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Observations placeholder

Waugh, Evelyn - He acquired a memory 'not at all hazy - just sharp, detailed and dead wrong'



Type of Spiritual Experience


Number of hallucinations: 1


Some of this is describing the persecution complexes that often accompany heavy pharmaceutical – drug use.  He appears from other sections of Philip's book to have been paranoid at times and all because of this cocktail of drugs and alcohol

Bromide compounds, especially potassium bromide, were frequently used as sedatives in the 19th and early 20th century. Their use in over-the-counter sedatives and headache remedies (such as Bromo-Seltzer) in the United States extended to 1975, when bromides were withdrawn as ingredients, due to chronic toxicity.

They caused brain damage.

A description of the experience

Evelyn Waugh – A Life Revisited – by Philip Eade

Though capable of periods of abstinence, particularly during Lent. Evelyn continued to drink prodigiously, especially during expeditions to London when even in middle age he was regularly sick before retiring to bed and not infrequently felt obliged to send flowers the next day to hostesses whose guests he had offended, occasionally enlisting the help of friends to atone for his gravest indiscretions.

After one spree Evelyn paid a morning call to Diana Cooper, 'portly as an alderman,' as she reported to her son John Julius, 'dressed in loud and shapeless checks’. He'd been obstreperous the night before and broken his host's decanters, so I had to dedicate an hour of my brief time to buying Amendes.

The hangovers when he finally made it back to Piers Court might last several days, the symptoms invariably
“insomnia, a disordered stomach, weakness at the knees, a trembling hand which becomes evident when I attempt to use a pen.  I get so painfully drunk whenever I go there,” he wrote to Nancy after a typical visit to London,”… and nowadays it is not a matter of a headache and an aspirin but of complete collapse, with some clear indications of incipient lunacy. I think I am jolly near being mad & need very careful treatment if I am to survive another decade without the strait jacket."

All the long lunches and late-night carousing were now taking their toll. Long gone were the days when he felt fit enough to ride to hounds.

Shortly after the war, when he went to stay with the Betjemans, he told Penelope he felt too old even to ride any more though he was still in his early forties. Even the various earth-moving operations that used to obsess him in the garden were becoming too strenuous. By 1953, he was spending much of his time in an armchair and feeling increasingly unwell: liverish, lethargic, and suffering intermittently from gout, arthritis, rheumatism and back pain. Like his fictional alter ego Gilbert Pinfold he 'ate less, drank more, and grew corpulent'. He also slept badly.

In the midst of writing something, he might find the sentences he had written during the day running in his head, the words shifting and changing colour kaleidoscopically, so that he would again and again climb out of bed, pad down to the library, make a minute correction, return to his room, lie in the dark dazzled by the pattern of vocables until obliged once more to descend to the manuscript.

He developed the habit of getting up in the early hours to shave, having a theory that his smooth face on the smooth pillow induced sleep. But otherwise he relied on a cocktail of chloral and bromide to provide him with the 'six or seven hours of insensibility' he felt he needed to 'face another idle day with something approaching jauntiness'.

But the more resistant he became to the sleeping drugs, which he also used as a pain-killer during the day for his rheumatism, the more recklessly he increased the dose, with the result that he began to experience delusions and a memory that even before the Burges washstand episode he told Betjeman was 'not at all hazy - just sharp, detailed and dead wrong'.

The source of the experience

Waugh, Arthur Evelyn St. John

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Chloral hydrate


Brain damage