A Twitch upon the Thread 5

296 the following term
Just as in University practice, the legal year is divided into three terms.

296 the international situation
The chapter begins just before Christmas 1938. This is after the Munich Agreement but before Hitler’s invasion of the rump of Czechoslovakia in March 1939. Many people were nervous at a time when Britain seemed to have behaved ignobly for such little advantage.
We are told later that Lord Marchmain arrives at Brideshead in January 1939.

296 ch√Ętelaine
i.e. mistress of the house and fully in charge of it. The widespread usage of the term derives from the middle ages, when wives were sometimes left in charge of a castle or estate for years while their husbands went on crusade. A wife was likely to be a more reliable manager than another member of his family, who might see the occasion as a fleeting opportunity for plunder and enrichment.

297 deeds of conveyance
Earlier we heard that Lord Marchmain was fully prepared to hand Brideshead Castle and the estate over to Bridey on the occasion of his marriage. The lawyers have prepared the deeds giving the property to Bridey. Now that Lord Marchmain has decided to return, these plans are shelved and, indeed, are never put into effect.

297 Lincoln’s Inn
one of the four Inns of Court, to one of which every barrister (lawyer qualified to represent clients in higher courts) in England and Wales belongs. They used to have disciplinary and educational functions, though these have now been largely handed over to other bodies. The Inn contains many barristers’ offices.

297 the Earl’s points … stencilling balls and strawberry leaves on the painted coronets
These are references to the coronets worn by peers of the United Kingdom on formal state occasions. Earls (such as Bridey) wore coronets which had rims decorated with balls on tall points (or stalks, as they are known), and marquesses (e.g. Lord Marchmain) had coronets with four strawberry leaves alternating with four silver balls. (Dukes’ coronets are distinguished by having only strawberry leaves.) The bunting hung up to celebrate Bridey’s wedding is now being used for Lord Marchmain’s welcome.

298 suffragan
a word which means ‘assistant’ and is generally used of assistant bishops, though not here

298 major-domo
a grand-sounding title for the chief manservant in a large household

298 ‘Blues’ and Life Guards
‘The Blues’ was the nickname of the Royal Horse Guards. In 1969 they were amalgamated with the Royal Dragoons to form the Blues and Royals. This regiment constitutes one of the two regiments of the Household Cavalry; the Life Guards are the other. They are soldiers (originally mounted) who have the duty of guarding the monarch, and they still maintain a mounted ceremonial squadron, which can be seen annually on the monarch’s official birthday at the ceremony of Trooping the Colour. EW was an officer in the Blues while attached to a Commando during World War II.

298 the house flag
This is the flag of the Marquis of Marchmain, flown only when he is present at Brideshead Castle. It must be nearly 25 years since it last flew on the Brideshead mast.

299 schoolboy’s glove
Presumably he had no other warm gloves to hand when he left Italy.

301 baldachino
(Italian) A baldachin is a canopy erected over an altar, shrine, or throne in a church. The one in St Peter’s, Rome, designed by Bernini, is over the high altar.

302 official artist
In World War I the War Office had appointed such artists (including eminent painters like Sir Stanley Spencer and Paul Nash) to depict the progress of the conflict. Though the authorities did not often like the revelatory nature of the paintings and drawings that resulted, the experiment was indeed repeated in World War II.

302 Special Reserve
the list at the War Office to which Charles has had his name added

302 squadron
Squadron, in the British army, was a term used only in cavalry regiments. We know that Lord Marchmain served in the local Yeomanry in World War I.

303 chinoiserie
a style influenced by Chinese themes and techniques. Naturally the Chinese drawing-room is filled with decoration inspired by Chinese ideas.

303 pantomime … Aladdin’s cave
In the pantomime Aladdin, which is presented in many towns during the Christmas season, Aladdin is at one point trapped in a wondrous treasure-cave filled with jewels and with gold and silver objects. The director must give the scene dramatic force and usually does so by overdoing the glitter and the coloured spot-lights.

