Cursed Fountains? The Bride of Lammermoor and Brideshead Revisited

Castle Howard fountain and house

A view from the fountain of Castle Howard

I recently visited Castle Howard in Yorkshire. For those of you who haven’t been, it’s definitely worth going. Beautiful grounds, well-informed staff, and a home that caters to Classicists, Victorianists, and many in-between with its extensive collection. But what impressed me most on my visit was the fountain. The house has been filmed twice for adaptations of Brideshead Revisited, and indeed, the author himself (Evelyn Waugh) had the house in mind when he penned the work. In both the Granada production and the novel, the fountain acts as a reminder of the past. Perhaps it is the contrast of the ‘living’, flowing water and the ancient stone that makes it the location for dramatic revelations. It is at the fountain that the lapsed Catholic Julia Flyte is crushed by the weight of a faith she thought she had left behind, and it is years later, when the fountain’s water is shut off and the house encamped with soliders who casually discard their cigarettes in its base, that the main protagonist Charles Ryder despairs that the past– its traditions and ideas, its sense of honour and duty– is gone forever.

The fountain in The Bride of Lammermoor, is more than a reminder of the past, it is a place where past and present meet. A cursed place for the House of Ravenswood, the young heir is reminded of how far he has transgressed his ancestor’s beliefs when he takes Lucy Ashton, the daughter of his enemy, to rest there after she and her father are almost killed by a wild bull. When he later falls in love with her, it is at the fountain that he proposes, an action that will ultimately lead to their undoing.  The fountain’s curse is remembered by servants and tenant farmers, and it is on this prophecy/evidence that they interpret the events that transpire. In The Bride of Lammermoor, the fountain is more than a place that evokes emotion, it intensifies the tragedy by directly connecting the first cursed ancestor with Edgar and Lucy’s love.

The Bride of Lammermoor is the first novel on the Star-Crossed Lovers course, which meets on Thursdays from 4-6pm in Continuing Education from October 11th to December 13th, 2012. For more information and details of how to register, visit the Liverpool University Continuing Education website.

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