[[ Read ]] ➪ Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder Author Evelyn Waugh – Alwaysonltd.co.uk
If you asked me now who I am, the only answer I could give with any certainty would be my name For the rest my loves, my hates, down even to my deepest desires, I can no longer say whether these emotions are my own, or stolen from those I once so desperately wished to be Perhaps all our loves are merely hints and symbols vagabond language scrawled on gate posts and paving stones along the weary road that others have tramped before us perhaps you and I are types and this sadness which sometimes falls between us springs from disappointment in our search, each straining through and beyond the other, snatching a glimpse now and then of the shadow which turns the corner always a pace or two ahead of us. The view implicit in my education was that the basic narrative of Christianity had long been exposed as a myth, and that opinion was now divided as to whether its ethical teaching was of present value, a division in which the main weight went against it religion was a hobby which some people professed and others did not at the best it was slightly ornamental, at the worst it was the province of complexes and inhibitions catchwords of the decade and of the intolerance, hypocrisy and sheer stupidity attributed to it for centuries. 2.5 5When I first started reading this book, I was puzzled, lost even in my effort to find what exactly the author was attempting As time and pages passed, I grew horribly angry with it all, and wondered if I would be able to finish and review the story without a note of fury running through it and wrecking what analysis I could present Now that I ve finished, I find myself saddened by the entire experience With that in mind, let me explain.This story had a great deal of potential in it, oblique mentions of heartrending stories of religious guilt and tortured shame and individual souls beating themselves bloody on the walls of an uncaring sociocultural framework, and it is largely this potential that kept me going through pages of insipidly flat characters running around, trampling on everyone without the slightest attempt to understand their desires or care about the ones of others To put it plainly, I loathed every single one of them, the narrator most of all, who made great friends with the one person whose storyline could have redeemed the entire book Instead of caring the slightest bit for said friend , he wasted countless pages on selfish pursuits of love and art and philosophical meanderings that were the most pitifully idiotic things I have seen in a long time Why is he alone Why does life pass him by What is beauty, history, and why has he been driven from Arcadia Because he s an emotionally stunted git who makes friends and discovers passions and finds love and doesn t care about any of it, or if he does chooses to expound on it in the most unbelievable of ways, drawing upon learning and knowledge that are nothing than out of character information dumps formatted in purple prose laughably ridiculous than beautiful excessive semicolons are not to everyone s taste.And then I thought to myself, wait It isn t just the narrator that suffers from this, but the entire cast of characters, the whole story even, a whole flat mess of caricatured nonsense that is trying to convey a message in the most contrived of methods Which means only one thing This is the author that is failing miserably at delivering, and there s no wonder why.This is the kind of book that English classes would adore, or at least the teachers would, as while the work is not so great in itself, it is the perfect springboard for discussion of all matters of issues Best of all, the flat characters that drown their passions in meaningless prattle, the obvious distinctions between when the author is droning out plot and when he is attempting to convey themes and meaning, the constant hints at powerful emotions of religious suffering, cultural decay, and sexual deviancy All perfect material for discussions and essays, as there are barely any obvious overtones for the students could grasp at, a paltry amount of quotes for easy access to what teachers would consider to be critical thinking Chances are, this is what the author took away from the classroom, and these are the methodologies by which he chose to write his book.It s disappointing, really, to see the effects of classroom indoctrination in something deemed a classic, which raises the question of what a classic really implies I ve read many that are certainly worthy of the title in my mind, novels that pushed and pulled at my sensibilities, opened my mind to gorgeous forms of prose and powerful emotional themes, changed my worldview countless times while managing to achieve the simple goals of making me laugh, cry, feel for characters that I will never truly know but find them as fascinatingly complex nonetheless, regardless of whether they inspire love or hatred This book, though It fulfills the aspects required for the average education well enough, and is worthwhile in its own way But it could have been so much , and the fact that it isn t is a tragedy in itself.Back when I was still feeling angry with the story, I considered not reading the rest of the author s works that I have added I ve decided that I will, but not for a while, and only for the hope that he made some improvements It s not his fault that the education concerning literature is not what it could be, and shows itself so plainly in his writing I can only hope for improvement in the future. I just finished rereading Evelyn Waugh s Brideshead Revisited, a book I pick up every couple of years or so This time I read it because of the new movie version movie the one with Emma Thompson as the Lady Marchmain Flyte As a critic, I get to see a pre screening of the new movie on Tuesday I am taking Dr Steve Also, I am a huge fan of the original, very literal British miniseries from 