Rex Mottram arrives. He mentions a detox retreat that he believes will help Sebastian. During cocktail hour, Wilcox announces that Sebastian needs to be picked up from a hotel. Sebastian is only partially intoxicated when they find him, but by the end of dinner, he is miserably drunk.
The next morning, Charles asks Sebastian if he wants him to stay. Sebastian tells him no. When Charles goes to say farewell to Lady Marchmain, she asks whether Charles gave Sebastian money. He tells her the truth, and Lady Marchmain is distraught. She asks if Charles hates them. Charles takes this rebuke calmly. As he drives away from the house, he feels like he’s leaving part of himself behind. He wonders if it’s youth he’s lost, but then decides it’s illusion. He resolves to live in a world of the senses. However, in retrospect, he doesn’t believe that world exists.
Back in Paris, Charles receives a letter from Cordelia, who is in trouble for giving Sebastian Wilcox’s keys. Rex Mottram is taking Sebastian to a sanitarium in Germany. A week later, Rex shows up at Charles’s flat to ask if Sebastian has been there. On the way to Germany, Rex won money gambling, and Sebastian stole his winnings and escaped.
Rex invites Charles to dinner and fills Charles in on what he missed after leaving Brideshead. Julia told Lady Marchmain the truth of Mr. Samgrass and Sebastian’s trip, and Lady Marchmain kicked Mr. Samgrass out. Rex reveals that Lady Marchmain is secretly very ill. He also worries about the Marchmains’ dwindling finances. Rex plans to marry Julia, but Lady Marchmain doesn’t approve of him. Rex doesn’t want a quiet wedding, as if they’re ashamed, so he plans to speak with Lord Marchmain. At the beginning of June, Charles reads that Julia and Rex have had a very small wedding.
Analysis: Book 2: Chapter 1
Sebastian deteriorates further in this chapter, completely unable to live in reality. Sebastian’s continued escapes and turns to theft in order to procure alcohol continue the trend in which Sebastian no longer cares how his actions affect others that began with his drunk driving. Unlike his drunken Easter where he apologized to Charles for lashing out and acknowledged Charles’s care and concern, Sebastian no longer can view Charles’s concern as love. Furthermore, whereas previously Sebastian had only asked Charles to abet him by lying, now he manipulates Charles into furthering his alcoholism with money, recognizing that Charles’s desire to remain in his good graces makes him vulnerable. Perhaps most disturbing, Sebastian assumes he must have enjoyed himself on Christmas because he can’t remember what he did, which indicates that he desires a level of escape where he no longer actually experiences living. Although Charles still insists that Lady Marchmain’s attempts to control Sebastian worsen his condition, we have seen no evidence that Sebastian drinks to spite those around him. Instead, he drinks as much as he desires with or without someone attempting to control him.
This chapter sets up several parallels between Sebastian and Lord Marchmain that demonstrate the effects of their self-destructive behavior. Julia worries about Sebastian becoming another skeleton in the family closet, displaying concern for how Sebastian’s behavior could affect the family’s social standing. Lord and Lady Marchmain’s separation has already created a lot of gossip in their social circles. People have talked to Charles about the scandalous Marchmains just because he spends time with Sebastian, and these rumors certainly affect Julia as well. Both Lord Marchmain and Sebastian have chosen to behave in their own self-interest without concern for their families. Charles blames both Sebastian’s running away and Lord Marchmain’s separation on Lady Marchmain’s overbearingness. However, Charles’s judgement concerning Sebastian is far from objective. While Lady Marchmain is controlling, she has the best interests of her family at heart and is trying to help Sebastian, whose addiction is clearly spiraling out of control. So, while Charles correctly has identified that Sebastian and Lord Marchmain both blame Lady Marchmain for the family’s problems, he has failed to note that they blame her for their own bad behavior. Lord Marchmain chose to separate from Lady Marchmain, knowing she would never grant a divorce. Sebastian chooses to drink instead of taking responsibility for his actions.