304 Gethsemane
Lord Marchmain’s blasphemy compares himself in what he has called his death room with Christ in his agony in the garden. He is malicious enough to say the words deliberately and thus defy the religious ambience he has associated with the castle since the time he fled from his wife.

305 Ranieri’s
A fine hotel and restaurant in Rome. It is in a splendid eighteenth century building.

305 audience at the Vatican
There are two kinds of audience - general, when hundreds of people gather in a large room to be addressed by the Pope and perhaps briefly speak to him; and private, where a few people, usually distinguished visitors, have a longer talk with him. Beryl speaks of both kinds. The Pope at the time the Bridesheads visited Rome was Pius XI, who was soon to die on 10th February 1939.

305 the entail
the restriction of future ownership of bequeathed property to particular descendants, invariably male and invariably the entire estate. In this case Lord Marchmain explains that he can leave the estate as he pleases because the legal restrictions have now ceased. He and his father had probably agreed to do this when he reached the age of 21. (Nevertheless his title is not susceptible to change in succession and can descend only to his male descendants, and so first to Bridey, whatever happens to the estate.)

306 Quis?
Who? (Latin). A common usage amongst English schoolboys of this period and earlier.

306 anomalies and anachronisms
No doubt he has not changed his will for at least twenty-five years. Among the flaws in the will would be a mention of his wife, now dead.

306 a high pinnacle of the temple …
This reference to the Third Temptation of Christ (Gospels of Saint Matthew 4, 1-11; Saint Mark 1, 12-13; Saint Luke 4, 1-13) seems difficult to explain if one thinks Charles is comparing himself with Christ. He is of course tempted to consider the possibility of owning Brideshead as a great prize, but he does not dismiss it as Christ does his temptation; nor is it clear that such ownership would mean a fatal submission to the powers of evil. It is better just to think that, looking back, Charles knows that he found the prospect extremely alluring though he knew at the time that it would change his life.

308 various Government Houses
The house belonging to the governor of a colony of the British Empire, and containing his offices, was frequently named Government House. Beryl would have seen examples on her trips round the world with her first husband, Admiral Muspratt.

310 make a speech in Hyde Park 
Hyde Park in London has an area known as Speakers’ Corner where anyone who wishes may get up on a soap-box or step-ladder and speak on any topic he pleases to whoever will listen to him.

310 “No Popery” riot
Julia is referring to the anti-Catholic disturbances which have punctuated English history, and especially to the Gordon Riots of 1780 which saw London seized by anarchic violence for a week and resulted in perhaps 500 deaths.

311 Titian … Raphael
two great artists of the Italian Renaissance, the first Venetian (1490?-1576), the second Roman (1483-1520). Father Mackay’s question is unanswerable, not least because defining the meaning of ‘artistic’ is difficult.

311 bottles thrown at me in the Gorbals
The Gorbals is a district in the centre of Glasgow then noted for its slum tenements, poverty and squalor, and also for the warmth and genuineness of its people. Father Mackay probably means that the dying men he was visiting threw the bottles, but there was also much religious conflict in Glasgow between Catholics on the one hand and Presbyterians attached to the Orange Order on the other.

312 in extremis
on the point of death (Latin)

312 Mumbo-jumbo
Originally understood by eighteenth-century British people to be a grotesque idol worshipped by Africans, the term came to mean any meaningless words given a solemn presentation.

312 great sucks
a schoolboy term of contempt and derision indicating Charles’s pleasure that Bridey has been humiliated

315 divorce was made absolute
Charles’s marriage is finally dissolved, so that he is now free in the eyes of the law to marry again.

315 War Office
At this time the name of the department of government responsible for the Army. It was later a department of a new Ministry of Defence and later still disappeared altogether.

316 Irwin
Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary, had been created Baron Irwin in 1925 when he was appointed Viceroy of India. He succeeded his father as Viscount Halifax in 1934 and was to be created Earl of Halifax in 1944.
Lord Marchmain remembers Halifax as Viceroy, the statesman’s most distinguished office, though he has little admiration for him.

