appreciate what she has to offer.  Certainly I did.


The death of the 'slow news day'

I'm not sure when it happened, but some time ago news coverage shifted from a somewhat dry recitation of world events to breathless end-of-the-world pronouncements.

I remember watching the Evening News or World News Tonight or whatever and some days there just wasn't much going on.  On days like that, there were "human interest" stories that told about some inspirational person or a quirky event.

Part of the appeal of the movie Network was its concept of a network news division that went full-on tabloid-hysterical because the ratings were so good.  Howard Beale's rant was supposed to be comic excess, but it's now just another day at the office for media in 2021.

In Scoop, Evelyn Waugh poked fun at how bored reporters could try to gin up a crisis.  As was typical of his 1930s Smart Set books, he walked a fine line between credible satire and utter absurdity. 

Truth is of course stranger than fiction, and Waugh's imaginary Daily Beast is now an actual website (consciously named in imitation his work, of course).  It's just as unreliable.

This erosion of credibility was going on before the pandemic, but now it's pretty much a given that on any given day, some new item will be portrayed as the moral outrage of our time.

The problem is, when everything is a crisis, nothing is.

I think there's also a sense of people who no longer have a sense of history.  This is mated with the secularist vision of nothing more important than gratifying the need of the moment.   American culture has never been more obsessed with maintaining youthfulness or more terrified of death.

That's the counterpoint to the churn and burn on the front pages and the cable channels: the supermarket tabloids are running headlines that first premiered in the 1990s.

The Jennifer Anniston/Brad Pitt split happened decades ago, but it's still being updated.  I guess its comforting for people locked down and wearing masks to see that their entertainment idols are still the same as they ever were.

As for me, I'm limiting my news diet these days.  I decided to use some vacation this week, and I don't anticipate reading the news until Monday morning.   I'm looking forward to the break.


Rebelling in the name of tradition: G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy

I finally finished G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy.  It's an amusing read, has lots of great quotes in it and essentially lays out a relentlessly logical case for Christianity.

It speaks well of Chesterton's intellect that he chose to take his battle into the heart of enemy territory and fight the skeptics on the ground of their choosing.  In a series of related essays, he maps out the conventional secular and quasi-religious sentiments of the day and then destroys them.

What's interesting about his approach is that he doesn't confront them with direct rebuttals.  Instead he rhetorically gets out of their way and lets them wreck themselves.   Much of the book consists of him taking various tropes and platitudes and following them to their logical conclusion.

This is a powerful persuasive tool, and devastatingly effective against people who claim that objectivity, logic and facts are all on their side. 

The greatest weakness of the book is that I don't get many of the contemporary references.  There needs to be an annotated version in which the various thinkers, philosophers and politicians are explained in better detail so we know what exactly they wrote that Chesterton is addressing.

The best part of the book is of course his wit.  The man can turn a phrase and he's very similar to Evelyn Waugh in being able to slice someone apart in unexpected ways.  There's a passage where he addresses evolution and the neo-Darwinist concept of "higher forms of life" and notes that a German Philosopher mouse might well disagree that the cat is higher, and that life is so hateful, being eaten as soon as possible is actually a better outcome.

There are many ways to help people understand faith, and Chesterton is clearly going for the self-important crowd who are full of their own sense of intellectual superiority.  He absolutely wrecks them, and many of the claims he demolishes in this book are regrettably still being spread around by credentialed idiots who think they are the first people to come up with it.

In the present circumstances, it's essential reading.

I've also ordered his Heretics, which was the precursor to OrthodoxyHeretics is more of an attack, while Orthodoxy is technically an apologetic, outline the story of Chesterton's own conversion.  As noted, much of his conversion seems to be reactionary - he gave the popular viewpoint a try, and because it was so weak he knew it had to be wrong and the religious types deserved a closer look.

This is very similar to my experience with not just religion but many other beliefs.  In my zeal to defend my position, I study it closely enough to realize that it's spectacularly weak. 

Perhaps because its a refutation and pure attack, Heretics is less popular, but it was the genesis for Orthodoxy, so I'm looking forward to reading it.


Abortion, AIDS, Covid and shifting views on divine judgement

While American society is heavily secularized, it retains a lot of the theoretical framework that has its origins in Christianity.  One of the strongest (and paradoxically most overlooked) is that of Calvinism.

Calvinism (or Reformed Christianity as it's sometimes styled) holds that God's favor can be known in this life by visible, tangible signs.  The Elect or Anointed are there for everyone to see - their prosperity, good looks, life advantages - are proof of God's blessing.  This religious view has been secularized into a "meritocracy" where the people born into wealth and privilege are owed it through their own merit.

