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A Companion to Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited

Prologue

Brideshead Revisited

 

9 ‘C’ company
There are four rifle companies in this battalion, named after the first four letters of the alphabet. Charles Ryder commands C Company. Each company has three platoons; one of Ryder’s platoons is commanded by Mr Hooper. Each platoon would usually have three squads of twelve men each. The officer in charge of a company would be a captain (as Ryder is), that of a battalion usually a colonel (probably not a full colonel).
There would be two or more battalions in a regiment, which would have a historically strong connexion to a base territory in Britain. To form a brigade, which had no such territorial loyalty, individual battalions could be drawn from several regiments. The brigade would naturally be headed by a brigadier.
Battalions were always infantry organisations, but the term regiment was used by all branches of the army, including artillery and cavalry. (In fact in 1939 the British Army was the only army in the world which had dispensed with all horse cavalry for military use.)

9 tram lines
metal rails on which ran public conveyances (‘trams’) which worked on electricity supplied by overhead cables

9 Glasgow
large and ancient city of western Scotland. Pollock Camp (a real place) was to the south-west of the city, within sound and sight of it, and obviously not far from the docks on the River Clyde. In his Diary EW described Pollock Camp as ‘a housing estate cut out of a park with concrete roads and no houses. A few smoke-blackened trees remain. We had huts, without water this time …’ The housing estate had been left incomplete at the beginning of the war.

9 guard-room
a room, usually at the entrance into a camp, used by soldiers detailed to be guards and as a temporary prison

9 cinemas
No doubt these are mentioned because, along with dance-halls, they supplied entertainment that was available for the soldiers.

10 municipal lunatic asylum
a facility for the incarceration and treatment of people deemed incapable through madness. Doctors would admit patients on certification. This one is run by the local authority.

10 happy collaborationists … enjoying their heritage at their ease.
The enemy with whom the madmen collaborate appears to be madness itself, presented as the enemy of everyday life. But, to EW’s way of thinking, normal life - represented here as ‘a century of progress’ - is itself inimical to mankind’s true nature and aspirations. So the response of these particularly sensitive inmates is to flee the world around them and so achieve happiness.

10 Hooper
Mr Hooper, as the representative of the burgeoning power of the lower classes and a symbol of the decay of the old civilisation, is an interesting creation. His views about the asylum inmates are gross and unfeeling. One wonders who else would fall under a ban in a world run by Hoopers.
EW may have taken his name from Hilaire Belloc’s Ballade of Genuine Concern. In the middle of a description of a series of national disasters occur these lines :

England, my England, can the news be true?
Cannot the Duke be got to come to town?
Or will not Mr Hooper pull us through?

The implied but obvious answer is ‘No’. The refrain to the ballade may have suggested to EW the great image of the conclusion of the book :

The ice is breaking up on every side.

10 ‘Hitler would put them in a gas chamber,’ he said
The plan to exterminate the unfit in Germany dated from a secret decree signed by the German Führer in 1939. The principles of eugenics on which this decree was based date back to the nineteenth century and were in origin stimulated by the latest scientific ideas. Charles Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton (1822-1911) applied Darwin’s theory of evolution to a deliberate policy of social intervention in order to improve the stock of the human race. His proposals were given a distinctive tinge by being mingled with the ideas of the French writer and diplomat Joseph-Arthur comte de Gobineau (1816-1882), who published his Essay on the Inequality of Human Races in 1853. He taught the superiority of the white race and, among them, of the Aryans as the peak of civilization. Gobineau’s most important follower was Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1844-1927), an Englishman who lived and taught in Germany and whom Hitler acknowledged as his scientific mentor. Chamberlain argued further that certain races (the Jews, the black races) were inferior and degenerate and were liable to contaminate the purity and health of the white races.
Early eugenicists (who had a respectable place in society in the early twentieth century and actually achieved dedicated professorial chairs in the universities) often argued for sterilisation programmes which would keep the perceived threat of racial degeneration at bay. They were also the firmest supporters of programmes of legalised euthanasia. But only in Nazi Germany were their ideas put into rigorous practice. Sterilisation of the ‘unfit’ was authorised in the thirties, and extermination on a grander scale from 1939. As a result of Hitler’s decree eight ‘hospital’ centres were set up in Germany in which many thousands of people deemed to be mentally unfit were killed. These centres were closed down and moved abroad from 1941 when disquiet about the deaths of so many apparently physically fit people began to spread in Germany itself.
It is just possible that Hooper could have heard about these activities by this stage of the war.