1981 it is the first thing that brought Jeremy Irons to international attention, and it had the excessively handsome Anthony Andrews as Sebastian Flyte I don t know exactly when the new movie is coming out.Speaking of coming out, it s impossible to speak of Brideshead Revisited without talking about the strong homosexual themes Then again, you also have to talk about the pressure of Catholicism and its attendant guilt Finally, there is the sense of social climbing, of coveting and envy, that defines the story s narrator, Charles Ryder.The story is about an upper middle class boy, Charles Ryder and his integration into a rich English family After years at boarding school and summers with only his absent minded and oblivious father as family, Charles meets Sebastian Flyte their third year at Oxford They immediately fall in love, though Sebastian pukes in Charles room.Sebastian is described as a pretty young man, the son of uber rich Catholic aristocracy Sebastian throws wild parties for his obviously gay friends there is no hemming about Sebastian s friends being fairies , and gets drunk repeatedly He travels to Venice and the Continent and generally lives an extremely privileged life He also carries around a teddy bear names Aloysius, which he speaks to as if it were a naughty child He s 19 and at college.Sebastian and Charles start a thinly veiled romance one that has been alternately argued to be sexual or simply a romantic phase by young men Charles is taken in by Sebastian, his effete friends, and his rich lifestyle, and they are quite open with their affection toward each other I personally think they have repeated sex, the references to their love for each other, the moments of nudity, and the open discussions of homosexuality are too numerous to ignore.However, as Charles becomes and entrenched with the Flyte family, Sebastian grows bitter and drinks He tried to keep his life with Charles and his Catholic family separate Sebastian possibly understands his romance with Charles is being taken over by his family Perhaps Sebastian realizes his Catholic guilt will also kill his relationship with Charles Slowly, Sebastian becomes a virulently self destructive drunk, as the family communicates to Charles that they don t mind their childish relationship, but that it is a phase that will need to pass Charles also comes to understand the strength that the orthodox religion has on the family as he watches Sebastian slowly drink himself to death.Over the course of the novel, Charles transfers his affections to Sebastian s equally unattainable sister, Julia Charles blatantly admits that he finds Julia and Sebastian very similar in looks and temperament God knows, the family s vast wealth and glamour are also draws for Charles it s as if Charles will do anything to be a part of the Flyte family He is a bit of a cipher, a mirror, a quiet man who attracts people because they are able to project upon him exactly what they wish him to be Charles is a fascinating, longing narrator there is a bit of The Talented Mr Ripley in his envy and in his personal blankness He lusts after Sebastian s life, but also after Sebastian as a great, flamboyant and handsome man.However, there is such a sense of denigration from that first romance of Sebastian s and Charles , and it runs through the entire novel and even into Charles and Julia s romance The sense of lost innocence along with Sebastian s deterioration from overdrinking is tragic Charles admits that, in love, Sebastian was the first he admits this openly to Julia and others An entirely different sort of destruction happens in Charles and Julia s romance Both loves are assailed by Catholic guilt.Charles is an agnostic His lack of religious knowledge and his criticism of Catholic hypocrisy is at first one of the things that attracts Sebastian to him But it s also the thing that dooms Charles relationship with the family.The mother, Lady Marchmain Flyte, is very pious separated from her philandering husband who lives with his mistress in Italy , but refusing to divorce the man for her Catholic beliefs She is a strong and spiritual patriarch whose guilt and religiosity inspire hatred from her husband and children Yet, Lady Marchmain doesn t do anything particularly wrong, and there is a sense that she is an earthbound saint whose kin hate over their own deep senses of guilt guilt over their own sins their homosexuality, alcoholism, infidelity, and apostasy from the faith.It s a frustrating novel I sense author Waugh s latent homosexuality, and there is a strong sense of his gross envy of the travels and money and wondrous things and parties and balls of the upper class like his narrator Charles does Finally, there is the strong sense of Catholicism You could either say the religion and its guilt ridden patterns doom the Flyte family Or you could say that it is the only moral compass that these people have and that God is waiting to pull them back into His fold, even after their darkest sins and self destruction.The reclaiming of faith among the bourgeois and the over privileged is the theme I think Waugh thought he was writing about But there is a sense of such loss over their Bohemian innocence And there is a palpable sense of guilt and shame that the Catholicism brings on there doesn t seem to be much mercy in Waugh s God Everything just slowly gets worse and sicker and depressed Perhaps that s why I see the novel as a supreme and beautiful tragedy Even though Charles comes to respect the spiritual belief and even attend to it some, I am still struck by the decay, the corrosion, the purification of the beautiful house Brideshead and of its family, the Flytes.As a gay man and being from a Catholic family although the Flytes are wealthy and we are white trash , I love this book, even as it frustrates me. Brideshead Revisited is almost the opposite of Waugh s own Vile Bodies Bright Young Things in that it starts off as a tragedy, or at least pretty damn