There are several heresies involved in this worldview and it is in direct conflict with the traditional (that is Catholic/Orthodox) view that the mortal life is but preparation for what comes after.  Devout, believing and beloved children of God may suffer terribly in mortal life, but that is part of their purification.  To the meritocrats and the Calvinists, there is no benefit to suffering in the here and now.  Bad things happening are instead a call for immediate purification so that blessings can return.

This view permeates our language and our discourse, and right now it is at a fever pitch.

I find it fascinating that abortion proponents constantly speak of women being "punished" with a child as a consequence of having sex.  There is genuine outrage that men don't give birth and have to bear the same burden.  Despite many different and effective ways to prevent pregnancy, there is a fanatical devotion to this secular sacrament, which is seen as the last line of defense for ultimate individual autonomy.

Of course, no one gets pregnant alone, and not too long ago, there was a reason sex was supposed to take place after marriage (or at least after betrothal).  A "ruined woman" was seen as fitting punishment for immorality.

The legalization of abortion was therefore a welcome liberation from the "oppression" of biology.   Women could now be as immoral as the wanted.

Similarly, when the AIDS epidemic swept through the homosexual community, the same people insisted that one could not even think it was divine judgement.  A sexually transmitted disease that was most easily spread through religiously proscribed sexual behavior was simply a thing that happened and enormous resources would have to be expended not only to cure it, but in the interim, the risk-taking behavior could not be curbed.

It's interesting to note that the State of California has decriminalized passing the disease to a sexual partner without their consent.  No harm, no foul.

In both these cases, cause and effect are irrelevant, and all right-thinking people" know that to draw lines indicating how immoral behavior can beget negative consequences is hateful nonsense.

Thus it is interesting to see how one's Covid vaccination status has become a great exception to this belief.  Unvaccinated (or maskless) people who die of the disease are widely mocked as getting what they deserve.

It's divine judgement, and cause and effect are now operative.

My point by the way is not to highlight hypocrisy, but to note that in all three instances, the underlying framework remains Calvinist.  In the first two examples, the goal is to escape punishment, which is presumably not from God but rather from the Devil.  Women not being able to abort children is evil, an infringement on their God-given freedom to have absolute control over their bodies.

Similarly the AIDS epidemic could not be permitted to change the homosexual lifestyle because freedom is the highest value, even above stopping a once-incurably fatal disease.

Yet now the righteousness is on the other side, with anti-vaxxers being justly struck down for their impiety.

While the examples are contemporary, the issue is not new.

G.K. Chesterton's writing reveals that this mentality has been around for a while, chiefly being a function of unprecedented prosperity.  People can draw various philosophical lines on how thought progressed, but the key ingredient was leisure time and increased material comfort.

Evelyn Waugh's dark satires of the Smart Set illustrated the moral bankruptcy, and it was not until his later work that he began to look at how religious people can co-exist in this environment.

I plan on incorporating this into my writing on the spirit world.  As others long before me have pointed out, unbelievers don't necessary lack faith, they simply place it before something besides God. 


A short strange trip: G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday

I've finished my first G.K. Chesterton book.  The Man Who Was Thursday was a birthday gift, and I found it amusing and well-written.  Chesterton seems to have a knack for dropping quotable phrases all over the place.  He's an aphorism machine.

His wit reminds me of Evelyn Waugh, though it the satire is not nearly as biting.  Chesterton is capable of effective mockery, but he's more benign about it.

As to the work in question, the subtitle gives the substance away: it's a nightmare rather than the detective story that it at first purports to be.

There was a strong Lovecraftian vibe about the whole thing as well.  I d0n't mean eccentric academics facing unimaginable horrors, but rather a sense of growing paranoia and warped reality.

The book is a not long, and it reads quickly.  One thing I've come to detest about the modern age is the way writers tend to pad their books.  Say what you want, none of my books are particularly long.  I like to get to the point and move on.

So does Chesterton, and he gives just enough detail to get the job done, which I also enjoy.

I'm looking forward to reading more of his work.


Ford Madox Ford vs Evelyn Waugh part 2: Comparing The Good Soldier and Brideshead Revisited

A few months ago I wrote about the striking similarities and also the profound differences between two of the greatest English writers of the Twentieth Century: Ford Madox Ford and Evelyn Waugh.
 
I chose to conduct my comparison between them based on their war novels because in both subject matter and scope they had a great deal in common.  Unfortunately, for most people these works remain obscure.  Evelyn Waugh has by far the greater following today, but only die-hard fans have read (let alone heard of) his Sword of Honour trilogy.
 
Ford Madox Ford has (unjustly) fallen into obscurity, and while HBO produced a miniseries on his Parade's End series, I doubt that it drove many people to pick up the books, which remain difficult to obtain.
 
Upon reflection, a better basis would be the most popularly known works of the two authors: Ford's The Good Soldier and Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.
 
