Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Brideshead Revisited Re-visited

Because no-one has been able to tell me the source of the Evelyn Waugh joke I paraphrased here I'm having to re-read the whole canon of his works in an attempt to track it down.

I've started with Brideshead Revisited, which happens to be my favourite novel of his. I've probably read it three or four times but not for maybe ten or fifteeen years. It's a little wordy and full of obscure cultural references, especially regarding art and architecture. Waugh does not wear his learning lightly but I think that's part of the joke because the book is very, very funny. Set mainly in the interwar years the book depicts the aristocratic world of the beau monde who lorded it over society at the time. This was the society that Waugh, who was upper middle class, aspired desperately to join.

Funnily enough, when I was younger, so did I.

I was brought up in a council house in a working class mining village in rural Scotland. My uncle, who was the head of the house, was no Lord Marchmain. He was, in fact, a farm labourer. I suppose you could say, in that respect, that he too came from the landed classes.

Notwithstanding my lowly social status, sated on a diet of Evelyn Waugh, I went up to Aberdeen University in 1966 expecting to meet Lord Sebastian Flyte, and drink champagne (which I had never tasted) while lounging around endlessly discussing Byzantine art with my fellow students. Just like they did at Oxford in the novel. Oh yes, and I expected to have to wear a top hat on Sundays too.

Sadly Aberdeen University didn't turn out quite like that, I didn't befriend any Lords, and I never really got over the disappointment.

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