In the 19th century, it was customary to use black-bordered paper and envelopes to inform someone of a death. Here Sebastian finds unused sheets in some forgotten bureau in the vast pile that is Brideshead, and decides to inform his friend Charles of the death of his own innocence.
Yet there’s wry humour in the announcement, referring to it as to a new-born weakling, destined to die within hours of birth. Charles describes the letter as have been written on ‘heavy, late-Victorian mourning paper, black-coroneted and black-bordered’.
I found a box of this paper at the back of a bureau so I must write to you as I am mourning for my lost innocence. It never looked like living. The doctors despaired of it from the start …
Source: Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968 (1945)), p. 71