Brideshead Revisited: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Brideshead Revisited

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Brideshead Revisited, The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder  
Jacket of the first UK edition of Brideshead Revisited
Brideshead Revisited, 1945 first UK edition.
Author Evelyn Waugh
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Publisher Chapman and Hall
Publication date 1945
Media type Print (Hardcover)

Brideshead Revisited, The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder is a novel by the English writer Evelyn Waugh, first published in 1945. Waugh wrote that the novel "deals with what is theologically termed 'the operation of Grace', that is to say, the unmerited and unilateral act of love by which God continually calls souls to Himself". This is achieved by an examination of the Catholic aristocratic Marchmain family, as seen by the narrator, Charles Ryder.

In 2005, Brideshead Revisited was chosen by TIME magazine as one of the one hundred best English-language novels from 1923 to present.[1] In various letters, Waugh himself refers to the novel a number of times as his magnum opus; however, in 1950 he wrote to Graham Greene saying "I re-read Brideshead Revisited and was appalled." In Waugh's preface to the 1959 revised edition of Brideshead the author explains the circumstances in which the novel was written, in the six months between December 1943 and June 1944 following a minor parachute accident. He is mildly disparaging of the novel, saying; "It was a bleak period of present privation and threatening disaster — the 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."

Brideshead Revisited was brought to the screen in 1981 in the ITV drama serialisation, produced by Granada Television. A film adaptation of the book was released in July 2008.



1923: After an unpleasant chance first encounter, protagonist and narrator Charles Ryder, a student at Hertford College, Oxford University, and Lord Sebastian Flyte, the younger son of the aristocratic Marchmain family and himself an undergraduate at Christ Church, become friends. Sebastian takes Charles to his family's palatial home, Brideshead, where Charles eventually meets the rest of Sebastian's family, including his sister Julia.

During the holiday Charles returns home, where he lives with his widower father. Scenes between Charles and his father Ned (Edward) provide some of the best-known comic scenes in the novel. He is called back to Brideshead after Sebastian incurs a minor injury. Sebastian and Charles spend the remainder of the summer together. They form a romantic friendship. Waugh writes that Charles had been "in search of love in those days" when he first met Sebastian, finding "that low door in the wall... which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden", a metaphor that informs the work on a number of levels.

Sebastian's family is Catholic, which influences the Marchmains' lives as well as the content of their conversations, all of which surprises Charles, who had always assumed Christianity to be "without substance or merit". Lord Marchmain had converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism in order to marry his wife but soon escaped both his marriage and religion to Italy. Left alone, Lady Marchmain focused even more on her faith, which is also very much espoused by her eldest son, Lord Brideshead ("Bridey"), and her youngest daughter, Cordelia. Sebastian, a troubled young man, seems to find greater solace in alcohol than in religion, and descends into alcoholism, drifting away from the family over a two-year period. He flees to Morocco, where the disease ruins his health. He eventually finds some solace as an under-porter/charity case at a Tunisian monastery.

Sebastian's drifting leads to Charles's own estrangement from the Marchmains, yet he is fated to re-encounter the family as the years pass. He marries and fathers two children, but his wife is unfaithful and he eventually forms a relationship with Sebastian's younger sister Julia, who by that time has married but separated from the wealthy but coarse Canadian entrepreneur, Rex Mottram.

Charles and Julia plan to divorce their respective spouses so that they can marry. On the eve of World War II, the aging Lord Marchmain returns to Brideshead to die in his ancestral home. As he names Julia (and not his eldest son Brideshead) heiress to the estate, this would give Charles marital ownership of the house. Lord Marchmain's deathbed return to the faith changes the situation: Julia decides that she cannot enter a sinful marriage with Charles, who too has been moved by Lord Marchmain's reception of the sacraments.

The plot concludes in the early spring of 1943 (or possibly 1944 – the date is disputed).[2] Charles is "homeless, childless, middle-aged and loveless".[3] He has become an army officer after establishing a career as an architectural artist, and finds himself unexpectedly billeted at Brideshead. Charles finds the house damaged by the military occupation but the private chapel, closed after Lady Marchmain's death in 1926, has been reopened for the soldiers' worship. It occurs to him that the chapel (and, by extension, the Church's) builders' efforts were not in vain, even when their purposes may appear, for a time, to be frustrated[4]



Taking into account the background of the author, the most significant theme of the book is Catholicism. Evelyn Waugh was a convert to Catholicism and the book is considered to be an attempt to express the Catholic faith in secular literary form. Waugh wrote to his literary agent A. D. Peters, "I hope the last conversation with Cordelia gives the theological clue. The whole thing is steeped in theology, but I begin to agree that the theologians won't recognise it." Considering his readership, who were generally urbane and cosmopolitan, a sentimental or a didactic approach would not have worked. Sentimentalism would have cheapened the story while didacticism would have repelled a secular audience through excessive sermonising.

