We are two part-time academics. Ellen teaches in the English department and Jim in the IT program at George Mason University.

Mesmerized by _Brideshead_ all over again · 30 October 07

Dearest Marianne,

I began rewatching Brideshead Revisited (directed by Charles Sturridge and Michael Lindsay-Hogg, screenplay John Mortimer, based on Evelyn Waugh’s novel) a few nights ago, and have found myself just bowled over all over again.

Sebastian Flyte (Anthony Andrews) and Charles Ryder (Jeremy Irons) wandering in the conservatory gardens (Brideshead Revisited (Granada 1981)

The film is different from other mini-series and it’s not just the green landscapes (Oxford, Venice, the great house & so on). It is bold—and just shameless, really shameless as it pulls out not simply every stop of nostalgia, but nostalgia for not just a dream of an England that never was. For example, the first time Charles sees Brideshead, it’s of a grand room already under wraps and in the dark:

But what we yearn for is the love we dream we can know (and maybe do for a few weeks when we are still young enough—you must be under 30), deep companionship, the euphoric good time, freedom from worrying about where you are placing. All this.

Yes what’s tongue-in-cheek and ironic refers to the classic or mythic manifestations of the Arcadian disillusioned England of art and literature, especially in the occasional ironic line given to Laurence Olivier as Lord Marchmain or Anthony Blanche (Nickolas Grace). But the powerful early content comes from Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder standing there face open in front of Anthony Andrews as Sebastian Flyte and both faces and bodies reciprocating. Here they are, just a moment later, when Charles hhas flung his coat on Sebastian’s lap; as Charles pushes, Sebastian directs their way:

The content is a small part of what makes it bold and different. It’s the music, silly (by Geoffrey Burgon). And Jeremy Irons’s voice with those resonant narrator’s lines. How few incidents we are given in each episode, how small they are in nature, and how slow the pace of the hour. Most mini-series have a lot of scenes and activity. The second episode was a travelogue of Venice as all say—accompanied by the drippingly kind tones of Lord Marchmain’s ever-so-respectable mistress, Cara (Stephane Audran) and her minor Italian aristocratic (Count Guzzolli played by Victor Baring) with connections to get them in wherever they wanted.

I do admit by the fourth viewing (I watched the series twice in the 1980s and once again in the early 1990s), the series does begin to seem thin by Episode 3. Not everyone yearns to be in a homoerotic Oxford of the 1920s. But then Sebastian’s tragedy begins in earnest, and I found it unbearably painful to watch. If anything I am responding more deeply this time to this story of the broken or unable young man turned alcoholic more than I did the first time I saw it. I am gripped far more forcibly than I’ve ever been that I can remember.

The causes of Sebastian’s self-destruction are not made explicit. I identify, & recognize aspects of experiences I’ve known. Charles says Sebastian drinks to escape; I drink to cheer myself up. And what cruelty comes out of Lady Marchmain’s mouth (Claire Bloom, and just perfect, inimitable), with her steely face once she dismisses Charles. Hers is a variant on the suddenly snarling or half-jeering closed face I referred to & have met whenever I’ve tried to what’s called advance myself, get a place somewhere for something that mattered (especially if connected with money). But she as domineering mother (note the anti-feminism) is but one thread.

The other, more important, is the unspoken one about what to do when one finishes Oxford. What to do with one’s life. How to earn a living? It’s what’s not said: Sebastian is surrounded by people managing to succeed, and how difficult, tenuous and problematic is that success: Charles by his ironic father’s allowance (John Gielguld is extraordinary in the coldness he implies); Bridey (Simon Jones) by his rank and as heir; Samgrass (John Grillo) through plausible (utterly believable) sycophancy; and most of all, the apparently obtuse Rex Mottram (Charles Keating) who Julia Flyte (another innocent aristocrat, played by Diana Quick who alas does not physically resemble Anthony Andrews) describes (condescendingly!) as someone who has “friends” “in the city” and among “members of Parliament.” It’s Rex who gets Sebastian off in a trial; and it’s Rex who knows of a terrible place, asylum he calls it, to send alcoholics and depressives to (said to “cure” them in just 3 months). Brilliant ironic touch, that. It would destroy Sebastian altogether. He’d be tied up and bullied ruthlessly.

