Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Bloody Good Chap Hall of Fame: No.1 - Lord Sebastian Flyte

Lush, anarchic and doomed, Sebastian Flyte - possibly Evelyn Waugh’s finest creation is the archetypal portrait of the failed ambition, hedonism and burnt out anti-heroism that characterised the roaring twenties. 

As played by Anthony Andrews in the 1981 Granada production of Brideshead Revisited (possibly one of the finest adaptations of all time), it has inspired a number of students to adopt a particular lifestyle, even going so far as to host parties where all dress as one would in twenties Oxford and quaff champagne! Is there any more enjoyable way to spend an evening. 

Unlike his companion, the earnest Charles, Sebastian is a rioutous and louche individual, prone to both fit of manic pleasure and deep Depression.

Most memorable of all his wild antics was his lunch party, which Charles attend in way of accepting Sebastian’s apology for vomiting on the floor of his ground floor rooms at Wadham college, Oxford. Here, the spread presented, is described in exhaustive detail by the awed Charles:

The party assembled. There were three Etonian freshmen, mild, elegant, detached young  men who had all been to a dance in London the night before, and spoke of it as though it had been the funeral of a near but unloved kinsman. Each as he came into the room made first for the Plovers’ eggs, then noticed Sebastian and then myself with a polite lack of curiosity which seemed to say:’We should not dream of being so offensive as to suggest that you never met us before.’
‘The First of this year,’ they said. Where do you get them?’
'Mummy sends them from Brideshead. They always lay early for her.’ (Waugh, 1945: 33)

What a civilized party that does sound! And whilst I don’t think many of us would be able to offer our guests plovers’ eggs, I think we can substitute quails eggs with celery salt or stuffed with a lightly curried mixture of the yolks and some mayonnaise.

With and impecable cellar, fashion, appreciation of architecture and botanics one might class Sebastian as the archetype for the traditional gentleman. However he is a sad fish, doomed by his upbringing to end up as a mentally damaged invalid in a Tunisian hovel with a wounded German pilot as his implied lover. A far cry from the carefree young Oxford undergraduate who seemingly had the world at his feet! 

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