First Impressions: Brideshead Revisited, Granada (1981)

Friday 23 January 2009 01:00 GMT

It must, I feel sure, have been Evelyn Waugh who said you should always think of those less fortunate than yourself. How much more entertaining for most of us to think of those more fortunate than ourselves getting it in the neck. Brideshead Revisited seems likely to be an abiding delight, not just because the noble house of Marchmain get what is coming to them, but because it is a book of great splendour, splendidly done. I am particularly grateful to John Mortimer, who adapted the book, for his remarkable fidelity to Waugh. I noticed only one ripple of Rumpole. "There is no Mrs Lunt," said Mr Lunt, with notable satisfaction.

Brideshead is the richest thing we have tasted for some time. I shouldn't wonder if Waugh wasn't actually hungry when he wrote it. The sight of Brideshead, dreamy across a lake, is a heavenly vision induced and heightened by abstinence and absence, as Blandings Castle was for the exiled Wodehouse. It is one of those occasions when you would like to taste and smell television: the plovers' eggs, the single peach for luncheon, the ripe white raspberries and the room packed with daffodils. It makes you greedy. I would like to watch the whole thing in one disgusting, 12-hour gulp.

Brideshead, that gorgeous concoction of cloud-capped towers, so soon to get its comeuppance, has the veritable scent that comes when you open the top drawer. Well, you can tell.

With a positive reek of big cat, John Gielgud, the first guest star, padded in like a lion bored with the safari park outside. Having evidently decided that Edward Ryder looked like Clement Attlee, Gielgud proceeded to give a quite nerve-racking impression of a most uncomfortable cabinet meeting. And to think there is still Olivier to come on a particularly prolonged death-bed. Gosh! Or, as Charles Ryder aptly put it on first beholding Brideshead, Golly!

Nancy Banks Smith, The Guardian

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in