One funny or peculiar element in the film is the Catholicism. The book is actually at its literal core about how Charles Ryder converts to Catholicism. I feel the film-makers are partly embarrassed by this theme, and awkward; they can link it to Charles Ryder as an artist in love with Baroque, someone who paints rococo pictures on walls of conservatories in great houses. But more revealingly, just like in almost every film adaptation I’ve ever watched, they have reversed the book’s meaning. Waugh means us to see religion as giving meaning to a nihilistic world; in this film it’s the Catholicism of the mother, the family surrounding Sebastian, the inner world view which is too austere and about sin and yet counsels failure, all of which surrounds Sebastian: this is what the film explicitly admits to is killing Sebastian. I may be wrong but wondered if the film partly relies on old English Protestant suspicion of Catholicism. This makes me laugh as I say: no matter what the theme of the book, the film-makers reverse it. My little moral is: it goes to show how different the audience for just about all books is from the much larger audience for movies :)

Through the lens of David Cannadine’s Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy, the movie is directly relevant to the 1974 BBC The Pallisers. Remember that Anthony Andrews played Silverbridge and Jeremy Irons, the close wandering-poet-idealist conservative Tory friend, Frank Tregear (a very different conception than Trollope’s character). Sebastian would be all right if he could stand hunting; if only he could bear to support Catholic priests in their exclusionary clubbing together of other Catholic youth in Oxford, he could have stayed. It’s to his credit he can’t bear either. Meanwhile the film-makers get to please the status-hunters by filming a real hunt (red jackets, packs of dogs, and the fox all all).

The ironic undercutting statement: Contra mundi are the words of Sebastian and Charles’s friendship pact.

And meanwhile during the day at odd moments I hear the theme music: the type, the music that frames a mini-series of the quality type is called anamnesic music. It pulses, now slow, now fast, and the melody is all allurement. Supercreamy. Yes, shamelessly laid on. I shall put some of Anthony Hecht’s very great Proustian poem, Venetian Vespers on this blog soon.

Here is the inimitable closing moment of the 1st episode: Irons’s voice-over is heard: “How I like to remember Sebastian as he was that summer when we wandered alone through that enchanted palace:”

The last few nights have been the type where I can’t read. I am too tired: I reread the same 3 pages over and over. I feel so bad that I don’t carry on with my women’s memoirs project. I don’t put poetry on this blog nor women’s pictures and art any more. The movie-watching takes up all my serious time and energy. But out of it I may write a Jane Austen book, It’s an Ill Wind That Blows Nobody Any Good. How galvanized I’d be.

And then back to women’s memoirs.


Posted by: Ellen

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  1. I’ve also recently re-watched Brideshead Revisited; and am very interested in your comments, which have given me a great deal to think over and clarified many aspects of the drama for me. I am overwhelmed by this series each time I watch it, and do agree that there is a mood of shameless nostalgia. The haunting music and the sheer beauty of the landscapes, and most of the actors, combine to create a sunlit intensity removed from everyday life.

    Since watching the series, I’ve looked back at the book, although I didn’t reread it all… and I see that, in a rather embarrassed preface added in 1959, Waugh at once criticises and defends himself for this mood of nostalgia, describing how he wrote the book while on leave from the military during the Second World War and commenting:

    “It was a bleak period of soya beans and Basic English – and in consequence the book is infused with a kind of gluttony, for food and wine, for the splendours of the recent past, and for rhetorical and ornamental language, which now with a full stomach I find distasteful.”

    He also obliquely criticises some of the religious passages and says he wouldn’t have later included them in a realistic novel.

