I know of these romantic friendships of the English and the Germans. They are not Latin. I think they are very good if they do not go on too long…It is a kind of love that comes to children before they know its meaning. In England it comes when you are almost men; I think I like that. It is better to have that kind of love for another boy than for a girl.’ (Brideshead Revisited, 1.4)
~Said by Cara, the mistress of Sebastian Flyte’s father, to Charles Ryder, Sebastian’s intimate friend.***
I am reading ‘Brideshead Revisited’ as vacation reading, spurred, perhaps, by how struck I was by the movie adaptation of several years ago, and by my fondness for queer history and literature.
I saw the 2008 film when it came out, but didn’t get around to reading the book until now. So my impression of BR was that it was a story with homosexual themes, because that element is certainly played up in the film adaptation, with the tentative, heady kiss between Sebastian and Charles shown in the above clip. I am not surprised that there was no such kiss in the book, which was published in 1945 and was widely read; kisses between men were not the sort of thing that would make a post-war novel popular. But I have been surprised to read some very overt mentions of homosexuality, of men referring to themselves as ‘inverts,’ and others talking about the passionate friendships between young men.
The quote above illustrates of some of the attitudes that others show towards Charles and Sebastian, in that there exists a level of tolerance for close intimacy between two male friends (probably greater tolerance than would be shown towards two young male friends today), as long as everyone understands that such friendships do not persist past adolescence.
In the text, Sebastian is portrayed as childlike (though not innocent), with his overblown enthusiasms and his whimsical affectations, like carrying a teddy bear upon whom he can project his own disavowed feelings. Charles appears the more mature, the steadier one of the two of them. But, as I arrive at the passages where Sebastian’s enthusiasm turns to despair, I wonder if it’s not so much a case of a little boy who doesn’t want to grow up, à la Peter Pan, but rather the incipient despair of a man who realizes that the love he has so freely enjoyed will soon be forbidden him. And what would make a man dread the coming of adulthood more than being told that adulthood means renunciation of bodily pleasures, rather than the enjoyment of such? I pity Sebastian, caught as he is between two impossible paths, and on top of all that, with the threat of sin hanging heavy on him.
No wonder he turns to drink, to the oblivion of the bottle! These are the paths that lead to madness, these somber renunciations of desires that are anything but infantile.
Photos from Castle Howard, Yorkshire. Exterior location for TV and film versions of Brideshead Revisited.
Throwing all my hate at the Brideshead Revisited movie. I should stop trolling the BR tag. To turn Evelyn Waugh’s beautiful prose into something that a drunk teenager could have written. It just pisses me off. YOU COULDN’T EVEN SAVE THE NARRATIVE, arses.
Evelyn Waugh (via misswallflower)
Not Evelyn Waugh. I repeat: not Evelyn Waugh. The 2008 ‘Brideshead’ movie, yes, but not Evelyn Waugh.
I shouldn’t be doing this. I should be sleeping. But here you have it, in a nutshell.
Alternate subtitle: We ruined your dreams.
I’ve like been watching this Ben Whishaw interview one houndred times the last couple of days, I can sit and just stare at his beautiful, precious face and delightful, deep expressions and listen to his soft, beautiful voice all day long, that’s all I do sometimes. Search, find him.. stare, try to find out what he’s really thinking. Oh, I love the moment where he’s asked about if he got inspired to do a painting.. he’s so very artistic.
While I do not share rapunzelsonnets’s feelings, the interview is definitely curious.
Castle Howard. England.
most of it was built from 1699-1712.
Castle Howard. England
not really a castle. (well that’s a little bit of false advertising, huh?)
Castle Howard, England. Destination 40.
one of the grandest private residencies in Britain.
By Steve Bergsman
I started reading the books of the English writer Evelyn Waugh just a few years ago when I discovered his dry British humor and sardonic observations in such books as “Scoop” and “Vile Bodies.” I never picked up his most popular novel, “Brideshead Revisited,” however, for two reasons: It was a more serious turn of literature for Waugh, and I had seen the popular “Masterpiece Theater” production starring Jeremy Irons when it appeared on U.S. television in the early 1980s as well as the more recent cinematic production starring Emma Thompson.
Both productions used the same manor house, Castle Howard outside York, England, as the location for what cinematically was called Brideshead. Although it is still in use today as the home of Simon Howard and his family, the mansion is open for visitation. The day I was there, the parking lot was full of people who had come to walk through the extensive grounds and gardens, to visit an extraordinary mansion with its great art, and to see a home so closely associated with “Brideshead Revisited” and its cinematic incarnations.
When I asked a tour guide whether Castle Howard was the location Waugh had in mind when he wrote or the association came later, his response was, “Certain references to “Brideshead” in the book suggest this home was the inspiration for the fictional manse, but there is no record of Waugh ever visiting Castle Howard before writing his book.”
Since the 1960s, Castle Howard has been used as a location for many film and television productions. The house, the beautiful grounds and wider estate are all ideal settings for costume dramas, feature films and documentaries. These pages have information on Castle Howard’s starring role on the big screen.
If you are interested in using Castle Howard as a location please visit our Location Filming & Photography pages.
Why does Brideshead Revisited have such a strong hold on our imagination? Evelyn Waugh’s beautiful dialogue plays its part, argues Christopher Hitchens, but the chief source of the novel’s power is its summoning of innocence lost on the fields of Flanders. Never mind that the new film version is a travesty: go back to the book
- The Guardian, Saturday 27 September 2008
As I drove away from a California screening of the new film version of Brideshead Revisited, I was amused to overhear the comments of my companions from the back seat. “I thought the one who played Jeremy Irons was a bit thin …” “I liked the Anthony Andrews character better … ” It is more than a quarter of a century since the late William F Buckley introduced the Granada TV series to the American viewers of the Public Broadcasting System, and the residual effect is one of what Harold Isaacs once called “scratches on the mind”: a very durable if sometimes vague cultural impression. (My son was born in 1984 and as I was carrying a teddy bear home, and happening that day to be wearing a white linen suit, I was astonished by the number of passers-by in Washington DC who shouted “Hi Sebastian!” at me as I tooled along.)