10 Middle East
probably Egypt, but possibly Syria or what was called Palestine (now Israel)

10 compassionate leave
leave granted for some domestic or personal reason which requires the soldier’s attention

11 the outbreak of war
World War II started on 3rd September 1939 when France and Great Britain declared war on Germany after German forces had invaded Poland on 1st September. Since Ryder soon compares his feelings about the army to ‘the fourth year of his marriage’ to a now-unloved wife and we know that the first leaves of spring are unfolding and that it is three months since they arrived at a time when snow covered the area (page 9), it seems that the date is February or March 1943, probably the latter month. But later (page 23) Ryder states that it was more than twenty years since he had first been to Brideshead with Sebastian and as we know that was in June 1923 (page 24), it is just as likely to be early 1944. To my mind, 1943 is a likelier date because this was a year of aimless wanderings by army units; by 1944 the invasion of Normandy was in active preparation and everything was far more purposeful.

11 volunteered for special service
Special Forces was the title for such organisations as the Commandos and the Special Air Service (S.A.S.), formed early in the war to maintain an offensive posture against the otherwise all-conquering Germans. EW himself joined the Commandos; Charles clearly did not.

11 conscripts
soldiers who had been forced into the army by being called up instead of volunteering willingly. Ryder is suggesting that the quality of officer suffered as a result - a different class of man from the well-educated and well-bred career officers he knew earlier has appeared in the mess.

11 wireless
an older term for a radio. EW was implacably opposed to having a radio in his living room all his life (when he once wanted to hear an interview that he had recorded, he had the cook’s wireless brought in from the kitchen), so it is not surprising that Charles dislikes its eternal noise in the ante-room.

11 ante-room
a smaller room which opens into a larger, more important one such as, here, the dining-room.

11 much beer was drunk before dinner
Charles gives this fact as evidence of a decline in standards. The point is not so much that the officers drink beer instead of, say, spirits (though that is a pointer); but that they drink such a lot of it before dinner. Officers in the professional regiments were expected to be fully sober and rational at their evening meal. The real drinking came after. Charles goes on to say that he regularly drank three glasses of gin before dinner : no doubt he felt that this amount did not endanger his sobriety.

11-12 Here my last love died … a moment of folly.
This large paragraph is a vast conceit comparing Charles’s diminution of respect for the Army with a man’s loss of love for his wife. Charles’s one marriage will be to Celia : and so if we wish we can see something of the progress of that relationship in these cold words. They give an interesting and eye-opening revelation of a woman whom otherwise we should think of as utterly self-possessed and resolute in the pursuit of her husband’s welfare.

11 reveille
the call to rise in the mornings, given by a bugler. You may hear it here.

11 Nissen hut
a wartime prefabricated building made out of corrugated steel. Its characteristic shape was of a cylinder cut in half lengthways. It was quick to manufacture and quick to erect.

11 two corporals
A corporal is a non-commissioned officer ranking below a sergeant but having a similar responsibility in the discipline and training of the private soldiers, and in implementing officers’ orders. He usually came from the ranks of the privates.

11 largest number of men overstaying their leave
This fact would help to give Charles’s Commanding Officer the idea that he was the least effective company commander.

11 candidates class
These candidates are men seeking preferment in the officer or NCO classes, or possibly selection for a special task.

12 0915 hours
The conventional expression of time in the Army is the 24-hour clock. This example would be pronounced ‘oh-nine-fifteen hours’. Later times could include, for example, 1930 hours, which unfortunately ran the risk of being misinterpreted by even the most experienced of soldiers as being 9.30 p.m. Considerable training and familiarisation was needed to obviate such blunders.

12 haversack
a bag carried on the back or shoulders.

12 detailed to inspect the lines
The lines were the huts (or sometimes tents) in which the general soldiers lived. Hooper had to make sure they were empty and clean and that all the kit was collected in one place ready for transportation.

12 the defence of Calais
Calais is the French port on the English Channel opposite Dover. During the retreat from France by the British Army which culminated in the Dunkirk episode (when nearly 400,000 troops were evacuated partly by hundreds of little boats), Calais came under attack. Ryder’s battalion expected to be sent to its defence; but wiser counsels prevailed and no more men were sent across the Channel to compound the disaster.

12-13 ‘security’ … removing all distinguishing badges
The Commanding Officer does not wish anybody to be able to recognise his battalion and so track their movements. In particular he wishes to deceive not so much the enemy (who we now know had no spies operating unacknowledged in Britain at this time) as the camp followers; a hopeless task.

