Study Guide

Brideshead Revisited

Brideshead Revisited Summary

The novel's narration begins in the first person with Captain Charles Ryder of the British Army (which he disdains) in the early 1940s. His troops have just arrived at their new camp, a large and beautiful estate called Brideshead Castle. Over the course of a flashback, Charles recounts his long and complicated history with the estate and the Flyte family that owns it.

It all starts at the beginning of Charles’s first year at Oxford University in 1922. Charles himself is from a wealthy family that includes his caustic father and older cousin Jasper, who advises him on what to study, where to eat, and whom to avoid in his early days at the University. Charles soon makes the acquaintance of Sebastian Flyte, an extremely wealthy, quirky, beautiful young man who obeys his every impulse, shirks his duties, charms the pants off everyone, carries around a teddy bear named Aloysius, parties like a rock star, and makes his first introduction to Charles by leaning his head into our narrator’s first-floor dorm room window and puking up several bottles of wine. The two boys quickly become the best of friends, much to Jasper’s exasperation (since Sebastian hangs out with "the wrong crowd" – partiers and not scholars).

Among Sebastian’s unorthodox friends is Anthony Blanche, a flamboyantly gay international playboy. Anthony takes Charles aside and tells him all about Sebastian and his family. Sebastian’s parents, Lord and Lady Marchmain, are separated. Lord Marchmain lives in Italy with his mistress Cara. Lady Marchmain, a very devout Catholic, refuses to get a divorce and lives at the family’s large and ornate country estate, Brideshead, as well as their home in London, called Marchmain House. Sebastian has three siblings: a stuffy and religious older brother, the Earl of Brideshead (simply called "Brideshead" or "Bridey"); a sister Julia who is a clever and self-indulgent beauty; and a younger sister Cordelia.

It soon becomes clear that Sebastian has major family issues. First of all, he struggles with the Catholicism his mother has so intently forced on her family. He also remains in close contact with his father, which Lady Marchmain seems to read as betrayal.

Charles and Sebastian spend the first summer away from Oxford together, at Brideshead. Charles briefly meets Sebastian’s sister Julia, but is largely alone with Sebastian for the duration of the vacation, getting quietly drunk every evening on the estate’s astounding wine collection. Because Charles is a burgeoning artist, he is in constant awe of the architecture and interior design of Brideshead Castle. He devotes quite a bit of text to describing it in detail, and interprets his summer there as a time he was "very close to heaven." During his stay he also meets Cordelia, Sebastian’s energetic and playfully troublemaking little sister, as well as Sebastian’s old Nanny, who for some reason still lives on the estate. When Sebastian’s brother Brideshead comes to dinner, Charles confirms that he is very much as Anthony Blanche predicted: stuffy, restrained, and grave. Religion seems an inevitable topic of conversation among the Flytes, especially when Charles, a self-proclaimed agnostic, is around.

Towards the end of the summer, Charles and Sebastian travel to Venice to visit Lord Marchmain (Sebastian’s father) and his mistress Cara. Cara provides some useful information for Charles: Lord Marchmain despises his wife and everyone who loves her; that’s why he’s left England. Cara adds that, while Charles drinks controllably and to have a good time, Sebastian drinks to drown his sorrows and is fast becoming an alcoholic.

The second year at Oxford, Anthony Blanche is absent, having decided to stay and party in Munich instead of returning to school. Charles pursues his interest in painting, and Sebastian continues to drink. Meanwhile Lady Marchmain, nervous about her son’s position at the university, comes to visit. She tries to befriend Charles to get him on her side in "helping" Sebastian. She also employs the help of Mr. Samgrass, a professor at Oxford, in trying to keep her son under control.

Soon after, Julia comes to visit, bringing with her a man named Rex Mottram who is suave, politically connected, and rumored to carry a gun. (He’s Tony Soprano meets James Bond, but he’s a bit of a wannabe.) Rex takes Sebastian, Charles, and one of their university friends, Boy Mulcaster, to a party. The Oxford guys sneak away to party at a club of ill repute and end up arrested for drunk driving. Rex gets them out of jail via his smooth-talking people skills. But because Sebastian’s family is so revered as part of England’s old aristocracy, his arrest makes for quite the scandal. Lady Marchmain cracks down, and both Sebastian and Charles end up stuck with a curfew back at Oxford, courtesy of Mr. Samgrass’s authority. Needless to say, they both hate Samgrass.

Meanwhile Charles notices that Sebastian’s drinking has indeed taken a turn for the worse. Though Lady Marchmain continues to try to keep Charles in her good graces, he ultimately chooses to side with Sebastian "against the world." Lady Marchmain gets fed up and pulls Sebastian out of Oxford, sending him off with Mr. Samgrass to tour around Europe.

Cut to Christmas at the end of the year. Charles is at Brideshead estate again with Sebastian and Samgrass, who have just returned from their European travels. Though it was Samgrass’s job to keep Sebastian sober and out of trouble, Charles soon discovers that he actually lost Sebastian, or rather, that Sebastian gave him the slip in order to drink himself silly. Meanwhile, at Brideshead, Lady Marchmain has instructed all the servants to not give Sebastian any alcohol. Charles feels bad for his friend and gives him money to buy booze. When Lady Marchmain finds out, she guilt trips Charles, who leaves when Sebastian tells him he’s no use around here anyway.

When Charles returns to Oxford, Rex Mottram visits him and explains that he wants to marry Julia. Lady Marchmain is against it, since he is about 15 years older than her daughter, not of noble blood, and of suspect business dealings. Also, he’s been sleeping with a married woman named Brenda Champion. Rex adds that Lady Marchmain has gotten very sick but refuses to see a doctor on account of her religion.

At this point the narrative time is disrupted and we get information in a scattered order through various flashbacks on Charles’s part. The quick and dirty is as follows: Julia agrees to marry Rex, though he has to convert to Catholicism first. They find out just before the wedding that Rex was married and divorced once, which means he can’t be married as a Catholic after all. They have a brief Protestant ceremony instead, to Lady Marchmain’s horror.

In the meantime Charles bumps into Anthony Blanche, who updates him on Sebastian: still a drunkard and worse than ever. Sebastian has also struck up a close friendship with a German sergeant. When Charles hears that Lady Marchmain is dying, he hurries to see her at Brideshead, where she apologizes for being so harsh about his siding with Sebastian against her. Then, at her request, Charles sets out to find Sebastian and bring him back to Brideshead to say good-bye to his mother.

Charles travels to Morocco and finds Kurt, the German sergeant with whom Sebastian is living. It’s clear that Kurt is taking advantage of Sebastian and using him for his money. Sebastian himself is ill in the hospital and, when confronted, defends his friendship with Kurt. He likes that, for once, he can finally take care of someone else, when all his life his family has been taking care of him. Then word arrives that Lady Marchmain has died.

Now we jump forward a few years. Charles is now a professional architectural painter – he paints people’s houses, usually before the buildings are torn down for one reason or another. He’s married, but we don’t know who his wife is yet. After tiring of British architecture, Charles traveled to South America to paint there. Then he met up with his wife to take a ship back to America. She’s just had their second baby, whom Charles hasn’t met yet and has no interest in seeing. The honeymoon is clearly over between these two, and Charles is basically masking (poorly) some intense hostility for his wife. We finally discover that the wife is Celia Mulcaster, sister to Boy Mulcaster, one of Charles’s friends from Oxford.

Meanwhile, Julia Flyte is also on this ship back to England and, during a violent storm at sea, she and Charles begin a passionate affair. This is problematic, since Julia is also married (to Rex) and also hates her spouse. It soon becomes clear, however, that both Celia and Rex have been adulterous in the past. So both Charles and Julia decide to get divorced and marry each other.

While staying at Brideshead estate together, Julia’s brother Bridey visits and announces that he’s getting married himself, to a widow who is apparently not attractive and has kids from her first marriage. Cordelia has returned home as well, bringing with her news of Sebastian. Kurt got himself arrested by the Germans and hanged himself; Sebastian drank in distress and ended up begging a monastery in Tunis to take him in. She predicts that her brother will live out his days there, trying to be holy and repeatedly lapsing into alcoholic binges until his liver gives up and he dies.

Both divorces (Charles's and Julia's) are in progress when Lord Marchmain announces that he’s dying and wants to live out his last days at Brideshead. He arrives with his mistress Cara to do so. When alone with Julia and Charles, he admits that he met Bridey’s new wife, Beryl, and despises her. He doesn’t want her living at Brideshead, so, although it’s tradition to leave the estate to the eldest son, he wants Julia and Charles to have it instead. Charles is a bit ashamed by his own joy at this prospect.

However, it never comes to fruition: Julia decides that in order to be a good Catholic, she needs to make a sacrifice, and she chooses to sacrifice her happiness with Charles. They break up shortly after her father’s death, which involves a heated debate over whether or not they should force the old man to see a priest. (Lord Marchmain was adamantly against religion). Charles, despite his previous agnosticism, is moved by the way Julia’s father receives the priest at his deathbed. Somehow or another Charles ends up a Catholic himself by the time we pull out of the flashback and return to him as a Captain in the Army revisiting Brideshead. The novel ends with Charles examining the estate and reflecting with optimism on the flame still burning in Brideshead’s little chapel.

  • Prologue

    • It’s World War II and your narrator, Captain Charles Ryder of the British army, along with the rest of the troops, is leaving his camp of three months and moving to a new location. It’s just becoming spring.
    • Charles remarks that he has no pleasant memories of the place – that here "love [has] died between [him] and the army."
    • Ryder’s troops are somewhere in the United Kingdom and, though Charles speaks of trams coming in from Glasgow, we can’t be sure of exactly where they are. The camp stands at the outset of a city, around a farmhouse which would have been destroyed had the army not come to it.
    • Not too far from the camp is a lunatic asylum, which gets its fair share of jokes from the passing soldiers. Charles mentions his newest platoon commander, named Hooper, thinks the madmen should be gassed.
    • Charles explains that when they marched in during the Winter, the men were hopeful; rumor had it they were finally going to the Middle East. But, as time passed, it became clear that, once again, they weren’t going anywhere.
    • Charles couldn’t help them, he says, couldn’t cheer them up when couldn’t even help himself. He’s thirty-nine, and beginning to feel old. He goes to bed early, drinks a lot, and never wants to go out and party.
    • He reiterates that his last love died here – his love for the army. He simply woke one morning and realized that their relationship was like a stale marriage. He had no more affection or interest holding him to the army, only duty and regret at having bound himself to her "in a moment of folly."
    • That’s why, on this spring morning, as the troops ready to move away from this camp of three months, Charles doesn’t really give a hoot where they’re going. Not that they’re told anyway, since the army is all about tactical secrecy.
    • Ryder imagines what an archeologist might some day say upon finding their remains, stripped of all adornments, like badges, again for purposes of secrecy: this was a primitive society with no identifying markers, etc.
    • The sergeant-major points out to Captain Ryder a broken window which, like all other destruction in the camp, is attributed to the wind in the night.
    • Hooper, the new platoon commander, shows up. Charles explains that most of the troops don’t like Hooper, but that he himself holds a feeling of near-affection for the man, having to do with a very cute anecdote and a forced haircut.
    • Hooper "holds no illusions about the army." He has simply accepted it. He has no romantic notions, which Charles imagines has to do with a very unromantic childhood, devoid of all bedtime stories and heroes’ myths. He’s just a logical, ‘only the facts’ kind of guy. He sleeps soundly, Charles concludes, while Charles himself lies awake "fretting."
    • In Ryder’s mind, Hooper is the symbol of Young England. He uses Hooper to test any generalized statements about "youth" he hears in the news or cocktail chatter.
    • Anyway, as Hooper comes shuffling up, Ryder chastises him for being late and sends him to inspect the lines. After he’s gone, Charles’s superior, the commanding officer, arrives and gives Charles a hard time for the broken window and for a store of buried bric-a-brac, belonging to a soldier, which he finds in the ground.
    • Ryder marches along with Hooper and the men discuss how they don’t know where they’re going, but that it’s probably not "the real thing." (Meaning no fighting, just more traveling and camping and getting yelled at for broken windows.)
    • On the train, Charles sits in a private carriage with three other officers. Partway through the day they are summoned to the C.O.’s train, reprimanded for their attire, and chided for the state in which their camp was left. Charles pauses to wonder if the man really uttered such phrases as are repeated here, or if in his recollection he has made them up.
    • What follows is a lovely, satirical rendering of the way the army does things. The C.O. talks of moving "between location A and location B" with a series of halting, titled announcements. The gist is that Charles’s troops – also known as Company C – will be unloading and setting up a new camp at their new (undisclosed) destination.
    • During the night, Charles writes a useless and fictional report about the train being sprayed with mustard gas, in order to make the commanding officer happy.
    • By four in the morning the men have reached their new location, at the outset of a large estate with a big house and a few lakes, set up a perimeter, and readied the camp.
    • The next morning, after he wakes, Charles asks his second-in-command what the name of this place is. When he hears, he’s shocked. Charles walks outside and observes the scenery, a man-made landscape with which he is intimately familiar. A stream named the Bride leads to a farm a few miles away called Bridesprings, where Charles used to have tea. (Curious…) The nearby Avon river has been dammed to form three lakes, surrounded by woods and other picturesque nature stuff.
    • The house is there, Charles knows, but hidden by the woods. He wonders what is real, in this environment, and what is a mirage.
    • Hooper comes along and tells Charles of a Roman Catholic church on the estate where a very small (as in, two people) service is taking place. Charles knows about the church, and the great fountain next to it. As he tells Hooper, he has been here before, and he knows all about it.
  • Book 1: Chapter 1