If one does a search for Ford's work, this is by far the most popular option and there are many editions available for purchase.  Ford himself considered it his masterpiece (admittedly this was before he wrote Parade's End), and critics (which have the benefit of reading the latter work) still prefer The Good Soldier.
 
Brideshead Revisited, on the other hand, is quite widely known, not only as a book but also as a peerless television adaptation. (There is a movie, but no one should watch it.)
 
With those preliminaries out of the way, let's dig in.
 
Points of Similarity
 
Right from the start we can note some significant similarities.  Both books are narrated in the first person by a participant who is looking back at the events described.  Ford's narrator is John Dowell, an American of an old Philadelphia family married to Florence Hurlbird, who is from a prominent Connecticut family.
 
Dowell clearly is proud of his lineage, and considers himself part of the gentry class, but socially he is still outside the British world of the landed aristocracy.   He is comfortable among them, but not one of them.
 
Waugh chooses Charles Ryder to narrate his work, and while is comes from money and is able to gain entrance to Oxford, he is socially inferior to the sons of the aristocracy with whom he interacts.
 
Both men marry poorly, and both will feel the sting of adultery by their wives.
 
The tales cover a considerable amount of time, with Ford's running more than a decade while Waugh's spans about twenty years.  Both stories take place amidst the background of material comfort, and eulogize a social scene whose day has already passed.  Ford is documenting the sunset of the Edwardian Age when the idle rich could spend their days visiting spas and taking "cures" for whatever hypochondriac condition they've decided they have.
 
Thus, the scene constantly shifts as they cycle to various resorts and only at the end to we get to see the home of the primary subject of the novel, the estate of Captain and Lady Ashburnham.
 
As the name suggests, Waugh's tale centers around the hereditary seat of the Marquess of Marchmain, Brideshead. Charles first encounters the place on holiday from Oxford and is slowly drawn into the dysfunctional world of the Flyte family through his friend Sebastian.  The scene shifts several times, including the family's London residence, Oxford, and also Venice, where Lord Marchmain lives in comfortable self-imposed exile.
 
Both tales therefore take place within the comfortable circuits of the upper classes.
 
The Wimp vs The Aesthete
 
One of the most significant differences is the portrayal of the narrator.  John Dowell is about as unreliable as one can get, constantly shifting his story as new information is revealed.  He comes across not only as a cuckold, but a rather meek and gullible one at that.  Clearly Ford is taking aim at the social rules of the time, which required a great deal of hypocrisy to maintain the veneer of respectability.  The Ashburnhams and the Dowells are quite contemptible in their own ways, and there's plenty of commentary already out there on the deeper meanings of the roles.
 
Suffice it to say that no one really comes out as either decent or even sympathetic.  No doubt Ford - who was already casting aside moral restraint in his own life - was making a pointed statement about everyone else who would presume to judge him.  He does the same Parade's End, having his main character (Christopher Tietjets) announce that just about every aristocrat is the product of an adulterous relationship.
 
One weakness of Ford's book is that Dowell is so much of a wimp.  It's hard to conceive that such a meek creature can even exist, let alone avoid almost immediate bankruptcy.  Even the most robust fortune can be squandered, and Dowell shows no evidence of prudence.
 
Charles Ryder, by contrast, is far more realistic and therefore sympathetic.  Like John, he teases out information slowly, often forcing a reappraisal of what's going on after key facts are revealed, but he is far more reliable as a narrator.
 
His character is also much more complex.  Chilled by the death of his mother, he is something of an introvert and the exuberant and eccentric behavior of Sebastian Flyte comes as a revelation to him.  Some readers have insisted that the relationship is homosexual, but this obviously false.  Ryder wants to be Sebastian, not have sex with him.  Moreover, Waugh himself has never pulled punches regarding homosexuality in his writing and the presence of the flamboyantly gay Anthony Blanche in the book is proof of that.  Waugh skillfully leads the reader to the suggestion of a relationship, however, because he wants to make it clear that Ryder is utterly obsessed with the Flyte family.
 
It is worth noting that Charles' idolization of Sebastian is paralleled by John's admiration for Captain Ashburnham, but the situation is profoundly different.  Captain Ashburnham is of course sleeping with Mrs. Dowell (and other women as well), and John has a perverse admiration for his way with women and exploitative assertiveness.  It is a creepy obsession, filled with self-loathing masked as compassion. 
 
By contrast, Charles' friendship with Sebastian slowly fades as young Lord Flyte descends into uncontrolled alcoholism.  As the story proceeds, Charles' friendship with Julia Flyte cements the notion that he wasn't so much in love with Sebastian as with the lifestyle and status of the Flyte family as a whole.
 
