Brideshead Revisited

The March issue of Vanity Fair is promoting the new big screen production of Brideshead Revisited. I am horrible at playing those games and answering those questionnaires that ask you your favorites. Psychologically, unlike aesthetically, I am not black and white; I live in the land of grey.

Emma Thompson as the matriarch Lady Marchmain.

So, rather than the one-word association game I’m supposed to be playing, I’m often working in paragraphs, and everyone else has moved on. I’m particularly conflicted on favorite book. But, one of my top ten, no, top five, would be Brideshead Revisited. It’s a book of love affairs, mostly those of Charles Ryder, and the best is his love affair with the house.

Matthew Goode as Charles Ryder.

The author Evelyn Waugh clearly had fallen in love with a house or two in his day. The home, Brideshead, is, without question, a character in the novel.

Hayley Atwell as Julia Flyte.

Some folks are a little worked up that anyone is taking on this project. A television mini-series that aired in 1981 is, apparently, beloved. I was oblivious, in 1981, to Brideshead Revisited, and almost anything other than Tony Ward, but that’s another story.

Ben Wishaw as Sebastian Flyte.

In case you have not read the book, one of the main characters is Sebastian Flyte, a college-aged man (boy) who carries a teddy bear named Aloysius with him almost everywhere he goes. Before you comment on what kind of nut case has a teddy bear in college, I need to confess, I took my childhood bear with me to college and slept with him almost every night. Sadly, his name is not so clever (it is Bear) a point which vexes me to this day. I was quite a theatrical child; I think I could have done better. In Sebastian’s honor, I named the first pet I adopted as an adult after him. A yellow and white pound cat, he was not nearly as Flytey as his namesake.

The mini-series location was Castle Howard, pictured top. The movie, it has been reported, is being filmed at Chatsworth House, above, which is, as you can see, beyond beyond. Jennifer Dwyer did a great post on the house and it’s owner a while back. I already know I love the story and I can’t imagine I would be disappointed by the settings, but I plan to rent the mini-series to see how they all stack up. Besides, it’s a great excuse to snuggle up with Mr. Blandings. And Bear.

All images of the actors, Vanity Fair.
Post-script: Joni, of Cote de Texas is correct.  Chatsworth House was an original location for the movie, but it was actually filmed at Castle Howard as well.  Thanks for the heads-up.
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23 thoughts on “Brideshead Revisited

  1. I can’t wait! The new version looks like it is going to be very beautiful, as is Matthew Goode 🙂

    I think I might have to rent the original and watch it again soon too!

  2. Oh Mrs. B., rent “Brideshead”? You must own it (as I do.) It is an annual viewing for us every spring. I actually saw the miniseries while in high school and didn’t get to the book until college. And couldn’t leave either alone after that. I believe Waugh’s love was for a period of time “between the wars” whose tastes, values and way of life had (rapidly) disappeared from his England.

    But you are correct, too. Rent the miniseries and watch Jeremy Irons’ (Charles’) face when he is first shown the house interior (with Anthony Andrews throwing open the shutters….) Yes, the house is a character.

    Et in Arcadia Ego.

  3. Now I am feeling like a bit of a poser as I have not even seen it, let alone own it. Off to click and buy now. If E&E thinks it is worthy of annual viewing, that is good enough for me.

  4. E&E – in addition, at least for the book, I think the romances are many – between the friends, each character and the house, with Charles and Julia, with the Church, and England. Even Lady Marchmain and her estranged husband are connected until the end. When I was clicking around looking for info on the mini-series, one blog commenter wondered why the the Marchmains were so enamored of Charles; he opined that it was Waugh’s wish that he would be embraced by the upper class. There are a few authors who almost make me pet the page the writing is so beautiful. Waugh is one.

  5. You’ve read the book, Mrs. B., no aura of poseur about you at all, nor could there be.

    You flatter me, but I know that you will not be disappointed. When I accidentally landed in Muncie, IN for a couple of years, I tried to find a copy. The VHS hadn’t been re-released by Granada, and was out of production. My local library (where I could also borrow paintings and sculptures!) had a copy. I was so pleased and told the librarian of my attempts to run it to ground, etc. She told me, sotto voce, to copy it for my very own.

    Years later when that copy had given up the ghost, the DVD was released. I am on my second (store bought) copy now… .


  6. List your other authors for us, please. If they’re not on the shelf, I’ll scoop them up at once. I feel as you do. I read articles about topics in which I have no interest in the New Yorker simply because they are so well-written.