    I don’t know how somebody who is a Catholic would find all the religious imagery, but, as a non-believer, I have found myself reading and watching ‘Brideshead’ against the grain, and seeing the religion as destroying rather than enhancing lives. I do wonder how much Waugh actually intended this reading himself, however much he and his characters protest the contrary – nobody really seems to end up happy or at peace.

    Having said this, I do agree that the TV adaptation makes the religion even less attractive than it is in the book, and I’m struck by your thought of the TV version somehow playing on traditional English suspicion of Catholicism. A particularly horrible moment is where Lady Marchmain is reading out a story from Chesterton’s ‘Father Brown’, and continues to read on even after a drunken, sobbing Sebastian has burst into the room and made a scene.

    My problem with both the book and the series of ‘Brideshead’ is that I find it hard to care about Charles’ relationship with Julia, once Sebastian disappears. In particular, the thought of Charles loving Sebastian “in” Julia, or of the brother being the “forerunner” for the sister, is quite chilling – the replacement of a gay relationship with a straight one.
    It strikes me that the Merchant-Ivory production of Maurice, made in 1987, a few years after Brideshead;, seems indirectly to answer this in a scene where Hugh Grant’s character, Clive, feels he should get a girlfriend and apparently makes tentative advances to the sister of his beloved, Maurice (James Wilby). Maurice is furious and reacts violently, forcibly kissing Clive on the mouth so that he draws blood, before bursting into tears. He doesn’t want to be replaced. I haven’t as yet read Forster’s book, but do feel that this production may have been influenced by and in some ways an answer to Brideshead Revisited. (Wilby and Grant had already starred together in a student movie called Privileged; which was released directly after Brideshead, and which, as far as I remember, had very much the same mood, set in a mixture of Oxford and country houses, although it seems to have been forgotten.)

    Jumping back to Brideshead, It’s surely ironic in some way that Sebastian is so determined to find and keep faith with his friend Kurt, who all the others regard as “awful”, while his rich family doesn’t go after him with the same determination. (And daring of Waugh to make this character a German army deserter.) In real life, I wouldn’t criticise anyone for giving up on a friend or relative under these circumstances – Sebastian himself wants to get away from them, and they can’t force him to get treatment for his alcoholism – but in terms of this novel it seems a problem that one of the main characters simply disappears. (This is also what I thought about the TV production of The Jewel in the Crown, where Hari Kumar and Daphne Manners disappear after the opening episodes, and it was hard to care so much about the other people who came afterwards.)

    When Julia gives up Charles to save her immortal soul, I’m not moved as I feel I should be, and don’t have much sympathy for either of them. The religious renunciation of romantic love is also a theme in Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, and in Graham Greene, particularly The End of the Affair; but somehow I find it more moving in these works, perhaps because it is all mixed up with death.

    I could go on, and on – but will stop here, especially as I have to be at work at 6am tomorrow! Thank you again for your wonderful blog.:)
    Judy    Oct 31, 5:24pm    #
  2. What you say about “the euphoric good time, freedom from worrying about where you are placing” reminds, me, oddly I wonder, of John Fowles'S Daniel Martin, which starts off very green (all those Dorset combes) and hopeful (the glittering prizes of Oxbridge). I can’t think that Fowles had Waugh in mind – and yet how could he not have done?
    R J Keefe    Nov 1, 9:32am    #
  3. In response to Judy,

    On the religion, Catholicism, and Lady Marchmain: the film adaptation makes the mother really horrible; it’s brilliant the way on the surface she seems the nicest and kindest and most reasonable of women. The occasional dropping of the mask and sudden cruel language is profoundly effective.

    I don’t know enough about The Father Brown stories, only that I’d like to add to your comment there my father (born a Catholic in a Polish Catholic family) used to say Chesterton’s Father Brown stories were particularly cruel and pernicious; he called them perverse, twisted. I’ve never read even one, but a few years ago I repicked up the (Protestant) Screwtape Letters by C. W. Lewis: in my 20s I was actually impressed by the book’s candor and relationship to Paradise Lost; now I realized it’s a worship of death, repression, and is fearful and (hateful) on sex and women’s sexuality. Maybe there is something here in how religion can be turned to awful uses.