close to E M Forster s Maurice territory thus tres tragique and ends in such a jubilant comedic form sorry for this mega old spoiler It seems to me that Waugh is a master of Contrasts, it works all too well the book ends the reader is deeply disappointed that it does I practically ignored most of Seattle as I read a paperback version of this brilliant book.It begins and ends at completely different sides of the spectrum the Oxford years seem idyllic and maudlin, the protagonist has not yet been completely corrupted, though we do become witness to that voyage The second part completely has Charles being both antagonist and sick voyeur He does completely nothing to stop the decay around him which culminates, just as in Vile Bodies , in WW2 All the bourgeois goes under the Oxford crowd is forever dismantled It s drama, comedy, tragedy all in one Quite the accomplishment.I will read this again SOON Evocative and nostalgic tale, infused with religion and homo sexuality, and hence passion, betrayal and guilt The later part, about Charles and Celia and then Charles and Julia is subtle, realistic and sad than the light frivolity of Oxford days.Hollinghurst s The Stranger s Child has many echoes of this review here.It s five years since I last read this, but a few ideas that have come back to me by discussing it elsewhere SEGREGATIONPeople were strongly segregated by class and gender in those days Not only were the schools at least, the sort that Charles and Sebastian attended single sex, so were the colleges at university The fact that people of their background were invariably packed off to boarding school from the age of 7 or 8, not returning until the holidays, created segregation from their parents as well And of course there weren t many scholarship boys to broaden the social mix.HOMOSEXUALITYWhen I first read the book as a naive teenager, I thought the book was somewhat ambiguous about Charles and Sebastian s relationship As an adult, I have no doubt that it was sexual, but that although Sebastian is gay, Charles is towards the straight end of bisexual his attraction, nay obsession, is with the Marchmain family than any individual member of it Naked male friends sunbathing may seem very gay nowadays, but was less so for Charles and Sebastian in Oxford Nudism and health and efficiency were popular at the time, and there was nothing inherently gay about it Kafka was a straight man of the period who was an enthusiast.Also, as recently as the early 1980s there was a men only nudist club on the banks of the river in central Oxford, in famously frequented by dons professors and clergy It may still be there, though if so, it might be mixed sex, as the colleges themselves are If you want to Google it, it was is called Parsons Pleasure ALOYSIUS Sebastian takes his teddy bear to Oxford and treats him as a living pet Although his presence clearly signals a certain immaturity, I suspect that in Sebastian s mind it was at least as much a deliberate ploy to be seen as appealingly eccentric Apparently this element is based on John Betjeman taking his bear, Archibald Ormsby Gore, to Oxford.CATHOLICISMTo me, the Church is portrayed pretty negatively, yet some Catholics see it in a positive light, and Waugh himself converted I m not sure whether that reflects a strength or a weakness in Waugh s writing.Even so, how is this for biting satire, when Lady Marchmain is talking to Charles about her wealth and the perception that wealth can interfere with following Christ It being very rich used to worry me, and I thought it wrong to have so many beautiful things when others had nothing Now I realize that it is possible for the rich to sin by coveting the privileges of the poor The poor have always been the favourites of God and his saints, but I believe that is is one of the special achievements of Grace to sanctify the whole of life, riches included Book 1, Chapter V, p 113 BRIDESHEAD, OXFORD AND MEI have many fond associations with this book I was at secondary school in Oxford a single sex school, where I was a boarder , so know the city well, and something of communal, single sex living I first read the book and also saw the excellent Granada TV adaptation at that time, and had a bit of a crush on Anthony Andrews who played Sebastian. I finished this excellent book weeks ago but I have been stuck on how to review it I sometimes have problems writing about the books I really like, and I loved this novel I was familiar with the plot having seen the 2008 movie, but I didn t expect to love the book as much as I did or to get so completely immersed in the story.I even loved the names of the characters Charles Ryder Sebastian Flyte Julia Flyte Lady Marchmain I was caught up in each person I felt Charles yearning, I understood Sebastian s angst, I admired Julia s sass, and I pitied Lady Marchmain s self righteousness.There is so much brilliant writing in this novel Some of my favorite scenes were that first summer with Charles and Sebastian at Brideshead the comical dinner conversations with Charles father, who was being deliberately obtuse the bumblings of Rex Mottram the lectures from Charles cousin, Jasper and the lively conversations with Anthony Blanche I listened to this on audio, narrated by Jeremy Irons, and it was a superfantasticamazing performance If you like audio books, I highly recommend seeking out that version.One of my goals is to read modern classics, and the richness of this novel shows it is definitely worth the effort.Favorite Quotes I should like to bury something precious in every place where I ve been happy and then, when I m old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember If you asked me now who I am, the only answer I could give with any certainty would be my name For the rest my loves, my hates, down even to my deepest desires, I can no longer say whether these emotions are my own, or stolen from those I once so desperately wished to be But I was in search of love in those