Friday 8 July 2011

The Mother-in-law from Hell

We've all heard of her by now. Carolyn Bourne, the dianthus-grower from Dawlish who sent her prospective daughter-in-law a critical email that went viral. Here it is, in case you missed it:

It is high time someone explained to you about good manners. Yours are obvious by their absence and I feel sorry for you.

Unfortunately for Freddie, he has fallen in love with you and Freddie being Freddie, I gather it is not easy to reason with him or yet encourage him to consider how he might be able to help you. It may just be possible to get through to you though. I do hope so.

If you want to be accepted by the wider Bourne family I suggest you take some guidance from experts with utmost haste. There are plenty of finishing schools around. Please, for your own good, for Freddie’s sake and for your future involvement with the Bourne family, do something as soon as possible.

Here are a few examples of your lack of manners:

• When you are a guest in another’s house, you do not declare what you will and will not eat – unless you are positively allergic to something. You do not remark that you do not have enough food. You do not start before everyone else. You do not take additional helpings without being invited to by your host.

• When a guest in another’s house, you do not lie in bed until late morning in households that rise early – you fall in line with house norms.

• You should never ever insult the family you are about to join at any time and most definitely not in public. I gather you passed this off as a joke but the reaction in the pub was one of shock, not laughter.

• You should have hand-written a card to me. You have never written to thank me when you have stayed.

• You regularly draw attention to yourself. Perhaps you should ask yourself why.

• No one gets married in a castle unless they own it. It is brash, celebrity-style behaviour. I understand your parents are unable to contribute very much towards the cost of your wedding. (There is nothing wrong with that except that convention is such that one might presume they would have saved over the years for their daughters’ marriages.) If this is the case, it would be most ladylike and gracious to lower your sights and have a modest wedding as befits both your incomes.

So far, so breathtakingly rude. But what shocks me more is the way some journalists have sided with her. Carrie Quinlan in The Guardian says "God bless you, Carolyn Bourne". India Knight in The Sunday Times joins in, and so does Victoria Summerley in The Independent and Mary Killen in The Daily Telegraph. They were happy, says Tim Black in, to see an adult telling off a graceless youth. And about time too! At least Ms Bourne has proved that class is not dead. One commentator called her "so Dawlish!".


  1. Rude indeed. Of course, there are some points that seem to justify some annoyance - others are a matter of convention -, but first of all one wouldn't put that in an e-mail. She could take her aside for that at some opportunity where all are in a genial mood.

    Now, is Mrs Bourne a rude upper-middle class woman, or a would-be?

  2. I couldn't possibly comment! Not without doing some intensive fieldwork in Dawlish, that is...