… (as Sir Percy Blakeney would say), an old love has been reignited!
A while back I did this 10 days, 10 fictional crushes challenge and on the 11th day I wrote an addendum of extra crushes. One of them was Sir Percy Blakeney from The Scarlet Pimpernel (as pictured above) and the other was Sebastian Flyte from Brideshead Revisited, both portrayed by Anthony Andrews. “Ha!” I thought to myself after I had posted that, “I haven’t watched those two adaptations in ages, let me go and watch them again!” And so I did. I went down a rabbit hole again and I’ve been there with Anthony Andrews ever since…
When I re-watched Brideshead I didn’t watch all of it, as it is quite depressing, but just the Sebastian bits. Anthony Andrews slipping away into despair and an addiction is quite heartbreaking to watch. I first saw Brideshead in 1988 while studying for my school finals and I remembered I had written about that in my diary at the time. I looked it up, and boy did I write a lot! It’s a lot to read, but I will copy and paste it here anyway.
A little background to the diary entry: the last two years of high school I went to an international boarding school in The Netherlands. My school building was an old castle…
I vividly remember such a beautiful misty view of the castle on some mornings when I walked to the castle for breakfast. I lived in a building next to the old coach house, together with 4 other girls and our ‘house mother’, an elderly lady in her late 50s who was also the school nurse. The red arrow in the picture below points to the building I boarded in (it was known as the Blokhut), the little red square is where my room was…
So, back to the diary… this is what I wrote on Friday, April 29th, 1988. I was only just 18 and was supposed to be studying for my German International Baccalaureate final exam…
“I just watched the second part of Brideshead Revisited with Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons. I think Anthony Andrews is one of the best actors ever. The first time I thought that was when last year I saw him in The Scarlet Pimpernel.
[Note: looked it up, found the mention in the summer of 1987. I only saw part of Pimpernel because I had missed the beginning.]
I hadn’t even planned to watch that but then I did and I was fascinated. Same thing with Brideshead. I didn’t know what to expect but I love it.
I was thinking about Sebastian Flyte, the character Anthony Andrews acts. It is so heart wrenching to see him become a serious alcoholic. To me, Sebastian seems a character who is trapped by his rich family, always feeling he is somehow in their shadow. In part 1 of Brideshead he told his friend Charles Ryder (Jeremy Irons) that he didn’t want him to meet his family because they are all so very charming. He prefers having Charles to himself. In today’s part Charles, who is the narrator of the story, said something like the closer he got to Sebastian’s family the more distant Sebastian became. Sebastian didn’t share his solitude with him anymore, he remarks at one point. It seems to me that Sebastian needs someone who he can have completely to himself, someone who would never become involved with his family, someone who would stay kind but distant. It’s as if he never had something he truly called his own. Maybe that explains his attachment to his teddy bear Aloysius. Thinking of it, Aloyisius played a far bigger role in part 1 than in part 2. The last image of today’s part is that of Sebastian sitting crouched in his windowsill, hugging his legs, a coat around his shoulders, the room all messy, telling Charles who is knocking on the door to go away and leave him alone. It makes you want to go up to Sebastian and hug him and tell him all is fine. I find Sebastian more intriguing than Charles. Well, maybe I am prejudiced because I prefer Andrews as an actor to Irons. Both are actually portraying very interesting men, Sebastian is however more complicated than Charles. There is somehow a mysterious air surrounding Sebastian. I wonder how Andrews can portray so many different expressions. It all seems to be so natural. Sometimes I catch myself thinking, “this must be for real, this can’t be acted.” I find it amazing.
Wow! Just now I realized that I wrote practically 3 pages about this [Note: pages quite small and handwriting quite large]. Didn’t realize I have so much to write about this.
Tomorrow, at 11, I have my IB German oral exam. The final exam. It’s now 10:15 pm. I think I’d better get back to work.
I was just thinking about the nurse. At the moment I’m all alone in the Blokhut. She is mothering me. It gets on my nerves but I guess it’s the thought that counts. [Note: a paragraph on the nurse being annoying follows].
I guess I have to get back to work but I keep on thinking about Sebastian, trying to analyze and understand him better, wishing someone would understand him so that person could help him out and give him what he needs. I’m sure there are a lot of people like him. He seems to cover up so much hurt and jealousy, jealousy of his far too charming family (as he thinks – personally, I prefer him to any members of his family, but then of his family, he’s the one we get to know the most of.)