Instead, the book brings the reader, through the narration of the agnostic Charles Ryder, in contact with the severely flawed but deeply Catholic Marchmain family. While many novels of the same era portray Catholics as the flatfooted people put on the spot by brilliant non-believers, Brideshead Revisited turns the table on the agnostic Charles Ryder (and presumably the reader as well) and scrutinises his secular values, which are tacitly portrayed as falling short of the deeper humanity and spirituality of the Catholic faith.

The Catholic themes of divine grace and reconciliation are pervasive in the book. Most of the major characters undergo a conversion in some way or another. Lord Marchmain, a convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism, who lived as an adulterer, is reconciled with the Church on his deathbed. Julia, who is involved in an extramarital affair with Charles, comes to feel this relationship is immoral and decides to separate from Charles in spite of her great attachment to him. Sebastian, the charming and flamboyant alcoholic, ends up in service to a monastery while struggling against his alcoholism. Even Cordelia has some sort of conversion: from being the "worst" behaved schoolgirl her headmistress has ever seen, to serving in the hospital bunks of the Spanish Civil War.

Most significant is Charles's apparent conversion, which is expressed very subtly at the end of the book, set more than 20 years after his first meeting Sebastian, Charles kneels down in front of the tabernacle of the Brideshead chapel and says a prayer, "an ancient, newly learned form of words" — implying recent instruction in the catechism. Waugh speaks of his belief in grace in a letter to Lady Mary Lygon: "I believe that everyone in his (or her) life has the moment when he is open to Divine Grace. It's there, of course, for the asking all the time, but human lives are so planned that usually there's a particular time — sometimes, like Hubert, on his deathbed — when all resistance is down and Grace can come flooding in."

Waugh uses a quote from a short story by G. K. Chesterton to illustrate the nature of Grace. Cordelia, in conversation with Charles Ryder, quotes a passage from the Father Brown detective story "The Queer Feet:" "I caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread."[5] This quotation provides the foundation for Waugh's Catholic treatment of the interplay of free will and grace in the moment of conversion. Aside from Grace and Reconciliation, other Catholic themes in the book are the Communion of Saints, Faith and Vocation.

The same themes were criticised by Waugh's contemporaries. Henry Green, a fellow novelist, wrote to Waugh, "The end was not for me. As you can imagine my heart was in my mouth all through the deathbed scene, hoping against hope that the old man would not give way, that is, take the course he eventually did." And Edmund Wilson, who had praised Waugh as the hope of the English novel, wrote "The last scenes are extravagantly absurd, with an absurdity that would be worthy of Waugh at his best if it were not — painful to say — meant quite seriously."

Nostalgia for the age of English nobility

The Marchmain family, to some, is a symbol of a dying breed — the English nobility. One reads in the book that Brideshead has "the atmosphere of a better age," and, referring to the deaths of Lady Marchmain's brothers in the Great War, "these men must die to make a world for Hooper ... so that things might be safe for the travelling salesman, with his polygonal pince-nez, his fat, wet handshake, his grinning dentures." This is viewed by some as elitism. According to Martin Amis, the book "squarely identifies egalitarianism as its foe and proceeds to rubbish it accordingly."[6]

Charles and Sebastian's relationship

The precise nature of Charles and Sebastian's relationship remains a topic of considerable debate; are they simply close friends, or does Waugh hint at a physical relationship between the two characters?[7] Given that much of the first half of the novel focuses on the initial encounter, blossoming friendship and eventual estrangement of these central characters, this issue continues to pique the curiosity of readers.

A frequent interpretation is that Charles and Sebastian had a passionate yet platonic relationship, an immature albeit strongly felt attachment that prefigures future heterosexual relationships. Indeed Cara, Lord Marchmain's mistress, says as much to Charles directly —that his relationship with Sebastian forms part of a process of emotional development "typical to the English and the Germans". Waugh himself said that "Charles's romantic affection for Sebastian is part due to the glitter of the new world Sebastian represents, part to the protective feeling of a strong towards a weak character, and part a foreshadowing of the love for Julia which is to be the consuming passion of his mature years."