    • The first time Charles went to Brideshead was twenty years before, in June, with Sebastian. Flashback, here we come.
    • It’s Eights Week – a major rowing event – at Oxford, so the campus is packed with crew-loving guests. Among them are women, a.k.a. bait for the college men.
    • Charles wants none of it. Rather than entertain the ladies, he’s going out.
    • Before he does, he discusses the impending evening ball with his servant, Lunt.
    • By the way, this is 1923. Charles was good enough to mention as much a few paragraphs into this grand recollection.
    • Anyway, Lord Sebastian soon arrives, dressed elegantly and remarking on the uproarious state of Charles’s college, which is simply "pullulating with women." He’s brought a car borrowed from a friend named Hardcastle, a bottle of wine, and a basket of strawberries. He and Charles soon take off with the intent of visiting Sebastian’s "Hawkins." (You find out who this is soon.)
    • In the car we meet Sebastian’s teddy bear. (No, we’re not joking. Yes, he’s a grown man with a teddy bear. Just roll with it.) Aloysius sits between them; Sebastian instructs Charles to make sure the bear doesn’t get sick as they drive.
    • As they drive along pleasantly, Sebastian touches on Hardcastle, the owner of the car, who it seems is quite a partier/late-sleeper. He also mentions his own father, whom he calls "a social leper."
    • At about eleven Sebastian pulls over to a picturesque side-of-the-road spot, and the young men lie around eating the strawberries, smoking, and drinking the wine. (Life is so hard.)
    • Sebastian says that he would like to bury a crock of gold – here and everywhere else he’s ever been happy – so he can return to it someday when he’s "old and miserable," dig it up, and remember how things used to be.
    • This day, explains Charles, was during his third term at Oxford, but he doesn’t think of his Oxford life as having started until the day he first met Sebastian.
    • It all stemmed from Charles having a first-floor room. At the very beginning of his time at Oxford, Charles’s older cousin, Jasper, comes to give him a little chat.
    • Having been at Oxford himself for some time, Jasper feels qualified in lecturing from an older, wiser, and annoying standpoint.
    • Since Charles’s father tends to avoid any serious chats with his son, Ryder has until now been spared this sort of agony. The most Mr. Ryder said to his son is that he was allowing him 550 pounds a year as an allowance, only because the Warden recommended no more than 300 and twice as much as that would have been "deliberately impolite."
    • But back to Jasper. In his lecture, he covers every possible Oxford base: how to dress, what lectures to attend, which clubs to join now and which to join next year, how to make his reputation, which places to avoid, which people to avoid (especially religious folk), and adds that Charles will likely spend his second year getting rid of the "undesirable" friends he will make in his first.
    • Jasper also advises that Charles change his rooms immediately, rooms which are beautiful and Charles happens to love. First floor rooms are a bad idea, he says, since people will start dropping in left and right – especially those undesirable people.
    • Charles says that he never followed any of this advice, at least not consciously. He kept his first-floor rooms and decorated them with Van Gogh prints and the like. He formed a circle of friends, among them a man named Collins, who "maintained a middle course of culture between the flamboyant ‘aesthetes’ and the proletarian scholars who scrambled fiercely for facts." Yet, despite excellent rooms and a solid circle of friends, Charles felt Oxford had more to offer.
    • Then there was Sebastian, who made everyone else fade into the background. Collins was once explaining to Charles the problem with modern aesthetics, but his eyes were not open to art until Sebastian declared that he feels the same emotion for a butterfly that he does for a cathedral.
    • Sebastian was one of those guys that everyone knew. Not as a personal friend, that is, but they knew who he was. He was just that beautiful, Charles says, and just that eccentric. The first time Charles saw him, he was carrying…his large teddy bear. Charles was getting a haircut at the time and so received a description from the barber, who reported that Sebastian was the son of The Marquis of Marchmain and had an older brother, the Earl of Brideshead, who has finished his time at Oxford. Also, the teddy bear’s name is Aloysius.
    • Ryder was at first rather judgmental, thinking Sebastian an odd duck. Not that we can blame him.
    • Anyway, the night they met, it was under less than ideal circumstances. It was early March, around midnight. Charles was entertaining some guests and had opened his first-floor windows for air. Sebastian, extraordinarily drunk, was wandering by with some of his own friends. He staggered over to Charles’s room, leaned in the window, and threw-up into Ryder’s room. His friends apologized on his behalf before carting him off to bed.
    • The next morning, Charles comes back from class to find his room full of flowers "in every conceivable vessel in every part of the room." His servant Lunt informs him that Sebastian left a note, as well, in which he apologizes and declares that his bear isn’t even speaking to him. He also invites Charles to join him for lunch, without leaving an address, since everyone knows who he is and where he lives.
    • That luncheon turned out to be a new beginning for Charles, though the details are now confused in his mind with other almost identical get-togethers that would follow. He arrived at the lunch "in search of love" and "full of curiosity," looking for the entrance to what he imagines as some sort of secret garden at Oxford.
    • Sebastian was alone in his room when Charles arrived, eating plover’s eggs and looking beautiful. His room was full of a fascinating hodge-podge of objects.
    • The lunching party begins to assemble, which includes a few freshmen and one Anthony Blanche, a ridiculous character who, as scholars say, embodies every gay stereotype of Waugh’s era. He also speaks with an affected stutter. Charles calls him the ultimate aesthete, "ageless as a lizard, foreign as a Martian." Charles enjoys Anthony immensely.
    • After they lunch together, Anthony goes out on Sebastian’s balcony and recites passages from T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, sobbing them out across the campus below. Anthony is equally enthusiastic about Sebastian having "discovered" Charles.
    • As the lunch party breaks up, Charles and Sebastian are once again left alone. Sebastian declares that he must go to the Botanical Gardens, and Charles accompanies him to see the ivy.
    • When he gets back to his rooms, they suddenly seem superficial to Charles. He dislikes most the painted screen, which he turns to face the wall.
    • And now we return to Charles and Sebastian, during Eights Week at Oxford, lying under the tree, eating strawberries, and drinking wine.
    • After the snack by the side of the road, the boys drive on and find themselves at Brideshead, which Sebastian describes not as his home but as the place where his family lives. They’re away at the moment, but Sebastian wants Charles to meet his Nanny – Nanny Hawkins.
    • They meet; she’s an older, serene woman who informs them that Julia, Sebastian’s sister, is at Brideshead for the day and should be returning from lunch shortly. As she and Sebastian go on chatting, Charles takes his time observing the domed room and its décor.
    • Sebastian is in a hurry to get himself and Charles away before Julia returns. His family is so charming, he explains, that they’ll meet Charles and take him away, make him their friend instead of Sebastian’s.
    • Charles submits, but is eager to see more of the spectacular house and grounds. Sebastian takes him to see the chapel, "a monument of art nouveau." When they enter, Sebastian crosses himself and genuflects (kneels on one knee), which Charles does in suit. But Sebastian is cross, and says he need not copy him just for good manners.
    • He shows Charles around, explaining that the chapel was a wedding present from his father to his mother.
    • On the way out of Brideshead in their car, the young men pass a chauffeured Rolls-Royce which Sebastian declares is Julia returning home. They got out just in time, he says.
    • During the drive back, Sebastian apologizes for being snippy – Brideshead has that effect on him.
    • (Charles explains, in his narration, that Sebastian always works in imperatives. Everything he does he has to do, like going to see Nanny or visiting the botanical gardens.)
    • The men discuss families: Sebastian doesn’t like his; Charles doesn’t have much of one (just him and his father, as his mother was killed during World War I).
    • Looking back on that day now, Charles is amazed that so small of an event – his first visit to Brideshead – is recounted now "with tears by a middle-aged captain of infantry."
  • Book 1: Chapter 2

    • At the end of the summer term, Charles gets another visit from Jasper – the last visit from Jasper, he adds.
    • Jasper gives yet another lecture, but this one full of disappointment rather than hope. He tells Charles that he’s fallen in with the very worst group of undesirables in all of Oxford. Sebastian Flyte may be OK, but Anthony Blanche is certainly not.
    • Jasper also slips in some info about Sebastian’s family. His parents, the Marchmains, have lived apart since the war ended. They’re still married because Sebastian’s mother is a Roman Catholic and refuses to get a divorce, but her husband now lives in Rome while she stays in England.
    • He moves on to discuss Charles’s allowance, which he’s certain Charles has exceeded, based on the lavish paraphernalia lying around his room. Among other things is a human skull from the school of medicine with the words Et in Arcadia ego inscribed on its forehead. (Make sure you read about this in "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory.")
    • Jasper continues, reprimanding Charles for his clothes and lack of extracurricular activities. Ryder hasn’t made a name for himself, and this gravely concerns his older cousin. Also, Jasper says, he’s been drinking too much.
    • That’s Charles’s cue to interrupt his cousin, insist that he likes his lot of bad friends, spending double his allowance, and, most of all, drinking. He then invites him to join him for a drink, though it’s only the afternoon.
    • Jasper would later write to his father about the matter, who would write to Charles’s father, who would do nothing about it.
    • And then it was time for the Easter vacation, which Charles spent with Collins in Ravenna. Ryder wrote letters to Sebastian and received two back, written "in a style of remote fantasy." Collins falls into the world of art that would later lead to his career. Charles wonders, in reflection, whether he might have gone the same way as Collins had it not been for Sebastian.
    • Instead, Sebastian has given him the happy childhood he never had when he was actually a child. Looking back, despite Jasper’s lectures, there is nothing he would have done differently. If he had cared enough to engage with his cousin, he would have told Jasper that "to know and love one other human being is the root of all wisdom."
    • And now we shift the spotlight to Anthony Blanche, with whom Charles has been spending a lot of time. Anthony is, as Ryder says, "a nomad of no nationality." He had a peculiar upbringing in a variety of locations all over the world, where he met and became close with the most famous of writers, philosophers, and thinkers. He’s done and seen everything.
    • Anthony may be experienced, but he pursues vice and wishes to shock those around him. He’s still savage and cruel, and in that way is still very young.
    • And then he asks Charles to dinner, alone, where he is loud and attention-seeking. Before they go they stop for Alexander cocktails (frothy drinks with cream) which Charles finds to be disgusting.
    • Anthony tells a story from a few nights prior, in which he was in his pajamas and reading until disturbed by a mob of twenty or so rowdy boys outside in the piazza chanting his name. They knew him as a friend of Boy Mulcaster, who Anthony says is known as the perfect example of "a degenerate."
    • It seems Mulcaster spent Easter with Blanche and his family and made a spectacle of himself – surprising, since he is a Lord and this is not a great display of English aristocracy. He lost all his money at cards and Anthony had to pay for everything.
    • Anyway, Anthony leaned out the window and made some mocking remark to Mulcaster, who was with this rowdy crowd. A bunch of them came clattering up the stairs, and one boy accused Anthony "of unnatural vices." Anthony very wryly remarked that he couldn’t handle all these boys at once and that the impertinent one had better come back alone.
    • The boys then tried to "put Anthony in Mercury," which refers to the pond with a statue of Mercury on campus. (In other words, they were going to chuck him into the water.)
    • Then Anthony remarked that nothing would give him more please than to be "manhandled" by these "meaty boys."
    • And that does it. No one really wanted to throw him in the fountain after that. So Anthony got in on his own, after inviting them to watch him bathe.
    • He remarks to Charles that something like that would never happen to Sebastian; he is too charming. The next day he went to see how Sebastian was and found him with two of the rowdy crowd from the night before, who were there to see how the teddy bear was. Sebastian had only sympathy for the young men, even after he heard the story from Anthony.
    • Back in the day, says Anthony, when they were younger, Sebastian wasn’t so well-liked. He never used to get in trouble with the masters so the other boys didn’t like that. He was also beautiful, and never had any "spots" (British for "pimples").
    • He also used to spend a long time in the confessional, which baffled Anthony, since Sebastian never did anything wrong.
    • He basically talks all through dinner, even inviting Charles to come to France with him and drink fabulous wine. He calls Charles an artist, having seen several drawings of his hidden away in his room.
    • Sebastian doesn’t understand Charles’s artistic abilities, he continues, but those who are charming don’t need brains anyway. Anthony feels as though he himself has squandered everything, and will never become, say, an artist, as Charles will.
    • But back to Sebastian. The only question, says Anthony, is how such a lovely boy came from such a "sinister family."
    • He proceeds to describe all of Sebastian’s family. Brideshead, Sebastian’s old brother, is deemed "archaic" and a "learned bigot." Julia is smart and incredibly beautiful, but "a fiend—a passionless, acquisitive, intriguing, ruthless killer" who is interested only in power. There’s another sister, but she’s still young. The mother, he says, is very elegant, while her husband is large and powerful, handsome and slothful. Society has rejected him, and none of his family but Sebastian will go to see him.
    • He talks some more about Lady and Lord Marchmain’s awkward estrangement, now that he lives in Rome. Fifteen years into their marriage he went to war and came back with a mistress. His wife refused to divorce. Anthony knows all this, he explains, because he was in Venice when both Lady Marchmain and Lord Marchmain were around.
    • Anthony is clearly on Lord Marchmain’s side, since the man has given his wife everything she could ever want, and let her keep both of their houses (Brideshead and Marchmain house) and all the staff so she can "suck their blood," as Blanche so delicately puts it. Even Adrian Porson – a companion of Lady Marchmain’s – used to be "the greatest, the only poet of [the] time" until she got to him.
    • That’s why you can’t blame Sebastian for any shortcomings, he says, like being insipid (lacking zest). He never remembers anything the boy says for more than five minutes, and finds that Sebastian’s comments remind him of a painting called "Bubbles."
    • He compares Sebastian to Stefanie, a duchess with whom Anthony claims to have had an affair. She was enticing until she became a habit and "boredom grew like a cancer." He recommends that Charles be wary of Sebastian, as being "strangled with charm" is not a good experience for an artist "at the tenderest stage of his growth."
    • On the way home from dinner, Anthony says he’s sure that tomorrow Charles will repeat everything he’s said to Sebastian, and Sebastian will 1) not change his feelings for Anthony at all, and 2) immediately start talking about his bear.
    • Charles returns to his room for a restless night, which he cannot blame solely on the drinking. He keeps hearing Anthony’s words repeated.
    • The next morning, Sunday, Charles eats breakfast and walks through campus amongst a horde of church-goers.
    • When he arrives at Sebastian’s place, the young man is out, so he sits and waits. Sebastian returns from church, where he sat up front so that Monsignor Bell, who’s been writing home to tell Lady Marchmain that Sebastian hasn’t been attending services, would notice him.
    • Charles asks Sebastian if Anthony has ever met any of his family. No, says Sebastian, as far as he knows, though he then admits that he remembers hearing something about Anthony being in Venice when his mother was there.
    • Then Charles wants to know to know about the duchess, Stefanie, and if Anthony ever had a big affair with her.
    • Certainly not, says Sebastian, though he thinks they were stuck in an elevator together once.
    • Charles is convinced that Anthony was lying and tells Sebastian that Blanche spent all last night trying to turn him (Charles) against Sebastian. Sebastian finds this to be silly – as does his bear.
  • Book 1: Chapter 3

