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Decline and Fall

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  6,127 ratings  ·  392 reviews
Expelled from Oxford for indecent behaviour, Paul Pennyfeather is oddly unsurprised to find himself qualifying for the position of schoolmaster at Llanabba Castle. His 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 B ...more
Paperback, 300 pages
Published May 2005 by Kessinger Publishing (first published 1928)
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Paul Bryant


Bowling along in this droll farce about the upper classes – if you imagine a line with PG Wodehouse (utter lollery) at one end and Edward St Aubyn (still funny, but black, bitter and bleak) at the other – then Decline and Fall is towards the Wooster end of the spectrum - and then on page 77, there’s a sports day organised at the minor public school where our wan young defenestrated undergrad Paul Pennyfeather is now teaching. Glidi
Jan 04, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys dissecting society with their razor sharp wit
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
A skewed and satirical version of Lemony Snickets Series of Unfortunate Events for grown-ups including a similar line-up of comedy death scenes and improbably named characters.

Oh Mr Waugh, you're a cad, a bounder and pithier than a bushel of oranges. Why, I do believe that without you the 30s would have been quite insufferably dull. Lets face it, with one war over and another one gestating quietly in the wings, what better way to pass the time than by disembowelin
I've just finished this book and look, read it. It is a delight from start to finish. In an odd way it reminds me of O Lucky Man - the Lindsay Anderson film. It also reminded me of Monty Python at their best, no, at their very best. Ok, so perhaps some of the social stereotypes don't really exist anymore, but that would be like not reading Wodehouse because no one has a man servant anymore. The architect is comic genius in its purest form - I may have even laughed out loud (though never lol) whe ...more
Decline and Fall was Evelyn Waugh's first novel, and the first novel of his (that's right, Kelly, Evelyn's a man) that I read. It wasn't at all what I expected.

I expected a weighty, gloomy, hopeless, depressing love letter to the British upper crust. I expected the kind of book Merchant-Ivory would be happy to film amidst overcast skies and lush lawns. I expected Masterpiece Theatre during a PBS funding push.

I didn't expect scathing satire, a sort of P.G. Wodehouse with fangs, nor did I expect
Barry Pierce
Ugh how great is this? Waugh's biting satire of his time and class is just *heart eyes emoji*. This is a lot funnier than I expected it so be, although it is very much British humour (which I love) so it may be lost on a lot of people. It's sort of like a comical Clockwork Orange mixed with Anderson's If.... Basically it's a Malcolm McDowell film (but nothing like Caligula). It's really very good. It's my first Waugh and I need more! He may be a new favourite.
Lorenzo Berardi
'Decline and Fall' is the sort of merciless social satire about Oxford and its elitist characters I expected to find when I bought 'Zuleika Dobson' by Max Beerbohm.

Whereas the latter left me utterly disappointed - to the point I left that book half-read - this novel turned out to be far more brilliant than I thought.

It's funny to notice how Mr. Beerbohm was chiefly a caricaturist who toyed with literature while young Evelyn Waugh was exactly the opposite.
And I believe both men made the right ch
Mar 26, 2009 Steve rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Wodehouse fans
Shelves: 5-stars
This is Waugh's first book, and one of his finest. This is an absurd story of a young man, expelled (or "sent down") from Oxford for indecent behaviour, who obtains a job as a teacher at a less than salubrious third-rate public school in Wales and is then entrapped in a series of bizarre events that take him on a rollercoaster ride through upper-class circles. The central character, Paul Pennyfeather, is a naive soul, full of gusto and enthusiasm, but lacking in common sense. The use of the term ...more
This was Waugh's first novel and was received with great acclaim, even by my old favourite Arnold Bennett. However I find it like eating whipped cream. It goes down easy, but doesn't fill me up.

Clearly I lack the required level of sensibility to appreciate Waugh. Which is to say an addiction to the riotous upper classes. If you think there is nothing better than a snazzily dissolute aristocrat then this is the satire for you.

It romps from Bullingdon Club style antics at Oxford via cut price pri
Waugh's first novel is a wonderful satirical dark comedy, with no shortage of humorous characters. Be prepared for some racist and plenty of politically incorrectness. Paul Pennyfeather is sent down from Scone College for 'indecent behavior' and is disowned by his guardian. In need of money, he manages to get a job as a teacher at Llanabba, a small boys school in Wales.

At Llanabba, Paul finds his own method of getting along with the boys and faculty members, often with hilarious results. But le
According to the introduction to the Penguin edition, referring to his own work Waugh said
‘I regard writing not as investigation of character but as an exercise in the use of language, and with this I am obsessed. I have no technical psychological interest. It is drama, speech and events that interest me.’