Others draw an alternative conclusion from the line "naughtiness high on the catalogue of grave sins." Reference is made at one point to Charles impatiently anticipating Sebastian's letters in the manner of one who is love-smitten. Also, it is hinted in the book that one of the reasons why Charles is in love with Julia is because of the similarity between her and Sebastian. Indeed, when asked by Julia if he loved Sebastian, Charles replies; 'Oh yes! He was the forerunner.'

Principal characters

  • Charles Ryder - The protagonist and narrator of the story was raised primarily by his father after his mother died. Charles's family background is financially comfortable but emotionally hollow. He is unsure about his desires or goals in life, and is dazzled by the charming, flamboyant and seemingly carefree young Lord Sebastian Flyte. Charles, though dissatisfied with what life seems to offer, has modest success both as a student and later as a painter; less so as an Army officer. His path repeatedly crosses those of various members of the Marchmain family, and each time they awaken something deep within him. It has been noted that Charles Ryder has an uncanny resemblance to artist Felix Kelly (1914-1994), who painted murals for aristocratic country homes.[8] Kelly was commissioned to paint murals for Castle Howard, which was used as a location in the television series and is where Ryder is depicted painting a mural for the Garden Room.[9]
  • Edward "Ned" Ryder - Charles's father is a somewhat distant and eccentric figure, but possessed of a keen wit. He seems determined to teach Charles to stand on his own feet. When Charles is forced to spend his holidays with him because he has already spent his allowance for the term, Ned, in some of the funniest passages in the book, strives to make Charles as uncomfortable as possible, indirectly teaching him to mind his finances more carefully.
  • Alexander Flyte, The Marquess of Marchmain - As a young man, Lord Marchmain fell in love with a Roman Catholic woman and converted in order to marry her. The marriage was unhappy and, after the First World War, he refused to return to England, settling in Venice with his French mistress, Cara.
  • Teresa Flyte, The Marchioness of Marchmain - Abandoned by her husband, Lady Marchmain rules over her household, enforcing her Catholic morality on her children.
  • Lord "Bridey" Brideshead - The elder son of Lord and Lady Marchmain who (as the Marquess's heir) holds the courtesy title "Earl of Brideshead". He follows his mother's strict Catholic beliefs, and once aspired to the priesthood. However, he is unable to connect in an emotional way with most people, who find him cold and distant.
  • Lord Sebastian Flyte - The younger son of Lord and Lady Marchmain is haunted by a profound unhappiness brought on by the oppressiveness of his mother's religion. An otherwise charming and attractive companion, he numbs himself with alcohol. He forms a deep friendship with Charles. Over time, however, the numbness brought on by alcohol becomes his main desire. He is thought to be based on Hugh Lygon and Stephen Tennant. Also, his relationship with his teddy bear, Aloysius, was inspired by John Betjeman and his teddy bear Archibald Ormsby-Gore.
  • Lady Julia Flyte - The eldest daughter of Lord and Lady Marchmain, who comes out as a debutante in the beginning of the story, eventually marrying Rex Mottram. Charles loves her for much of their lives, due in part to her resemblance to her brother Sebastian. Julia refuses at first to be controlled by the conventions of Catholicism, but turns to it later in life.
  • Lady Cordelia Flyte - The youngest of the siblings is the most devout and least conflicted in her beliefs. She aspires solely to serve God.
  • Anthony Blanche - A friend of Charles and Sebastian's from Oxford, and an overt homosexual. His background is unclear but there are hints that he may be of Italian or Hispanic extraction. Of all the characters, Anthony has the keenest insight into the self-deception of the people around him. Although he is witty, amiable and always an interesting companion, he manages to make Charles uncomfortable with his stark honesty, flamboyance and flirtatiousness. Blanche may be based upon the infamous Anthony Blunt, one of the leading art critics of his age and discovered to have been a spy for the Soviets.
  • Viscount "Boy" Mulcaster - An acquaintance of Charles from Oxford. Brash, bumbling and thoughtless, he personifies the privileged hauteur of the British aristocracy.
  • Celia Ryder - Charles's wife, "Boy" Mulcaster's sister, and a former schoolmate of Julia. A vivacious and socially active beauty, Charles marries her largely for convenience, which is revealed by Celia's infidelities. Charles feels freed by Celia's betrayal and decides to pursue his personal love interest outside of their marriage.
  • Rex Mottram - A Canadian of great ambition, said to be based on Brendan Bracken. Mottram wins a seat in the House of Commons. Through his marriage to Julia, he connects to the Marchmains as another step on the ladder to the top. He is disappointed with the results, and he and Julia agree to lead separate lives.
  • "Sammy" Samgrass - A Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and Lady Marchmain's "pet don". Lady Marchmain funds Samgrass's projects and flatters his academic ego, while asking him to keep Sebastian in line and save him from expulsion. Samgrass uses his connections with the aristocracy to further his personal ambitions.
  • Cara - A French woman who lives with Lord Marchmain in Venice, as his mistress. She is very protective of Lord Marchmain and is forthright and insightful in her relationship with Charles.
  • "Nanny" Hawkins - Beloved nanny to the four Marchmain children. She lives in retirement at Brideshead.