Another contrast can be found in the way Charles decides to leave Oxford and strike out on his own as a painter.  While John Dowell is a man of refinement, Charles Ryder is a true aethete, fascinated by art and composition.
 
Of course, Charles will eventually become a captain in the British Army, and Waugh's description of his disillusionment of military service (likening it to a failed marriage) remains one of the great passages of English literature.  This also puts him in stark contrast to John Dowell who ends the story as he starts it: a hopeless caregiver.
 
A Question of Faith
 
Both novels can be read as tragic stories, chronicling dysfunctional relationships that mark the highest levels of society.  However, Brideshead Revisited has a secondary purpose: it is a conversion story.
 
Several characters in the course of the book have chances to choose Ford's ideal outcome of throwing aside convention and proceeding with their heart's desire.  Indeed, given the eroded morality of the 1930s, such a move carried much lower social costs than in Edwardian England.
 
However, Waugh flips the script, and in the process demonstrates that there are other considerations more important than one's temporary satisfaction.  Life isn't about just us, it's about faith as well, and how our actions help or harm others. 
 
Contrast this with Ford's story which ends miserably for almost everyone.  The one exception is Captain Ashburnham's wife Leonora, an Irish Catholic who Ford's narrator distrusts and later vilifies - but always in a backhanded, apologetic way.  He even remarks near the end of the tale how Catholics have "queer, shifty ways" but always end up right.
 
It is important to recall that Ford himself converted to Catholicism, married and had children before launching into a series of open affairs, one of which resulted in a lawsuit.  He never reconciled and for the rest of his life seemed determined to find a perfect romantic happiness beyond the constraints of society and faith.  He didn't.

By the end of his life, his reputation and literary influence - two things he treasured - were in decline and the writers he once nurtured are alleged to have backed away from him.  One reason he fell into obscurity is that he had no champion to promote his work.

Waugh's final years were not particularly easy as money and ill-health continually afflicted him, but because he maintained an intact family, it was possible for them to sustain his reputation after his death.  Of his many children, Auberon Waugh became an accomplished writer in his own right, and his son (Alexander Waugh) has continued to sustain the family's literary name.
 
It's interesting to note how many writers are indebted to a literary heir to keep their reputation alive.  J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis come to mind, and there are other examples of how "literary societies" only come to fruition if there's someone dedicated enough to get them going.  Ford Madox Ford spent several years teaching at Olivet College in Michigan, but you'd never know it from their web site.  But I digress.
 
A key point is that Waugh doesn't show faith as way to obtain a traditional happy ending.  Many of the characters who find it (or reclaim it) are often worse off than before.
 
But what they get in return is a sense of purpose, and renewed strength to sustain them.  The line of the Marchmain family will come to an end in the present generation, but in the process, faith will be restored in its members and spread to others whom it otherwise would not have reached.  That's a good and worthwhile thing, more important than who owns a lavish estate.
 
Faith was a major part of Waugh's war novel, and it also permeates Brideshead Revisited.  Ford's books carry no such message and while The Good Soldier has a far more complex and innovative structure and style than Waugh's work, it's ultimately empty.  It can in fact be dismissed a story of miserable people doing miserable things to each other and lying to themselves about it.
 
Waugh's portrait of the Marchmains is one of a family is slow collapse, but there's so much more going on that people continue to turn to it for enjoyment and inspiration.
 
As an admirer of both, I unquestionably enjoy Brideshead Revisited more.  Repeated readings bring renewed appreciation for Waugh's talent.  The Good Soldier doesn't have the same effect, and while one can go back and admire Ford's craftsmanship, the story itself is just unpleasant to read.
 
Still, as I said in my other piece, Ford's writing was known and available to Waugh.  If his tale of the idle rich is inferior to that of Waugh, it is still an important milestone in literary development.  Both books are well worth your time.

A meeting with G.K. Chesterton

I consider myself a pretty well-read person.  I nearly finished Livy's history of Rome; would have finished Gibbon's but for an error in shipping (two copies of Volume 5 in the boxed set!); I've read Churchill's The Second World War twice, along with The World Crisis and The Aftermath and a bunch of other stuff; I've got most of Evelyn Waugh covered, etc.

But somehow G.K. Chesterton has been outside my scope.

Well, that's now changed.  My wife got me a pair of his books for my birthday, and so I've got a new author to explore.

He's a Catholic convert like me, so at least we have that in common.  Unlike Ford Madox Ford, the conversion "stuck," which is nice.

I've just started The Man Who Was Thursday and he has a nice turn of phrase, which in my opinion is critical.  I know a lot of people who can get past Stephen King's odiously crude writing style because they like the stories.  Nope, can't do it.  It's like driving on a punishingly rough road - at a certain point, the promised pleasures of the destination just isn't worth it.

All of which is to say: I may have a new favorite author.  I'll keep you posted.