The spectacle of divorce law in Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust and A. P. Herbert's Holy Deadlock

Henry Kha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The article examines the way Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust (1934) and A. P. Herbert's Holy Deadlock (1934) express popular dissent against the divorce laws of England in the 1930s. These novels satirized the legal process of obtaining a divorce as farcical and tainted by parties colluding to stage “hotel divorces” in order to satisfy the single-fault ground of adultery. This article argues that these novels helped to articulate widespread opposition towards the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857, which only allowed divorce to be granted for adultery alone. The writings also spurred parliamentary debate and ultimately paved the way forward for the introduction of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1937. Herbert played a unique part in the campaign for divorce law reform. Both as a novelist and as a parliamentarian, Herbert composed legal satires and successfully introduced the Divorce Bill into the British Parliament respectively.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-285
Number of pages19
JournalLaw and Literature
Volume30
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • divorce law
  • law reform
  • newspapers
  • interwar Britain
  • Evelyn Waugh
  • A. P. Herbert

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