Minor characters

  • Kurt Sebastian's German friend. A deeply inadequate ex soldier with a permanently septic foot whom Sebastian meets in Tunisia, a man so inept that he needs Lord Sebastian to look after him.
  • Mrs (Beryl) Muspratt The widow of an admiral, she meets and marries a smitten Brideshead but never becomes mistress of the great house.

Minor characters who are mentioned but never appear

  • Melchior Cousin of Charles's father. In his youth he too squandered his money and talent. By referring to him, Ned is able to remind Charles constantly of his own financial imprudence.
  • Aunt Phillipa Charles's aunt and Ned's sister who, when Charles's mother died, came to live with them. Inclined to interfere, Ned eventually triumphs and she leaves England:

"I got her out in the end, he said with derision and triumph of that kindly lady, and he knew that I heard in those words a challenge to myself.[10]"

Related works

A fragment about the young Charles Ryder entitled Charles Ryder's Schooldays was found after Waugh's death, and is available in collections of Waugh's short works.


Brideshead Revisited has been dramatised for Radio 4 in four one-hour episodes and repeated on BBC7.

References in other media

Brideshead Revisited was referenced on the television show Frasier when a radio station employee tells Frasier that "Brideshead Revisited is 'just a book'", to which Frasier replied, "I'll pretend I didn't hear that." In the Family Guy episode "The Story on Page One," Stewie compares Brown University to Brideshead Revisited. Brideshead Revisited is also possibly referenced in the Family Guy episode "One If by Clam, Two If by Sea" through a cut-away that imagines what action films would be like if the British made them. Arnold Schwarznegger and Sylvester Stallone are shown wearing cricket shirts in a rowing boat in a film entitled "I Remember Cecil". The voiceover seems to be in the style of Charles Ryder, while there are also similarities in the location (Oxford), and Brideshead Revisited also has the two main protagonists sharing a boat ride. In the film Dear Wendy, the Dandies congratulate one another with what they refer to as a "Brideshead stutter."

In scene 2 of Tom Stoppard's 1993 play Arcadia, one character refers to another character who attends Oxford as "Brideshead Regurgitated." Stoppard's phrase may have been inspired by the 1980s BBC comedy series "Three of a Kind", starring Tracey Ullman, Lenny Henry and David Copperfield, which featured a recurring sketch entitled "Brideshead Regurgitated", with Lenny Henry in the role of Charles Ryder. Et in Arcadia ego, the Latin phrase which is the title of the first chapter of Brideshead Revisited, is also a central theme to Tom Stoppard's play.

In the early 1980s, following the release of the television series, the Australian Broadcasting Commission (from 1983, Australian Broadcasting Corporation) produced a radio show called 'Brunswick Heads Revisited'. Brunswick Heads is a coastal town in northern New South Wales. The series was a spoof, and made fun of the 'Englishness' of Brideshead and many amusing parallels could be drawn between the upper class characters from Brideshead and their opposite numbers from rural Australia.

In the book The Time Traveler's Wife the character Clare mentions that she is reading Brideshead Revisited for a second time.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^, "The Brideshead Revisited Companion" (2002), p11,
  3. ^ Waugh, Evelyn (1945) Brideshead Revisited, Chapman & Hall, final page
  4. ^ Guardian, May 2004.
  5. ^ Chesterton, G. K., The Collected Works of G. K. Chesterton, story "The Queer Feet", Ignatius Press, 2005: p. 84.
  6. ^ Amis (2001)
  7. ^ Adam-Carr (1982): Evelyn Waugh and the Origins of Brideshead Revisited
  8. ^ Jill Trevelyan, "Brideshead revisited" in NZ Listener, March 28 2009 [1]
  9. ^ Donald Bassett, "Felix Kelly and Brideshead" in the British Art Journal, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Autumn 2005): 52-7. Also, Donald Bassett, Fix: The Art & Life of Felix Kelly, 2007.
  10. ^ Penguin edition (1952) page 66


  • Waugh, Evelyn (1973) [1946]. Brideshead Revisited. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0316926345. 
  • Amis, Martin (2001). The War Against Cliché. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 0786866748. 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Evelyn Waugh article)

From Wikiquote

The human mind is inspired enough when it comes to inventing horrors; it is when it tries to invent a Heaven that it shows itself cloddish.

