In February 1944, having completed the first 10,000 words of his self-professed "magnum opus", Waugh suggested to his literary agent Augustus Peters that a small edition de luxe of the novel could be printed at his own expense. Suggesting a figure of around twenty copies, Waugh explained, "I should like to get this book in decent form because it is very good..." (The Letters of Evelyn Waugh (1980), p.177).
In fact, this pre-publication edition appeared in an edition of fifty copies, which Waugh then distributed to members of his circle including the literary critic Cyril Connolly, his lifelong friend Graham Greene, Fitzroy MacClean, Nancy Mitford, and to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.
His friends in turn provided their opinions, comments and revisions, many of which Waugh then incorporated into the novel. There is quite significant variation between the text of this edition and the first published edition, including an entirely rewritten and 'toned down' ending. Other amendments include those suggested by Ronald Knox, who corrected the scene relating to the closure of the private chapel at Brideshead, and by Nancy Mitford, who advised on the intricacies of women's fashion. Writing to Waugh on receipt of her copy, she heaped praise upon the book, but noted "...one dreadful error. Diamond clips were only invented about 1930, you wore a diamond arrow in your cloche. It's the only one, which I call good -- the only one I spotted at least. "
This copy, sent to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire (Waugh had first met Deborah two Christmases previously), is thought be one of very few which he inscribed; a letter which accompanied Graham Greene's copy (sold in these rooms, 14 December 1992, lot 182) suggests he added inscriptions to only nineteen copies of the fifty that comprised the edition.
Writing of the gift many years later, the Duchess observed: "In spite of his uncertain ways, Evelyn remained a friend and a generous one. He sent us the limited edition of Brideshead Revisted in its floppy dark blue cover...and he sent me his other books as they were published, inscribed in friendly terms" (Wait for Me (2011), p.145).
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