Yet he is very precise in his depiction of English class conscious society. Witty, funny, and piercingly critical, it portrays in Paul Pennyfeather the stereotypical, quintessential English ge
Moses Kilolo
Decline and Fall presents us with Paul Pennyfeather, a young man sent away from Oxford for performing ‘a naked dance.’ After his inheritance is withheld, he resorts to teaching at a school with very funny students, all boys. It’s here that he meets the mother of one of his students (Peter), a lady named Margot. This chance meeting marks his descent into obscurity, characterized first by the promise of marriage to the wealthy Margot, but soon shattered by the arrest he suffers due to Margot’s ill ...more
Evelyn Waugh's first novel, Decline and Fall, is a delightful satiric comedy. It is based in part on Waugh's undergraduate years at Hertford College, Oxford, and his experience as a teacher in Wales. He is sent down from Oxford and as a result takes a position at the Llanabba school in Wales. The school itself is dingy, depressing, and seems always on the verge of coming apart at the seams. The masters, Captain Grimes, Mr. Prendergast, and Paul, are all unqualified for their positions, the stude ...more
Mike Clarke
Decline And Fall is Waugh at his most piercing, polemical and disturbing. The cast of irredeemable characters behaving outrageously and voicing opinions of such venom and prejudice makes for unsettling - yet hilarious - reading. Unlike lesser haters, Waugh doesn't secretly love or admire them, he hates them all. It's difficult to unpick the authorial voice from the ridiculous views of some of the most preposterous protagonists, and this is the charm of the work - you won't read it and feel uplif ...more
I have been re-visiting books which I read in my youth. This is an interesting activity. I began reading Tess of the D'Urbervilles in this vein, only to find that I had never read it in the first place. More about that later. Reading 'Decline and Fall' which I probably read while I was at Oxford, and generally a fan of Waugh's use of language I was preparing myself for a treat. I was ready to luxuriate back into a bubble-bath of wit. I recalled the opening scenes of the Bollinger Club (so opport ...more
Poor Paul Pennyfeather. He gets kicked out of Oxford for indecent exposure, although it isn't entirely his fault. Leaving Oxford causes him to default on his sizable inheritance, which leads him to a teaching position in Wales, Not to worry that he has no teaching experience, he is hired anyway. He falls for the mother of one of his students and takes the enviable position of being the boy's private tutor. Unbeknownst to Paul, his new paramour's wealth comes from an investment in many high class ...more
Essentially a retelling of Voltaire's Candide updated to early 20th century Britain, Waugh's first novel, Decline and Fall (1928) recounts the misfortunes that plague Paul Pennyfeather, from his dismissal from Oxford for "indecent behavior," to a miserable term as master at a public school, to his disastrous betrothal to a wealthy socialite, and finally to his incarceration, death, and resurrection. The road to his ruin is populated with satiric send ups of typical literary characters, many of w ...more
Evelyn Waugh's first novel, and it's completely absurd, but the main character manages to be both passive and charming. He's really the "normal" guy in a huge cast of eccentric characters. I laughed out loud frequently. It's one of those early 20th c. English novels where nobody really ever works, but always has enough money to drink and carouse. There's some clear commentary, on boarding school, prison, and even architecture, but it's rather gentle and not really scathing. I can imagine that it ...more
Христо Блажев
Ивлин Уо тормози невинен до глупост младеж в “Упадък и падение”:
Ако П. Г. Удхаус ви е поомръзнал, но пък искате нещо подобно, “Упадък и падение” на Ивлин Уо е точно за вас. Писана преди 85 години, книгата е запазила чудесната си свежест, с която вероятно е предизвиквала по-скоро възмущение към момента на излизането си.
Colibri Books
Nate D
May 13, 2010 Nate D rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 1920s British aristocracts
Recommended to Nate D by: The Strand incoming used book pile
Evelyn Waugh's first novel is a brisk class satire of the British school system and aristocracy. Incisive, stylistically rather un-dated despite its period concerns, and sparkling with good dialogue and cynicism. Its insights are often lost in amusing set-pieces, but the amusement is real, so it works pretty well anyway. Apparently a sort of retelling of Candide, but such things are largely lost on me.
An improbable, but comic, tale of Paul Pennyfeather, wrongly sent down from Oxford, and his subsequent adventures as a teacher in a very dubious private school, love with an older heiress, prison and Reggie-Perrin style "death".

This was Waugh's first novel, but in places it's like a caricature of his (not yet written) "Brideshead Revisited".
Just arrived from France trough BM.

This is the first book by Evelyn Waugh which tells the story of Paul Pennyfeather, his decline and his fall from Scone College to Llanabba, a Welsh castle. In some editions this book is subtitled as "A Novel of Many Manners".
3 1/2. Nasty satire about elitism and decadence in post WW I Britain. Some of it's hard to take and I had to remind myself these were the characters and not Waugh (though I don't think I'd have liked him personally, either.) Wonderfully absurd.
Жестока сатира на английското общество от началото на XX век. Дебютен роман за бъдещия класик Ивлин Уо.

Рецензия на книгата:
Justine Olawsky
A brilliantly-staged, hectically-paced, howlingly-funny bit of writing from Waugh that is eminently evocative of period and place. Paul Pennyfeather is unjustly kicked out of college and finds himself a teaching position at a fourth-rate boys' school in Wales; from there to an almost-society-groom; then, to prison; and then? The plot just races by so fast and the humor is droll and dry and delicious. Waugh creates magnificent characters that leap off the page, and he pulls us along by our noses ...more
I liked this title a little less than A Hand full of Dust. The absurdity of HFD was there, but this was definitely a lighter treatment of interbellum bedlam. The most disturbing part of this book and other Waugh books is how accurately he depicts bland characters who are anti-Romantic. By this I mean characters who go along with whatever life gives them without sorrow or happiness and without really fighting for anything. life passes by their dim perception and then they die.