Evelyn Arthur St. John Waugh (28 October 190310 April 1966) was an English satirical novelist.



  • No.3 Commando was very anxious to be chums with Lord Glasgow, so they offered to blow up an old tree stump for him and he was very grateful and said don't spoil the plantation of young trees near it because that is the apple of my eye and they said no of course not we can blow a tree down so it falls on a sixpence and Lord Glasgow said goodness you are clever and he asked them all to luncheon for the great explosion.
    So Col. Durnford-Slater DSO said to his subaltern, have you put enough explosive in the tree?. Yes, sir, 75lbs. Is that enough? Yes sir I worked it out by mathematics it is exactly right. Well better put a bit more. Very good sir.
    And when Col. D Slater DSO had had his port he sent for the subaltern and said subaltern better put a bit more explosive in that tree. I don't want to disappoint Lord Glasgow. Very good sir.
    Then they all went out to see the explosion and Col. DS DSO said you will see that tree fall flat at just the angle where it will hurt no young trees and Lord Glasgow said goodness you are clever.
    So soon they lit the fuse and waited for the explosion and presently the tree, instead of falling quietly sideways, rose 50 feet into the air taking with it ½ acre of soil and the whole young plantation.
    And the subaltern said Sir, I made a mistake, it should have been 7½ not 75. Lord Glasgow was so upset he walked in dead silence back to his castle and when they came to the turn of the drive in sight of his castle what should they find but that every pane of glass in the building was broken.
    So Lord Glasgow gave a little cry and ran to hide his emotions in the lavatory and there when he pulled the plug the entire ceiling, loosened by the explosion, fell on his head.
    This is quite true.
    • Letter to his wife (31 May 1942)
  • His courtesy was somewhat extravagant. He would write and thank people who wrote to thank him for wedding presents and when he encountered anyone as punctilious as himself the correspondence ended only with death.
    • As quoted in LIFE magazine (8 April 1946)
  • Don't give your opinions about Art and the Purpose of Life. They are of little interest and, anyway, you can't express them. Don't analyze yourself. Give the relevant facts and let your readers make their own judgments. Stick to your story. It is not the most important subject in history but it is one about which you are uniquely qualified to speak.
    • Reviewing World within World, the autobiography of Stephen Spender, in The Tablet (5 May 1951)
  • Don't hold your parents up to contempt. After all, you are their son, and it is just possible that you may take after them.
    • The Tablet (9 May 1951)
  • Of children as of procreation— the pleasure momentary, the posture ridiculous, the expense damnable.
    • Letter to Nancy Mitford, May 5, 1954, cited from Mark Amory (ed.) The Letters of Evelyn Waugh (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982) p. 423
    • "The pleasure is momentary, the position ridiculous, and the expense damnable" is sometimes attributed to Lord Chesterfield (British statesman, diplomat and wit, 1694-1773), but has not been found in his works.
  • A typical triumph of modern science to find the only part of Randolph that was not malignant and remove it."
    Diary entry (March 1964), after hearing that doctors had removed a benign tumor from Randolph Churchill.
  • I put the words down and push them a bit.
    • As quoted in his obituary in The New York Times (11 April 1966)
  • Aesthetic value is often the by-product of the artist striving to do something else.
    • Diaries of Evelyn Waugh (1976)
  • Punctuality is the virtue of the bored.
    • Diaries of Evelyn Waugh (1976)

Decline and Fall (1928)

