Little, Brown & Co, New York, 1963. Hardcover. First Edition. Frontispiece illustration by Kathleen Hale. Number 148 of 1000 numbered copies signed by the author. Faint handling to boards; very near fine complete with the glassine dust wrapper.
"Basil Seal Rides Again" was English novelist Evelyn Waugh's last published work of fiction. The subtitle of this 1963 short story, "The Rake's Regress," indicates not only return but also re-entry into a place of origin, a regression to the satirical mode Waugh had seemingly laid to rest with the publication of the Sword of Honour trilogy and the beginnings of his autobiographical reminiscences in A Little Learning. In 1962 Waugh set aside his memoir (itself a return to youth) to "recapture," he writes in the dedicatory letter to Mrs. Ian Fleming, the satirical mode, and many of the characters, of his earlier writing ("Basil Seal"  485). Waugh's return to these characters, in particular Basil Seal and Ambrose Silk, reignites his ambivalent animation of the competing attractions of convention and iconoclasm, attractions which seem implicitly allied to motifs of age and youth. Rather than fading into twilight, Basil Seal "at 60" (Waugh, Letters 593) embarks on one last racket, stripping away the weight of "worldly-wise moralities" ("Basil Seal" 503) to once more rule in what Put Out More Flags described as an "obstreperous minority of one" (54). "Basil Seal Rides Again" is significant not merely because it is Waugh's last work of fiction and his last work of satire, but also because it enacts a satirical rejection of the soft, sad resignation of old age.