    • At the end of the year, Charles is out of money and won’t receive more until October. This is a problem.
    • Sebastian doesn’t have much of an allowance himself, but gets everything he wants by asking his mother, who prefers that everything he has to be a present. Even talking about his mother makes Sebastian "retreat," as Charles says, into his own solitary world.
    • Much of youth, says Charles, is made up of reflection and regret, though in adulthood we imagine our youth was dreamy and free of such melancholy.
    • It is with such self-reproach that Charles spends his first day at home with his father – he felt regret at having overspent his allowance. His father spends the whole day in the library, and emerges only at dinner.
    • Mr. Ryder is about fifty, but appears at least seventy. He wears an archaic smoking suit for dinner and always dines formally at home. He greets Charles, asks about the train home, and the two of them sit down to dinner.
    • Charles remarks that he thought about taking a class at an art school during the summer vacation, but that he doesn’t really have any money. His father remarks that he’s the worst person to come to for advice, as he’s never had that problem himself. He seems positively gleeful, and spends the rest of dinner reading his book while ignoring Charles.
    • After dinner, Charles takes a second shot at it. He ventures that surely his father doesn’t want him spending his entire vacation here at home? His father responds that, if he felt that way, he would never reveal as much.
    • For the next week, Mr. Ryder spent all day in the library, and Charles spent all day brooding. Dinner was their "battlefield." Mr. Ryder insists that his son entertain him, Charles makes poorly veiled attempts at getting more money, and Mr. Ryder pretends to not understand the innuendo – though it’s clear from their lavish, many-course dinners that money is no issue whatsoever for him.
    • Then Charles provides us with some back-story. After his mother died, his aunt Phillipa – his father’s sister – came to live with them for a while. She was a companion to Charles, but Mr. Ryder seems to have regarded her with menace. "I got her out in the end," he says of her now (she left the country by the time Charles went to Oxford), which Charles reads as a challenge to himself.
    • Charles runs into a man named Jorkins, a friend from his boyhood days whom he never liked and whom he finds relatively unchanged now.
    • Jorkins comes to dinner and serves as entertainment for Mr. Ryder, who decides to a play a little game pretending that Jorkins is American, but never makes references explicit enough that Jorkins can correct the misunderstanding.
    • A few days later, Mr. Ryder throws a dinner party to check the monotony of a nightly meal with his son alone. Their guests are specifically designed, says Charles, to annoy him, and include Sir Cuthbert and Lady Orme-Herrick, Miss Gloria Orme-Herrick, her bald fiancée, and a boring publisher. It’s awful.
    • Charles’s stay at home continues in this combative fashion, for his father loved this sort of battle, until he receives a letter from Sebastian, who has gone to Venice to visit his father. The letter’s style reminds Charles of what Anthony said of Sebastian that night at dinner – that he was insipid but couldn’t be blamed for it. For days after the letter, Charles thought he hated his friend Sebastian.
    • Then he gets another letter in which Sebastian curtly declares he is dying. Charles leaves at once to visit him, informing his father of the situation on his way out the door. Mr. Ryder doesn’t understand why Charles is in such a hurry, since he’s no doctor and wouldn’t be able to save his friend anyway. "Do not hurry back on my account," he adds.
    • Charles is panic-stricken during his train ride to Sebastian, imagining what horrible accident might have befallen his friend. He is afraid that he will be too late, Sebastian already dead by the time he arrives.
    • When Charles gets to Brideshead, he is met by Lady Julia – Sebastian’s sister – who takes him by car to the house and informs him that Sebastian isn’t dying, he broke a tiny bone in his foot by tripping over a croquet hoop.
    • Now that he can relax, Charles notes how much like Sebastian Julia is. She resembles him, sounds like him, and speaks with the same manner of speech. He feels as though he knows her already, because he already knows Sebastian. The only difference is her being a woman, a trait he recognizes intensely.
    • Julia has him light a cigarette for her, and there’s a moment of sexual tension, at least for Charles.
    • When they arrive at the house, they find Sebastian, in his pajamas, seated in a wheelchair with one foot all bandaged up. Charles simply says, "I thought you were dying" and realizes that, while he is relieved, he’s also angry at Sebastian for having put him through that.
    • They all have dinner in "the Painted Parlour," an ornate octagon room with wreathed medallions on the wall. Charles explains the war he’s been fighting with his father.
    • After dinner, Julia leaves to go see Nanny Hawkins. Sebastian declares that he loves his sister, that she’s so much like him. Then he clarifies – she looks and talks like he does; he doesn’t think he could love anyone with a character like his own.
    • That night the two friends drink and walk around the estate, and Charles feels "a sense of liberation and peace."
  • Book 1: Chapter 4

    • Charles reflects on Youth, and more particularly, the languor or relaxation which goes with it. Languor belongs only to youth, he says, and can never be recaptured later in life. This is what he experienced that summer with Sebastian at Brideshead, and he believes he was very close to heaven in those days.
    • Sebastian is discussing Brideshead Castle with Charles and explains that it doesn’t really belong to him, since it is "full of ravening beasts" at the moment.
    • Living at Brideshead is to Charles an aesthetic education, though Sebastian is unconcerned with the history or facts of the architecture and design. ("What does it matter when it was built if it’s pretty?" he asks.)
    • Sebastian convinces his friend to draw the grandiose fountain in the center of the terrace. He does, and at Sebastian’s order gives it not to Lady Marchmain, but to Nanny Hawkins.
    • Charles feels his aesthetic predilections shifting to the baroque as the summer continues.
    • One day the young men find a set of oil paints and decide to decorate the office. Charles paints a romantic landscape, without figures, which comes out rather well, if he does say so himself.
    • Some time later they realize there’s enough old wine in the cellar to keep them quite happy ("enough" = 4 bottles a night between them) for the rest of the summer.
    • Of course, the topic of religion soon arises. Charles himself has no religion, and always considered it a myth that had finally been exposed. But Sebastian was of course raised a strict Catholic, which he admits is difficult.
    • Sebastian says he prays every day to be made good, but not yet. To Charles’s great surprise, he believes in the story of Christmas and Jesus. He believes in it because it is "a lovely idea."
    • Charles wants to know: if Sebastian believes in it all, where is the difficulty? But Sebastian only responds that if Charles can’t see it, he can’t see it.
    • A week or so later, the young men are sunbathing on the roof when Sebastian reveals that his older brother, Brideshead, is coming home, and they shall have to hide to avoid him. He informs Charles that Brideshead is the craziest of all of them, and used to want to be a priest, and now he doesn’t know what he wants. He was upset with their father’s departure because the church doesn’t believe in divorce.
    • He then reveals that his father isn’t much of a religious man anyway, and only converted to Catholicism in order to marry their mother. Charles should meet Sebastian's father, Sebastian says, as he’s "a very nice man."
    • Sebastian claims he’s always been his father’s favorite, and that he’s the only one of the four children who doesn’t hate him now.
    • Religion has hit his family members in such different ways. But all Sebastian wants is happiness, and religion doesn’t seem to have much to do with happiness.
    • Catholics, he says, have an outlook on life completely different than that of other people. It’s difficult to belong to this "clique," as he calls it, since he and Julia are both semi-heathens.
    • Just then Cordelia, Sebastian’s 11-year-old sister, comes clamoring onto the roof. Charles and Sebastian cover themselves up quickly (they were sunbathing, remember?).
    • Like most 11-year-old girls, Cordelia does all the talking, mostly about her pig, named Francis Xavier, and the lovely new painting in the office (which Charles created), and how they must come to dinner with her and "Bridey."
    • Dinner gives Charles the opportunity to observe Sebastian's brother closely for the first time. Though Brideshead is only a few years Charles’s senior, he seems much older, full of "gravity" and "restraint."
    • Charles also hears that Cordelia is a troublemaker at her Catholic school, and reveals himself an agnostic, not an atheist.
    • They begin discussing the church on the estate and whether or not it will be closed, since no one really uses it anyway. Brideshead asks Charles, as an artist, what he thinks of the building aesthetically. It’s probably good art, he says, though he’s loath to define that very term. He adds that, personally, he doesn’t like it very much, which raises the question, from Brideshead, whether there’s a difference between liking something and thinking it good.
    • Charles reflects that this conversation reveals a division between himself and Brideshead; they will never really understand each other.
    • After dinner, Brideshead whisks Sebastian away to deal with estate-related business, leaving Charles with Cordelia who, despite chiding from her brother, calls him by his first name instead of "Mr. Ryder." She tells Charles that, since he’s an agnostic, she’ll pray for him.
    • She adds that, if he weren’t an agnostic, he could buy a black goddaughter "from some nuns in Africa." You pay five shillings and they name a baby after you. She has "six black Cordelias already," a scenario she finds to be quite "lovely."
    • Shortly after, Sebastian’s siblings depart and leave him alone with Charles once again. They decide to go to Venice together and visit Lord Marchmain.
    • Upon arrival, they are greeted by Lord Marchmain’s valet, a man named Plender, who takes them by gondola to Marchmain’s "palace."
    • The place is bare, with little extraneous furniture, mosquito nets on the bed, and the bathroom built in where a chimney used to be.
    • When they finally meet Sebastian’s father, he seems rather normal – the tall, dark, and handsome type. Charles is also shocked at Sebastian’s ease with his father (especially given Charles’s own strained relationship with dad back home) and at Lord Marchmain’s casual mention of a mistress, as though it were nothing.
    • The mistress’s name is Cara, and she’s away visiting friends. The three men have dinner together, and Charles wonders that this man, who seems so young, is somehow the same age as his own father.
    • The next day Charles meets Cara. He must have expected Julia Roberts in knee-high boots, because he’s shocked to find a well-dressed, middle-aged woman, seemingly unmarked by social stigma.
    • Cara acts as their tour guide around Venice, showing them all the tourist-y spots.
    • The young men stay in Venice for two weeks, which passes dreamily. Charles is perfectly happy there. One night Sebastian looks up at a statue and declares that he and Charles can never possibly get involved in a war, which he finds to be sad.
    • One day Charles finds himself alone with Cara, which gives her the opportunity to tell him about his friendship with Sebastian. It’s a special relationship, she says, that exists between young men of their age – romantic friendships, a kind of love whose meaning isn’t known to them yet. It’s better, she explains, for young men to have that kind of love for another man before he has it for a woman.
    • That was Lord Marchmain’s problem, Cara says. His first love was Lady Marchmain, and now he hates her. He doesn’t even love Cara, but only stays with her to protect himself from his wife. He hates her so much, Cara says, that he can’t even be in the same country as her. He can’t bear to be around people who may have spoken to her recently or are headed in her direction. That’s why he isn’t social – not because he’s been rejected by society, but because he refuses to be around those who run in the same circles as his wife.
    • All this hate, she explains, comes from his having loved her before he was grown-up enough to do so.
    • Meanwhile, she says, Sebastian is in love with his own childhood. He also drinks too much, which will ruin him. He has a certain way of drinking, different than Charles…
    • The summer vacation ends, and Charles returns home to his father, who inquires about the weather. Later that night he asks about Charles’s dying friend, about whom he was so worried.
  • Book 1: Chapter 5