  • Please bear in mind throughout that IT IS MEANT TO BE FUNNY.
    • Author's note.
  • Mr. Sniggs, the Junior Dean, and Mr. Postlethwaite, the Domestic Bursar, sat alone in Mr. Sniggs's room overlooking the garden quad at Scone College.
  • I'm one of the blind alleys off the main road of procreation.
    • Grimes
  • "We class schools, you see, into four grades: Leading School, First-rate School, Good School, and School. Frankly," said Mr Levy, "School is pretty bad..."
  • There will be a prize of half a crown for the longest essay, irrespective of any possible merit.
  • They should have told me that at the end of that gay journey and flower-strewn path were the hideous lights of home and the voices of children.
  • It's the seed of life we cary about with us like our skeletons, each one of us onconsciously pregnant with desirable villa residences. There's no escape. As individuals we simply do not exist. We are just potential home builders, beavers, and ants. How do we come into being? What is birth?
  • What is this impulse of two people to build their beastly home? It's you & me, unborn, asserting our presence. All we are is a manifestation of the impulse of family life, and if by chance we have escaped the itch ourselves, nature forces it upon us another way.
  • I don't believe that people would ever fall in love or want to be married if they hadn't been told about it. It's like abroad: no one would want to go there if they hadn't been told it existed.
  • And the only interest about him arises from the unusual series of events of which his shadow was witness.
  • There is a species of person called a 'Modern Churchman' who draws the full salary of a beneficed clergyman and need not commit himself to any religious belief
  • That's the public-school system all over. They may kick you out, but they never let you down.
  • Instead of this absurd division into sexes they ought to class people as static and dynamic.
  • I came to the conclusion many years ago that almost all crime is due to the repressed desire for aesthetic expression.
  • I expect you'll be becoming a schoolmaster, sir. That's what most of the gentlemen does, sir, that gets sent down for indecent behaviour.
  • I haven't been to sleep for over a year. That's why I go to bed early. One needs more rest if one doesn't sleep.
  • Anyone who has been to an English public school will always feel comparatively at home in prison. It is the people brought up in the gay intimacy of the slums who find prison so soul-destroying.

Vile Bodies (1930)

  • Mrs. Ape's famous hymn, There ain't no flies on the Lamb of God.
    • Chapter 1
  • A copy of Dante's Purgatorio excited his especial disgust.

    "French, eh?" he said. "I guessed as much, and pretty dirty too, I shouldn't wonder. Now just you wait while I look up these here books"—how he said it!—"in my list. Particularly against books the Home Secretary is. If we can't stamp out literature in the country, we can at least stop its being brought in from outside."

    • Chapter 2
  • All this fuss about sleeping together. For physical pleasure I'd sooner go to my dentist any day.

Black Mischief (1932)

  • "We, Seth, Emperor of Azania, Chief of Chiefs of Sakuyu, Lord of Wanda and Tyrant of the Seas, Bachelor of the Arts of Oxford University, being in this the twenty-fourth year of our life, summoned by the wisdom of Almighty God and the unanimous voice of our people to the throne of our ancestors, do hereby proclaim. . ." Seth paused in his dictation and gazed out across the harbour where in the fresh breeze of early morning the last dhow was setting sail for the open sea. "Rats," he said; "stinking curs. They are all running away."
    • First lines
  • "You see my adjutant made rather a silly mistake. He hadn't had much truck with boots before and the silly fellow thought they were extra rations. My men ate the whole bag of tricks last night."
    • Chapter 5

A Handful of Dust (1934)

  • "Was anyone hurt?"
    "No one I am thankful to say," said Mrs. Beaver, "except two housemaids who lost their heads and jumped through a glass roof into the paved court."
    • First lines

Scoop (1938)

  • While still a young man, John Courteney Boot had, as his publisher proclaimed, "achieved an assured and enviable position in contemporary letters."
  • As there was no form of government common to the peoples thus segregated, nor tie of language, history, habit, or belief, they were called a Republic.
  • Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole.
    • An oft-quoted example of William Boot's style. When first mentioned in the novel it is "splashy" and not "plashy", but this is a remembrance of another journalist; when Boot himself quotes it, he has "plashy".
  • "The Beast stands for strong mutually antagonistic governments everywhere," he said. "Self-sufficiency at home, self-assertion abroad."
    • A quote from Lord Copper.
  • Other nations use 'force'; we Britons alone use 'Might'.
  • News is what a chap who doesn't care much about anything wants to read. And it's only news until he's read it. After that it's dead.
  • He was gifted with the sly, sharp instinct for self-preservation that passes for wisdom among the rich.
  • "I will not stand for being called a woman in my own house,"
  • "Up to a point, Lord Copper."
    • Lord Copper, proprietor of the Daily Beast is a man to whom one never says 'No' directly. This is what one says instead.
  • Lord Copper quite often gave banquets; it would be an understatement to say that no one enjoyed them more than the host, for no one else enjoyed them at all, while Lord Copper positively exulted in every minute.

