has a problem with his family, his mother in particular. They eventually retreat to Charles’ home in London. When they return to Oxford for the Easter term, there is still no rediscovery of the charmed life they had led in the first year, "…we took up again the life that seemed to be shrinking in the cold air". The life that they had led is, as Charles says, "irrecoverably lost" (77), an Arcadia "irrecoverable as Lyonesse" (23). "The sadness that had been strong in Sebastian the term before gave place to a kind of sullenness even towards me…When he was gay now it was usually because he was drunk…" (124). Sebastian is becoming an alcoholic and, during Charles’ visit to Brideshead during the Easter vacation, he can no longer conceal it. Lady Marchmain’s approach to Sebastian’s problem is to try and control him. It is precisely this control from which Sebastian is trying to escape. Lady Marchmain attempts to use Charles to control him, "an attempt had been made to suborn me…" (133) but he realises that control is completely the wrong approach and he refuses to become her agent, "No, I’m with you, 'Sebastian contra mundum'" (135).

The summer term brings no warmth for Sebastian, "…the shadows were closing around Sebastian…there was midwinter in Sebastian’s heart" (135). Lady Marchmain sees that she has failed with Charles and tries other ways to assert some sort of control over Sebastian. Drink remain his only means of escape. When the Junior Dean finds him, hopelessly drunk, the ultimatum arrives: if Sebastian wishes to stay at Oxford, he must go and live with Monsignor Bell, an ‘agent’ of Lady Marchmain. Sebastian wishes to escape from his mother’s control, particularly the religious obligations that she foists upon him, so this is clearly not an option. In a final act of defiance, Charles and Sebastian get very drunk together, ‘contra mundum’ and Sebastian is taken away from Oxford. He is sent abroad on a ‘grand tour’ under the supervision of Mr. Samgrass, an Oxford academic and friend of Lady Marchmain. Charles’ only friend has left. By the time he returns home at the end of the term, he has decided to leave also.


Charles goes to Paris to study art. He returns at Christmas and, again, visits Brideshead. Sebastian and Mr. Samgrass have returned and Mr. Samgrass is at great pains to give a seamless and diverting account of their foreign travels. It transpires, however, that Sebastian had escaped from his clutches and had spent his time drinking with Anthony Blanche, a contemporary of his at Oxford. He has not been cured of his dipsomania; his desire to escape has not been quelled. Returning from his freedom abroad, it is all the stronger. Lady Marchmain imposes strict measures: Sebastian’s drinks are carefully rationed at home and he is given no money so he cannot buy his own. Nevertheless, he manages to evade her control. Charles gives him money for he realises that Lady Marchmain’s attempts to control Sebastian are the cause, not the cure for Sebastian’s behaviour.

Charles understands that he can no longer be part of the Arcadian world that Sebastian seeks. When Charles first visits Brideshead, Sebastian says, "I'm not going to have you get mixed up with my family…If they once got hold of you with their charm, they’d make you their friend not mine and I won’t let them" (38). But it is unavoidable. "She [Lady Marchmain] accepted me as Sebastian’s friend and sought to make me hers also, and, in doing so, unwittingly, struck at the roots of our friendship" (105). He has been corrupted. He has entered the world from which Sebastian is trying to escape. When Cara talks of their "romantic friendship", she says, "I think they are good if they don’t go on too long" (98). Now, Charles asks Sebastian,

"‘Tell me honestly, do you want me to stay on here?’

‘No, Charles, I don’t believe I do.’

‘I’m no help?’

‘No help.'" (162)

Their "romantic friendship" of less than two years is over. Charles leaves, "A door had shut, the low door in the wall I had sought and found in Oxford; open it now and I should find no enchanted garden…I had left behind me - what? Youth? Adolescence? Romance? …I have left behind illusion" (163f.). Charles

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