    How about the idea these film adaptations of novel which take place before WW1 allows for contemporary critiques of religion not allowed in public media. So Love for Lydia, 13 episodes (instead of 11) from a similar length single novel present fundamentalist religious people as dangerous narrow-minded cruel bigots. A book, J. L. Carr’s A Month in the Country, and then film adaptation released to cinemas, seems to me influenced by scenes in Love for Lydia. The church scenes in Carr's story are strikingly like those in the film adaptation of Love for Lydia. It might be the books allowed for these critiques, and in the earlier mini-series this theme was even daringly advanced? I realize for BR you’d have really to think Waugh was unconsciously exposing Catholicism.

    I’ve not seen Maurice but agree with you strongly that what actor plays a part is a central way of presenting ideas across films. Now watching BR, I have to agree it has been centrally influential: it is different and struck chords. While the homosexuality remains implicit (not explicit), it’s surely there strongly and unusually. It’s never mentioned, but Sebastian also defies the sexual norms. We never see him in a relationship with a woman. I don’t remember the book that well, but in the book I think Charles does turn to Julia, and yes as a female version of Sebastian. It seems so much using people, but I knew a woman whose 12 year daughter died of diabetes; she immediately got pregnant and had another child (she had two others too). It seems so inhumane to say one person can substitute for another, but she was really made more content and it eased her grief; at the same time, she never forgot her older and dead daughter and kept pictures of her on the mantelpiece and would talk of her as if she were still alive (on occasion).

    I just watched Episode 5 of BR, and agree the power of the series seems to go when Sebastian disappears. I’m listening to the The Jewel in The Crown and have almost got to the end of the first volume, and the power of that story is Daphne Manners, Hari Kumar, the rape, Ronald Merrick’s cruelty (torturing) and hatred of the man who is “beneath” him racially being “above” him because he went to the elite English school. (Paul Scott was more gay than he was bisexual and he too went to a lower type school.) Ronald Merrick is a central presence for Scott. To my taste, as an ethical character Merrick represents all that has gone profoundly wrong in western societies.

    But what I wanted to say was about Sebastian. I’ve been reading books on types of self-injury or self-harm. The focus or explanation is placed on the family of the person as in the books I’ve read on anorexia. There is a cross-over: the predominant types who self-injure in the US are white, female, from middle to upper class families (that doesn’t fit me) but also well-educated; people who self-injure often have eating disorders. It's said Diana Spencer self-injured (she made a heavy regular use of extreme laxatives: every two weeks she'd go to experts to have enemas put in her, a variant of this behavior), and that she was bulimic.

    One of my three books argues that self-injury is a coping mechanism. You calm yourself that way (I recognize that all right). Alcoholism (which Sebastian takes up) is a coping mechanism: it frees him from having to involve himself in a world where Rex Mottram’s values are those which enable people to survive and thrive when they are not born in the right places. It’s a barrier against his family. Thus it’s not simply self-destructive. To take up with Kurt is to protect himself even if Kurt demands a high price in isolation and (in front of Kurt) humilation.

    Reading these books on self-injury are ways of understanding. Not that the truth sets anyone free or even changes us very much. But it’s a help, a relief to see that it’s not my fault altogether, to understand how these behaviors emerge, to see that they afflict others—lots of others for self-injury includes tattooing, piercings and then in cultures at large terrible things inflicted on others like female circumcision (this would be the family hitting at the center, crippling the girlchild for life).

    What does this have to do with Sebastian? I believe I respond so deeply to the series because his case is a metaphor or can operate metaphorically for anyone hit at the center of their being, the very heart of their personality type by their family because particularly the mother and father can’t stand the type or don’t understand the type the child is.