Put Out More Flags (1942)

  • The human mind is inspired enough when it comes to inventing horrors; it is when it tries to invent a Heaven that it shows itself cloddish.
    • Ch. 1 : Autumn, § 7
  • So the two of them went to London by the early morning train. 'Let's surprise her,' said Nigel, but Cedric telephoned first, wryly remembering the story of the pedantic adulterer - 'My dear, it is I who am surprised; you are astounded.'
    • Ch. 3 : Spring

Brideshead Revisited (1945)

  • When I reached C Company lines, which were at the top of the hill, I paused and looked back at the camp, just coming into full view below me through the grey mist of early morning.
    • First lines of Prologue.
  • "I have been here before," I said; I had been there before; first with Sebastian more than twenty years ago on a cloudless day in June, when the ditches were creamy with meadowsweet and the air heavy with all the scents of summer; it was a day of peculiar splendour, and though I had been there so often, in so many moods, it was to that first visit that my heart returned on this, my latest.
    • First lines part 1, chapter 1.
  • But I was in search of love in those days, and I went full of curiousity and the faint, unrecognized apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others, I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchaned garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city.
    • Part 1, Chapter 1
  • To know and love one other human being is the root of all wisdom.
    • Part 1, Chapter 1
  • '...Conversation should be like juggling; up go the balls and the plates, up and over, in and out, good solid objects that glitter in the footlights and fall with a bang if you miss them. But when dear Sebastian speaks it is like a little sphere of soapsud drifting off the end of an old clay pipe, anywhere, full of rainbow light for a secnd and then - phut! vanished, with nothing left at all, nothing.'
    • Part 1, Chapter 2
  • How ungenerously in later life we disclaim the virtuous moods of our youth, living in retrospect long, summer days of unreflecting dissipation. There is no candour in a story of early manhood which leaves out of account the home-sickness for nursery morality, the regrets and resolutions of amendment, the black hours which, like zero on the roulette table, turn up with roughly calculable regularity."
  • The trouble with modern education is you never know how ignorant they are.
    • Part 1, Chapter 3
  • "It is typical of Oxford," I said, "to start the new year in autumn."
    • Part 1, start of chapter 4
  • O God, make me good, but not yet.
    • Part 1, start of chapter 5.
  • '...I wonder if you remember the story mummy read us the evening Sebastian first got drunk - I mean the bad evening. "Father Brown" said something like "I caught him" (the thief) "with an unseen hook and and invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread."'
    • Part 2, Chapter
  • It doesn't matter what people call you unless they call you pigeon pie and eat you up.
    • Part 2, Chapter 3
  • My theme is memory, that winged host that soared about me one grey morning of war-time.
  • We possess nothing certainly except the past.
    • Part 3, start of chapter 1.
  • 'perhaps all our loves are merely hints and symbols; vagabond-language scrawled on gate-posts and paving-stones along the weary road that others have tramped before us; perhaps you and I are types and this sadness which sometimes falls between us springs from disappointment in our search, each straining through and beyond the other, snatching a glimpse now and then of the shadow whcih turns the corner always a pace or two ahead of us.'
  • She seemed to say "Look at me. I have done my share. I am beautiful. It is something quite out of the ordinary, this beauty of mine. I am made for delight. But what do I get out of it? Where is my reward?"

That was the change in her from ten years ago; that, indeed, was her reward, this haunting, this magical sadness which spoke straight to the heart and struck silence; it was the completion of her beauty."

    • Part 3, Chapter 4
  • I have lived carefully, sheltered myself from the cold winds, eaten moderately of what was in season, drunk fine claret, slept in my own sheets; I shall live long.
    • Part 3, chapter 5, Lord Marchmain's dying soliloquy.
  • O God, if there is a God, forgive him his sins, if there is such a thing as sin.
  • '...But I saw today there was one thing unforgivable - like things in the school-room, so bad they were unpunishable, that only mummy could deal with - the bad thing I was on the point of doing, that I'm not quite bad enough to do; to set up a rival good to God's.'
    • Part 3, near end of chapter 5
  • Quomondo sedet sola civitas. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
    • Epilogue

The Loved One (1948)

  • All day the head had been barely supportable but at evening a breeze arose in the West, blowing from the heart of the setting sun and from the ocean, which lay unseen, unheard behind the scrubby foothills. It shook the rusty fringes of palm-leaf and swelled the dry sounds of summer, the frog-voices, the grating cicadas, and the ever present pulse of music from the neighbouring native huts.
    • First lines
  • You never find an Englishman among the under-dogs—except in England, of course.
    • Chapter 1
  • In the dying world I come from, quotation is a national vice. No one would think of making an after-dinner speech without the help of poetry. It used to be the classics, now it's lyric verse.
    • Chapter 9
  • Tomorrow and on every anniversary as long as the Happier Hunting Ground existed a postcard would go to Mr. Joyboy: Your little Aimée is wagging her tail in heaven tonight, thinking of you.
    • Chapter 10

