Charles Ryder
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Quotes for
Charles Ryder (Character)
from "Brideshead Revisited" (1981)

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Brideshead Revisited (2008)
Charles Ryder: [suggestively] I can't sleep...
Julia Flyte: Try pyjamas!

[First Lines]
Charles Ryder: [Internal monologue while walking out of Brideshead Castle] If you asked me now who I am, the only answer I could give with any certainty would be my name: Charles Ryder. For the rest: my loves, my hates, down even to my deepest desires, I can no longer say whether these emotions are my own, or stolen from those I once so desperately wished to be. On second thought, one emotion remains my own. Alone among the borrowed and the second-hand, as pure as that faith from which I am still in flight: Guilt.

Sebastian Flyte: Charles is reading history, but he wants to be an artist.
Anthony Blanche: No!
Sebastian Flyte: Why ever not?
Anthony Blanche: Either you are an artist, or you are not.
Boy Markaster: Hear, hear.
Charles Ryder: Then I am.

Boy Markaster: What do you want to be an artist for? I mean, what's the point of it? Why don't you just buy a bloody camera and take a bloody photograph and stop giving yourself airs? That's what I want to know.
Charles Ryder: I don't give myself airs.
Boy Markaster: Uh, yes, you do. And anyway you haven't answered my question. Come on! Answer! Answer! Answer!
Charles Ryder: Because, a camera is a mechanical device which records a moment in time, but not what that moment means or the emotions that it evokes. Whereas, a painting, however imperfect it may be, is an expression of... feeling. An expression of love. Not just a copy of something.

Charles Ryder: I'm sorry.
Sebastian Flyte: Whatever for?
Charles Ryder: Everything.

Cara: That woman nearly suffocated him... Well, just look at her children. Even when they were tiny, in the nursery, they must do what she wants them to do, be what she wants them to be. Only then would she love them. It's not Lady Marchmain's fault. Her God has done that to her.
Charles Ryder: But surely you're Catholic too.
Cara: Oh, yes, but a different sort. Well, it's different in Italy. Not so much guilt. We do what the heart tell us, and then we go to confession.

Lady Marchmain: I act only as God directs.
Charles Ryder: Rubbish. God's your best invention. Whatever you want, he does.

"Brideshead Revisited: Brideshead Revisited (#1.11)" (1981)
[at Brideshead Hall during the army's occupation of it in World War II]
Lieutenant Hooper: Did you say you knew this place before?
Charles Ryder: Yes. Very well. It belongs to friends of mine.
Lieutenant Hooper: It doesn't make any sense. One family in a place this size - what's the use of it?
Charles Ryder: I suppose Brigade find it useful.
Lieutenant Hooper: That's not what it's built for, though, is it?
Charles Ryder: No, it's *not* what it was built for. Maybe that's one of the pleasures of building. Like having a son. Wondering how he'll grow up. I don't know. I've never built anything. And I've forfeited the right to watch my son grow up. I'm homeless, childless, middle-aged and loveless.

[in the Chapel at Brideshead Hall - final voiceover]
Charles Ryder: The chapel showed no ill effects of its long neglect. The paint was as fresh and bright as ever. And the lamp burned once more before the altar. I knelt and said a prayer - an ancient, newly-learned form of words. I thought that the builders did not know the uses to which their work would descend. They made a new house with the stones of the old castle. Year by year the great harvest of timber in the park grew to ripeness, until, in sudden frost, came the Age of Hooper. The place was desolate and the work all brought to nothing. Quomodo sedet sola civitas - vanity of vanities, all is vanity. And yet, I thought, that is not the last word. It is not even an apt word - it is a dead word from ten years back. Something quite remote from anything the builders intended had come out of their work and out of the fierce little human tragedy in which I played. Something none of us thought about at the time. A small red flame, a beaten copper lamp of deplorable design, re-lit before the beaten copper doors of a tabernacle. This flame, which the old knights saw from their tombs, which they saw put out: the flame burns again for *other* soldiers far from home - farther, in heart, than Acre or Jerusalem. It could not have been lit but for the builders and the tragedians. And there I found it that morning, burning anew among the old stones.