    The books also show the family members abuse the child, not in obvious ways (so the Lady Marchmain character is perfect as a representation of this), but badly enough to wound them permanently, maim them. The parent goes after the child to make up for losses he or she can’t bear. In Lady Marchmain’s case she lost the husband to another woman.

    I wonder how much others watching the series and so gripped find in the Sebastian story a metaphor of aspects of their own case. I have a hunch this has not been discussed openly anywhere. I like to write openly because my idea (hopeless, naive, foolish) is that someone else who is alone and thinks he or she is crazy or inferior or is filled with self-berating thoughts can come across someone else in cyberspace and feel better to see someone like themselves.

    I suggest thinking about this vein in peoples' lives can help us understand why Sebastian is such a powerful figure and why when he disappears, the gut center of the film and novel vanishes. Julia giving up Charles to save her immortal soul leaves me cold. I can’t see any inner meaning to that except (like you) reacting against the Catholicism and religion that Waugh intended me to respect (but as you say the book and film show no one at peace).

    I feel Julia remains a minor character in the novel and film. She is never central or analyzed convincingly. This is not atypical for mini-series films. Love for Lydia is ostensibly about a femme fatale at the center; but she is the least analyzed of the characters. Those the author & film-maker care about are the young men who chase after Lydia, two of whom die in failed efforts to start a life (the young man who goes to live near fundamentalists who murder him after they have tried to drive him to marry a repressed half-crazed daughter often beaten) or from alcholism (Jeremy Irons plays this role). So there are many films which connect to Brideshead; some deliberately (Maurice); some because made at the same time and in the same genre, mini-series (Love for Lydia).

    What none of these deal with is the young woman who experiences a variant of Sebastian’s case.

    Elinor    Nov 1, 10:05pm    #
  4. IN response to RJ, I agree that Fowler must’ve had the sort of thing Waugh wrote in mind, even if this particular novel was not in his mind specifically. So too John Cheever would turn to the subgenre or type of novel Waugh wrote. These would include Graham Greene’s, Lawrence Durrell’s, the whole group Fussell deals with in his book, Abroad on male travel writers.

    The upper class tradition in American poetry and novels is not much discussed. It’s rarely shown in movies: Whit Stillman is one of the few who have dared; his trilogy (one of which is known as an adaptation of an Austen novel, Metropolitan) are about young men trying to place, succeeding partly or partly retreating from the pressure.

    Elinor    Nov 1, 10:14pm    #
  5. I watched Episode 6 last night, the one where Charles finds Sebastian in Morocco: Sebastian is living with a total down-and-out ignorant, helpless (very nervous), desperate but eager-to-bully if he could homeless man, Kurt.

    The first time I saw this episode I felt my memory seared for a long time to come, and indeed the one scene I remembered most vividly, indeed almost at all (along with Olivier’s theatrical dying as Lord Marchmain), is the one where Sebastian, sick & weak as he is, kneels down beneath a bed to fetch cigarettes for Kurt. It’s an act of open self-humiliation. He says “it’s his job.” He is grateful to have a job, to be of use to someone. Kurt slightly gleefully agrees: “I reckon it’s Sebastian’s job.” I was horrified, but then I was still young and could be effected more easily by films. Films are also franker today.

    This time I simply felt shock, for I knew what was coming & the humiliation seemed far more minor—I’ve lived a bit since then (as an adjunct) you see: seen my employment folder thrown out and I therefore at risk of losing my job if I made a self-mortifying fuss; been given terrible schedules, including one term just one section which was ont advertised in the book and where I was given a tiny hole-in-the-wall room in an out-of-the-way arts room with no window which was locked most of the time (I had to get a key from the secretary to open it some mornings), and (the most recent fun wrinkle) have to wait until two days before term ends to get my sections so all the others in the department may feel superior to the adjuncts and give a sense a power to those heading the committee which surveys individual adjunct folders each term. These are minor really, I've seen much worse both on my own account before (private life of which I do not speak) and for others and in films. Today for example, in a letter from a friend she tells me of another friend who now leaves in a shelter for the homeless. My friend says this woman will probably not be able to get out of this hole. No one will help her; it's not to their interest. She's lost out. Sebastian after all is going to get a quarterly allowance which will be doled out to him weekly. Without that he and Kurt would not have their snug hidden flat, nor would Kurt stick around.