The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (1957)

  • It may happen in the next hundred years that the English novelists of the present day will come to be valued as we now value the artists and craftsmen of the late eighteenth century.
    • First lines
  • He had no wish to obliterate anything he had written, but he would dearly have liked to revise it, envying painters, who are allowed to return to the same theme time and time again, clarifying and enriching until they have done all they can with it. A novelist is condemned to provide a succession of novelties, new names for characters, new incidents for his plots, new scenery; but, Mr Pinfold maintained, most men harbour the germs of one or two books only; all else is professional trickery of which the most daemonic of the masters — Dickens and Balzac even — were flagrantly guilty.
  • His strongest tastes were negative. He abhorred plastics, Picasso, sunbathing and jazz — everything in fact that had happened in his own lifetime.
    • Chapter 1

A Little Learning (1964)

  • Only when one has lost all curiosity about the future has one reached the age to write an autobiography.
    • First lines


  • Your action, and your action alone, determines your worth.
    • Johann Gottlieb Fichte in The Vocation of Man [Die Bestimmung des Menschen] (1800), p. 94 : "You are here, not for idle contemplation of yourself, not for brooding over devout sensations — no, for action you are here; action, and action alone, determines your worth."
  • Art is the symbol of the two noblest human efforts: to construct and to refrain from destruction.
    • Simone Weil, in The Pre-War Notebook (1933-1939), published in First and Last Notebooks (1970) edited by Richard Rees

Quotes about Waugh

  • If Brideshead Revisited is not a great book, it's so like a great book that many of us, at least while reading it, find it hard to tell the difference.
  • The lady said, "It's no good trying to buy a paper here. That Sir William Beveridge is going to abolish want, so all the papers were sold out". Later that day or the next day I asked him to come to lunch. I was meeting with Evelyn Waugh, an old friend and famous writer. They did not get on at all well. Evelyn Waugh said to him at the end, "How do you get your main pleasure in life, Sir William?" He paused and said, "I get mine trying to leave the world a better place than I found it". Evelyn Waugh said, "I get mine spreading alarm and despondency" — this was in the height of the war — "and I get more satisfaction than you do". So he did not meet with universal acclamation, but nearly everyone admired Beveridge at that time. He was a wonderful man.

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

Brideshead Revisited, The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder is a novel by the English writer Evelyn Waugh. It was first published in 1945. The novel deals with subjects such as religion, especially Catholicism, and the love of God. It tells the story of a family called Flyte. They are an aristocratic family. The story is told by a narrator called Charles Ryder.

Brideshead Revisited was made into a television serial for ITV, produced by Granada Television, in 1981. A movie of the book was made in 2008. The movie makes several changes to the story of the book. The movie is mostly about the relationship between Charles and Julia.


Charles Ryder, who tells the story, is a student at the University of Oxford. He makes friends with Sebastian Flyte, the younger son of an aristocratic family. Sebastian, who comes from a very rich family, takes Charles to his family's home, Brideshead Castle. Charles meets his family, including Sebastian's sister, Julia.

During the holiday Charles goes back to his home, where he lives with his father. During the holiday Sebastian has a small injury and Charles goes back to him. Sebastian and Charles spend the rest of the summer together.

Sebastian's family is Catholic. His father, Lord Marchmain, had been an Anglican, but he had converted to Roman Catholicism, his wife's religion. The family talk a lot about religion which surprises Charles, who had always thought that Christianity was not an important subject. Lady Marchmain, Sebastian's mother, is a very strict Catholic. She tries to control others by making them feel guilty. Sebastian finds comfort by drinking alcohol. He often gets drunk, and over a period of two years he has less and less to do with the Flyte family.

However, Charles is fated to meet the Flyte family again, and he falls in love with Julia, who by that time is married to a rich Canadian, Rex Mottram.

Charles's own wife has been unfaithful, so he plans to divorce her so that he and Julia can marry. However, Julia decides for religious reasons that it would not be right for her to marry Charles. As Lord Marchmain lay dying, he had received the sacrament of Extreme Unction. This act had also influenced Charles, who had been "in search of love in those days" when he first met Sebastian, "that low door in the wall...which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden,", an important metaphor in the book.

Charles became an architect. During the Second World War becomes an army officer. By chance he is billeted at Brideshead. It seems to him that builders do a useful job, even if there are problems sometimes.

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address