At some point in th
Barksdale Penick
This book is from another era, the interlude between World Wars in England, but before the Great Depression, when the upper class could behave as if England were still the dominant World Power and there was lots of money and servants to ease their path through black tie parties and country weekends and many whiskies and soda. And for the most part, it is completely absurd, filled with bounders and scalawags who come and go and then return into the twisted path of our hero, a seemingly innocent, ...more
Paul Pennyfeather finds himself taking a job at a public school called Llanabba after being expelled from Oxford for indecent behaviour. He takes up some private tutoring to get close to the student’s mother, Margot Beste-Chetwynde. Their relationship forms and they are soon engaged; all the while Paul is still unaware that the main source of her income is a number of high class brothels in South America. Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall is a black comedy satirising British society in the 1920s.

Gareth Lewis
Just brilliant. Though I must admit I read it ages (months) ago and can't remember why. Here's a clever and entertaining passage on architecture (there are many more in the book):

‘The problem of architecture as I see it,’ he told a journalist who had come to report on the progress of his surprising creation of ferro concrete and aluminium, ‘is the problem of all art - the elimination of the human element from the consideration of form. The only perfect building must be the factory, because that
N W James
Oct 05, 2010 N W James rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to N W by: Steve-O
Shelves: 2010
If I had been reading this book in 1928, I would have been laughing out loud. Probably. I'm not sure.

I don't think the book withstood the test of time. But I'll be the first to tell you that I am not an expert in modern English satire and I'm sure 90% of Evelyn Waugh's point went over the top of me brains. I still enjoyed the character's quirks. I enjoyed the author's social commentary: the rich have the money to manipulate their stories and evade social discipline. And sometimes (most times?) t
I think Evelyn Waugh was reading a lot of Thomas Hardy when he penned this novel. There are so many little elements put together… Far From the Madding Crowd’s Sergeant Troy and the coast scene…the relationship upheavals in Jude the Obscure with Jude Fawley, Arabella and Sue… even how Pierston’s story goes full circle in The Well-Beloved… and most important of all the roles of fate, choice and consequence, present in all of Hardy’s novels and stories. The mix is wonderful. Paul’s story is full o ...more
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Decline and fall 6 28 Aug 07, 2013 12:22PM  
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Evelyn Waugh's father Arthur was a noted editor and publisher. His only sibling Alec also became a writer of note. In fact, his book “The Loom of Youth” (1917) a novel about his old boarding school Sherborne caused Evelyn to be expelled from there and placed at Lancing College. He said of his time there, “…the whole of English education when I was brought up was to produce prose writers; it was al ...more
More about Evelyn Waugh...
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“Old boy," said Grimes, "you're in love."
"Smitten?" said Grimes.
"No, no."
"The tender passion?"
"Cupid's jolly little darts?"
"Spring fancies, love's young dream?"
"Not even a quickening of the pulse?"
"A sweet despair?"
"Certainly not."
"A trembling hope?"
"A frisson? a Je ne sais quoi?"
"Nothing of the sort."
"Liar!" said Grimes.”
“Life is like the big wheel at Luna Park. You pay five francs and go into a room with tiers of seats all around, and in the centre the floor is made of a great disc of polished wood that revolves quickly. At first you sit down and watch the others. They are all trying to sit in the wheel, and they keep getting flung off, and that makes them laugh too. It's great fun.

You see, the nearer you can get to the hub of the wheel the slower it is moving and the easier it is to stay on. There's generally someone in the centre who stands up and sometimes does a sort of dance. Often he's paid by the management, though, or, at any rate, he's allowed in free. Of course at the very centre there's a point completely at rest, if one could only find it; I'm not very near that point myself. Of course the professional men get in the way. Lots of people just enjoy scrambling on and being whisked off and scrambling on again. How they all shriek and giggle! Then there are others, like Margot, who sit as far out as they can and hold on for dear life and enjoy that. But the whole point about the wheel is that you needn't get on it at all, if you don't want to. People get hold of ideas about life, and that makes them think they've got to join in the game, even if they don't enjoy it. It doesn't suit everyone.

People don't see that when they say "life" they mean two different things. They can mean simply existence, with its physiological implications of growth and organic change. They can't escape that - even by death, but because that's inevitable they think the other idea of life is too - the scrambling and excitement and bumps and the effort to get to the middle, and when we do get to the middle, it's just as if we never started. It's so odd.

Now you're a person who was clearly meant to stay in the seats and sit still and if you get bored watch the others. Somehow you got on to the wheel, and you got thrown off again at once with a hard bump. It's all right for Margot, who can cling on, and for me, at the centre, but you're static. Instead of this absurd division into sexes they ought to class people as static and dynamic. There's a real distinction there, though I can't tell you how it comes. I think we're probably two quite different species spiritually.”
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