13 female camp followers
generally understood to be prostitutes, but they could also be women who had a deeper attachment to the men or a man and made a point of being nearby, often to deal with trivial personal problems. In either case they could be a nuisance to the authorities.

13 The Pollock diggings
EW is having a joke at the army’s expense here. According to the evidence provided by a future archaeological dig, the original housing-scheme would indicate the presence of people of advanced culture, and the remains of the army presence would suggest tribal anarchy and the race of lowest type which succeeds them. The whole paragraph demonstrates the extent to which Charles is contemptuous of the army by this time (as was EW himself in 1943-4).

13 the pundits of the future
A pundit is an authority who takes himself too seriously and can provoke amusement rather than respect.

13 the company sergeant-major
He would be the non-commissioned officer of highest rank in Ryder’s company.

13 ‘Sappers’-demonstration, sir.’
This is not a riot of protesters but a lesson given by engineers in which, perhaps, too much explosive had been used. It was a convenient scapegoat for damage such as a broken window.

13 flat, Midland accent
EW does not particularise it, but it is an accent from the central counties of England. Hooper could, for example, come from Birmingham, the second city of England.

13 stand-easies
the period on the parade ground when the men are not commanded to be active or at attention. Hooper is too friendly with the troops for the taste of his fellow officers and is even despised by the men themselves.

14 subalterns
A subaltern is a junior officer (below the rank of captain).

14 the general, enveloping fog from which he observed the universe
Hooper is perhaps no different from the vast majority of mankind (at least in modern Europe) in having no religious motivation or indeed, as Charles sees it, any firm guiding principles in his life. The few opinions he does express appear to be either unfeeling (as in the case of the lunatics) or grounded in envy (as in his levelling ideas), though he might think them a coherent political statement.

The references which follow display Charles Ryder’s classical, literary and historical education. They treat of noble, patriotic or cultural themes which from childhood had a special resonance for men of his time and class. They have no meaning or relevance in Hooper’s eyes, even supposing he knew of them.

14 Rupert
Prince Rupert of the Rhine (1619-1682), nephew of King Charles I of England; he was the son of Princess Elizabeth (the ‘Winter Queen’) and Frederick, elector palatine and briefly King of Bohemia. Rupert raised and led a cavalry force for the king during the English Civil Wars and bore himself with impressive dash and foolhardiness. After some victories, his uncle the king made him Commander-in-Chief of his armies in 1644 but sacked him two years later after increasing losses and the surrender of Bristol to the Parliamentarians. From 1648 Rupert was given charge of the king’s navy; it declined, however, into a piratical force. With the Restoration of King Charles II (1660) Rupert was again given naval commands.
Prince Rupert was something of a polymath. After retirement from the military in 1670 he concentrated on his artistic and scientific interests. He was credited with the invention of mezzotint, but probably he merely introduced the process into England. He developed a new form of gunpowder and an alloy named Prince’s metal, a type of brass containing 75% copper and 25% zinc.

14 Xanthus
the name the gods gave to the River Scamander near Troy. Troy lies on a hill about four miles from the Aegean Sea; in between lies a coastal strip which is part of the plain of the Scamander River. This plain is where the Greeks and Trojans fought in the Trojan War. ‘Xanthos’ means ‘golden-red-coloured’; the river was so named because it was supposed to tint with that colour any object dipped into it.

14 that stoic, red-skin interlude
EW is thinking of the period that English upper and middle-class schoolboys go through from the age of nine when they are sent to a boarding school for whole terms at a time (and sometimes longer). The time away from home seems like an eternity which has to be endured rather in the manner of the tests imposed on American Indian boys who wish to grow into man’s estate.

15 Henry’s speech on St Crispin’s Day
a reference to the king’s speech before the Battle of Agincourt in Act 4 scene 3 of Shakespeare’s play Henry V. It is a famously morale-boosting and patriotic speech, best understood in Laurence Olivier’s rendition in the film of the play.

