Summary: Book 1: Chapter 1

Charles remembers the first time he went to Brideshead with his friend from university, Lord Sebastian Flyte. It’s Eights Week in June during Charles’s third term at Oxford, and visitors have come to Oxford for balls and parties, which annoys Charles greatly. 

Sebastian arrives one morning to whisk Charles away, promising wine and strawberries. Sebastian has borrowed a car from his friend Hardcastle. Hardcastle claims to know Sebastian’s father, but Sebastian’s father is considered a persona non grata in polite society, so Sebastian doesn’t believe him. 

Sebastian parks near a grassy knoll, where he and Charles have wine and strawberries and smoke cigars. Charles watches Sebastian’s face. Sebastian wishes he could bury something special in every place where he’s been happy so that when he’s old, he can dig it up and remember those happy times.

Charles reflects on the chance circumstances that allowed him to meet Sebastian. Before his first term at Oxford, his cousin Jasper had offered advice on how to handle the politics of Oxford, including how to dress, which lectures to attend, and which clubs to join. He told Charles to change his room assignment because ground floor rooms toward the front attract too many visitors. 

Charles doesn’t change his room assignment. He likes the gillyflowers that grow beneath his window. He finds a studious circle of friends but feels he’s missing something until he meets Sebastian. Whereas his old friends talk about the theory of aesthetics, Sebastian comments that he feels the same emotion seeing a flower that he does a cathedral.

Sebastian stands out in their year both for his looks and because he carries around a teddy bear named Aloysius. Charles does not properly meet him until an evening in March during a party in Charles’s rooms. Sebastian, drunk, throws up through Charles’s open window. The next morning, Charles awakens to find Sebastian has sent him flowers and an invitation to lunch as an apology. The letter claims Aloysius won’t speak to Sebastian until Charles has forgiven him.