    • When their second year begins at Oxford, things have changed. Sebastian feels old, he says, and he’s been getting a series of talking tos from Monsignor Bell and Mr. Samgrass, who is his tutor and friend of his mother’s.
    • Charles feels middle-aged, as though they can’t expect to have any more fun at Oxford.
    • Anthony Blanche, meanwhile, has left. He’s in Munich with some policeman to whom he’s "formed an attachment.".
    • Indeed, this second year is far less eventful than the first. Sebastian and Charles retreat into the shadows, so to speak. It’s so boring that Charles even starts to miss his cousin Jasper – there’s no one left to shock. After his gluttonous summer, he decides to settle down.
    • In addition to his other studies, Charles joins an art school and produces what he deems worthless drawings in their twice weekly meetings. He starts dressing more appropriately and becomes a respectable member of his college.
    • Sebastian is different; he retreats into solitude, grows more sullen and lacks energy. The pair spends more time together and gradually stops seeing the group of friends they made in their first year. He chalks some of this up to Anthony’s absence.
    • Not far into the first year, Lady Marchmain comes to visit. She tries to make Charles her friend, which is problematic for his relationship with Sebastian.
    • Sebastian’s mother is creating a memorial book for her brother, Ned, who has died in World War I and left behind a trove of historic documents. Mr. Samgrass is a history don (don = professor) and author himself, so he is helping her out with the endeavor. This is, supposedly, her reason for visiting the University.
    • Charles indulges in some further description of Mr. Samgrass. He’s one of those guys who spends his life sifting through archived documents. He knows everything about old British families of royal blood, the politics of the Catholic church and its members in the Vatican, old scandals, etc. Charles finds Mr. Samgrass to be in great contrast to Lady Marchmain.
    • A few weeks later, Charles is alone in Sebastian’s room, waiting for him to return, when Julia walks in with a man named Rex Mottram. The three of them and Sebastian all end up having lunch together.
    • Rex has a Canadian accent and is a forward, engaging man. He’s done well with money, is a member of Parliament, and has curried favor with Important People. He never went to the University, because he didn’t want to waste his life with education. In short, he’s a businessman, to an extent. And he’s thirty-ish.
    • Julia treats him with "mild disdain" and "possession," but that’s how she treats everyone.
    • A week later Rex invites Charles, Sebastian, and Boy Mulcaster to a party of sorts. They head to Marchmain house (the Flytes’ second home, in London, whereas Brideshead is in the country) to have some drinks beforehand, and it turns out that the party is a charity ball for one of Julia’s organizations.
    • When Julia arrives dressed for the ball, Charles describes her as "unhurried, exquisite, unrepentant." Take note, reader.
    • The result of all this drinking beforehand and all this waiting for the women to dress and get ready is that everyone is quite drunk before they ever get to the function. Mulcaster tipsily suggests they sneak away and go to Ma Mayfield’s, a totally sketchy joint in town where he "has" a girl named Effie.
    • So shortly after they arrive at the ball, the three men – Charles, Sebastian, and Boy – sneak away. They walk the short distance back to Marchmain house to take Hardcastle’s car (in which they drove from Oxford).
    • Once they’re in Ma Mayfield’s, the men continue to drink (surprise!). Boy finds this girl Effie, who seems to not remember him, though she’s more than happy to have him buy her food and drinks. Charles and Sebastian end up with two girls of their own, one that Charles refers to as Death Head and the other Sickly Child. The men end up leaving Ma Mayfield’s, with all three women.
    • Sebastian takes the wheel. This is a very bad idea. The women sense as much and leave the car, shortly before the men are pulled over and, after some drunken protesting on the part of Mulcaster, arrested.
    • In jail, the men decide to call Rex, since he seems like the sort of guy who could handle a situation like this one.
    • And handle he does. Rex shows up with enough Cuban cigars and hand-shaking charm to make the policemen happy. Clearly "rejoicing in his efficiency," he takes the three guys home to his place.
    • The next morning they discuss the issue. Sebastian is in the most trouble, as he was driving drunk. They agree to submit to the charges and explain that they’re simply good Oxford boys, unused to drinking wine (HA!).
    • As they wait at the courthouse, Sebastian wants to go abroad. He’d sooner go to prison, he says, than deal with the downfall from his family (mostly his mother and brother).
    • He and Charles meet up with Julia, who wishes they had taken her with them, as she’s always wanted to see the Old Hundredth (the name of Ma Mayfield's club).
    • She explains that Lady Marchmain isn’t really upset, and wants to have lunch with Charles and Sebastian.
    • So they do. Lady Marchmain seems to find the whole thing humorous, though she does worry over having to explain it to the rest of her family. Afterwards, Charles is relieved, not understanding why Sebastian still looks completely miserable.
    • Because of the prestige attached to Sebastian’s family name, the newspapers are all over the event. They publish the story with a headline: "Marquis’s Son Unused to Wine" or "Model Student’s Career at Stake" and a good chuckle is had by all who know better, which by now includes us, the readers. Still, Sebastian gets off easy thanks to Mr. Samgrass’s testimony that he is a fine individual.
    • Back at Oxford, Samgrass uses more of his influence, unfortunately to "gate" Sebastian and Charles. (They are confined to their respective colleges as punishment. For definitions and other fun slang, check out Shmoop’s "Links" page.)
    • But the worst penalty, says Charles, was being forced into close acquaintance with both Mr. Samgrass and Rex Mottram.
    • Samgrass, especially, has that annoying habit of turning every encounter into an intimate bond between himself and the boys. He starts visiting one or both of them every night, to check up and tell long, boring stories about his time at Brideshead and the people he meets, including Celia, Boy Mulcaster’s sister, who is apparently "saucy." (More on her later.)
    • During Charles’s time at Brideshead over the Christmas vacation, Sebastian’s mother continues to try to make him her friend. She talks of converting him to Catholicism, which doesn’t help her in the friendship endeavor.
    • Charles remembers bits of their conversations, including Lady Marchmain’s personal history. She married into money and used to worry that being rich was wrong when so many people in the world were suffering, but then she realized that God favors the poor, so she was really suffering herself by being wealthy. (Life is so hard.)
    • But despite these long, intimate talks, Charles remains firmly on Sebastian’s side. He worries for his friend, who these days wishes only to be left alone. Charles compares him to a Polynesian native, happy and peaceful on his island until a big ship drops anchor at the shore and he is forced into battle with the rest of the world. Sebastian’s time "in Arcadia" is limited, says Charles.
    • He also begins to understand Sebastian’s wary suspicions regarding his family and religion. When he can’t stand his family anymore, Sebastian asks to go to London. Charles takes him back to his house, and Charles’s father finds him "very amusing."
    • Back at Oxford, Charles sees this sadness growing in Sebastian, but doesn’t know how to help. Drinking gets to be an issue too – Charles recognizes that he himself drinks for the "love of the moment," but that Sebastian drinks "to escape." (Hmm, it's almost as if we’ve heard something like this before…)
    • At Easter, they all head to Brideshead for the holiday. Sebastian is in a great depression and Charles cannot help him. Sebastian just drinks in the library, secretly, all day. He gets worse when the guests are gone and he has to face his family alone.
    • One night he’s too drunk to even come down to dinner and simply locks himself in his room. Charles covers for him, pretending he’s just got a cold.
    • When Charles tells Julia the truth, she doesn’t seem to recognize the severity of the situation – she simply declares her brother "boring."
    • Sebastian is sitting in Charles’s room, plastered and openly resenting Charles "spying" on him for his mother.
    • Down at dinner, Cordelia spills the beans to Lady Marchmain. The Earl of Brideshead deals with it in his own way – by being removed and declaring that you can’t stop people when they want to get drunk.
    • Some considerable time after dinner Sebastian comes down, even more plastered than before, to "apologize." NOT to his mother, he announces, but to Charles, his "only friend." Charles takes him back up to his room, where Sebastian starts weeping. He feels betrayed.
    • The next morning Sebastian wants to leave Brideshead – along with Charles. But Ryder isn’t comfortable with just running away and not saying good-bye, so he lets Sebastian leave without him and promises to meet his friend in London. This leaves Charles alone at Brideshead – with Sebastian’s family.
    • Charles finds Lady Marchmain, who is distraught not by Sebastian’s drunkenness the night before, but by his depression. She doesn’t know why he left without saying good-bye; Charles explains that her son is "ashamed of being unhappy."
    • This has all happened before, says Lady Marchmain – with Sebastian’s father. He used to drink the same way, and he used to run away the same way. He, too, was ashamed of being unhappy.
    • Then she asks for Charles to help Sebastian – because she can’t. She also asks Charles to take a look at her brother Ned’s memorial book – the one she’s been putting together with Mr. Samgrass.
    • Charles realizes that Lady Marchmain is manipulating him, trying to get him to betray his friend. Later that morning, as he leaves Brideshead, Cordelia comes out and asks him to give Sebastian her "special love."
    • In the train on the way to London, Charles looks over the book that Lady Marchmain gave him, and we get some background on her family. She doesn’t look anything like her three brothers, and is older than the oldest brother by nine years. She also has two sisters.
    • The book itself is a series of letters, journal entries, and photographs, all revolving around her now dead brothers. He wonders if Lady Marchmain is going to die soon as well.
    • When Charles reaches London, he finds Sebastian as youthful and as cheery as when he first met him. Sebastian knows Charles has talked with his mother, and he asks if Charles has gone over to her side.
    • No, says Charles, he is with Sebastian, against everyone else.
    • When they return to Oxford, Sebastian’s depression kicks in again. They find a flat to share for the upcoming term. When Charles bumps into Mr. Samgrass, however, the don tells him not to commit.
    • Sebastian admits that his mother wants him to live with Monsignor Bell. As soon as Lady Marchmain knew she’d failed getting Charles on her side, she started a new plot.
    • Then she comes to visit, and stops for lunch with Charles. She wants to know if Sebastian’s drinking too much. Charles says no.
    • So of course that night Sebastian gets hammered and is found by a junior dean stumbling around campus at 1am. Apparently he’s gotten into a habit of drinking alone after Charles departs for the evening.
    • Charles is angry with Sebastian for having made him look like a liar to Lady Marchmain. He also thinks it’s ridiculous for Sebastian to drink every time his family is around.
    • Charles tries to explain to Lady Marchmain what happened, but she insists it’s no use, that there’s nothing to be done about a drunkard’s lies.
    • She also worries that Charles is Sebastian’s only friend – that there are no Catholics for him to hang about with. He’s not strong enough to keep his faith alone, she says.
    • She explains that Sebastian’s college will allow him to continue only if he goes to live with Monsignor Bell; Charles counters that this will make Sebastian drink himself silly. He’ll be miserable, and he’s someone who needs to feel free.
    • That night Sebastian confirms this, alone with Charles. He’s going to visit his father in Italy instead of putting up with this garbage at Oxford. And then they get roaringly drunk together. Again.
    • The next day Sebastian leaves with his mother. Charles is left to converse with Brideshead (who also came to Oxford for this ambush). Charles insists that, were it not for religion, Sebastian would have had a chance to be happy.
    • That night Charles goes to visit Collins, one of their buddies from the first year, to fill the void Sebastian left. He can’t.
    • At the end of the term he returns home and asks his father if he wants him to finish his degree. Of course not, says his father, it’s no use to either of them.
    • So Charles decides he wants to be a painter.
    • Shortly thereafter, Charles receives a letter from Lady Marchmain, explaining that Sebastian has gone to stay with his father and will be chaperoned around Europe by Mr. Samgrass after that. He may come back to Oxford after next Christmas.
  • Book 1: Chapter 6