316 Czechs make good coachmen
No doubt this is Lord Marchmain’s malapropos comment when he is informed of the German rape of the rump of Czechoslovakia in March 1939.

316 beacon hill … battle of Trafalgar
This battle took place on 21st October 1805. The British navy under Admiral Lord Nelson utterly destroyed a Franco-Spanish fleet and ensured that Britain did not lose control of the seas and could not be invaded. The victory was celebrated in Britain by the lighting of a series of beacons on hilltops around the country, in imitation of the Armada signal of 1588.

317 chantry
In the Middle Ages it was the practice for wealthy men to pay for chantries, the regular saying of Mass for the intentions of the family, often the repose of the souls of deceased members. Masses might be endowed in perpetuity for the soul of the donor himself. Sometimes very rich men built chapels in churches for this express purpose; these chapels were also called chantries.
These chantries were dissolved by Henry VIII and his son Edward VI in the 1540’s. In 1547 it was specifically declared that praying for souls was a superstitious object, and the money held in trust by guilds and corporations for that purpose was confiscated by the state. The chantry chapels were then generally given parish or civic functions or sold off for redevelopment.

317 doubleted earl
A doublet was a close-fitting men’s jacket in Tudor and Stuart times, usually without sleeves.

317 marquis like a Roman senator
Some of the tombs had effigies portraying ancestors wearing a tunic and toga. It was a popular practice in 17th and 18th century England and was meant to indicate some civil eminence in the deceased.

317 escutcheons
shields which display heraldic arms, here represented in stone on the tombs

317 casque
metal helmet such as that worn by knights in armour. A knight’s casque was sometimes suspended over his tomb as a memorial.

317 knights then, barons since Agincourt, the larger honours …
This sentence shows the social advance made by the Flyte family over the centuries. They were clearly Norman in origin. Honours won at the battle of Agincourt against France (1415) gained the founder of the family’s prominence his first lordship; probably, adroit political support won the family the earldom and then the marquessate in the eighteenth century. (The Georges were Kings George I to IV, who reigned from 1714 to 1830.)

317 the barony goes on
It occasionally happens that baronies descend in the female line, as here with the Flytes. Lord Marchmain does not expect either Bridey or Sebastian to father sons now, and as he appears to have no other male relations, the ‘larger honours’ will die out with his sons. No female can inherit those titles (unless by special act of parliament, as in the case of the present Countess Mountbatten of Burma, who inherited the earldom from her father). Lord Marchmain takes comfort from the fact that on the death of the last male of his family Julia will become a baroness in her own right, if she is still alive.
EW was not to know this in 1944, but from 1958 to 1999 she would be eligible as a baroness in her own right to sit in the House of Lords.

317 wool shearing … wide corn lands
Lord Marchmain’s history is accurate. In the Middle Ages and up to Georgian times England’s chief wealth lay in wool. Gradually much land was given over to wheat in order to feed a growing population.

317 spread the wings
i.e. added the wings of the great house

317 drunk fine claret
Lord Marchmain mentions this in a list of precautions that he has taken to preserve his health. It was commonly believed (and occasionally recurs today as the latest advice from media doctors) that red wine fended off the worst effects of many diseases.

317 deep corn … swelling fruit … surfeited bees
It is early July, well into summer already. We are only two months from World War II, which for Britain started on 3rd September 1939.

318 little gold men
the Chinese figures on the wallpaper and in the decoration of the room

318 toads in the coal
It was thought to be merely a risible country superstition that toads and frogs could be found alive in the hollow centres of rocks (not coals), until scientists themselves came across examples of this curiosity. The explanation is that the creatures got trapped underground and were increasingly penned in by the continual deposition of limestone from water. The animals survived by eating such insects as inadvertently arrived, either of their own volition or borne in by the water.

318 I had my own victory. Was it a crime? … I think it was
Cordelia forces Lord Marchmain to confront the truth about his behaviour to his wife and family. This development is necessary for Marchmain’s spiritual progress.

