Sebastian’s Aloysius made the news twice this week. In the bookblog InterestingLiterature, he is mentioned in connection with John Betjeman’s poem “Archibald.” This poem is among Betjeman’s 10 best (i.e., most readable) poems, as selected by the blog:
Archibald Ormsby-Gore was, according to Betjeman, the one person who never let him down. Archibald was also, famously, a teddy bear – and the inspiration for Sebastian Flyte’s teddy Aloysius in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. This poem reflects Betjeman’s fondness for his stuffed toy, and helps to explain why Betjeman became, for Britain, ‘the nation’s teddy bear’. Archibald, and Betjeman’s toy elephant Jumbo, were in his arms when he died in 1984.
The poem was not included in the original 1958 Collected Poems compiled by Freddy Birkenhead but does appear in the posthumous Uncollected Poems (1982) and in the more recent 2006 edition of Collected Poems with an introduction by Andrew Motion. Here are the first and last verses:
The bear who sits above my bed
A doleful bear he is to see;
From out his drooping pear-shaped head
His woollen eyes look into me.
He has no mouth, but seems to say:
‘They’ll burn you on the Judgement Day.’
And if an analyst one day
Of school of Adler, Jung, or Freud
Should take this agèd bear away,
Then, oh my God, the dreadful void!
Its draughty darkness could but be
Aloysius also featured in a Guardian quiz this week on the subject of “Bears in Books”:
5 What was the name of Sebastian Flyght’s [sic] bear in Brideshead Revisited?