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Decline and Fall
Evelyn Waugh
Expelled from Oxford for indecent behaviour, Paul Pennyfeather is oddly unsurprised to find himself qualifying for the position of schoolmaster at Llanabba Castle. Hi colleagues are an assortment of misfits, 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. Taking its title from Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Evelyn Waugh's first, funniest novel immediately caught the ear of the public with his account of an ingénu abroad in the decadent confusion of 1920s high society. Evelyn Waugh (1903-66) was born in Hampstead, second son of Arthur Waugh, publisher and literary critic, and brother of Alec Waugh, the popular novelist. In 1928 he published his first work, a life of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and his first novel, Decline and Fall, which was soon followed by Vile Bodies (1930), A Handful of Dust (1934) and Scoop (1938). In 1939 he was commissioned in the Royal Marines and later transferred to the Royal Horse Guards, serving in the Middle East and in Yugoslavia. In 1942 he published Put Out More Flags and then in 1945 Brideshead Revisited. Men at Arms (1952) was the first volume of 'The Sword of Honour' trilogy, and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; the other volumes, Officers and Gentlemen and Unconditional Surrender, followed in 1955 and 1961. If you enjoyed Decline and Fall, you might like Waugh's Vile Bodies, also available in Penguin Modern Classics. 'The funniest book I have ever read' Julian Symons, The Times 'His first, most perfect novel ... a ruthlessly comic plot' John Mortimer, Guardian 'Concocted of cruelty, bigotry, pederasty, white slavery, violence, madness and murder, Decline and Fall is fundamentally playful and side-splittingly funny' David Bradshaw
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