Brideshead Revisited Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1945

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Social realism

Time of work: Twentieth century

Locale: England

Characters DiscussedCharles Ryder

Charles Brideshead RevisitedRyder, a young man who in his days at Oxford meets Sebastian Marchmain and is gradually introduced to the Marchmain family of Brideshead. He becomes an architectural painter and marries the sister of another Oxford friend, but his ties to the Marchmain family persist, and later he falls in love with Sebastian’s sister Julia, who is also married. They plan to divorce their spouses and marry each other, and for a while they live together; but Julia’s Catholic faith claims her at last, and she gives up Charles.

Lady Marchmain

Lady Marchmain, the stanchly Catholic mother of Sebastian and Julia, who are in revolt from her as well as from their religion. After her death, her rebellious husband and children are drawn back to the values of the Church.

The Marquis of Marchmain

The Marquis of Marchmain, Lady Marchmain’s husband and the owner of Brideshead. For many years he has lived with his mistress in Italy. After the death of his wife, he returns to Brideshead with his mistress to spend his last days. Although he is in failing health, he refuses to see a priest: but as he is dying, the priest is brought in, and Lord Marchmain makes the sign of the cross.


Brideshead (Bridey) Marchmain, the oldest of their children. A pompous man, he marries a self-righteous widow with three children.

Sebastian Marchmain

Sebastian Marchmain, Charles Ryder’s friend, an ineffectual though clever and charming young man. His rebellion takes the form of severe alcoholism. After years of aimless wandering, he tries to enter a monastery in Carthage and is refused. Unconscious from drink, he is carried into the monastery by the monks. He plans to stay there as under-porter for the rest of his life.

Julia Marchmain

Julia Marchmain, whose form of rebellion is to marry a rich but socially inferior Protestant of whom her mother disapproves. Though he is willing to be converted, it is discovered that he is divorced, and they are forced to marry in a Protestant ceremony. Later Julia falls in love with Charles and has an affair with him, but, believing that to marry him would only magnify the sin, she gives him up.

Cordelia Marchmain

Cordelia Marchmain, the youngest of the four children. On returning from Spain, where she worked with an ambulance corps, she tells her family about Sebastian, whom she visited.


Cara, Lord Marchmain’s lifelong mistress.

Rex Mottram

Rex Mottram, Julia’s vital and ambitious but ill-bred husband.

Boy Mulcaster

Boy Mulcaster and

Anthony Blanche

Anthony Blanche, Oxford friends of Sebastian and Charles.

Celia Ryder

Celia Ryder, Boy Mulcaster’s sister and Charles’ wife.

Beryl Muspratt

Beryl Muspratt, a widow with three children. Engaged to Bridey, she refuses to come to Brideshead because Charles and Julia are living there in sin. Traveling with Bridey in Italy after their marriage, she meets Lord Marchmain, who dislikes her.


Kurt, Sebastian’s roommate and companion in Fez. Kurt is seized by Germans and taken back to Germany. Sebastian follows him, but after Kurt hangs himself in a concentration camp, Sebastian returns to Morocco.

Mr. Samgrass

Mr. Samgrass, who is employed in doing some literary work for Lady Marchmain. She hires him also to keep Sebastian away from alcohol, but the plan is doomed to failure.

Father Mackay

Father Mackay, the priest whom the Marchmain children and Cara bring to the bedside of the dying Lord Marchmain.

Johnjohn Ryder

Johnjohn Ryder and

Caroline Ryder

Caroline Ryder, children of Charles and Celia.

Sources for Further StudyCook, William J., Jr. Masks, Modes, and Morals: The Art of Evelyn Waugh. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1971. A valuable source because Cook analyzes the point of view employed in each of the novels. It is a commonplace observation that Waugh’s style changed in mid-career (just before publication of Brideshead Revisited); Cook argues that the altered point of view accounts for the stylistic change.Davis, Robert Murray. Brideshead Revisited: The Past Redeemed. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1990. Summarizes the novel’s historical context, importance, and critical reactions, analyzing Waugh’s style and narrative technique. Includes chronology of Waugh’s life, bibliographical references, index.Davis, Robert Murray. “Imagined Space in Brideshead Revisited.” In Evelyn Waugh: New Directions, edited by Alain Blayac. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992. This essay confronts the problem of a sometimes unlikable narrator who is at the center of the entire novel.Ker, Ian. “Evelyn Waugh: The Priest as Craftsman.” The Catholic Revival in English Literature, 1845-1961. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003. Discusses Waugh’s practical understanding of Catholic life, including the portrayal of Catholicism as a lived faith in Brideshead Revisited. Includes index.Lygon, Lady Dorothy. “Madresfield and Brideshead.” In Evelyn Waugh and His World, edited by David Pryce-Jones. Boston: Little, Brown, 1973. An essay by one of Waugh’s intimate friends. Discusses the country house that was the model for the fictional Brideshead.McCartney, George. Confused Roaring: Evelyn Waugh and the Modernist Tradition. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1987. Explores Waugh’s place among authors of the modernist tradition, discussing metaphysical, aesthetic, epistemological, and other themes in Waugh’s collected works. Includes bibliographical references, index.Patey, Douglas Lane. “Brideshead Revisited.” In The Life of Evelyn Waugh: A Critical Biography. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1998. A concise study that addresses the novel’s autobiographical aspect as well as its Catholic and aesthetic themes. Includes bibliographical references, index.Quennell, Peter. “A Kingdom of Cokayne.” In Evelyn Waugh and His World, edited by David Pryce-Jones. Boston: Little, Brown, 1973. A reminiscence of the Waugh whom the author knew at Oxford. Provides excellent background information for the Oxford segment of Brideshead Revisited.Wilson, Edmund. “Splendors and Miseries of Evelyn Waugh.” In Critical Essays on Evelyn Waugh, edited by James F. Carens. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987. After having praised the young Evelyn Waugh as a comic genius, Wilson in this essay reflects his disappointment with Brideshead Revisited.
Categories: Characters