    • We open with Charles, Julia, Cordelia, Lady Marchmain, Brideshead, and Sebastian back at Brideshead castle, two days after Christmas.
    • Mr. Samgrass is narrating the events of his travels with Sebastian.
    • It’s clear that something is up. Sebastian isn’t in the pictures, and Samgrass insists that it’s because he was holding the camera. Charles can tell there’s something that he’s not willing to tell Lady Marchmain.
    • Oddly enough, Anthony Blanche is in one of the photos; they bumped into him in Constantinople and he traveled with them to Beirut.
    • Sebastian himself looks weary, thinner, pale. Charles is concerned for his health.
    • Ryder tells his friend all about his time in art school in Paris. He is not impressed with the students or the teachers, and agrees with Cordelia that modern art is "bosh."
    • As they wait for dinner, Sebastian rings for Wilcox to bring drinks – but he’s busy having an intimate conversation with Lady Marchmain.
    • Brideshead finally corners Charles alone to tell him that his mother doesn’t want Sebastian drinking. Apparently Mr. Samgrass lost him over Christmas and found him again the night before.
    • This is apparently all in vain, as Charles finds Sebastian alone in his room, drinking.
    • Shortly after Charles finds himself alone with Julia, who’s still treating Sebastian’s alcoholism with casual annoyance. She mentions that there’s something fishy about Mr. Samgrass but that her mother only sees what she wants to, and adds that she herself is causing trouble for the family, too.
    • That night at dinner, Sebastian asks for whiskey and is given half a glass. It’s one of those tension-filled family dinners with which we’re familiar.
    • Brideshead talks about hunting the next day, and Sebastian adds he’d like to go as well, much to everyone’s surprise. (Wait for it…)
    • Later, Sebastian explains to Charles that he plans on ditching the hunting as soon as they all split up and spending the day at a pub in town. (There it is.)
    • Then he asks for money, the better to drink at a pub with. He has none of his own and even pawned his watch for cash when he was abroad. He tells all about his time with Mr. Samgrass and the various ways he managed to escape the man’s company.
    • The next morning, Charles concedes and gives Sebastian two pounds before he heads off to the hunt.
    • Ryder is left alone at the house with Samgrass, who attempts to keep up the charade regarding a supposedly successful Christmas break with Sebastian.
    • But Charles is having none of it; he knows the truth, he says, and it’s clear that he’s not willing to discuss his friend with this jerk.
    • Samgrass explains that Sebastian can’t possibly get into any trouble today because he has no money and no one would possibly be wicked enough to give him some. (Oops.)
    • Then Julia enters and explains that Rex is arriving today. She asks if Charles is going to paint another medallion on the wall of the garden room, since he has done one on each of his visits to Brideshead (there are now three completed).
    • Julia brings up Sebastian; if he’s going to get drunk all the time, she says, he should go away somewhere else. It’s clear to Charles that she’s more concerned with embarrassment for the family than she is about her brother’s severe depression.
    • Then Lady Marchmain puts in her two cents. They have to keep Sebastian with them, or accompanied by Mr. Samgrass. Charles knows but doesn’t say that Sebastian will run away again – just like Lord Marchmain did – because he hates her just like his father does.
    • Then Charles talks to Brideshead, who manages to bring what Charles considers to be religious overtones into the mix. If he ever felt like becoming a Catholic, Charles says, talking with Bridey would have been enough to convince him otherwise.
    • And now for some comic relief. Rex has arrived with a Christmas present for Julia: a small tortoise with Julia’s initials set into the living shell in diamonds. Lady Marchmain appropriately wonders if it eats the same thing as normal tortoises. Mr. Samgrass wants to know if they’ll fit another tortoise into the shell when this one dies.
    • Rex also has a solution for Sebastian: ship him off to a guy he knows who fixes this sort of problem, in Zurich.
    • Cordelia comes back from the hunting party, ravenous and reporting that Sebastian is "in disgrace."
    • Sebastian calls the house, asking to be picked up from a hotel bar. When he gets back "two-thirds drunk," Lady Marchmain lets him drink more.
    • After a drunken dinner Sebastian goes to bed, drunk, as you might have guessed.
    • The next morning, Charles asks if his friend if he wants him to stay at Brideshead. No, says Sebastian – Charles is no help.
    • So Ryder goes to say good-bye to the family. When Lady Marchmain gets him alone, he admits to having given Sebastian money the day before.
    • She calls Charles "cruel" and "wicked," but sounds more disappointed than angry.
    • Charles is unmoved by Lady Marchmain. He drives away from Marchmain house and feels as though he’s left some part of himself behind him. He commits to never go back and declares that he’s left behind a world of illusion to move into a real world of real dimensions, to be experienced with the five senses.
    • In retrospect, Charles says that there is no such world – but he did not know this at the time.
    • So Charles returns to Paris, thinking he’s done with Brideshead.
    • Not so much. He gets a letter from Cordelia three weeks later. She is sorry he went away and isn’t angry with him for slipping Sebastian money because, quite honestly, she’s been supplying him booze herself. She also reports that Samgrass is gone and that Julia and Rex are getting very close, much to her dismay. Also, Rex is taking Sebastian to that fix-all German doctor.
    • Oh, and the diamond-encrusted tortoise buried itself to die.
    • About a week later, Charles gets back to his rooms to find Rex waiting for him. It seems that, on the way to Zurich, he has lost Sebastian.
    • Rex has come to see if Sebastian is with Charles, but Ryder declares he is done with that family. (Oh, just wait.)
    • The men go out to dinner; it’s Charles’s job to order and Rex’s job to pay. Eager to make Rex happy, Charles orders an elaborate, many, many course dinner.
    • Charles asks about the news from Brideshead: did everyone talk about him after he left?
    • Yes, said Rex. A few days after his departure, Julia realized Samgrass was a fake and called him out on having lost Sebastian and failing at his chaperoning duties. That was the end of Samgrass at Brideshead, and Lady Marchmain regretted having given Charles such a hard time.
    • Then when, they realized Cordelia had been slipping Sebastian whisky every night, they figured it was time to do something drastic. Meanwhile Lady Marchmain is very sick and refuses to get treatment – maybe something to do with her religion, suspects Rex.
    • Rex explains that they are in trouble financially, too. They’re overdrawn 100,000 pounds in London (you don’t even want to think about how much money that was in the 1920s).
    • As Rex goes on about the state of Sebastian’s family, the dialogue is interspersed with Charles's monomaniacal (obsessive about a singular thing) comments about the meal. If you’re reading, you’ll be full by the end of the chapter.
    • Speaking of money, Rex would like to marry Julia, sooner rather than later. Lady Marchmain doesn’t want this to happen, because Rex isn’t from the same class as Julia, and because he’s not a Catholic.
    • Also, he's been carrying on an affair with a prominent society woman named Brenda Champion, from whom he’s derived all his social and political connections. So there’s that.
    • Anyway, since Lady Marchmain won’t bite, Rex is headed to Italy to get Julia’s father to approve the marriage.
    • Dinner has progressed to the cognac. Rex doesn’t like it and has them bring out something better, which he also vetoes. Finally they bring out the good stuff, to Rex's satisfaction. Charles busies himself with his own drink and ignores the rest of Rex’s words.
    • In May, Rex and Julia’s engagement is announced; in June they are married quickly and quietly without a big affair – which is not the way Rex wanted things to go.
  • Book 1: Chapter 7

    • Charles begins by speaking of Julia. In the early years of when they knew each other, she was only slightly intrigued by him, but she caught his interest because of her likeness to Sebastian.
    • He recalls the first time he met her, in 1923, when Sebastian had his supposedly fatal foot injury and she picked Charles up at the railroad station. She was eighteen and at the center of the London aristocratic social scene.
    • Charles knows that the night Julia met him, she had no interest in him. She was in her own little world, wondering whom to marry, and, as Charles was not a contender, he had no place in her thoughts.
    • Not that she really cared about whoever she was going to marry – an arranged partnership would have been just fine with her.
    • While Julia was the best catch of her friends, she still lost points for a few issues: her father’s scandal, her religion. For a variety of reasons, many different categories of men were unavailable to her. Tragically, she had to hunt out those who are suitable.
    • So Julia created in her mind the perfect man for her: thirty-two, recently widowed, a great political career ahead of him, "mildly agnostic" but OK with a Catholic household, etc. So when Julia met Charles by the train station, she knew he was not her man.
    • Charles learned all this gradually, he explains, over the years that he knew her. He learned it the way one learns the life of a woman he loves…
    • Julia thought more on this imaginary perfect man, whom she called "Eustace." The problem is, he became a sort of joke to her, so that when she did meet a man just like the imaginary "Eustace," and he fell in love with her, she sent him away.
    • Oh.
    • Julia liked the fact that Rex was much older than she. Dating older was the chic thing to do among her friends. He knew the right people, he had money, and there was a mysterious air of danger about him, as though he were involved in something illegal. (Tony Soprano syndrome.)
    • She also liked that he was carrying on an affair with socialite Brenda Champion. That made him far more appealing to her. (Charles interprets it this way: Julia sensed that Brenda was the kind of woman she might become, and she fostered a rivalry between Brenda and herself for the affections of Rex Mottram.)
    • Charles delves back into his narrative at the time when Rex and Julia haven’t yet started dating. They’re in France; Julia is staying with her aunt, Lady Rosscommon, and Rex is staying nearby…with Brenda.
    • Rex is getting tired of Mrs. Champion. He wants a more exciting life, and Julia seems as good a prize as any to go chasing after. Of course, there’s not much he can do in the way of courtship, considering he’s living with another woman at the time, but he "establish[es] a friendliness."
    • Lady Marchmain hears about said friendliness and warns Julia to stay away from Rex, since he’s not very nice. Julia responds that no, he’s not, but that she doesn’t entirely like nice people.
    • Once they are both in London together, Rex shamelessly pursues Julia. He plans his entire life around her – always trying to show up where he thinks she might be, ingratiating himself with her family, driving her anywhere she wanted to go, etc. He becomes indispensable to her, and then she falls in love with him.
    • Then, one evening, Rex tells Julia he’s busy and can’t see her. She finds out later that he was with Brenda. The next morning, she refuses to see him, ignores all his phone calls, and stands him up for lunch.
    • Finally, Rex comes by the house. Julia says she doesn’t want to see him, but her mother insists that she be polite and not just "take people up and drop them" this way.
    • So Julia talks with Rex, alone, and agrees to marry him. Her mother is not pleased, but Julia explains that the only way she could justify her jealousy and anger was if she and Rex were officially involved.
    • Lady Marchmain starts plotting to fix the situation. She tells Julia not to speak of the engagement to anyone.
    • Meanwhile, Julia and Rex "made love." Note: Some think that this term means sex, and others maintain that, during this time period, it didn’t necessarily mean rounding home base. Take it as you will. Either way, Julia finds "making love" with Rex more enjoyable than previous encounters with "sentimental and uncertain boys." But then she remembers that she’s a Catholic, and this sort of pre-marital passion is not OK. She puts an end to the monkey business.
    • So Rex gets it somewhere else, namely from Brenda Champion. Julia tries explaining this to her priest – that she should be allowed to commit a small sin (pre-marital sex) to prevent Rex from committing a larger one (adultery).
    • The priest is having none of it.
    • So Julia is having none of the priest, or her religion for that matter. She drops Catholicism like a hot potato and gets back into bed with Rex.
    • Lady Marchmain, who now has an alcoholic son, a sexually active daughter, a husband living with another woman in Italy, and an inappropriate future son-in-law, continues to go to church on a daily basis.
    • As the year continues, it gets harder and harder to keep the engagement a secret. In her despair, Lady Marchmain plans to forbid the marriage, close Marchmain House, and take Julia away for six months.
    • That’s when Rex goes to Italy to visit Lord Marchmain who, upon hearing that his wife detested Rex, immediately consented to the marriage.
    • There’s some trouble with the lawyers when Rex wants to have Julia’s dowry to manipulate for himself – he doesn’t want it tied up in trustee stock because he’s used to using money to make money (that’s sort of what he does).
    • Then there’s the religion problem. Rex is Protestant, but cheerily agrees to convert to Catholicism as though he were changing his socks. Lady Marchmain dismally remembers her own husband converting, with equal nonchalance, when she was married.
    • Rex doesn’t want to learn anything, he just wants to sign the form that says he’s Catholic. Lady Marchmain explains that it doesn’t quite work that way and sets him up to meet with a priest.
    • Rex plays along. ‘Whatever you say, father" is his general mantra, but it’s obvious he’s just trying to please. The priest declares him impossible (he sees right through the cheerful veneer), but finally submits and makes Rex a Catholic.
    • In the meantime, Cordelia has been telling him all sorts of fairy-tale lies about Catholicism, like everyone having to sleep with their feet pointing east so they can walk towards heaven if they die. She calls Rex a "chump" for buying her crock.
    • Then, three weeks before the wedding, Brideshead announces that the wedding is off. It seems that Rex was already married and divorced.
    • Rex thinks it’s no big deal; he married young and divorced long ago – why should it matter? Julia explains that Catholics don’t believe in divorce. OK, says Rex, he’ll get an annulment; just tell him how much it costs.
    • What must be several painful days of banter later, Rex understands that he can’t make this problem go away. So he decides to get married in a Protestant church.
    • Lady Marchmain tries to argue, but Julia just declares that she’s been sleeping with Rex for some time, and if they don’t get married she’ll just keep on being his mistress.
    • And that’s the end of Lady Marchmain for the night; she hobbles up to bed.
    • Years later, Charles asks Julia why she would tell her mother that. Julia explains that she was so deeply involved with Rex she couldn’t just call the whole thing off. She wanted to make "an honest woman" of herself. Plus, she was only twenty.
    • Rex got permission from Lord Marchmain to have a Protestant wedding and that was that.
    • It was a "gruesome" wedding, she says, and no family from her mother’s side attended.
    • Cordelia was disappointed that she didn’t get to be a bridesmaid after all. She found Julia, begged her not to get married, and then said she hoped Julia would be "always happy."
    • Then Julia comments that the priest who tried to convert Rex to Catholicism understood him best: he "wasn’t a complete human being." Julia didn’t realize this until a year after they were married.
    • This is what she said to Charles, ten years after her marriage, in a storm on a ship in the Atlantic.
  • Book 1: Chapter 8