320 Thank God, by His grace it is possible.
Father Mackay’s gentle persistence in his duty is derived from an incident in EW’s own life, when his friend Hubert Duggan was dying. The whole incident has parallels with the death of Lord Marchmain. In his Diary for 13th October 1943 EW described it like this :
I went back to Chapel Street. Numerous doctors - one particularly unattractive one from Canada - Marcella more than ever hostile. Father Devas very quiet and simple and humble, trying to make sense of all the confusion, knowing just what he wanted - to anoint Hubert - and patiently explaining, ‘Look all I shall do is just to put oil on his forehead and say a prayer. Look the oil is in this little box. It is nothing to be frightened of.’ And so by knowing what he wanted and sticking to that, when I was all for arguing it out from first principles, he got what he wanted and Hubert crossed himself and later called me up and said, ‘When I became a Catholic it was not from fear’, so he knows what happened and accepted it. So we spent the day watching for a spark of gratitude for the love of God and saw the spark.
321 a touch of the fingers, just some oil
Father Mackay will anoint Lord Marchmain’s forehead with oil in the form of cross.

322 ego te absolvo in nomine Patris …
‘I absolve you in the name of the Father …’ Much of the Catholic liturgy was performed in Latin at that time; but all Catholics, whatever the state of their Latin, would have recognised this phrase as the words of absolution.

322 O God, if there is a God, forgive him his sins
The miracle in this scene is not so much Marchmain’s deathbed acceptance of absolution, which was foreseeable, as Charles’s development from scepticism to simple acceptance of God. Only awareness of this fact can help us accept what happens when he and Julia meet for the last time.

322 oily wad
EW appears to be somewhat imprecise about what happens in Extreme Unction, as his friend Father Thomas Corbishley S.J. actually pointed out to him. The priest places the oil on the sick man’s forehead with his thumb; he then uses the wad to wipe off the excess.
Father Mackay is using the short form of the service allowed in emergency, anointing just the forehead : the full Catholic tradition was to anoint the five places corresponding to the five senses (eyes, ears, nostrils, lips, hands), and in some parts of the Catholic world a sixth (either the loins or what was called ‘the reins’, i.e. the area of the kidneys).

322 chrism
the consecrated olive oil which Father Mackay has just used

322 veil of the temple being rent from top to bottom
Charles remembers one of the manifestations accompanying the death of Jesus on the cross. The curtain which hung between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies in the Temple at Jerusalem was torn from top to bottom (Gospels of Saint Matthew 27, 51; Saint Mark 15, 38). This ‘veil’ was nearly twenty yards high, ten yards wide and some inches thick.

323 three pounds
This is an amount which does not sound much today, but it is more than my father earned in his weekly pay packet as a railwayman in 1939. Father Mackay’s ‘more than generous’ is fully meant.

324 How can you know?
Julia does not know of Charles’s capitulation to God. Everything now seems different, not only to her but also to him. That is why he is able to say ‘but I do understand’.

324 I can’t shut myself out from his mercy.
It may be worth explaining what in Catholic thought lies behind this statement.
Julia is free to marry whomsoever she pleases in a Catholic church, as long as that person is Catholic and unmarried; the Church has not recognised her marriage to Rex as valid since in its eyes he had a wife living. The Church will just want her to be free in the eyes of the state - and her divorce will see to that.
But she and Charles still cannot marry, for in the eyes of the Church he is validly married to Celia. It does not countenance divorce in either Catholic or non-Catholic worlds. So the divorce that Charles has obtained does not have any validity in the eyes of the Church. As a result, Julia still cannot marry Charles even though the ‘marriage’ with Rex is no barrier to her. If Julia had gone ahead and married Charles, the Church would not have recognised the union.
She realises that she needs now to acknowledge and affirm the love of God, and that this need requires the denial of a life with Charles. She must place the love of God before her love of Charles.
An interesting thought is that after he became a Catholic, Charles might have been able to pursue an annulment of his marriage with Celia. (EW himself successfully did this very thing and after much waiting had his marriage to Evelyn Gardner annulled.) If an annulment had been granted, he and Julia would have been free to marry.


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