A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

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By Evelyn Waugh

After seven years of marriage, the attractive girl Brenda final has grown uninterested in lifestyles at Hetton Abbey, the Gothic mansion that's the satisfaction and pleasure of her husband, Tony. She drifts into an affair with the shallow socialite John Beaver and forsakes Tony for the Belgravia set. In a singular that mixes tragedy, comedy, and savage irony, Evelyn Waugh indelibly captures the irresponsible temper of the "crazy and sterile generation" among the wars.

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Butler, the under secretary of state for foreign affairs (1938–1941) and also occupied a seat in Parliament as a Conservative for Southend-on-Sea (1935–1958). He was knighted in 1957. Politically, he favored Neville Chamberlain, opposed *Winston Churchill, sympathized with *Germany, and outwardly hated Jews. A vain and proud man, he nonetheless moved in the highest circles of English society and politics. Channon and *Maugham could well have met as early as 1926, when both served as volunteer special constables during the coal strike of May 1926.

Maugham then published it in the 1933 collection, *Ah King. The †Narrator, a person with a passion for books, visits Malaya and lodges at the home of the acting resident, †Mark Featherstone, to whom he lends a recent biography of Lord Byron, complete with the references to the incestuous relationship between the poet and his half sister, Augusta Leigh—the only clue to the actual thesis of the story. Featherstone, in turn, relates the story of †Olive Hardy, a woman whom he loved and who lived on a plantation with her brother, †Tim Hardy.

Set both in Kent and in the Bloomsbury district of Edwardian London, the novel introduces a group of low-level writers whose interests lay with turning a profit rather than in their art. Thus, the artistically worn-out Driffield clashes with the self-promoting Kear. All is seen through the eyes of the narrator, young †William Ashenden (supposedly Maugham), who himself struggles vainly to escape the pseudointellectualism and social narrow-mindedness of his times. In the end, a more mature Ashenden pardons the faults of those whom he had initially rejected, possibly because he realizes that, artistically, he is not so far removed from them.

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