Page 5. " To Laura "

Evelyn Waugh in 1940
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeEvelyn Waugh in 1940 - Credit: Carl Van Vechten
Evelyn Waugh dedicated Brideshead Revisited to his wife, Laura (née Herbert).

The couple married in 1937, and had seven children, one of whom died shortly after birth.

Waugh had married Evelyn Gardner in 1928, but the marriage ended very quickly due to Gardner's infidelity, and they were divorced in 1930. Having the same first name, the couple were known to their friends as 'He-Evelyn' and 'She-Evelyn'.

Click here to see a picture of Evelyn Waugh and Laura Herbert on their wedding day.

Click here and scroll down to see a picture of He- and She-Evelyn in 1928.

Page 6. " I am not I: thou art not he or she: they are not they "
Madresfield Court, Worcestershire
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMadresfield Court, Worcestershire - Credit: Angus McCulloch, Wikimedia Commons

In his 'Author's Note', Evelyn Waugh is at pains to emphasise that the characters of Brideshead Revisited are fictional, although it has often been suggested that events and characters in the book are based on real-life situations and individuals.

For example, Sebastian Flyte bears a resemblance to Waugh's Oxford friends Alastair Graham and Hugh Lygon.

The Lygon family's ancestral seat is Madresfield Court near Malvern in Worcestershire, which is believed to be a model for Brideshead Castle (as is Castle Howard in Yorkshire), and the Art Nouveau chapel at Madresfield is almost certainly the model for the chapel at Brideshead. Various events in the novel match those in the lives of the Lygon family, and Hugh Lygon's elder brother and father may have been a partial inspiration for the characters Bridey and Lord Marchmain.

Castle Howard, Yorkshire
Creative Commons AttributionCastle Howard, Yorkshire - Credit: diverstonefly, Wikimedia Commons

It has been suggested too that the character of Anthony Blanche bears some resemblance to both Harold Acton and Brian Howard, contemporaries of Waugh at Oxford.

However, it is clearly important to bear in mind the complexity of the process by which a novelist may transform experiences in the real world into fiction. As is noted in Selina Hastings' biography*, Evelyn Waugh was irritated by people's tendency to see real-life figures as the basis for his characters. After commenting that the trade of the novelist is the only one where its practitioner has to face people coming into the workshop and playing with the tools, Waugh goes on to say that one of the most mischievous forms which this interference takes is the attribution to him of living models for his characters.

*Selina Hastings, Evelyn Waugh: A Biography (Sinclair-Stevenson, 1994) p.172.

Page 12. " Hitler would put them in a gas chamber "
Gas chamber at Mauthausen concentration camp, Austria
Creative Commons AttributionGas chamber at Mauthausen concentration camp, Austria - Credit: Robert Hunter, Flickr

Brideshead Revisited was completed in June 1944, one year before the end of the Second World War in Europe (Victory in Europe Day was 8 May 1945).

Hooper's remark implies an awareness of the atrocities (including killing in specially constructed gas chambers) which took place within Nazi concentration camps, although the full extent of these atrocities did not become known to the British people until the Allied and Russian forces began to liberate the camps from mid-1944 onwards.

Gas chamber at Dachau concentration camp, Germany
GNU Free Documentation LicenseGas chamber at Dachau concentration camp, Germany - Credit: Massimiliano Lincetto, Wikimedia Commons

 Concentration camps existed in Germany as early as 1933, and were initially used to house political prisoners and opponents of the Nazi regime. Eventually, they would be used mainly for the incarceration and extermination of Jews, but other groups, including Soviet prisoners of war, Roma (Gypsies), Poles, Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholic clergy, homosexuals and people with physical and mental disabilities, were also sent to the camps.

From 1933 onwards, Germany operated policies of 'racial hygiene' based on the ideas of the Eugenics movement which sought to suppress certain characteristics in the population through the forced sterilisation of those carrying 'undesirable' genes. Between 1939 and 1941, in a program known as 'Action T4', Hitler authorised the killing of over 70,000 individuals considered 'incurable', including many patients in mental institutions.

Page 17. " He had not as a child ridden with Rupert's horse or sat among the camp fires at Xanthus-side "

 Prince Rupert of the Rhine was King Charles's nephew and a famous Royalist cavalry commander in the English Civil War.


Xanthus is the river of Troy referred to in The Iliad (8:561) by Homer in the lines:


  midway between the ships and the river Xanthus

  A thousand camp fires gleamed upon the plain.  