    • Charles comes back to London in May of 1926. His father is "delighted" to have him back "so soon," though he’s been away fifteen months.
    • That night he dines out with his new gang and bumps into Anthony Blanche and Boy Mulcaster. Anthony is taunting Boy, who’s considering going to the Old Hundredth later – in short, nothing has changed.
    • Anthony takes Charles aside and they discuss Sebastian (like we said, nothing has changed). Anthony explains that Sebastian came to live with him in France after parting ways with Charles. He drank all day long and even stole and pawned two of Anthony’s suits for cash for more booze.
    • Anthony tried to help him with his alcoholism problem, it would seem, by getting him into other activities/substances instead. "If you want to be intoxicated," he says, "there are so many much more delicious things [than alcohol]." (It’s unclear whether the man Anthony sends Sebastian to is a male prostitute or a drug dealer.)
    • But Sebastian writes a bad check to the supplier of these activities and/or substances, which is bad news, in the mobster’s-coming-after-you sort of way.
    • Mulcaster rejoins them and Anthony continues: he went to Tangiers with Sebastian and met his new friend, the German, who shot his foot to get out of the army. Anthony wasn’t a fan, so he left them and came back to England alone.
    • Mulcaster, not entertained by the conversation, leaves to ring the fire alarm, so as to liven things up.
    • Anthony reveals that Sebastian and his friend went to French Morocco – he thinks they were in trouble with the police in Tangiers. Since he’s come back to London, Sebastian’s mother has been badgering him to try and get in touch with her son.
    • Because Mulcaster has prank called an alarm, two fire engines pull up just as he and Charles leave the nightclub. Mulcaster remarks that he doesn’t think a lot of Anthony, and the two of them spend the night talking about the war.
    • The conversation results in Charles’s decision to join a flying squad in London. He sees action only once, when a group of young rebels attacks a few policemen. That’s about it. Then the General Strike is called off, and there’s not much to do after that.
    • Julia hears that Charles is in England again and contacts him; Lady Marchmain is ill and wants to see him, she says.
    • Charles hurries to Marchmain House in London, where he meets Julia and is informed that Lady Marchmain is dying.
    • Julia tells him that her mother is terribly sorry for being so "beastly" to him with regards to Sebastian’s drinking. She also wants to know if Charles can help fetch Sebastian to the house now.
    • Before he goes to bed for the night, Charles learns that Brideshead didn’t help England with the General Strike problem and that Cordelia is there in London as well, helping to take care of her mother.
    • So Charles takes off in search of Sebastian. He travels to Fez (in Morocco) and dines with the British Consul to find out about his friend.
    • The Consul is pleased that someone has finally come to take Sebastian off their hands. He likes the boy, it’s just that Sebastian needs something to do with himself. He’s also still hanging around with the German guy, who is a big leech.
    • Charles heads to Sebastian’s place and notes the Moroccan scenery as he travels. Back then, says narrator Charles, he thought it was suburban and modern. But thinking back on it now, he finally understands what holds Sebastian here.
    • When Charles enters what he is told is Sebastian’s residence, he finds the German that he’s heard all about, listening to jazz music and sitting in a chair with a bandaged foot. One of his front teeth is missing and he speaks with an amusing lisp.
    • The German informs him that Sebastian is ill and in the infirmary. He then explains a brief history of his own life, which involves joining the army and then shooting himself in the foot to get out. He adds that his foot is full of pus. Thanks.
    • Charles explains that Sebastian’s mother is ill; the German hopes that this will mean more money for them to spend.
    • So Charles heads for the hospital, which is being run by Franciscan brothers. He discovers that Sebastian is recovering from the grippe – he is OK but not exactly fit for traveling.
    • The Franciscan with whom Charles converses has been completely taken in by Sebastian, whom he praises for never complaining and for taking in the poor German soldier with a foot full of pus.
    • Finally, Charles is taken to see his friend. He notes that Sebastian looks "emaciated" and run down. Sebastian explains to him that, these days, he just couldn’t manage if he didn’t have Kurt.
    • Charles breaks the news about Lady Marchmain, but Sebastian simply calls her a femme fatale.
    • Charles continues to visit Sebastian as he heals; Sebastian continues to get his friend to sneak him in alcohol. This concerns the doctor, who blames Sebastian’s sickness on the alcoholism to begin with.
    • Then the men receive word that Lady Marchmain is dead. Sebastian still hesitates to return to England, because he’s not sure if Kurt would like it there. He explains that he’s been taken care of his whole life, and he likes that now he finally has someone to take care of himself.
    • So Charles takes Sebastian back home, where he immediately begins waiting on Kurt though still so ill himself. Charles also arranges the finances so that Sebastian’s funds are limited to a weekly allowance and so that Kurt won’t drain him of his money. Then he goes to London to finish these financial affairs.
    • In London Charles meets up with Brideshead, explains the situation, and gets him to agree to this new plan for Sebastian’s money.
    • Then Brideshead explains that Marchmain House is being pulled down, and his father would like four oil paintings of the estate to commemorate it. Charles agrees to create the paintings, works as quickly and possible, and ends up producing what are still four of his favorite works.
    • While he paints, Cordelia comes by to watch. She is older now (fifteen) but not as beautiful as Julia.
    • Charles takes her out to dinner and they talk about Sebastian. He realizes that Cordelia knew more than he thought she did. She professes that she loves her brother "more than anyone."
    • She informs Charles that the chapel at Brideshead was closed after her mother’s requiem.
    • She wishes Charles could understand the affinity people feel for their place of religious worship, and quotes this line: Quomodo sedet sola civitas.
    • (Note: This is the first line of a religious chant. It means "How the city sits alone…" The next line is pleno populo, which means "which was full with people." Celia is describing the chapel which, once full, has now been closed.)
    • This, of course, launches Cordelia into yet another religious conversation. It seems as though members of her family have left God, but this isn’t so, she says. Cordelia quotes a priest and claims that, though Sebastian and Julia may wander from their religion, they are forever held by a string tying them to it. They can be brought back any moment "with a twitch upon the thread," she explains.
    • She goes on to talk about her mother. She was closer to her than her siblings, but she doesn’t think she ever really loved her. (Yikes.) She adds that "when people wanted to hate God, they hated [Lady Marchmain]."
    • Cordelia hopes that she has a vocation, so that she can become a nun. Her brother Brideshead wishes he had one, but he doesn’t.
    • Charles, meanwhile, has no interest in this religious chatter. He "felt the brush take life in [his] hand that afternoon," he says. He is so inspired by the work he’s done on the paintings that he can think of nothing but art.
    • And the first half of the novel ends with Cordelia asking for another meringue.
  • Book 2: Chapter 1