[Lord Marchmain is dying. The priest has called to adminster the Last Rites but Cordelia has sent him away for now, saying "Papa doesn't want him yet"]
Julia Mottram: Charles, I see great church trouble ahead.
Charles Ryder: Can't they even let him *die* in peace?
Julia Mottram: They mean something so different by "peace".
Charles Ryder: It would be an outrage. No-one could have made it plainer, in his life, what he thought of religion. If they come to him now when his mind's wandering and he hasn't the strength to resist, and claim him as a death-bed penitent... I've had some respect for their religion up to now, but if they do *that*, then I'll know that what stupid people say is true: that it *is* all superstition and trickery.

[Lord Marchmain is now very close to death. Doctor Grant has said that the least little shock will kill him. Julia has sent for Father McKay to administer the Last Rites]
Charles Ryder: You said just now that the least shock would kill him. What could be worst for a man who fears death, as he does, than to have a priest brought to him? A priest he turned out when he had the strength.
Doctor Grant: I think it may kill him.
Charles Ryder: Then you will forbid it?
Doctor Grant: I have no authority to forbid anything. I can only give an opinion.
[Doctor Grant is called away to attend to Lord Marchmain]
Charles Ryder: Cara, what do you think?
Cara: I don't want him made unhappy. That is all there is to hope for now: that he will die without knowing it. But I should like the priest there, all the same.
Charles Ryder: But will you try and persuade Julia to keep him away until the end? Then he can do no harm.
Cara: I will ask her to leave Alex happy, yes.

[Father McKay is administering the Last Rites to Lord Marchmain]
Charles Ryder: [voiceover] I recognised the words of Absolution and saw the priest make the sign of the cross. Then I knelt too and prayed: "Oh God, if there is a God, forgive him his sins, if there *is* such a thing as sin." I suddenly felt the longing for a sign, if only of courtesy, if only for the sake of the woman I loved who knelt, I knew, praying for a sign. It seemed such a small thing that was asked - the bare acknowledgement of a present. A nod in a crowd. I prayed more simply: "God forgive him his sins and please, God, make him accept your forgiveness." So small a thing to ask.
[Lord Marchmain stirs briefly, makes the sign of the cross, and lapses back into unconsciousness]
Charles Ryder: [voiceover] Then I knew the sign I had asked for was *not* a little thing, not a passing nod of recognition. And a phrase came back to me from my childhood, of the veil of the temple being rent from top to bottom.

[Lord Marchmain has just died]
Charles Ryder: [voiceover] Thus I come to the broken sentences which were the last words spoken between Julia and me - the last memories. When at last we met alone, it was by stealth, like young lovers.
[Charles and Julia hug]
Julia Mottram: Here on the stairs, a minute to say goodbye.
Charles Ryder: [wistfully] So long to say so little.
Julia Mottram: You knew?
Charles Ryder: Since this morning. Since before this morning. All this year.
Julia Mottram: I didn't know till today. Oh, my dear, if you could only understand, then I could bear to part - or bear it better. I'd say my heart were breaking, if I believed in broken hearts. I can't marry you, Charles. I can't be with you ever again.
Charles Ryder: [flatly] I know.
Julia Mottram: How can you know?
[long pause]
Charles Ryder: What will you do?
Julia Mottram: Just go on. Alone. How can I tell what I shall do? You know the whole of me. You know I'm not one for a life of mourning. I've always been bad. Probably I'll be bad again - punished again. But the worse I am, the more I need God. I can't shut myself out from His mercy. That *is* what it would mean, starting a life with you - without Him. One can only see one step ahead. But I saw today there's one thing unforgivable, like things in the school-room, so bad they're unpunishable, that only Mummy could deal with. The bad thing I was on the point of doing that I'm not quite bad enough to do - to set up a rival God to God. It may be because of Mummy, Nanny, Sebastian, Cordelia, perhaps Bridey and Mrs Muspratt - keeping my name in their prayers. Or it may be a private bargain between me and God. That if I give up this one thing I want so much, how ever bad I am He won't quite despair of me in the end. Now we shall both be alone. And I shall have no way of making you understand.
Charles Ryder: I don't want to make it easy for you. I hope your heart may break. But I *do* understand.
[Julia gets up and walks away, leaving Charles staring blankly into empty space]