    I also this time round felt the depiction of the 1926 strike was all from the upper class point of view (even if sceptical and showing boy Mulcaster, the Upper Class Obnoxious Male, to be a moral fool), and found the presentation of Morocco naive, yes a bit of decorative orientalism in the way Said describes it.

    Nonetheless, the scene still had power and remains the most important moment in the series, the climax of it for me, with all else denouement.

    Elinor    Nov 3, 8:13am    #
  6. From Judy:

    “I was instead thinking over your comments on Brideshead, Sebastian and self-harming. (This whole theme of self-destruction, and why it is so central and so powerful in many works, is something I brood over a
    lot, though I never seem to come to any conclusions.)

    Anyway, I was wondering if perhaps Julia is supposed to be seen as
    self-destructive too, both in marrying Rex in the first place, and then in sending Charles away. As I said in my rambling comments on your blog, her religious self-sacrifice leaves me cold – but it now strikes me that I could find it more interesting if I look at it apart from religion, so to speak, and see her as deliberately condemning herself to unhappiness, creating a vengeful God in her own image. (I too think Sebastian drinks to make himself unhappy rather than happy.)

    However, I do agree that she isn’t really a fully-realised character and is pale in comparison to Sebastian. In the later chapters/scenes, I was constantly waiting for mention of him, and the moment where he gets the cigarettes for Kurt made a strong impression on me too. I could see the humiliation, but also felt that here it was the two of them against the world, as earlier it had been Charles and Sebastian. Both Sebastian and Julia send Charles away.

    Something I find rather hard to take in ‘Brideshead’ is the way Celia is made to seem so awful – and, in particular, the moment where Charles says to her “Why did you call your new baby Caroline?” – as though the baby had nothing to do with him. In a novel agonising over adultery, it seems a bit of a cop-out that both Rex and Celia are such superficial characters, without any real feelings which we need to worry about. This is a bit like the way Hardy makes Arabella so unsympathetic in Jude – surely it should be possible to show a
    failed marriage without turning the unwanted husband or wife into a
    caricature. (I seem to be becoming very critical of the books I love – probably because these are the books I spend most time thinking

    I was interested in what you had to say about Father Brown. I’ve never
    read any of these stories, but what I’d mainly heard about them is
    that they are anti-Semitic and reactionary. I have read a piece by
    Chesterton about a Catholic family spending Christmas in a country
    house, which was very much in love with a feudal past, a dream of an
    aristocracy adored by their servants and tenants in what you rightly describe as an England that never was.

    Elinor    Nov 4, 7:12am    #
  7. I just watched another episode of BR (8: Charles travels and paints, meets wife on board ship, begins romance with Julia, now parted from Rex and having just got over an affair herself). This is one of the flat ones where I feel I’m marking time. As I recall, Celia is not that developed in the book either. The one justification for the way the episode where he meets his wife again and behaves so coldly to her is that we are to see he is a man who has lost the deepest love of his life in Sebastian, and has turned off all other people.

    It’s probably endowing the fiction with too much reality, but one could see Charles as the product of a cold loveless home, an agnostic (the novel is supposed to be pro-Catholicism), and he finds deep attachment and warmth, and art with Sebastian at Oxford and then Brideshead and then it’s all destroyed. He travels about painting to find some meaning; he feels nothing for anyone but Julia eventually and Julia because she looks like Sebastian; she’s a substitute.