Page 17. " Hooper had wept often, but never for Henry's speech on St. Crispin's day "

The speech made by King Henry V of England in Shakespeare's play, Henry V (Act V, Scene 3).

The play deals with events surrounding the Battle of Agincourt, one of the battles of the Hundred Years War, and the speech referred to is delivered by Henry V in order to motivate his troops.  It is the origin of the phrase "band of brothers".

St. Crispin's day is a Christian feast day, celebrated on October 25.




Page 17. " nor for the epitaph at Thermopylae "
Memorial to the Spartans at Thermopylae
GNU Free Documentation LicenseMemorial to the Spartans at Thermopylae - Credit: Rafal Slubowski, N. Pantelis, Wikimedia Commons

A reference to an elegiac couplet by the Greek poet Simonides (556-468BC), part of a eulogy he wrote to the 300 Spartans who died fighting the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC).

The couplet is the epitaph on a commemorative stone placed on the grave of the Spartans at the site of the battle.

There are numerous translations of the couplet from the original Greek, one of which reads:


Go tell the Spartans, passerby,

That here, by Spartan law, we lie.


The Battle of Thermopylae was the subject of a 1962 film, entitled The 300 Spartans.

Page 17. " Gallipoli, Balaclava, Quebec, Lepanto "
The Battle of Lepanto by Murano
Public DomainThe Battle of Lepanto by Murano - Credit: Murano

Gallipoli (sometimes known as the Dardanelles Campaign) is the name given to a series of First World War battles which took place in Turkey during 1915 and 1916;

Balaclava is the name given to a battle of the Crimean War fought on St. Crispin's Day (as was the battle of Agincourt) in 1854;

The Battle of Quebec is the name given to several different military campaigns, including two battles fought between French and British soldiers during the Seven Years War. These two battles are also known as the Battle of the Plains of Abraham (1759), and the Battle of Sainte-Foy (1760).

It is also the name of a battle fought between British and American forces in 1775 during the American War of Independence;

Lepanto is the name given to a naval battle fought in 1571 between the forces of the Holy League (a coalition of various European groups) and those of the Ottoman Empire.


Page 17. " Bannockburn, Roncevales, and Marathon "

The Battle of Bannockburn took place near Stirling, Scotland in 1314. It was fought between the armies of Edward II of England and Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, and its outcome successfully furthered the cause of Scottish Independence.




Roncesvalles is a pass in the Pyrenees. There are two battles linked to Roncesvalles:

The first occurred in 778 when the rear guard of Charlemagne's army, commanded by Charlemagne's nephew Roland, was defeated by the Basques on its return from fighting the Saracens in Spain;

The second was fought between French and Anglo-Portuguese forces in 1813 during the Peninsular War. 

The first battle is described in one of the earliest known pieces of French literature known as La Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland).



Marathon soldier announcing the victory (Cortot, 1834)
Public DomainMarathon soldier announcing the victory (Cortot, 1834) - Credit: Stéphane Magnenat, Wikimedia Commons

The Battle of Marathon was fought in 490 BC between the citizens of Athens and Persian invaders.

Following the battle, a messenger called Pheidippides is reputed to have run the 25 miles from the site of the battle at Marathon to Athens to announce the news of a Greek victory. This story is the origin of the modern race known as the Marathon, which was run for the first time at the Olympic Games held in Athens in 1896.  


Page 17. " and the Battle in the West where Arthur fell "
'The Death of King Arthur' (18th. century)
Public Domain'The Death of King Arthur' (19th century) - Credit: James Archer (1823-1904)

King Arthur is the legendary ruler (possibly a genuine historical figure) who is said to have led the Britons against the Saxon invaders in the late 5th or early 6th Century.

Some sources refer to his death at the Battle of Camlann, the location of which is unclear, although possible sites in Somerset, Northumberland and North Wales have been suggested.


Page 25. " a Doric temple stood by the water's edge "
Dunstall Castle Folly, Worcestershire
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeDunstall Castle Folly, Worcestershire - Credit: Bob Embleton, Wikimedia Commons

This type of building is known as a folly.

A folly is a building placed in a garden or landscape purely for the purpose of decoration and amusement.

Follies were particularly popular during the 18th Century, and were often constructed in imitation of buildings such as classical temples, Chinese temples, Egyptian pyramids, towers, ruined abbeys or castles, rustic villages or mills.

Doric is the term for the earliest and simplest form of Ancient Greek architecture, characterised by baseless fluted columns finished with a flat slab of stone.


Doric Temple, Petworth House
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeDoric Temple, Petworth House - Credit: Andy Potter, Wikimedia Commons