Sunday 27 October 2013

Classy Quotes 14

Parents would speak softly, vaguely about influences, friendships and the social environment as children move into adolescence. (A Guardian writer explains why she and her family are staying in the city – and why so many friends left. 2013-10-26)

‘“Don’t fuss; don’t ask personal questions; don’t touch the teapot (this was reserved for the hostess); tea in first, milk after; understatement and stiff upper lip.” But there was also something unnatural in the resolutely unspoken nature of English communication, and a patronising element in the controlled superiority… an unshakeable belief – unshaken to this day, even by the loss of an empire – in their self-evident superiority.’ Refugees Hilde and her husband Peter “in all that time were never invited into a single English household there or involved in the social structure”. She had been a literary and social star as a young woman in Vienna; she ended up being frozen out in Wimbledon. She later wrote about her experiences: “The narrator is bemused by the formality of her host family. The four children, all younger than twelve, speak with the same decorous, joking expressions as the adults, with any regression into baby-speak frowned upon by their demanding parents.”(Writer Hilde Spiel on the English during WWII, quoted by Lara Feigel in The Love-charm of Bombs)

An upper-class hostess in a family where emotions were rarely discussed or prioritised and were secondary always to manners. ‘It seems so gauche,’ [wrote Mrs Graham Greene. She] pretended that any unpleasant events were not actually occurring and concealed any negative emotion behind a manner of ‘the most brilliant feyness’. (Lara Feigel, The Love-charm of Bombs)

It is sickening that vulgar, middle-class virtue should pay. (Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage)

All post-16th-century English art contains a sub-text concerning class… modern readers find it unforgiveable. (Angela Carter)

Bourgeois values: independence, perseverance, forethought, circumspection. (Angela Carter)

One important function of bourgeois fiction is to teach people how to behave in social circles to which they think they might be able to aspire. (Angela Carter)

We settled into a curious kind of deviant middle-class life, all little luxuries and no small comforts, no refrigerator, no washing-machine, no consumer durables at all, but cream with puddings and terribly expensive soap and everything went to the laundry. (Angela Carter on the 1950s)

One might also say that anyone bemoaning middle-class decline is really just complaining about a loss of privilege. (David Thomas, Daily Telegraph 14 Oct 2013)

It’s always a difficult line for MCs of either gender to tread – showing you’re fun and spontaneous without going too crazy. (Middle Class Handbook)

MCs often feel under huge pressure to be "interesting" – to talk about exotic travels, fascinating books and esoteric pursuits. (Middle-Class Handbook)

Lesley Bright came out of her O-level practical to find her teacher, Sister Claudia, who had been praying to the Holy Ghost that Lesley would put on her carrots in time. “My task had been to provide a nourishing meal for manual labourers, and I’d been praying that my Cornish Pasties with vegetables were equal to the task, as I had no idea what a manual labourer was,” recalls Lesley. (Daily Telegraph, Sept 2013)

The author describes her subjects as “ordinary people”, and ordinary here seems to mean lower middle class. (Revew of The English in Love by Claire Langhamer Obs Aug 2013)

40 years ago I overheard this at the (state) school gate:
Mummy A: I’m going private, she’s bright and I want her stretched.
Mummy B: No you don’t. You want her to get two A-levels and marry a chartered accountant!
(Writer-in to the Guardian Aug 2013)

They are so busy preserving their status that they can’t enjoy it… “The status of one’s child and your own reflects and builds on one another, it has become mutually defined,” says [anthropologist Wednesday] Martin… [Getting your kid into the right school] requires Olympian displays of school fundraising, donations, coaching and lobbying (The Times on very, very rich women, Aug 2013)

The saturation of the high street with boho meant of course, that the look couldn’t last for long. (Linda Grant, Guardian, June 13 2007)

432 people own half the land in Scotland. (Independent, August 2013 And they don't want to sell it to small farmers.)

More here, and links to the rest.


  1. Yes, people always want the 11-plus & grammar schools back, so they can get a private education on the cheap: it never occurs to them that their children might not pass, and then what? Some claim that the reason it was abolished (or nearly so) was BECAUSE of the middle class children failing. In Miss Read - rural communities in the 1950s - the local farmers complain about the introduction of grammar schools, because their boys can no longer get in to the local smart school. (No worries about their daughters).

  2. Never read any Miss Read - any good?