Summary: Book 1: Chapter 2
Jasper warns Charles that he has fallen in with the worst people at Oxford, though he concedes that Sebastian might be okay because his older brother is. However, society gossips about the Marchmain Family because Lord and Lady Marchmain live separately. Jasper finds Anthony Blanche thoroughly objectionable. He further criticizes Charles’s excessive spending and the elaborate decor of his room, which includes a memento mori, death-related art, of a skull with “Et in Arcadia Ego” written on its forehead resting in a bowl of roses. Charles tells Jasper that he likes his embarrassing friends and invites Jasper to drink champagne with him.
In retrospect, Charles looks at his time at Oxford as the happy childhood he never had and doesn’t think he would make different choices given the chance. He believes pursuing love creates wisdom. He compares his behavior to the alcohol added to grape juice that requires it to need time to mature before drinking.
The day after Jasper’s lecture, Anthony Blanche seeks Charles out. Charles doesn’t like Anthony much. Charles notes that Anthony pursues excess less for pleasure than to shock. Anthony and Charles go to a bar. However, Anthony doesn’t want to stay because there are too many students. A few days prior, Anthony had faced homophobic bullying from a group of students who threatened to put him in a fountain called the Mercury. Anthony quelled their rage by suggesting that he’d enjoy it when they put their hands on him. He then walked with them to the Mercury fountain and got in himself.
Anthony complains that no one would treat Sebastian in such a way because of his charm. He had gone to visit Sebastian the day after the fountain incident only to find him dining with Boy Mulcaster, one of the culprits. When Anthony told Sebastian they had attacked him, Sebastian suggested that they must have been drunk. Anthony claims he went to school with Sebastian, and even then, Sebastian always escaped punishment because of his charm. Anthony and Sebastian had attended mass together, and Anthony always wondered at the length of Sebastian’s confessions because he never actually got in trouble.
Anthony gossips to Charles about Sebastian’s family. He calls Brideshead, Sebastian’s older brother, “archaic” and paints Julia as power-hungry. A rumor exists that Sebastian’s younger sister, who is still in the nursery, caused her governess to commit suicide. Anthony also notes that Sebastian’s mother, Lady Marchmain, drove Lord Marchmain out of polite society. Only Sebastian still sees him.
Anthony claims to recognize Charles for the artist he is, unlike Sebastian. When Anthony spoke of Charles’s artistic talent to Sebastian, Sebastian commented on Aloysius’s artistic abilities. Anthony calls Sebastian “insipid,” like a drawing of soap bubbles. Before he leaves, Anthony notes that he knows Charles will repeat what Anthony has said to Sebastian. He warns Charles that Sebastian will react by making a comment about Aloysius.