"Brideshead Revisited: A Twitch Upon the Thread (#1.10)" (1981)
[Cordelia has been telling Charles that she has recently met Sebastian living a dissolute and drunken life in a Tunisian monastery after his lover has killed himself]
Charles Ryder: It's not what one would have foretold. I suppose he doesn't suffer.
Cordelia Flyte: Oh, yes, I think he does. One has no idea what the suffering may be - to be as maimed as he is. No dignity, no power of will. No-one is truly holy without suffering.

Cordelia Flyte: Tell me, Charles. When you first met me last night, did you think "Poor Cordelia. Such an engaging child, grown into a plain and pious spinster, full of good works"? Did you think "thwarted"?
Charles Ryder: [chuckles] Yes, I did. But now I'm not so sure.
Cordelia Flyte: It's funny, you know. That's exactly the word I thought for you and Julia when I saw you up in the nursery with Nanny - "thwarted passion", I thought.

[Bridey has just announced his engagement to Beryl Muspratt, a widow with three children. Julia asks why he hasn't brought Beryl to Brideshead to meet her]
Lord Brideshead 'Bridey': [pompously] You must understand that Beryl is a woman of strict Catholic principle, fortified by the prejudices of the middle classes. I couldn't *possibly* bring her here. It is a matter of indifference whether you choose to live in sin with Rex or Charles or both - I have always avoided enquiry into the details of your ménage - but in no case would Beryl consent to be your guest.
Julia Mottram: Why, you pompous ass!
[Julia walks out of the room, holding back tears]
Charles Ryder: Bridey! What a bloody offensive thing to say to Julia.
Lord Brideshead 'Bridey': [coldly] It was nothing she should object to. I was merely stating a fact well known to her.

[Bridey has just deeply offended Julia by referring to her affair with Charles as "living in sin"]
Charles Ryder: Darling, what is it? Why do you mind? What doe it matter what the old booby says?
Julia Mottram: [sobbing] I don't. It doesn't! It's just the shock. Don't laugh at me.
Charles Ryder: How *dare* he speak to you like that? Cold-blooded old humbug.
Julia Mottram: No it's not that. He's quite right. They know all about it, Bridey and his widow - they bought it for a penny at the church door. All in one word - one little flat word that covers a lifetime. "Living in sin". Not just "doing wrong", as I did when I went to America, doing wrong, knowing it's wrong, stopping doing it, forgetting it. That's not what they mean, that's not Bridey's pennyworth.
Julia Mottram: He means just what it says. *Living* in sin - every hour, every day, year in, year out. It's always the same. It's like an idiot child, carefully nursed, guarded from the world. "Poor Julia," they say, "She can't go out. She's got to take care of her little sin. It's a pity it ever lived, but it's so strong. Children like that always are. Julia's so good to her little mad sin." All those years when I was trying to be a good wife, in the cigar smoke, when I was trying to bear his child, torn in pieces by something already dead. Putting him away, forgetting him. Finding you - the past two years with you, all the future with you or without you. It's a word from so long ago - Nanny Hawkins stitching by the hearth and the nightlight burning before the Sacred Heart. Me and Cordelia with the Catechism in Mummy's room before luncheon on Sundays. Mummy carrying my sin with her to church, bowed under it. Mummy dying with my sin, eating her more cruelly than her own deadly illness. Mummy dying with it. Christ dying wit,h it nailed hand and foot, high among the crowds and soldiers. No comfort except a sponge of vinegar and the kind words of a thief. Hanging forever, over the bed in the night-nursery. There's no way back - the gate's barred. All the saints and angels posted along the wall. Thrown away, scrapped, rotting down. Nameless and dead. Like the baby they wrapped up and took away, before I had chance see him.
[she dries her tears on Charles's handkerchief and walks away]