15 the epitaph at Thermopylae
Thermopylae is a pass in Greece, strategically important as it controlled entry to central Greece from the north-east. During the Second Persian War, Thermopylae was the scene of the brave stand of King Leonidas I of Sparta and his thousand men, only 300 of whom were Spartans, in their attempt to halt the invasion of the Persians under King Xerxes in 480 B.C. They fought for two whole days before the Persians found a pass round to the rear. Leonidas allowed all the non-Spartans to leave (some did not). Every remaining soldier was killed on the third day and the Persians got through and sacked Athens. In knowingly sacrificing themselves, the Spartans gave time for their allies to organise themselves to face the Persian peril. Perhaps the moral effect was as important as any other. Within a year the Athenian fleet had destroyed the Persians at Salamis and Xerxes had to abandon his attempt to conquer Greece.
The epitaph, written by Simonides of Ceos (c. 556-c. 468 BC), reads : ‘Stranger, announce to the Spartans that we here lie dead, obedient to their words.’

15 Gallipoli
the bloody and unsuccessful campaign fought by British and Commonwealth (especially Australian and New Zealand) troops in 1915 to invade Turkey and put her out of World War I

15 Balaclava
one of the battles (1854) of the Crimean War. It was the occasion of the Charge of the Light Brigade, an heroic but misguided assault upon well-defended Russian positions. Only 200 of nearly 700 men returned alive to their lines, almost all of them wounded.

15 Quebec
the site of General Wolfe’s famous victory (1759) over the Marquis de Montcalm de Saint-Véran which secured Canada for the British

15 Lepanto
Don John of Austria’s famous victory over the Turkish navy (1571) at the head of a Christian fleet. It signalled the ultimately successful resistance of Christian Europe to the Ottoman Empire.

15 Bannockburn
a decisive victory (1314) by King Robert I (Bruce) in Scotland’s fight for independence against the English

15 Roncevales
According to the 11th-century epic Chanson de Roland, Roland accompanied Charlemagne on his military campaign of A.D. 778 against the Saracens in Spain. In the legend Roland died heroically when the Saracens isolated and attacked the rear guard, which he commanded, at the Roncesvalles Pass in the Pyrenees Mountains. To be historically accurate, it was the recently-subjugated Basques who killed them.

15 Marathon
the site of the battle in the First Persian War (490 B.C.) in which the Greeks defeated the Persians and staved off invasion for a short time. (In legend, Phidippides ran 25 miles from the battlefield to Athens to inform the people of the victory and so prompted the inspiration for the modern race.)

15 Battle in the West where Arthur fell
This is the battle of Camlan (A.D. 537), which some authorities think was a real event. It gave rise over time to the legend of the death of King Arthur and his treacherous nephew/son Mordred.

15 my sere and lawless state
This looks like a quotation, but I have not tracked it down. Sere means ‘dry and withered’, which seems excessive for a thirty-nine year old active soldier to believe himself to be. Charles is lawless presumably because he feels detached from all responsibilities at this time in his life : he has no wife; he does not know his children; he is separated from Julia, apparently for ever, and also from Sebastian; his attachment to the army has withered; he seems to have no friends.

15 Young England
In the thirties there was a general emphasis on youth and its aspirations all over Europe, generally very strictly controlled by politically-minded adults (e.g. the Hitler Youth in Germany and Young Communists elsewhere). England (or rather Britain) had no comparable organisation (perhaps because it had already developed many less sinister youth organisations including a strong and wholesome scout movement) but did have many politicians who were willing to pretend to speak for Youth. Youth Rallies were frequent and popular.
As the war drew to a close people in Britain began to shift their attention to what peace-time would bring, and in particular what could be done to provide for future generations. It is the fatuous clarion calls that these deliberations sometimes provoked that Ryder is thinking of here.
EW went several times in the thirties to a ludicrously patriotic play called Young England in order to jeer at it publicly.
The phrase Young England was originally adopted by a high-minded association of aristocratic young men in the 1840’s who felt that an alliance with the working-class, with attendant social reforms, would suit the Conservative party better than an alliance with the thrusting middle-class. Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881) was an adherent and propagandist of the group, which failed to survive the splitting of the party after 1845, but his novel Coningsby (1844) remains as a memorial of their idealism.

15 OCTU
Officer Cadets’ Training Unit

16 a servant
Often called a batman. Hooper is clearly incapable of getting men under his command to do what is needed. He is a poor kind of officer.

16 C.O.
Commanding Officer

16 the carrier-platoon
A carrier platoon in the second world war would have carried heavier weapons such as Bren guns, perhaps as many as fifteen of them. An interesting point is that this platoon would be attached to Headquarter Company and so more immediately under the C.O.’s authority.

16 truffling pig
Truffles are a gourmet’s delicacy, the edible body of an underground fungus. Pigs (and dogs) have a keen sense of smell and can be trained to sniff them out and dig them up.

