My parents burdened me with two middle names. Three forename initials were commonplace once – sported by the captain of an MCC touring side in the 1920s, say – but nowadays they are a nuisance. Official forms allow for only one middle name, although if there is space I shoehorn both in, somehow feeling I am not myself without them.
The two middle names are Charles and Sebastian. My mother told me that one was chosen from each side of the family. But she misled me. They are the names of the leading characters of my father’s favourite book.
I now own the copy of Brideshead Revisited my father gave my mother as an engagement present. Raised Anglican, he went over to Rome, as the saying was, in 1959. Whether he did so purely to marry my mother, whose family tree boasted Jacobites out in the risings of both 1715 and 1745, as well as a couple of recusant bishops, is a moot point. But my father certainly drove his Morris to his second baptism with the lush cadences of Brideshead fresh in his mind.
The copy he gave her is not valuable. It is a third edition, confusingly described on the title verso as ‘New Impression 1952’. I would look it up, but there is no Evelyn Waugh bibliography. By this I don’t mean a list of source books at the back of a