    • Charles begins with a long, ornate discussion of memory. Memories are mysterious, he says, unexplainable. He compares them to those times in history when civilizations that have always been peaceful and constructive suddenly fall apart through violence and crime.
    • While we’re on the topic of large-scale abstractions, he adds that every man keeps company with different versions of himself. We end up getting swept through life without our permission until we take the time to pause and reflect.
    • This is what happened to Charles – his friendship with Sebastian is the time he felt the most alive.
    • After that part of his life was over, Charles became an architectural painter. He paints buildings because he thinks they are greater than the men who built them. He was often commissioned to paint great houses which, in part due to economic decline, were about to be destroyed. (The same way he painted Marchmain House).
    • Charles travels to Central America to paint the architecture there. While he’s gone, he makes little attempt to stay in touch with those back in England.
    • His work abroad is a great success; the critics praise Charles, but his wife (!), while thinking the paintings brilliant, doesn’t believe they are quite him.
    • Charles meets up with his wife in America, noting that she left "her son" at home and remembering vaguely some mention of her new daughter.
    • His wife is surprisingly unperturbed at the fact that Charles forgot he now had a second child. She explains that she named her daughter Caroline, because that is the female equivalent of "Charles."
    • While the two of them lie in bed that night, Charles’s wife asks him if he still loves her; he evades the question.
    • In narration, Charles explains that he married his wife six years before, and that she helped launch his artistic career. They own a house in "her part of the country" in England.
    • Charles’s wife (we still don’t know her name) explains that she had their barn turned into a studio for Charles to paint in. He is reticent and unappreciative.
    • When she asks if Charles got her letter about boy, we are told (parenthetically, no less) that Boy Mulcaster is her brother. (Now is when you flip all the way back to the middle of Chapter Five and find that Boy Mulcaster has a sister named Celia.) Celia explains that Boy was going to marry some horrid girl but that Johnjohn, with all the wisdom of youth, somehow talked him out of it.
    • Celia remarks that she and Charles can pick up where they left off two years ago when he went abroad. They forget about the incident which is now all over and forgotten. (Hmm.)
    • We cut to Charles and Celia on their ship back to Europe. Celia is popular with the Americans, so their cabin is full of gifts (flowers, books, etc.) wrapped in cellophane.
    • When she decides to throw a cocktail party that night, the first person she calls is a mutual friend who is also aboard – Julia Mottram.
    • Charles hasn’t seen Julia for several years, since the day he got married. In fact, he hasn’t seen any of the Flytes since then. As far as he knows, Sebastian is still abroad and Julia and Rex are unhappy together.
    • Charles explores the ship and concludes that wealth here is vulgar compared to what he saw in Central America.
    • He bumps into Julia while walking around the ship. They have drinks together, and Julia remarks that she never sees Charles or anyone else that she likes anymore. He finds it odd that she acts as though they were great friends when they left off, when in fact they never knew each other very well.
    • He asks what she’s been up to, and Julia answers that she thought she was in love with someone, but "it didn’t turn out that way." Charles feels she’s grown up considerably, gained a humility that she never had before.
    • Julia tells Charles that he’s changed, grown "harder" than the youthful boy he used to be.
    • In his narration, Charles remarks that Julia is nearly thirty and just about as beautiful as she will ever be, which has a lot to do with the sadness she now possesses. He also mentions "the love [he is] soon to have for her."
    • Charles returns to his cabin and describes his and his wife’s rooms: they’ve been given a large VIP suite due to his wife’s ability to garner favor with important people. Also, the chief purser has sent a life-size swan carved out of ice and filled with caviar that is now dripping into a silver dish.
    • It’s clear that Celia is blissfully unaware of what really happened in Book I. She callously refers to Sebastian as a "dipso" and is somehow under the impression that her brother dated Julia.
    • Celia reminisces about the night she got engaged to Charles; he reminds her that she was the one who popped the question.
    • Charles’s wife explains that she’s invited some Hollywood people to the party, so that he can break into the scenery-design business. Charles isn’t exactly enthusiastic about the prospect.
    • So Charles suffers through his wife’s cocktail party, concerned only with when Julia will arrive.
    • He begins conversing with an eccentric little redheaded Englishman vacuuming up the caviar. This scene is essentially like the wild party in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, except that no one is drunk and they’re all far less interesting.
    • At last the party begins breaking up, while everyone talks about the impending storm they will surely suffer through.
    • Shortly after, Charles and his wife go to dinner, where they are seated at the Captain’s table. Julia is there as well and explains that she couldn’t come to the party because her maid had disappeared and she had nothing to wear.
    • Diner conversation is absurd and aristocratic and full of good old Waugh-style mocking humor. You should read it if you feel like a British laugh or two.
    • Charles can’t handle it, especially since he’s just come back from the jungles of Central America. He believes that he is like King Lear on the heath.
    • Then the impending storm finally arrives – Charles notes that Julia, like himself, is relieved to have the dinner broken up. Everyone clears out until Julia, Celia, and Charles are left alone at the table. Julia remarks that this is like King Lear, which is amazing and not at all contrived to show kindred between her and Charles. They banter that the three of them are like the three characters weathering the storm together in Lear – the Fool, Kent, and Lear himself.
    • Celia doesn’t get it.
    • The three of them head to the lounge, which is nearly empty, and then go back to their cabins for bed. During the night, Celia is sick from the tossing of the boat, and Charles can think of nothing but Julia.
    • The next morning, Celia is still sick and essentially confined to the cabin all day. He has one of their flower bouquets sent to Julia, and she telephones him for what seems to be the sole purpose of bantering over the phone and arranging to meet before lunch.
    • When they meet, Charles and Julia walk around the promenade together. He bonds with her over the fact that they are both seemingly immune to the storm. She is the only woman they see out and about.
    • Julia says she’s glad Charles sent her the roses this morning. They were a shock and made her think they were "starting the day on quite the wrong footing." Charles knows what she means and expresses (in narration) that the love he and Julia will share is always based on this sort of communication.
    • They end up lunching with a gentleman they meet while wandering the ship. This new guy likes Julia and thinks that she and Charles are married. Charles finds this amusing.
    • They all return to their respective cabins to take a nap. That night, they meet again to attend a party thrown by the gentlemen who thinks they’re married. A group of them end up in Charles’s sitting room to play roulette.
    • Charles and Julia spend the entire next day together, too. At one point they make out in her room, though later that night she refuses to have sex with him. "I don’t know if I want love," she says.
    • Charles explains that he’s not asking for love, but Julia insists that he is.
    • Julia and Charles talk all night; this is where he hears the whole story of her past, including her marriage to Rex and all the technical problems that went with it (because of the conversion and his prior marriage). There was also some messy business around whether or not they should have a child, and their baby was ultimately born dead.
    • Julia says that Rex isn’t "intentionally unkind," it’s just that "he isn’t a real person at all." Two months after their honeymoon was over, he was sleeping with Brenda Champion again – worst of all, he couldn’t imagine why it hurt Julia for him to do so.
    • Charles partakes in the "share my pain" session; he says that he was happy when he found out Celia was having an affair, because it meant that he was justified in disliking her. (Ouch!)
    • Julia wants to know why he married Celia (good question). Charles responds that she was the ideal wife for a painter, that he was lonely, that he missed Sebastian, etc. He calls Sebastian "the forerunner" and says that "Julia understood" what he meant.
    • (Note: it sounds to us like he’s referring to Sebastian as the forerunner to Julia, or rather, his relationship with Sebastian as the forerunner to his relationship with her.)
    • Charles hears more news of Julia’s family, too. Lord Marchmain remains in Venice, Sebastian has "disappeared," Cordelia is working as a nurse in Spain, and she and Rex live at Brideshead, with her brother.
    • Rex is disappointed with Julia as a wife; he writes her off completely until someone he thinks is important takes a liking to her. Despite all this, she’s been faithful to him…until now.
    • Julia adds that, although she has lost religion herself, she wanted to raise her daughter as a Catholic when she thought she was going to have a baby. Of course, Rex didn’t mind that the baby was stillborn since it was a girl. Julia feels she’s been punished somehow for marrying Rex.
    • The next day, after some accidental storm-induced physical contact while wandering the deck, Charles and Julia finally sleep together in her cabin. He stays the night, and the next day the storm is essentially over.
    • That morning Charles makes his way back to the cabin and finds his wife awake and feeling much better. She makes a joke about him picking up other women. When he responds that he spent the time with Julia, Celia remarks that she "always wanted to bring the two of [them] together." Hardy-har-har.
    • That night they all have dinner together at the Captain’s table. Celia looks beautiful, and Julia no longer looks sad.
    • Before they leave the ship, Charles and Julia make plans to meet again in London.
    • As the voyage draws to a close, Celia wants Charles to come home with her so he can see their new daughter, Caroline. But Charles insists that he needs to go to London for his work.
  • Book 2: Chapter 2

    • It is the day of Charles’s private exhibition of the paintings he did in Central America. Celia has arranged the whole thing in an attempt to please the critics as much as possible. During the preparation, Charles phones Julia and works out the details for what seems to be their impending romantic get-away.
    • When he meets up with Celia, she says she’s just been speaking with this guy Mr. Samgrass about Brideshead Castle. Charles remarks that the man is a crook.
    • Celia is not pleased when Charles says that he’s going to Brideshead that night. She wants him to stay at home with her, and adds that he hasn’t seen his daughter Caroline yet.
    • The exhibition begins and Celia sets to charming everyone, explaining to the critics that Charles lives for Beauty, was tired of finding it "ready-made" in England, so went off to Central America to create it for himself.
    • After lunch, an important critic who had dismissed Charles in the past finds him and says of his new work, "I knew you had it. I saw it there. I’ve been waiting for it." Others applaud the work as "virile" and "passionate," words that have never been used before to describe Ryder’s work.
    • Charles recalls that this week of his exhibition was also the week he detected that his wife was cheating on him. He felt that this knowledge freed him, somehow, and that she could not hurt him anymore.
    • At the end of the day, Celia remarks that she "wish[es] it hadn’t got to happen quite this way," which Charles takes to mean she knows what’s up.
    • Just then Charles hears a loud, dramatic voice at the entrance protesting that one shouldn’t need an invitation to come in and see the art. It is Anthony Blanche, and he hasn’t changed at all.
    • Anthony senses that all is not well in Charles’s love life, so he whisks him off to a shady bar to hear of his "other conquests."
    • As they sit together at the bar, Charles feels as though he is back at Oxford again. Anthony narrates his own reactions to Charles’s work. He found the earlier English works to be very charming, but not his own cup of tea.
    • Then he heard about Charles’s new work, which was described to him as "barbaric" and "unhealthy." Naturally, this sparked Anthony’s attention, and he rushed off to the exhibition at once. (Meanwhile, his conversation with the socialite Mrs. Stuyvesant Oglander revealed that Charles and Julia were having an affair, which means everyone knows about it.)
    • When he arrived to see the paintings, continues Anthony, he found that they weren’t as "barbaric" as everyone claimed. They seemed to him like "simple, creamy English charm, playing tigers."
    • Charles agrees with this assessment.
    • Anthony explains that this is why he took Charles out to dinner that night back at Oxford – to warn him of the dangers of charm, which he believes kills everything, including art and, by now, probably Charles as well.
    • Charles leaves Anthony at the bar and meets Julia on a train headed for Brideshead, as planned. He tells her that his wife knows about their affair. Julia just says that it had to happen eventually, and that it doesn’t matter if Rex knows or not because he isn’t a real person and doesn’t really exist.
    • At Brideshead Charles finds Rex and several of his friends, annoying politicians with loud voices and over-inflated egos. Charles notes that these men all fear Julia.
    • That evening, Charles listens to them all banter over current socio-political events. Later, he and Julia wonder whether it’s worse listening to this political chit-chat or dealing with Celia’s art and fashion.
    • Charles wonders why it is that his love for Julia makes him so hateful (of everyone else). They decide that they are happy in their isolation together, but when Julia declares that they can’t be hurt by others now, Charles forebodingly asks "for how many nights" that will remain the case.
  • Book 2: Chapter 3

    • Charles is painting a portrait of Julia (which he "never tire[s] of doing") one afternoon at Brideshead. They haven’t seen each other in about a hundred days, as they’ve been keeping up appearances for the sake of Celia’s children, as she requested.
    • Charles and Julia recall all the times they’ve met in secret over the last two years, in various locales all over the world. It’s clear that they’re in love with each other.
    • Julia says that she wants to marry Charles so that she can have "a day or two […] of real peace" with him. She knows this will take some planning, not to mention a divorce or two. Julia says she "feel[s] the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all." (Paging Jay Gatsby!)
    • That night, the happy [adulterous] couple is surprised to hear from the butler that Julia’s brother Brideshead has arrived from London. Charles notes that Brideshead is somewhat of a mystery, having managed to do nothing concrete with his adult life except become a famous collector of match-boxes.
    • When he arrives, Charles notes that, although 38, he looks about 45 as he’s grown heavy and bald. He declares that he has something to say, but wants to wait until the three of them are alone (without the servants).
    • Brideshead, in what Charles calls his typically "preposterous yet seldom […] absurd" manner, says that if he were a painter, he would paint action pictures, like battle scenes.
    • Then he asks where his mother’s jewels are, and Julia explains that they are in the bank.
    • Finally, after dinner, when the three of them are alone, Brideshead announces that he’s going to be married. Julia wants to know if she’s pretty. Not exactly, he says. She’s big. And her name is (attractively) Mrs. Beryl Muspratt. She’s a poor widow with three children. Her dead husband collected matchboxes, which is how they met in the first place.
    • Julia and Charles congratulate him, then ask why he hasn’t brought her to Brideshead with him.
    • Brideshead explains that it doesn’t matter to him if Julia wants to "live in sin" with Charles, but that Beryl is a woman of "strict Catholic principle" and would never stay under the same roof as such activity.
    • Julia leaves the room in tears. Charles tries to tell Brideshead off, but he is emotionless in return.
    • Charles goes looking for Julia and finds her outside, sitting at the fountain. Julia explains that she’s not upset at her brother; she’s upset because what he said is true. Then she rants about what it means to live with your sin constantly.
    • While she speaks of religion, Charles feels distant from her.
    • They go to her room and she freshens up her face after all that crying. They go back downstairs to join Brideshead, who acts as though nothing happened.
    • He explains that he and Beryl are moving into Brideshead, which of course means that Rex and Julia have to move out.
    • Later, Charles tries to tell Julia that religion is bunk; Julia wishes that it was. She discloses that Sebastian has gone back to the church himself. She feels as though she’s too far gone, but thinks she should try and put her life in order, which means marrying Charles and having a baby with him.
    • They move to the fountain outside again. Charles makes a joke of the situation, and Julia says she hates when he does that and hits him across the face with her switch. Twice. Then she asks if it hurt, cries, and kisses him.
    • The next night Charles has to listen through Rex and his associates babbling again about current events. He and Julia escape outside to be alone.
  • Book 2: Chapter 4