  7. LOVE the original BRIDESHEAD = saw it on a tiny tiny b@w tv when it aired (poor graduate student then).

    Most buy it – soon and see it again – have glimpsed it sometimes over the years (on various PBS stations late at night or sun afternoons).

    Just a note – I believe the actress is Emma Thompson.

    looks like a delicious cast for the new one!

  8. And what would your 5 or 10 other top reads be? I’m digging my way out of parenting books during nap time and always enjoy suggestions from the well read. I’m even willing to pick up something without pictures or rhymes.

  9. To MC, who knows me, and E&E, who does not – this is so revealing, now I will be out there, yikes. I’ll move back to frontish, I suppose. I am re-reading Tender is the Night right now and have never been able to get enough Fitzgerald, I am so fortunate that I did not read Sylvia Plath’s, The Bell Jar when I was in that phase or I might have had to be committed -it struck such a chord, even 15 years later, J.D. Salinger, Joan Didion, TH White, Saul Bellows, Phillip Roth (!) – and contemporary, Anita Brookner, Michael Ondaatje, Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Frazen, and my current all-time favorite, Ian McEwan.

    And writers that I don’t care for, but I think it’s a bad reflection on me – Vonnegut, Updike and Hemingway.

    I’d love to have your lists as well.

  10. I think the movie was filmed at Howard too. It’s on their web site. I could be wrong, but I think that’s what it said when I was doing my Oscar post.


  11. Without a doubt, one of my top 10 favorite novels.

    Will Mr. Blandings even want to join you in watching Brideshead? If so, consider yourself lucky. In my instance, Mr. Stanton would not. In fact he has now forbid (or attempted to forbid) any netflicks request “involving obnoxious, rich english people circa 1890”.

    -RMV, Washington, DC

  12. Anon – um, he will hang with me for about an hour, then wander upstairs to “check on something.” Which will be a basketball game. Then he will come back a while later and ask a million questions about what is going on. Isn’t marriage funny (my question mark key is not responding.)

  13. A fine list, Mrs. B. . I see one or two names with which I am unfamiliar (all contemporary.) I’ll make a point to remedy that.

    I am always torn between Hemingway and Fitzgerald. One year I’ll re-read “Tender is the Night” and the next “The Sun Also Rises.” I’m about due for “Gatsby”, but it rather depresses me. I like O’Hara’s ear for language.

    Bernard Cornwell’s “Sharpe’s” series is a guilty pleasure. As is Dick Francis. Arturo Perez-Reverte does a good tale. And I went through a Paul Auster period. But Durrell’s “Alexandria Quartet” continues to amaze me. I’m getting ready to dive into Powell’s “A Dance to the Music of Time” when my attention span returns to normal.

    Ondaatje is a poet. His prose is beautiful.

    I wish I could get into Henry James and will try again sometime this year.

  14. E&E – a wonderful list, now I have some reading to do, too. I had forgotten James, who I enjoyed so much in college, I will add him to the stack as well.

  15. I’ll have to pick up the book! Last year I went to Chatsworth. It’s gorgeous. It will be exciting to see if I recognize anything in the movie!

  16. The whole idea of re-visting “Brideshead Revisited”
    intrigues me no end.
    Even more intriguing was the fact that David Yates, who was originally set to direct the new film, had cast Paul Bettany as Charles Ryder, Jennifer Connolly as Julia and Jude Law as Sebastian~do admit, it would have been an interesting line-up of talent! The director bowed out and with him the proposed cast.
    Interestingly, the website of Castle Howard supplies the information that this new production was filmed on that estate, as was the1980 mini-series. Now there is mention of Chatsworth.
    Confusing, but that won’t prevent me rushing to be the first in line for tickets to the movie, which was entitled to be re-made after the longuers of the mini series and Jeremy Irons narrating as though it were Holy Scripture.

  17. Toby – I did read the original “line-up” and, must say, I thought Law, not one of my usual favorites, would have been an excellent Sebastian. It appears that Chatsworth was part of the first crew and Castle Howard was, indeed, the location. Regardless of crew, it promises to be beautiful to look at.

  18. What a lovely post and great comments! I’m surprised that no one has mentioned what I think of as the ultimate house-as-character novel, Howard’s End, by E.M. Forster. I also love the lyrical movie adaptation with Emma Thompson and the wonderful Vanessa Redgrave (I have often wondered what cottage “played” Howard’s End–anyone know?). When Redgrave describes the house to Thompson in that scene in the London sitting room, it gives me goosebumps. I have even been known to get a bit teary. The book is even better–poetic, wise, and funny. Wonderful, even if you are NOT a sucker for anything English….KMc

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