Monday, April 21, 2008

Things of Happiness: Brideshead Revisited

I slacked last week and forgot to post something of happiness, but I'll make up for it this week perhaps and post twice. At the moment I am having a kind of secret panic attack as I have lost my favorite copy of this week's thing, but I know it must be around here somewhere. If not, I don't know what I'll be capable of.

This week's thing is Brideshead Revisited. I grew up with this book and the miniseries (the 2008 movie version is heresy and I am ignoring it's existence angrily and with bitter, bitter vexation). Every year, usually around this time of year, my mother and I pop the DVDs and curl up with lots of tea and brioche toast with jelly and watch every episode in immediate succession. I love it so much it makes me want to cry just thinking about. The book is wonderfully heartbreaking and the miniseries actually matches it, a feat that almost never happens. I've considered that were I to get a tattoo it would be Brideshead related, or Les Miserables, since it is one of very few obsessions that have carried through my whole life.

"He told me and, on the instant, it was as though someone had had switched off the wireless, and a voice that had been bawling in my ears, incessantly, fatuously, for days beyond number, had suddenly been cut short; and immense silence followed, empty at first, but gradually, as my outraged sense regained authority, fill of a multitude of sweet and natural and long-forgotten sounds--for he had spoken a name that was so familiar to me, a conjurer's name of such ancient power, that, at its mere sound, the phantoms of those haunted late years began to take flight."

Aesthetically, it's nothing but deliciously appealing. Of course everyone loves Sebastian because he is deliriously beautiful, wears white suits and carries around a teddy bear (not to mention, spoiled, blonde, possibly gay, and British is almost unfalteringly my type) and spirals tragically downward until I think I just might perish of sadness. Besides him, I love the look of the movie. Castle Howard is huge and gorgeous, Julia's clothes are generally hideous but she has the greatest 20s haircut and is really beautiful. Oxford, Venice, it's all fantastically beautiful and I can't stand it. It makes me want to go punting, take up smoking, drink champagne, eat berries, and sit by fountains.

Sadly, I've had a hard time finding many pictures from it, if I ever decide to cap it myself then we'll have something, but in the meantime I have plenty of Charles, Sebastian, and Aloysious. Also, in the time it took for write this post, I found my book. It was in the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings section of my bookshelf, which though the Oxford connection to the latter makes it appropriate, it does not go there.

"I knew Sebastian by sight long before I met him. That was unavoidable for, from his first week, he was the most conspicuous man of his year by reason of his beauty, which was arresting, and his eccentricities of behaviour which seemed to know no bounds. My first sight of him was as we passed in the door of the Germer's, and, on that occasion, I was struck less by his looks than by the fact that he was carrying a large Teddy-bear."

"She is one thing only, Renaissance tragedy [...] Dogs and children love her, other girls love her--my dear she's a fiend--a passionless, acquisitive, intriguing, ruthless killer. I wonder if she's incestuous. I doubt it, all she wants is power. There ought to be an inquisition especially set up to burn her."

"There's another sister, too, I believe, in the schoolroom. Nothing is known of her except that her governess went mad and drowned herself not long ago."

"Living in sin, with sin, by sin, for sin, every hour, every day, year in, year out. Waking up with sin in the morning, clipping diamonds to it, feeding it, showing it round, giving it a good time, putting it to sleep at night with a tablet of Dial if it's fretful. Always the same, like an idiot child carefully nursed, guarded from the world. 'Poor Julia,' they say, 'she can't go out. She's got to take care of her little sin. A pity it ever lived,' they say, 'but it's so strong. Children like that always are. Julia's so good to her little, mad sin.'"

"'I don't want to make it easier for you,' I said; ' I hope your heart may break; but I do understand.'"

Et in Arcadia Ego.


  1. I want to read this now. Good thing summer is coming and I'll have time.

  2. This is one of my all-time 'favourite things' too. I shall be posting a blog account this weekend about the film which is released on Friday. At first I was going to boycot the film; especially when I heard that it isn't at all true to the novel and takes enormous liberties with the storyline. However; I just watched the entire TV series again for the seventh time since 1981 and now I want to make a comparison.

    I'm old enough to have seen the TV series in 1981 when it was first shown on British television and nothing has touched me so profoundly since. I had a Brideshead theme for my 21st birthday in 1982 and have visited Castle Howard many times since. It is especially poignant for me now to realize that both Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews are sixty years old! Even 'pretty young things' have to fade, unfortunately!

  3. Aren't all we somehow bridesheadians???

    Marry Christmass!

  4. I've discovered Brideshead perhaps a year ago, since then I've read it I-don't-know-how-many-times (last time just this weekend), seen the TV series (few times)... Although I'm quite young, it is for me a reminiscence of the world long gone but still very desirable.. For a central-european like myself it represents the quintessence of the old "english charm", which is - although for few only - attractive till this days...

  5. great entry! found it when i was searching for pictures of sebastian for my bachelor's thesis actually:) always fun to see someone else who loves brideshead revisited as much as i do!

  6. oh my! i bought a dress off you on etsy and when i searched for images of the 1982 brideshead i came across this! my goodness what a lovely blog and post... one of the wonderful little occurrences of fate in life. i'm so thrilled to discover you have a blog :)