    • Charles works out the details of his divorce with Celia’s brother, Boy. She gets the kids and he pays for their education. She also gets to keep the house with her new boyfriend, Robin.
    • Boy doesn’t seem too upset about the divorce; he even tells Charles that he’s always had a soft spot for Julia himself.
    • Charles’s father is disturbed that his son is getting divorced at thirty-four. He thought that they were a happy couple. Charles corrects him and explains that he’s getting married again first thing.
    • Mr. Ryder thinks this is stupid and advises Charles to "give up the whole idea."
    • Rex adds his opinion to the pot. He thinks that if Charles wants to get divorced, fine, but he shouldn’t ruin Rex’s own happy marriage to Julia. He asks Charles to talk her out of wanting a divorce.
    • Charles narrates that Rex’s life isn’t going well. He hasn’t played his political cards right and there’s always too much written about him in the papers.
    • Even Brideshead’s new woman, Beryl, puts in her two cents: every family has one lapsed Catholic, and they’re usually the nicest one.
    • Julia finds Beryl to be old, friendly, and bossy. Julia believes that she’s exaggerating her religious nature in order to get Brideshead to marry her. Meanwhile, he is in an "amorous stupor, poor beast."
    • Charles’s cousin Jasper wonders why Charles is buying the cow when he can get the milk for free.
    • The divorces are made final.
    • In November, Charles and Julia are together at Brideshead when they are informed that Cordelia is on her way. Charles hasn’t seen her for twelve years.
    • Julia explains that Cordelia was in a convent for a bit, but that didn’t work out. She then went to Spain to help as a nurse in the war effort. She calls her sister "odd" and adds that Cordelia has grown up "quite plain."
    • When she finally arrives, Charles believes her to now be an ugly woman, which is a shame, since she used to possess what he calls a "burning love." He wonders at how she, Brideshead, Julia, and Sebastian could all possibly be siblings.
    • After dinner, the three of them go upstairs to see Nanny Hawkins. Charles recalls that, when he broke it to her about the divorces and upcoming marriage, all she said was that she hoped it was for the best. She also thinks it’s about time that Brideshead got married already.
    • Only now, while Charles watches Cordelia converse with her old nanny, does he realize that she (Cordelia) has her own sort of beauty.
    • Cordelia announces that she saw Sebastian last month, and that now he is with the monks in Tunis.
    • Nanny compares Brideshead to Sebastian, noting that the latter was never one for church and was always so beautiful and clean looking, whereas Brideshead looked ragged all the time.
    • Julia has a talk with Charles. She is surprised that he has forgotten Sebastian, who was, as Charles said in the storm, "the forerunner." Julia wonders if she, too, is just a forerunner…
    • Charles (internally) wonders the same thing. Maybe every love is simply a forerunner to another, he wonders. He adds that he has not forgotten Sebastian, that his friend lives daily with him in Julia, or rather Julia lived through Sebastian way back when.
    • The next day, while they walk around the grounds together, Cordelia tells Charles that she heard Sebastian was dying and so went to find him. When she got to Tunis, she heard the whole story. Sebastian refused to eat despite his plentiful wealth and so was emaciated by the time he arrived at the monastery. She said he wanted to live in the bush with cannibals. Or lepers. But he didn’t want any training at being a missionary or anything. The Superior told him he needed a missionary himself; Sebastian agreed and left.
    • But he kept coming back to the monastery, drunk, several times a week. Cordelia explains to Charles that the Superior was a very holy man and could sense this holiness in Sebastian, which is why he tolerated him. Charles is at a loss to understand any sort of holiness in his friend.
    • Anyway, Sebastian got so ill from not eating and drinking too much that the monastery had to take him in.
    • When Cordelia arrived, Sebastian explained that Kurt had been very sick, and that he took him to Greece to get better. Somehow or another Kurt was arrested and hauled back to Germany, which left Sebastian alone again.
    • Or not. Sebastian chased after Kurt, but found him newly reformed and a member of Hitler’s growing regime. That lasted about five minutes before he admitted he hated Germany and tried to skip town with Sebastian again. Kurt was caught and thrown in a concentration camp, where he hanged himself.
    • Sebastian continued to drink alone until he decided to live amongst the savages, which is how he ended up in Tunis. She says that she and Sebastian are similar in that they don’t fit in either to the real world or the monastic rule.
    • In their stroll about the Brideshead estate, Charles and Cordelia come to a bridge. She says that she had a governess who once jumped off and drowned herself. Charles says he knows this, that it’s the first thing he ever heard about Cordelia.
    • He asks if she told Julia all this about her brother. Most of it, she answers, but adds that Julia never loved him the way she and Charles do.
    • Cordelia envisions Sebastian living out his days as an alcoholic yet repentant part of the monastery abroad. "It’s not such a bad way of getting through one’s life," she says.
    • She agrees with Charles’s assessment that he is indeed suffering (from his alcoholism), but asserts that "no one is ever holy without suffering."
    • Cordelia asks if Charles thought she was "thwarted" when he saw her for the first time after so many years. He says yes, and she responds that she thought the same thing about him and Julia.
    • At dinner that night, Charles finds himself staring at Julia, "unable to turn away for love of her beauty." He decides that Julia regained what first drew him to her that night on the ship, the "store of magical sadness" that seems to say, "Surely I was made for some other purpose than this?"
    • As the evening draws to a close, Charles has in mind the image of an ice fisher, warm and content inside his hut, soon to be eradicated by an avalanche rolling towards him.
  • Book 2: Chapter 5

    • Everyone is in the middle of divorcing or, in Brideshead’s case, getting married, and changing estates when Lord Marchmain announces that he’s returning to England to spend his final years at Brideshead.
    • Plender, Lord Marchmain’s valet in Venice, arrives a few days before his master. They make arrangements so that both he and Wilcox, the Brideshead butler, have positions.
    • When Lord Marchmain arrives, he has to be lifted out of the car and helped to his feet. Cara, his mistress, has traveled with him from Italy. It’s clear that he is very sick.
    • Once inside, Lord Marchmain sits and insists on taking another pill, though Cara is reluctant to give him one.
    • He asks that the servants make up a bedroom for him on the ground floor, since he’s too ill to be traveling up the stairs to his former rooms. He tells the servants to use the Chinese drawing-room and the "Queen’s bed." Charles wonders if he planned this culmination of "adult grandeur" on the way to Brideshead.
    • Lord Marchmain sits with Cara, Julia, Cordelia, and Charles while the servants move around the furniture needed to make up his new bedroom. He tells them that he met Brideshead’s new wife and found her "deplorable." He’s horrified that his son married such a woman.
    • He speaks of the upcoming war (this is 1939) and speculates on what will happen to all of them. Charles comments that he’s negotiating for a position on the Special Reserve, and Lord Marchmain callously remarks about having an artist (like Charles) with his squadron during the war…until he died.
    • Charles is surprised by this new attitude.
    • Lord Marchmain looks at his new bedroom and remarks that Charles should paint it and title it "The Death Bed."
    • Cara later confirms that, yes, Lord Marchmain is dying, of some disease of the heart.
    • They all have dinner together in the recently made-up bedroom with Lord Marchmain.
    • At bedtime, he asks Cordelia to sit with him until he falls asleep. She later remarks that she thinks he is afraid of the dark.
    • Another night, Lord Marchmain again discusses his dislike for Beryl, Brideshead’s new wife. He doesn’t want her to become chatelaine at Brideshead. As such, he’s decided to leave the entire estate to Julia and Charles, rather than to his eldest son as expected.
    • Julia tries to protest, but he insists that she is so beautiful that she belongs in the beautiful estate.
    • Julia and Charles discuss the matter later, privately. Julia says she plans to accept the offer of the estate, since her brother and Beryl would be happier someplace smaller anyway.
    • In retrospect and through the narration, Charles admits that he was tempted by the offer, that he was captured again by the vision he had when he first discovered the estate alongside Sebastian. Brideshead seems to him a world of art and beauty, separate from the rest of reality.
    • Weeks pass. Lord Marchmain can never bear to be alone and insists that his children keep him company always.
    • Brideshead and Beryl come to visit, but Lord Marchmain doesn’t want to be around them. Charles feels a bit guilty around Julia’s brother, knowing as he does that he will get Brideshead’s inheritance.
    • Realizing that they are not wanted, Brideshead and Beryl leave.
    • More time passes, and Lord Marchmain remains essentially bed-ridden.
    • At Easter, 3-4 months since he first arrived, Lord Marchmain gets sicker. Brideshead is summoned back to the estate, this time alone, and concludes that his father must see a priest.
    • Charles is angry. It’s clear that, for all of Lord Marchmain’s life, he has hated religion. Charles finds it deplorable that his family would try to sic a priest on Lord Marchmain when his mind is too weak to resist.
    • Julia lashes out at Charles when he voices these concerns to her. He has the sense that "the fate of more souls than one" depend on this visit from the priest.
    • Finally, Father Mackay is brought to Brideshead – but Lord Marchmain refuses to speak with him. Charles feels triumphant. The "thread" which has hung over him and Julia has been averted, he feels. He also revels in the knowledge that Brideshead has likely ticked off his father even more and is farther from his inheritance than ever.
    • That night, Charles and Cara ask about the details of the Last Sacrament which Brideshead and Cordelia are so intent on their father having. They all debate the nitty-gritty details of going to hell.
    • Later, Julia chastises Charles for starting the argument in the first place.
    • More time passes. Charles’s divorce is finished and Celia marries someone else. Now he and Julia are waiting for September, when Julia’s divorce will be final and they can get married at last.
    • Charles is put on the "in case of emergency" list with the War Office.
    • Speaking with one of Lord Marchmain’s doctors one day, Charles remarks that the old man has an incredible will to live. The doctor counters that it’s actually the fear of death keeping Lord Marchmain alive.
    • Either way, Lord Marchmain refuses to be left alone. He wants to talk all the time. Charles provides a few pages of the sort of rambling Lord Marchmain gives in his final days. He seems to be deteriorating mentally. It also seems as though he feels guilty about the way he treated his wife (leaving her alone and moving to Italy with a mistress).
    • In July, while Cordelia is out of town, Lord Marchmain’s condition worsens. Julia goes to get the priest.
    • After she leaves, Charles wants the doctor to help him "stop this nonsense" with religion. The doctor replies that it is not his concern, though he admits that the shock of seeing the priest will likely kill Lord Marchmain.
    • When Julia returns with the priest, Charles tries to get Cara on his side against them. Tensions rise.
    • After a brief argument, they all go into the room with the priest. He begins to pray, and Charles kneels and prays with them. While Father Mackay asks for a sign from Lord Marchmain that he understands, Charles hopes (silently) that the dying man will comply, if only for the sake of Julia.
    • Lord Marchmain does indeed make the sign of the cross, and the little ceremony is over.
    • Outside, as they wait for the car to drive Father Mackay home, Charles gives him a three-pound donation.
    • Julia remains inside by her father’s side, and Lord Marchmain passes away that evening.
    • Charles now recalls the last words between him and Julia.
    • Later that night, they are finally alone. Both of them know without saying it directly that their relationship is over. Charles says he’s known for some time now, but Julia says she only just realized it.
    • Julia tries to apologize and explain. Charles says he gets it, and wants to know what she’s going to do with her life.
    • Julia says that the more she pushes away God, the more she needs Him. She worries that starting a life with Charles would mean a life without God. There is one thing unforgivable, she says, and today she realized she might do it: "set up a rival good to God’s." She feels she needs to give up this one good thing – a life with Charles happily ever after at Brideshead – in order for God to forgive her for all the wrong she has done.
    • Charles says he hopes Julia’s heart will break, but that he understands.
    • In narration, Charles returns to his prior vision of the ice fisher, now buried under the avalanche.
  • Epilogue

    • We return to our frame story, where Charles and his fellow officers are camping out at the Brideshead estate during WWII.
    • The commanding officer calls it "the worst place [they’ve] struck yet" because of the lack of amenities. When he asks if anyone knows the area, Charles says nothing.
    • Shortly after, a lieutenant-colonel takes Charles around the castle. He narrates that it belongs to a Lady Julia Flyte, who used to be married to Rex something-or-other. She’s abroad. He finds it odd that the old Marquis left everything to his daughter, and that this decision was "rough on the boys" (likely meaning it was hard for Lord Marchmain’s sons to accept).
    • As he shows Charles around the different rooms, he mentions the rather modern paintings on the walls that the soldiers have mostly destroyed while lodging there. (These, of course, are Charles’s paintings.)
    • The lieutenant-colonel points out the Chinese drawing-room and the fountain outside, which he knows to have great sentimental value to Lady Julia. He throws a cigarette into the empty fountain before leaving Charles.
    • Charles then explores the castle alone. He runs into the old housemaid who recognizes him and points him upstairs to Nanny Hawkins.
    • Nanny explains to Charles what’s happened in the last few years. Brideshead and Beryl kept getting turned out of their place of residence by the military. Mr. Mottram is doing very well politically and financially. Julia and Cordelia are together abroad, helping with the war effort in what Nanny believes to be Palestine, where Brideshead is as well with his yeomanry.
    • After speaking with Nanny Hawkins, Charles leaves and finds Hooper, who asks if Charles knows this place.
    • Charles responds that yes, he does, that it belongs to friends of his. He remembers asking Sebastian the same thing so many years ago, and Sebastian answering that it was the place where his family lives.
    • Hooper finds it wasteful that such a large place was built for just one family.
    • Charles responds that buildings are built for a strict purpose. He imagines it’s much like having a son and wondering how he’ll grow up.
    • Then he adds: "I don’t know; I never built anything, and I forfeited the right to watch my son grow up. I’m homeless, childless, middle-aged, loveless."
    • Hooper decides to take this as a joke, and laughs.
    • Charles then heads, alone, to the one part of Brideshead he hasn’t yet revisited: the chapel. He finds that it looks as bright and new as ever, and that a lamp is still burning before the altar. He says a prayer and leaves.
    • Charles reflects on the men who originally built Brideshead and all the architectural changes it went through throughout the years. He feels that all that work has been "brought to nothing," and reflects on the line quomodo sedet sola civitas. (Remember, this means "How the city sits alone" and is followed by "which was once filled by people." You heard this line the first time at the end of Book I, when Cordelia quotes it to Charles.)
    • Charles then cites another religious saying, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." Yet Charles feels this is "a dead word from ten years back."
    • Charles feels that something unintended came from all the work of the builders and out of the "small tragedy" in which he took part: the "small red flame" burning inside the terribly-designed art-nouveau lamp before the tabernacle on the altar. Charles is renewed by this discovery, convinced that such a flame burns for everyone, and that it could have been lit again "only for the builders and the tragedians."
    • He quickens his pace and walks back to the hut, where the second-in-command remarks that he is looking "unusually cheerful today."