21 August 2017
Tim Koch recalls a HTBS post from 2013.
Mark Twain once allegedly said that ‘The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.’ It is not quite such a pithy remark, but I can now say that one of the wettest days that I have experienced was during a summer in North Yorkshire, a place where I recently took a short holiday. However, the rain meant that I finally visited somewhere that I had long wanted to see: Castle Howard. The magnificent Baroque stately home (it was never a castle) is still the private residence of the Howard family, as it has been for ten generations over 300 years. You can take the two-minute tour here.
Castle Howard is familiar to television and film audiences as Brideshead, the home of the fictional aristocratic Marchmain family of Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel, Brideshead Revisited, and was featured in Granada Television’s faithful and much acclaimed 1981 adaptation (and in an expensive but uninspired two-hour 2008 remake for the cinema). In 2015, The Daily Telegraph stated that ‘Brideshead Revisited is television’s greatest literary adaptation, bar none. It’s utterly faithful to Evelyn Waugh’s novel yet it’s somehow more than that, too.’
Usually, I object when people associate places with literary fiction: I am from Cornwall, not ‘Poldark Country’, whatever the souvenir boxes of fudge may say. Even worse for the West Yorkshire Pennines, it became ‘Brontë Country’ (in fact, if not in name) very soon after the last sister, Charlotte, died in 1855, resulting in Haworth becoming the tearoom capital of England.
Against my normal objections, however, I do not mind that Castle Howard is synonymous with Evelyn Waugh’s iconic novel. Waugh visited the place in 1937, while he was in retreat at nearby Ampleforth Abbey, and so it is likely that it was at least in part the inspiration for the Marchmain’s family home. Further, the hauntingly beautiful stately pile was as much the star of the 1981 television series as was Laurence Olivier, John Guilgud, Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews. Indeed, when the 2008 film version was made, the producers decided no other house would or could do, and so Castle Howard was cast as Brideshead for a new generation.
In 2013, I wrote a post on the book and the TV production, saying that ‘Using an old HTBS trick, I will… justify my self-indulgent ramblings by pointing out the rowing references (in Brideshead Revisited)’. Read it here.
The scene from YouTube in my 2013 post with the flamboyant Anthony Blanche character serenading rowers on the way to the river (‘All b-boatmen are Grace Darlings to me’) has a commentary over the wonderful dialogue. However, the video above is the same, but without the vocal intrusion.