Brideshead Revisited: Contextual References

Dear Nicole,

Here is the link to the Brideshead Revisited reference page:

Happy Easter!


Brideshead Revisited: Key Quotations Chapter 1 (Book 1)

‘I have been here before,’ I said; I had been there before; first with Sebastian more than twenty years ago on a cloudless day in June, when the ditches were creamy with meadowsweet and the air heavy with all the scents of summer; it was a day of peculiar splendour, and though I had been there so often, in so many moods, it was to that first day that my heart returned on this, my latest. (p. 21)

That day, too, I had come not knowing my destination. (p. 21)

Oxford – submerged now and obliterated, irrecoverable as Lyonnesse, so quickly have the waters come flooding in – Oxford, in those days, was still a city of aquatint. In her spacious and quiet streets men walked and spoke as they had done in Newman’s day; her autumnal mists, her grey springtime, the rare glory of her summer days – such as that day – when the chestnut was in flower and the bells rang out high and clear over her gables and cupolas, exhaled the soft airs of centuries of youth. (p. 21)

‘…If you ask me, sir, it’s all on account of the war. It couldn’t have happened but for that.’ For this was 1923 and for Lunt, as for thousands of others, things could never be the same as they had been in 1914. (p. 22)

Sebastian entered – dove-grey flannel, white crepe de Chine, a Charvet tie, my tie as it happened, a pattern of postage stamps – ‘Charles – what in the world’s happening at your college? Is there a circus? I’ve seen everything except elephants. I must say the whole of Oxford has become most peculiar suddenly. Last night it was pullulating with women. You’re to come away at once, out of danger. I’ve got a motor-car and a basket of strawberries and a bottle of Chateau Peyraguey – which isn’t a wine you’ve ever tasted, so don’t pretend. It’s heaven with strawberries.’ (p. 23)

Beyond the gate, beyond the winter garden that was once the lodge, stood an open, two-seater Morris-Cowley. Sebastian’s teddy bear sat at the wheel. We … Were soon in open country on the Botley Road; open country was easily reached in those days. (pp. 23-4)

On a sheep-cropped knoll under a clump of elms we ate the strawberries and drank the wine – as Sebastian promised, they were delicious together – and we lit fat, Turkish cigarettes and lay on our backs, Sebastian’s eyes on the leaves above him, mine on his profile, while the blue-grey smoke rose, untroubled by the wind, to the blue-green shadows of foliage, and the sweet scent of the tobacco merged with the sweet summer scents around us and the fumes of the sweet, golden wine seemed to lift us a finger’s breadth above the turf and hold us suspended.
‘Just the place to bury a crock of gold,’ said Sebastian. ‘I should like to bury
something precious in every place where I’ve been happy and then, when I was old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember.’ (pp. 24-5)

It is easy, retrospectively, to endow one’s youth with a false precocity or a false innocence; to tamper with the dates marking one’s stature on the edge of the door. (p. 28)

I knew Sebastian by sight long before I met him. That was unavoidable for, from his first week, he was the most conspicuous man of his year by reason of his beauty, which was arresting, and his eccentricities of behaviour, which seemed to know no bounds. My first sight of him was in the door of Germer’s, and, on that occasion, I was struck less by his looks than by the fact that he was carrying a large teddy-bear. (p. 30.)

It was shortly before midnight in early March; I had been entertaining college intellectuals to mulled claret; the fire was roaring, the air of my room heavy with smoke and spice, and my mind weary with metaphysics. I threw open my windows and from the quad came the not uncommon sounds of bibulous laughter and unsteady steps. A voice said … ‘D’you know know I feel most unaccountably unwell. I must leave you a minute,’ and there appeared at my window the face I knew to be Sebastian’s, but not, as I had formerly seen it, alive and alight with gaiety; he looked at me for a moment with unfocused eyes and then, leaning forward well into the room, he was sick. (p. 31)

I still frequented the lecture-room in those days, and it was after eleven when I returned to college. I found my room full of flowers; what looked like, and, in fact, was, the entire fay’s stock of a market-stall stood in every conceivable vessel in every part of the room. (p. 32)

That luncheon party – for party it proved to be – was the beginning of a new epoch in my life.
I went there uncertainly, for it was foreign ground and there was a tiny, priggish
voice in my ear which in the tones of Collins told me it was seemly to hold back. But I was in search of love on those days, and I went full of curiosity and the faint, unrecognised apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others, I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city. (p. 33)

He [Sebastian] was entrancing, with that epicene beauty which in extreme youth sings aloud for love and withers at the first cold wind. (pp. 33-4)

‘I must go to the Botanical Gardens.’
‘To see the ivy.’
It seemed a good enough reason and I went with him. (p. 36)

We drove on and in the early afternoon came to our destination: wrought-iron gates and twin, classical lodges on a village green, an avenue, more gates, open park-land, a turn in the drive; and suddenly a new and secret landscape opened before us. We were at the head of a valley and below us, half a mile distant, grey and gold amid a screen of boskage, shone the dome and columns of an old house. (p. 37)

‘It’s where my family live’; and even then, rapt in the vision, I felt, momentarily, an ominous chill at the words he used – not, ‘that is my house’, but ‘it’s where my family live.’ (p. 37)

‘I’m not going to have you mixed up with my family. They’re so madly charming. All my life they’ve been taking things away from me. If they once got hold of you with their charm, they’d male you their friend, not mine, and I won’t let them.’ (p. 41)

‘Perhaps I am rather curious about people’s families – you see, it’s not a thing I know about. There is only my father and myself. An aunt kept an eye on me for a time but my father drove her abroad. My mother was killed in the war.’ (p. 43)

The sun was behind us as we drove, so that we seemed to be in pursuit of our own shadows. (p. 44)

That is the full account of my first brief visit to Brideshead; could I have known then that it would be remembered with tears by a middle-aged captain of infantry? (p. 44)