17 this rebuff
Ryder makes it clear to the C.O. that the mess was not made by his men but by Captain Brown’s. The C.O. invited the rebuff by automatically assuming that Ryder’s men must be responsible for the untidiness, implying that he thinks little of Ryder’s leadership.

17 Just a flap?
Army slang for an unnecessary alarm.

18 R.T.O.
Railway Transport Officer

18 fatigue party
a group of soldiers ordered to do manual work, sometimes as a punishment

18 main-line scenery
The main railway line south of Glasgow goes through Carlisle, Preston, Crewe, and Rugby and ends up at London Euston. In war-time, of course, the route could be altered to suit the authorities. At some point, probably at Crewe, the train took a line to the south-west.

18 ‘order group’
a meeting of officers to receive orders from the C.O., sometimes known as an O Group. The company officers would then be expected to have their own Order Group to pass on the orders to their platoon officers.

18 orderly
a soldier who acts as an officer’s assistant, for example carrying messages

18 adjutant
the C.O.’s assistant in dealing with the administration of the battalion

18 Orders.
The process that the C.O. uses here, with a plan divided into simplistic components, was recommended by military authorities and drilled into officers.

19 L of C
Line of Communication

19 2315 hours
The journey therefore was intended to last fourteen hours. No distance can be computed : in war-time, transport trains were notoriously slow.

19 how am I to find the perimeter in the dark?
This feeble question is another indication of Hooper’s lack of quality as an officer.

19 Deuxième service
‘Second Service’ (French), a term used for example in trains to announce second sittings for a meal. The sergeant had obviously been in France in 1940.

19 mustard-gas
a poisonous gas (also known as Yperite) used by the Germans in World War I from September 1917. It was the most dangerous of the gases used in that war. The term mustard comes from its smell. Mustard gas attacked areas of the body which were moist and so caused respiratory problems when breathed in, with results that were often fatal. Over 4000 British soldiers died of it, in great agony (they had to be strapped to their beds in hospital) and usually only after several days of increasing distress. One of the fears of soldiers in World War II was that the gas would be used again, even perhaps in bombing raids on targets in Britain. It wasn’t.
Wilfred Owen’s poem Dulce et decorum est is perhaps the most celebrated literary treatment of the effects of gas attacks, but he is writing about the use of chlorine gas (a different substance), which began in 1915. Not only the Germans used chlorine gas; the British managed to gas their own soldiers in a misdirected attack.

20 bleach
Bleach itself contains chlorine and seems, on the face of it, to be an odd substance to use in decontaminating mustard gas. In fact the only means of detoxification at this time was by oxidation with hypochlorite bleaches.
Of course, all this activity is imaginary and designed by Ryder to be annoying to the C.O.

20 company second-in-command
As Captain Ryder was his immediate superior, he was probably a full Lieutenant (pronounced ‘lef-tenant’ in Britain).

21 the Bride … the Avon
There is a River Bride in Dorset which rises in a lake near which Bridehead House is situated. I do not know whether EW drew on these names for his Castle and river.
There are three rivers Avon which it seems at this stage EW could be referring to. It is almost as if he is playing a game with his readers - now guess which one it is. One is the Warwickshire Avon which flows west through Shakespeare’s Stratford to the Severn; another flows into the Bristol Channel; and the third flows south into the English Channel near Bournemouth.

21 fallow deer
a favourite inhabitant of English parks, but not English. It came originally from Asia.

21 Doric temple
It became a craze among English landowners in the eighteenth century to build little replicas or elaborations of ancient Greek buildings in their parks and woods. This characteristic form of English folly lasted well into the nineteenth century, despite the growing fashion for Gothic. The Doric order is the simplest and noblest of the Greek forms : its columns are fluted and tapered, have no base and merely a simple circular capital at the top.

22 like a hind in the bracken
In the first edition of BR, there is a further sentence, a rhetorical question :
   Which was the mirage, which the palpable earth?

22 a sort of R.C. Church
Hooper does not know that it is a chapel attached to the house. R.C. means Roman Catholic (a common British abbreviation, even in speech).

22 padre
The term does not necessarily mean ‘Catholic priest’ since any clergyman serving as chaplain with the British armed forces was called a padre, a usage started in India and dating from about 1800. We learn much later that this priest is not a chaplain to the forces. Hooper just means clergyman.

22 More in your line than mine.
This phrase indicates that by 1943 Charles is a Catholic.

 

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