[gossiping about Bridey's new fiancée]
Julia Mottram: I met The Widow at luncheon.
Charles Ryder: [intrigued] Did you?
Julia Mottram: Do you know what she said to me? "So you're divorcing one divorced man and marrying another? It sounds rather complicated. But, my dear" - she called me "my dear" about twenty times - "I've usually found that every Catholic family has one lapsed member, and it's often the nicest."
Charles Ryder: What's she like?
Julia Mottram: Majestic. And voluptuous. Common, of course. I'll tell you one thing: she's lied to Bridey about her age. She's a good forty-five - I don't see her providing an heir. Bridey can't take his eyes off her: he was gloating on her in the most revolting way all through luncheon.
Charles Ryder: Was she friendly?
Julia Mottram: Goodness, yes, in a condescending way. I think it put her rather at ease to have me there as the black sheep. She concentrated on me, in fact. She said, rather pointedly, that she hoped to see me often in London. I think Bridey's scruples only extend to her sleeping under the same roof as me. Apparently I can do her no serious harm in a hat-shop or a hairdressers. And the scruples are all on Bridey's part, anyway.
Charles Ryder: Does she boss him?
Julia Mottram: Not yet... much. He's in an amorous stupor, poor beast, and doesn't really know where he is. She's just a good-hearted woman who wants a good home for her children, and isn't going to let anything and in her way.

"Brideshead Revisited: Home and Abroad (#1.2)" (1981)
Lord Brideshead 'Bridey': You're fond of wine?
Charles Ryder: Yes, very.
Lord Brideshead 'Bridey': [pompously] I wish *I* were. It's such a bond with other men. At Oxford I tried to get drunk once or twice - but I didn't enjoy it.
[Sebastian and Cordelia exchange glances and crease up with silent laughter]

Cordelia Flyte: If you weren't an agnostic I should ask you for five shillings to buy a black god-daughter.
Charles Ryder: Nothing would surprise me about your religion.
Cordelia Flyte: It's a new thing that a priest started last term. You send five bob to some nuns in Africa and they christen a baby and name her after you. I have got six black Cordelias. Isn't that lovely?
[Ryder looks utterly bewildered]

"Brideshead Revisited: A Blow Upon a Bruise (#1.5)" (1981)
Charles Ryder: D'you know, Bridey. If ever I thought about becoming a Catholic, I'd only have to talk to you for five minutes to be cured. You manage to reduce what seem quite sensible propositions to stark nonsense.
Lord Brideshead 'Bridey': It's odd you should say that. I've heard it before from other people. It's one of the reasons why I don't think I'd have made a good priest. It's something in the way my mind works, I suppose.

"Brideshead Revisited: Sebastian Against the World (#1.4)" (1981)
[after many earlier warnings, Sebastian has got drunk yet again and has just been expelled from Oxford. Charles and Bridie are packing up his belongings to send them home]
Lord Brideshead 'Bridey': My mother believes Sebastian is a confirmed drunkard. Is he?
Charles Ryder: He's in danger of becoming one.
[Charles opens a drawer to find it full of whisky bottles. He shuts it quickly]
Lord Brideshead 'Bridey': I believe God prefers drunkards to lot of repectable people.
Charles Ryder: [exasperated] For God's sake! Why do you have to bring God into everything?
Lord Brideshead 'Bridey': Oh I'm sorry, I forgot. But that's an extremely funny question.
Charles Ryder: Is it?
Lord Brideshead 'Bridey': Oh, to me, not to you.
Charles Ryder: No, not to me. It seems to me that without your religion, Sebastian might have had a chance to be a happy and a healthy man.
Lord Brideshead 'Bridey': [doubtfully] It's arguable, I suppose.