“A Dark and Hidden Thing”: Evelyn Waugh, Cannibalism, and the Problem of African Christianity

2017-05-22T03:03:15Z (GMT) by Timothy M. Christensen
In a series of editorials published in the conservative Catholic weekly The Tablet during January and February 1933, editor Ernest Oldmeadow condemned Evelyn Waugh's third novel, Black Mischief, as "a disgrace to anyone professing the Catholic name." While Oldmeadow took issue with a number of aspects of Waugh's novel, he appears to have been particularly outraged by Waugh's representation of a cannibal feast, which literary critics have often read as a parody of the Eucharist. Despite the fact that a number of eminent literary figures including Wyndham Lewis rushed to Waugh's defence, Waugh was sufficiently incensed to compose a lengthy response to Oldmeadow's charges. In May 1933, Waugh wrote a letter of protest to Cardinal Bourne, the Archbishop of Westminster, who, as owner of The Tablet, had appointed Oldmeadow editor.