Brideshead in the News: Charles, Sebastian and Celia

Jeremy Irons who portrayed Charles Ryder in the 1981 TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited was recently appointed Chancellor of Bath Spa University. He is the first person to occupy that position and was interviewed by Times Higher Education (THE) last month:

Q. You were involved in one of the most famous dramas set at a university. Has Brideshead Revisited had an impact on how higher education is perceived?

A. When it aired, I think it did change things a little bit; not necessarily for the better. One of the great things that can happen at university is that you have fun and you mix with a variety of people from different backgrounds, as Charles Ryder did.

A Roman Catholic weblog has posted an article in which Fr Angelo Geiger discusses the condition called the “Christmas blues” and writes that one reason for this form of depression is the stressful gatherings of dysfunctional families during the holiday season.

In Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Brideshead Revisited, [an example of this] is Sebastian Flyte, the alcoholic homosexual who arrives home two days late for the family Christmas gathering, claiming that he had been determined to have a happy Christmas. When asked if he did, he replies: “I think so. I don’t remember it much, and that’s always a good sign, isn’t it?” But if Sebastian is a source of awkwardness and discomfort for his family during the Christmas season, Waugh makes it clear that Sebastian has reasons to dull his recollections of his family life. He calls Brideshead, not his home, but the place where his family lives. Sebastian is openly dysfunctional… 

In an article in a travel magazine called Afar, journalist Emma John describes how reading Brideshead inspired an unusual journey:

During my first transatlantic crossing, Celia Ryder hosted a glittering cocktail party in her stateroom. The following morning, her room was festooned with thank-you bouquets. I was astonished. Who knew you could send people flowers on a ship? OK, so I wasn’t actually at sea with Lady Celia. She’s a character in Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited, and I’d made this journey entirely from my couch. But the sheer decadence of that crossing from Southampton to New York, in the 1930s heyday of society cruises left me infatuated.

Emma booked a passage on the Queen Mary 2 and even went so far as to convene an onboard cocktail party like Celia’s in the novel:

The visions of Brideshead’s cocktail party remained before me—and what was that personalized stationery for, if not to invite my fellow passengers round for a French 75 cocktail? … On our penultimate morning onboard, my room steward, Lou, offered to deliver my invitations for me…It is a mark of what a transatlantic crossing does for one’s manners that my guests, a few hundred miles from the nearest 7-Eleven, still arrived with gifts. 

Finally, in another travel article on a BBC website, the sights of Shoreham-on-Sea in Sussex are discussed:

The soft green slopes of the South Downs – the term “downs” comes from the Saxon word “dun” for hill – rise behind the town, topped by the Gothic wonder of Lancing College. This amazing building was used for scenes in the 2008 film version of Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, an old boy of the school.

The chapel is only Gothic Revival but is an impressive building nevertheless. One wonders what scene was filmed there, since Charles’ schooldays are not implicated in the novel itself on in the 2008 adaptation? Was the Lancing College chapel perhaps transposed to Oxford?


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