    Edward told me that (I didn’t know this) Morocco in the 1970s and 1980s was seen as a mecca for gay men. He said Joe Orton upon making money went to live there with the man who eventually murdered him. The series even denies that Kurt and Sebastian are lovers (Bridey asks Charles if they are “vicious”), but this is a kind of sop to the conventional viewer. We see nothing of Morocco but the diplomat and the hospital (where we are supposed to see the priest is better at taking care of Sebastian than the doctor); Edward suggested that a gay person watching the show would know this is “a coded” episode, and if it weren’t partly disguised, we’d see other gay male couples. If you connect Venice which in literature is connected to homosexuality, then this is a novel about a deathless gay love between two young men, one of whom survives to the end. Consider how Anthony Blanche is a caricature of a raving queen. Army life is homoerotic so Hooper is a final insult from the modern world for poetic Charles Ryder. I don’t know if this is convincing; I throw it out as a possibility that Waugh meant to write a novel about homosexual young men. He makes Lady Marchmain a horror and Lord Marchmain's mistress is every man’s dream woman who asks nothing and serves him utterly with courtesy and grace. But he kept it under wraps, was far less frank than Forster in Maurice (not published in Forster’s lifetime). In the 1940s when Waugh wrote the novel, homosexuality was still a crime. Simon Raven’s Fielding Gray (published 1945) is an extraordinarily brave book (and one I recommend even if it’s a very hard book—it’s deeply and effectively utterly disillusioned).

    Perhaps we are not to admire Charles but see both and he and Sebastian’s human limitations. I know nothing about Waugh’s sexuality.

    Even so the film becomes thin when Sebastian drops out and is very unfair to Celia—as it is to Rex. Both of them are people complicit with worldliness, networkers. It’s a copout about adultery or betrayal of love relationships, but also about making it in the real world: where would they all be without money (Sebastian and his allowance, Charles’ advantages in going to Oxford and making a career because he knows how to).

    In this sense H.E. Bates’s novel and the film adaptation, Love for Lydia is honester: it too has male characters trying to survive and build lives or careers and only one makes it, and he really does only because he makes the right connection in London and is told to return north to where his real material lies.

    Elinor    Nov 4, 7:15am    #
  8. From Edward who has read about Waugh and (I know) has read many of Waugh’s novels:

    1) Waugh had a period in Oxford where he was taken up with a highly intelligent and homosexual crowd who dazzled him. The feel is he asked himsefl, “Where have you been all my life?” To be with people like this makes life worth living (it’s interesting and offers real pleasure). At this time Waugh had a number of affairs with homosexual men.

    2) But Waugh didn’t do well in his academc career because he did throw himself into this group (who included Brian Howard upon whom Anthony Blanche is partly based). So he found himself with a 3rd or worse and could not get a decent job. His father was a publisher though and he wrote Vile Bodies (a success d’estime) and then Decline and Fall (a success d’argent), and the father knew how to market them. Waugh did teach for a time—out of a need for money.

    3) Sometime in the 30s Waugh was taken up by a Catholic family; through these people he met his second wife, Laura. The first wife had betrayed him by having lovers and there had been a devastating divorce. To divorce in this era and have to go public could be a horrible humiliating experience. Waugh and Laura gradually built a stable peaceful life in Somerset.
    Waugh converted.

    So BR combines the homosexual experience with the Catholic.

    However, we should not forget the screenplay is by John Mortimer. The film adaptation is by Mortimer, and I will hazard a guess that like just about every film adaptation I've ever watched, the author changes much from book to film. I’ve read Paradise Postponed and Summer’s Lease (and I did see the film adaptation of the first and think I did of the second), and can vouch for Mortimer buying deeply into this idea of the heritage of the aristocracy being ever so valuable (rather like Cannadine in the vast book we are supposedly reading on Trollope-l). Mortimer also loathes the hypocrisies upon which middle class morality are based, and he shows the world as made up of cliques, where middle class ones are left outside (Paradise Postponed); he is much kinder to and more interested in women’s worlds than Waugh seems to be (from Summer’s Lease which has a middle class heroine seeking to have a pleasurable holiday at its center).

    Elinor    Nov 5, 5:59am    #

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