Et in Arcadia ego

brideshead castle howard

As part of my great northern road-trip we visited Brideshead (aka Castle Howard), not far from York. It is one of England’s ‘great’ country houses and is set in exquisite rolling parkland. It is still owned and lived in by the Howard family (whose lineage have owned it for more than 300 years).

Whilst Castle Howard is famous for being one of the grandest stately homes in this country – it is more famous as its alter ego – Brideshead – the home and setting of Evelyn Waugh’s masterful 1940s novel – Brideshead Revisited. The novel recalls those halcyon days – that English Arcadia – bookmarked by two great wars that would end forever with the outbreak of WW2. Those of us who reflect on that era – on that other Eden – with fondness and nostalgia, find the novel to be particularly powerful.

The two central characters in Brideshead are Charles Ryder and Lord Sebastian Flyte who meet as undergraduates at Oxford. For the holidays, Sebastian takes Charles to the family home at Brideshead and here Charles becomes enchanted – both by the house and the Marchmain family of which Sebastian is the youngest son. Charles’ and Sebastian’s own relationship blossoms into what society would doubtless dub a ‘romantic friendship’ – deep, profound, obsessive, platonic (- or not; that is left unclear).  In that era, romantic friendships – both male/male and female/female – were not uncommon among the upper classes.

Sebastian – dear, sweet, pretty Sebastian – still retains, as a young adult, his childhood teddy bear – Aloysius. I was pleased to spot Aloysius in one of the bedrooms in the house, as you can see below:

aloysius brideshead revisited castle howard sebastian flyte teddy bear

He is a rather lovely bear. And to those who recall the supremely good 1980s Granada TV 10-hour serialisation of Brideshead, here is a picture of Aloysius held by his owner Sebastian (played by Anthony Andrews) standing alongside Charles (played by Jeremy Irons):

sebastian flyte charles ryder brideshead revisited aloysius castle howard teddy bear

I should probably say at this point that the recent Hollywood movie remake of Brideshead has had very lousy reviews compared with the 1980s UK TV series – which you should buy on DVD if you haven’t seen it. Utterly brilliant and widely and rightly trumpeted as one of the best things to come out of British television in the 1980s.

Anyway, more of my photos of Brideshead:

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5 thoughts on “Et in Arcadia ego

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  1. Lovely pictures, as always 🙂

    (I also love the famed painting with the same title as this post, not to mention I love the Latin quote itself.)

    I have mixed feelings about Brideshead and about Waugh in general. I frankly find the Catholicism stuff borderline creepy. And if you read Waugh’s own explanation of what the book is “about”, it gets even creepier (in my opinion). I agree that the miniseries is wonderful. I haven’t bothered to see the remake — I still wish I could “un-see” the pointless Kiera Knightley remake of Pride & Prejudice — the Colin Firth miniseries was the definitive version. 🙂

  2. Justin – yeh, the miniseries is great. Can’t recall whether I’ve seen the remake of Pride & Prejudice but have seen the original TV series.

    Richard – yes it is! You have other good places to visit near you though. I want to do Lindisfarne next time when I’m in that neck of the woods.

  3. Interestingly my aunt did a trip to Lindisfarne when I was in England last — in 2006. She went with her Church group. Of course you know the history of the first viking raid there.

    Another *utterly* unnecessary recent remake was Room with a View. Completely missed the point. Was unnecessarily over-sexualized in a very post-2000 way that made no sense given the original book. Also moved the story to the 1920s or 30s inexplicably. The Merchant Ivory version is definitive.

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