days, and I went full of curiosity and the faint, unrecognized apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others, I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city The trouble with modern education is you never know how ignorant people are With anyone over fifty you can be fairly confident what s been taught and what s been left out But these young people have such an intelligent, knowledgeable surface, and then the crust suddenly breaks and you look down into depths of confusion you didn t know existed. Debo decir que siento debilidad por la elegancia, la iron a, el sentido del humor y la mala leche que es frecuente encontrar en las obras de escritores ingleses en las que retratan a su aristocracia y la adaptaci n a la nueva realidad social que tuvieron forzosamente que emprender durante todo el siglo pasado Esta novela es una de ellas La famosa flema inglesa, el decoro por encima de todo, tragedias incluidas, es algo que me fascina y me repele a un tiempo L stima del gran pero que para m tiene el relato Alguien dijo una vez que la religi n es como el vino, hay a quien le sienta bien y a quien le sienta mal En esta novela asistimos al segundo caso al menos eso me pareci durante gran parte de la novela Sin embargo, el final lo cambia todo, tanto lo cambia que me parece un gran lastre para la novela El autor justifica todo lo acaecido a los personajes nada bueno, por cierto en aras de una religiosidad que pone por encima de todo hay que recordar la crisis religiosa del autor, que ya mayorcito se convirti al catolicismo.En fin A n as creo que es una gran novela que cuenta con maravillosos personajes secundarios, como el primog nito Brideshead, el gusano Samgrass, el arribista Rex o la loca Anthony, cuyos di logos me parecen extraordinarios Pena de ese final. Just as Charles Ryder is seduced by the aristocratic Marchmain family in Brideshead Revisited, I was seduced by Evelyn Waugh s gorgeous prose, elegy to lost youth and dreams, and the glamorous between the wars setting The pacing is strange, but it s hinted at in the subtitle The Sacred Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder Memories are sporadic, apt to be uncomprehensive, subjective.Ryder, an officer homeless, childless, middle aged and loveless , is stationed at the magnificent Brideshead estate, and looks back on how his life has intertwined with many of its members first the fey, teddy bear clutching Sebastian, at Oxford, and then, later, with Sebastian s sister Julia.The family is presided over by the understated but quietly manipulative Lady Marchmain a terrifying portrait and gradually Charles learns about all the skeletons rattling away in the family s enormous closets He also comprehends what role the devout grand dame wants him to play in helping save Sebastian from a life of drink and debauchery.I know Waugh is best known as a razor sharp satirist, and there are many funny passages and descriptions in this book Ryder s father, for one, is a hoot But this is a serious book about big issues faith, desire, class, loyalty.I had watched the excellent Granada miniseries, so there were few narrative surprises But Waugh s prose lived up to its reputation It s sophisticated without being pedantic lyrical without being fussy.And although I knew it was coming, the deathbed scene with Lord Marchmain, a garrulous old man who s lived outside the Catholic faith for decades, had me on the proverbial edge of my seat I find it fascinating that Waugh converted to Catholicism later in life Recent biographies have hinted that he may have been a latent, or not so latent, homosexual I wonder if these things were related Many readers get hung up about Charles s relationship with Sebastian Was it sexual There s this passage Now, that summer term with Sebastian, it seemed as though I was being given a brief spell of what I had never known, a happy childhood, and though its toys were silk shirts and liqueurs and cigars and its naughtiness high in the catalogue of grave sins, there was something of nursery freshness about us that fell little short of the joy of innocence.I love that impish word, naughtiness, especially when contrasted with the sombre catalogue of grave sins Certainly there are gay characters in the book, including the fascinating figure of Anthony Blanche, a flamboyant Wildean character who warns Charles early on about the Marchmains and he s pretty accurate.I should add that I read the revised version of the text, with some additions and, apparently, many cuts of florid, overwritten passages I m looking forward to reading Waugh Based on this book, I could happily, naughtily, become a convert. Our narrator, a non Catholic officer based on the home front in World War II Britain, revisits a mansion he first visited as a young man and reflects back on his close relationship with a Catholic family A non Catholic himself, he reports to us about their habits and customs almost as if he were an anthropologist visiting a tribe in the tropical rainforest Not only are Catholics a minority in Britain, but the Anglican Church is the official state sponsored religion It s a great book and, of course, it s been made into a Masterpiece Theater series years ago There are many reviews of this work already, so just to illustrate the excellent writing, I will just say that I think the romantic episode on an ocean liner during a storm at sea her husband is absent his wife is laid up with seasickness is the most romantic passage I can think of in literature. The Most Nostalgic And Reflective Of Evelyn Waugh S Novels, Brideshead Revisited Looks Back To The Golden Age Before The Second World War It Tells The Story Of Charles Ryder S Infatuation With The Marchmains And The Rapidly Disappearing World Of Privilege They Inhabit Enchanted First By Sebastian At Oxford, Then By His Doomed Catholic Family, In Particular His Remote Sister, Julia, Charles Comes Finally To Recognize Only His Spiritual And Social Distance From Them.