This is going to be a pensive night, confusing Sebastian and the German books. Confusing reminds me of a dream I had last night that scared the shit out of me. [Note: long description follows of terrifying dream that I actually still remember clearly to this day].
I have this strange melancholic feeling. I’m going to sleep. I can manage finishing the rest of my stuff tomorrow morning. I know myself, I’ll reproach myself for not having done more work (as usual) and I’ll panic. Maybe I’ll even have an uneasy night. I tell myself that, because I didn’t study the “life and civilization” part of the German oral, I’ll fuck up the whole thing. [Note: long paragraphs follow about getting good grades despite not working too hard and feeling like I’m therefore ‘smuggling’ my way through school – not working enough for school is like Sebastian as well, by the way].
Do you know what? Actually I have lost track of what point I’m trying to get across. I didn’t even plan to write about all this. All I wanted to write about was Sebastian. Sebastian put me in a melancholic mood, in melancholic moods I think of the past and then discover strange ideas. Actually it feels good to write it all down.
Heavens, this is a lot. The last time I wrote this much probably was at some point where I poured out all my unhappy love for J. Help, I almost forgot about him. You know, now I really feel like laughing. It almost seems misplaced to mention J., so I won’t mention him. [Note: a paragraph about my weird mood follows].
Do you know what I was thinking today? I don’t think the perfect partner for a human being exists. All this stuff about being born for each other and made for each other is crap, bullshit. I don’t believe there could be anybody who would be solely and wholly right for me. There is no such thing as a perfect match. My, my, aren’t we being philosophical this evening – I blame it on Sebastian, my love.
It’s 11:20 pm . Bedtime.
Before I write much more I’m forcing myself to stop. While writing this I keep on pronouncing all the words in a British accent in my mind, so unlike my real way of speaking. Again to blame on Brideshead Revisited, I assume. I even have the feeling that I’m expressing myself more elegantly than usual, is that not so? “Oh, jolly British, aren’t we?”, “A cup of tea?”, “No thank you very much.”, “How do you do?”, “How do you do?”, “The lady is in the library, sir.”, “Oh, I do think you should stop laughing, James”.
What’s gotten into me? Heaven knows. I’m feeling far more jolly now then I have in the past few weeks. Somehow more content. I wouldn’t say ecstatically happy. Oh, I really don’t seem to be able to get to bed. If I continue like this I won’t be able to get up at 8:30 am. I already have so much trouble getting up lately. I still sound British don’t I?
Genug! Sense! Finito! Goodnight.“
There ends the diary entry. The next day’s German oral went well (I got top marks for my German finals), but Sebastian was still churning around in my head…
And I know why Sebastian appealed to me so much. He feels like a fraud and like he’s the least interesting person in the family, just like I did. l even wrote about it once, how my family seemed more interesting than me, around the time I also mentioned The Scarlet Pimpernel. Part of my diary entry on Wednesday, July 22nd, 1987:
(Conference is about the yearly international conferences my father used to organize and we, his children, used to help out and were ‘famous’ to the 300 or so international conference participants).
Like Sebastian, I too used to get annoyed with some of my friends who would end up crushing on one of my brothers. I remember that happening in at least four cases with four different girls who came to my house. The worst one was a girlfirend who came home with me for spring break and ended up virtually stuffing her boobs into my oldest brother’s face. The friendship soon ended. Sebastian was also all about Catholic guilt, but that was something I identified less with.
While I could understand where Sebastian was coming from, I luckily never developed addictions like he did. I always wished that I could have saved him. Anthony Andrews was so good at portraying these kinds of emotions in Sebastian Flyte, that even now, 32 years after first seeing it, I still feel a great affinity with him and I still feel like Andrews did a phenomenal job.
Let me end with a final diary entry on Anthony Andrews, written on Sunday, May 22nd, 1988:
Saw Greg Peck last night on the BBC in The Guns of Navarone. Strangely enough he still is my favourite actor. Anthony Andrews belongs to that category now too. I find it breathtaking to see how he can fascinate by making a character come to life. He is a superb actor. He’d make the most lousy and strangest character seem credible.
Somewhere in time the love ebbed away somewhat, but I am now (re-)watching all kinds of Anthony Andrews work and I have to say that, despite a whole lot of dud film and TV projects, the actor still is really good.