Sunday 20 January 2013

Classy Quotes 12

You always talk very quietly in England, at least the middle classes do. If you talk loudly you count as “common”, not a gentleman. The English don’t defend their ideas, because then they’d have to talk loudly. (Artist Kurt Schwitters)

Which is stronger? The Tory voter's desire to do as he pleases in his back garden, or his desire none of his neighbours do anything he dislikes in their back garden? The latter? Close, isn't it? And that's why the Tories won't derive benefit from planning reform. (Novelist @WillWiles)

And now let us observe the well-furnished breakfast-parlour at Plumstead Episcopi, and the comfortable air of all the belongings of the rectory. Comfortable they certainly were, but neither gorgeous nor even grand; indeed, considering the money that had been spent there, the eye and taste might have been better served; there was an air of heaviness about the rooms which might have been avoided without any sacrifice of propriety; colours might have been better chosen and lights more perfectly diffused; but perhaps in doing so the thorough clerical aspect of the whole might have been somewhat marred; at any rate, it was not without ample consideration that those thick, dark, costly carpets were put down; those embossed, but sombre papers hung up; those heavy curtains draped so as to half exclude the light of the sun: nor were these old-fashioned chairs, bought at a price far exceeding that now given for more modern goods, without a purpose. The breakfast-service on the table was equally costly and equally plain; the apparent object had been to spend money without obtaining brilliancy or splendour. The urn was of thick and solid silver, as were also the tea-pot, coffee-pot, cream-ewer, and sugar-bowl; the cups were old, dim dragon china, worth about a pound a piece, but very despicable in the eyes of the uninitiated. The silver forks were so heavy as to be disagreeable to the hand, and the bread-basket was of a weight really formidable to any but robust persons. (Anthony Trollope, The Warden, 1855)

He appears in Downton Abbey, one of a wave of TV dramas centred on class, and in the Radio Times this week the actor Rob James-Collier was asked whether working-class talent was being squeezed out of the profession. James-Collier was born in Stockport, and defines himself as working class, and his answer was direct. As with so many other jobs at the moment, he said, you have to work for no money when starting out, and "how on earth are you going to finance that" if you don't come from a wealthy background? His comments tapped into a question that has arisen repeatedly this year. Can anyone but the exceptionally well-heeled, wealthy, connected upper classes now make it in the arts? (Kira Cochrane, 7 March 2012)

“There are plenty of gritty dramas and soaps for working class actors out there” says a commenter (and actor), proving that “gritty” is a euphemism for working class.

The Marchioness of Worcester revealed that she did not want to send their children to boarding schools, which she said were elitist and failed to teach children about the real world. However, she said that she was expected to do so by her husband’s family…  “I did not want it but it was demanded in this family,” she said. The great-granddaughter of the Earl of Dudley said that her experience of boarding school had been negative and that she was expelled a number of times. “For me, when I came out of boarding school I was totally ignorant of the world,” she said. “This is the only country in the world where normal children are sent to boarding school…” The Marchioness said that she did not want boarding schools to be banned but instead wanted more money for national schools. “We are enslaved to earning enough money to send people to the boarding school club. It would be great to be freed from that so that everyone’s children had a good education,” she said. “It makes a division in society.” (Telegraph, Jan 2013)

”Co-option" is the term that people like Naomi Klein use to differentiate her own consumption patterns from the vulgar masses. (amazon review)

Midcult is Masscult masquerading as art: slick and predictable but varnished with ersatz seriousness. For Dwight Macdonald (Masscult and Midcult, 1960), Midcult was Our Town, The Old Man and the Sea, South Pacific, Life magazine, the Book-of-the-Month Club: all of them marked by a high-minded sentimentality that congratulated the audience for its fine feelings… Midcult, still peddling uplift in the guise of big ideas, is Tree of Life, Steven Spielberg, Jonathan Safran Foer, Middlesex, Freedom—the things that win the Oscars and the Pulitzer Prizes, just like in Macdonald’s day. (William Deresiewicz, The American Scholar, Nov 2012)

I know that service stations get a bad press. But I love them. They evoke memories of childhood trips to the beach; they are mini-treats on long, boring journeys, where you can eat at Burger King without feeling guilty. At service stations, you exist in a bubble, divorced from the rest of the world. I always think that if an atom bomb went off, I would be safe at Leigh Delamere, browsing useless travel accessories. Here lurks all human life – divorced parents handing over children, Alan Partridges in permanent limbo, the posh, the poor and everything in between. The service station is the great British leveller. Bryony Gordon, DT July 10

I love that "flat screen television" is still the definition of living in luxury in 2012 #bbcqt (@RopesToInfinity)

Parvenu merchants and financiers routinely purchased country estates in order to display their material splendor, advance their claims to gentility - the ownership of a landed estate being the foundation of genteel status - and establish the foundation for their descendants' entry into upper-class circles. (The Jews of Britain by Todd M. Endelman)

The Brits don’t like anything to look new. Furniture must have rips in the upholstery, exposed stuffing, paintings hung crooked, crockery unmatched and properly chipped. The feeling being, I suppose, one is above caring; however self-consciously tattered it appears. (Frank Langella, Dropped Names)

At school in the 70s it was vital, for the purpose of not getting your face bashed in behind the bike sheds, that your parents had a) a good car b) a house in the proper part of town and c) jobs from the approved list. (Tom Cutler, Guardian, Oct 20 2012)

The rules of discussing class in Britain are, pleasingly, very like those of cricket. Once you know them, they seem incredibly obvious and intuitive and barely worth mentioning; if you don't know them, they are pointlessly, sadistically complicated, their exclusivity almost an exercise in snobbery in its own right. Nowhere is this more evident and yet more tacit than in relationships: people marry into their own class. It's called "assortative mating". You know this by looking around, yet there's such profound squeamishness about it that research tends to cluster around class proxies. The question goes: "Do you and your spouse share the same educational attainment?" (Translation: are you the same class?) Or: "Did you go to the same university?" (Translation: are you really, really the same class?) This trend is immune to social progress elsewhere. (Guardian, Oct 20 2012)

[Julian Fellowes' wife Emma] once gave an interview in which she described the 'tell-tale signs' by which you could spot a parvenu. 'I hope I would never judge somebody because they folded their napkin after dinner,' she said piously. 'But I'd never pretend I didn't notice. Isn't that awful?' Well, yes it is rather. Ditto her confession that, 'Sometimes, I'm ashamed to say, I'll go upstairs after we've had a dinner party and I'll say to Julian, "Did you see Cybilla tipping her soup towards her?"' (Guardian, 2004)

They were young, clearly middle-class, mostly in employment I would guess... They were part of a forgotten social group – young people who aren't particularly challenging or at all cynical (they loved the little jokes the band told). If I had to guess, they included trainee solicitors, a few office managers, people starting out in PR, maybe the odd teacher and researcher. They were extremely courteous, and there probably wasn't a racist nerve cell in the whole hall; many of the groups there were mixed-race, chiefly white and Asian. Nobody ever really notices these people. They never riot, and they don't snarl at the world, which has done quite well by them. They like to watch Miranda on TV, and hold their office Christmas parties at Café Rouge. They own little cars which have nicknames. (Simon Hoggart on the audience for the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, Sept 30 2012)

More here, and links to the rest.


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  2. RIP Simon Hoggart - who's going to notice such people now?