Evelyn Waugh: ‘Time’ Names Male Writer In List Of ‘100 Most Read Female Authors’

Evelyn Waugh was selected by Time magazine as one of the “100 Most Read Female Writers in College Classes.” Unfortunately, the author simply did not belong on the list. Although the name “Evelyn” is considered to be androgynous, Waugh was, in fact, a man.

As explained in the Time article, the list was compiled using a collection of college syllabi — which is archived by the Open Syllabus Project.

The researchers first used the collection to identify the most often assigned books, journal articles, screenplays, short stories, and other texts. They then sorted the list by author. According to the article, Time “used the Notable Names Database to confirm the author’s gender and generate a list of 100 most-read female authors.” Unfortunately, something went terribly wrong.

The Notable Names Database clearly lists Evelyn Waugh, aka Arthur St. John Waugh, as a male. The entry also includes a photo of the author as a young man wearing a three-piece suit. However, his name still made Time’s“100 Most Read Female Writers in College Classes” list.

At the end of the article, Time added a correction, which said, “the original version of this story included Evelyn Waugh, who was a man.” However, the writer stopped short of offering an apology for the snafu.

A native of Hampstead, England, Waugh began writing and illustrating stories when he was 7-years-old. At the age of 14, he published his first work, an essay titled “In Defense of Cubism.” Eleven years later he published his first novel, Decline and Fall.

Throughout his career, Evelyn Waugh wrote numerous articles, novels, short stories, and travel anthologies. However, he will always be remembered for his novel Brideshead Revisited, The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder which was written in 1945.

The novel, which was later adapted into a movie and television series, is narrated by Hertford College, University of Oxford student Charles Ryder. Although parts of the novel are quite humorous, it also explores complex, and arguably controversial subjects — including homosexuality.

Despite its commercial success and ongoing legacy, critics condemned the novel “for its stylistic excess, its snobbery, and its abandonment of the cool satire they associated with [Waugh’s] work.”

According to the Open Syllabus Project, Brideshead Revisited is Evelyn Waugh’s most frequently assigned novels. It is also one of the most popular novels assigned by college professors overall. In addition to Brideshead Revisited, college students are often assigned to read other Waugh works, including A Handful of Dust, Scoop, The Loved One, Decline and Fall, and Vile Bodies.

As he was an influential and talented writer, he certainly deserves recognition, but it is unclear why Time thought Evelyn Waugh was a woman.

Interestingly, Evelyn’s first wife’s name was also Evelyn. Therefore, the husband and wife had the same first and last names. Although it likely caused a lot of confusion, the two Evelyns were married for fewer than four years.

The Evelyn Waugh Society reports the author passed away on Easter Sunday 1966.

” [he] left a world impoverished of one of its great stylists, humorists, provocateurs and characters. Though his faith and politics and temperament remain as out of step with the norms of literary culture today as they were at the time of his death, he is perennially in print and likely to survive as one of the giants of 20th-century English literature and one of the greatest English stylists of any age.”

Although Evelyn Waugh was removed from Time’s list, other notable names includeJane Austin, Virginia Wolff, Hanna Arendt, and Margaret Atwood, and they are all verified as female. The list also includes George Eliot — who is definitely a woman.

[Photo courtesy via WikimediaCommons| Cropped and Resized | CC BY-SA 2.0 ]