X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Please note: Previously subscribers used a 'WebID' to log into the website. Your subscriber number is not the same as the WebID. Please ensure you use the subscriber number when you link your subscription.

By the book

Brideshead re-elected

12 May 2012

2:00 PM

12 May 2012

2:00 PM

David Cameron and George Osborne have been repeatedly accused by a fellow Conservative of being ‘posh boys who don’t know the price of milk’; ‘arrogant posh boys’, moreover, ‘who show no remorse, no contrition, and no passion to want to understand the lives of others’. This, say some, is why their party did so badly in last week’s elections.

Perhaps this pair of Oxford toffs should learn a lesson from the quintessential Oxford toff, Brideshead Revisited’s Sebastian Flyte. He would never dream of buying a pint of milk from the corner shop; his milk would be poured for him, from a jug, at teatime. Sebastian is certainly arrogant and far too busy drinking, vomiting in other people’s rooms, guzzling strawberries and buying eccentric presents for his teddy bear to care about the lives of other people.

[Alt-Text]


But the hoi polloi don’t despise Sebastian for his posh, whimsical ways, his out-of-touchness and self-centredness. On the contrary: no one can help but fall for his charm. The barber who sells Sebastian an ivory hairbrush for his teddy bear, ‘had had ample chance to tire of undergraduate fantasy [and yet] was plainly captivated’. The scout who has to clean up his sick, initially appalled, is swiftly won over: ‘A most amusing gentleman, I’m sure it’s quite a pleasure to clean up after him.’ And, of course, Charles Ryder, the novel’s narrator, gets over his cynicism to fall for Sebastian hook, line and sinker.

Alas Sebastian’s spiral is a downward one, and drinking gets the better of him. He ends up wafting around a monastery in Morocco. But even then, explains his sister Julia, ‘He’s still loved, you see, wherever he goes, whatever condition he’s in. It’s a thing about him he’ll never lose.’ I bet David Cameron would give his right arm to be loved, ‘wherever he goes, whatever condition he’s in’. Then he wouldn’t have to worry about people like Nadine Dorries getting so cross about his poshness.

The thing about Sebastian Flyte is that, perhaps a bit like Boris, he throws himself into things – getting absolutely smashed, falling terrifically in love, sending a whole roomful of flowers. Perhaps it would be a little over the top for a prime minister, but Sebastian’s enthusiasm certainly comes with charm.

No, it’s most definitely not advisable for David Cameron and George Osborne to hit the bottle and become reckless and vulnerable drunks, but perhaps they could adopt a little of Sebastian’s passion and embrace their own eccentricities, instead of trying endlessly to concoct personas they think middle England will like. And I’d love to know what they’d call their teddy bears.

Emily Rhodes is a blogger and bookseller. ‘By the Book’ will be an occasional column on lessons from literature.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
Close