Doubting Hall has been online since 1999. I began it when I opened my first domestic Internet account, which cost £11.75 a month from Demon Internet and included five email addresses, a connection to the web a hundredth of the speed of the one I enjoy now and a portion of their web space on which, subject to their terms and conditions, I could put up for public display anything I chose. The outgoing telephone calls that began each time I connected and that only stopped when I logged off were additional charges so every minute I spent online cost me 3p. Once I got there almost everything seemed to be written in Times New Roman, AltaVista rather than Google was the search engine of choice, the alternative to Internet Explorer 4 was Netscape Navigator 4 - an established browser that by this stage was so bad the manufacturers chose not to release version 5 and went straight to 6 - and Yahoo were still some distance away from acquiring GeoCities, the web community that, although not nearly as feature-rich as today's MySpace, attracted a similiar user base of people with design tastes distinguished by blinking text, colour clash and tiled background images.
Since I was paying for my Demon web space I was certainly going to to something with it. I had searched for 'evelyn waugh' when I first began using the web at university and knew there were only two small sites that came up in the Yahoo directory - CaptGrimes, bearing a mission statement 'to keep his name and work before the public', and the better, academically-orientated World Wide Evelyn Waugh Resources maintained in the US. Scrolling down the page to see which other fiction writers had a presence on the web yielded further slim pickings, except for a few familiar names with dedicatedly large followings among the computing academic community that I feel I can leave you to guess. However, I did find other authors I liked who already had substantial sites devoted to them: the Nicholson Baker Fan Page, Zembla and The Centaurian were all online and are still there today. For me to add another Nicholson Baker, Nabokov or Updike page felt like it would be a duplication of what was available at present, a way I didn't feel was the case with Waugh and which was fortunate as he was my favourite writer among those listed and the one whose work I knew best. So, limited by those Demon terms and conditions and the Internet technologies of the day, equipped with an HTML editor called Arachnophilia 3.4 that was only available under a touchy-feely licence agreement called CareWare, I set about preparing my corner of the web for the site you see here today.
By the time my Evelyn Waugh pages were ready a couple of other Wavian sites had appeared online, of which Revisit Brideshead still survives. I picked the name Doubting Hall after another of the imposing houses that populate Waugh's novels (in this case the country seat of Nina's father Colonel Blount from Vile Bodies), a choice intended to reflect my feelings about his work, supporting my efforts in the Introduction to move focus away from his most famous novel and towards those written before it. The subtitle 'A guided tour around the works of Evelyn Waugh' I thought suggested participation through movement, as one navigates through this or any other website, but without the demands of an interactive experience. I also intended it to sound accessible without being superficial. My purpose with Doubting Hall was not to provide academic commentaries on the text, or to present radical reinterpretations of the fiction or to gather together anyone who wanted Waugh-related discussions. Doubting Hall was intended as a site for use by anyone: anyone who has been recommended one of Evelyn Waugh's books by a friend and, not being familiar with the name, wants to find out more; anyone who has just finished reading Scoop and is interested in ideas for where to go next; anyone who simply wants to know how to pronounce his name (if this is you, it's revealed below). I wanted it to be the first site that came up if you were to type 'evelyn waugh' into Google, and it is.
The content of Doubting Hall is not changed regularly - in fact the introduction is intact from the original version I finished in 1999, apart from a spelling error a visitor pointed out to me which I have now corrected from 'principle' to 'principal'. However, if you spot anything which really ought to be updated or if you have any comments, enquiries or suggestions about the site, please send an email using the form below. Before you do, based on popular requests I should point out that:
Evelyn Waugh's surname rhymes with 'awe', and not 'how', 'slow' or 'rough'.
I am likely to be unable to help you write your high school assignment.
I probably will read Waugh's Helena at some point, but I haven't yet.