- Publisher: PENGUIN CLASSICS
- Format: Paperback | 224 pages
- Dimensions: 110mm x 180mm x 16mm | 141g
- Publication date: 1 May 2010
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0141187484
- ISBN 13: 9780141187488
- Sales rank: 15,654
Sent down from Oxford in outrageous circumstances, Paul Pennyfeather is oddly surprised to find himself qualifying for the position of schoolmaster at Llanabba Castle. His colleagues are an assortment of misfits, rascals and fools, including Prendy (plagued by doubts) and Captain Grimes, who is always in the soup (or just plain drunk). Then Sports Day arrives, and with it the delectable Margot Beste-Chetwynde, floating on a scented breeze. As the farce unfolds and the young run riot, no one is safe, least of all Paul.
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Evelyn Waugh was born in 1903 and was educated at Hertford College, Oxford. In 1928 he published his first novel, Decline and Fall, which was soon followed by Vile Bodies (1930), Black Mischief (1932), A Handful of Dust (1934) and Scoop (1938). In 1945 he published Brideshead Revisited and he won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1952 for Men at Arms. Evelyn Waugh died in 1966.
It must just be appalling coincidence that the funniest and best comic novelists in England this century have been ardent reactionaries. Sometimes, notably in Brideshead Revisited, Waugh's dire Toryism is unbearable, but here, in his first novel, published when he was only 25, he is at his best - inventive, outrageous, hilarious. The book contains the extraordinary Captain Grimes, who is always in the soup - and the wonderful Waugh vignette, when Paul Pennyfeather, in prison, hears about Prendergast's murder from a fellow-inmate during lusty and unique hymn-singing: 'O God, our help in ages past/ Where's Prendergast today?/ What, ain't you heard? E's been done in/ And our eternal home...' Now how on earth did Waugh come up with that idea? Probably because he was a genius. (Kirkus UK)
Decline and Fall (1928) was Evelyn Waugh's immensely successful first novel, and it displays not only all of its author's customary satiric genius and flair for unearthing the ridiculous in human nature, but also a youthful willingness to train those weapons on any and every thing in his path. In this fractured picaresque comedy of the hapless Paul Pennyfeather stumbling from one disaster to another, Waugh manages the delicious task of skewering every aspect of the society in which he lived. With an Introduction by Frank Kermode Sir Frank Kermode, formerly Lord Northcliffe Professor at London University, is now Professor at Cambridge and Columbia Universities. His books include The Uses of and Continuities.