Archive for the ‘ON PC; OR “WHAT WOULD MS. GRUNDY SAY?”’ Category

The Origins Of PC

Almost everybody on the Left pretends that “political correctness” is merely a malicious invention of the Right. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? It is true that the right-winger sneers at “political correctness”, but that does not mean that the thing at which he sneers does not exist, or that it does not live its own […]

The Princess And The Legume Or Equally Valid Equivalent

One of the constants of any class system is that arrivistes do not actually understand what they are trying to imitate. They engage in vulgar flaunting of their new wealth because they lack a family memory of what can happen to those who thus enrage the mob; that is, they lack the prudence interiorised as […]

Prissiness As Social Climbing

The earnest young Evangelical of the mid-19th century seemed to be reacting against her libertine and cynical Regency parents. In Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White, written in the mid-19th century, Hartright’s mother seems younger than his sister: the elder woman is jolly and full of life, while the younger woman is prissy. One older […]

Getting It Backwards At Delmonico’s

Much of the discourse about women’s liberation a century ago depends on not understanding what the Victorians were on about. You get a small example describing the first women’s club in America. “They met at Delmonico’s because, like most fancy restaurants at the time, Delmonico’s did not allow women in unescorted for lunch. So they […]

I’m A Little Under The Host Today

Those who truly believe that 19th-century women did not have sexual desires, or did not know that they did, or even merely that nobody ever admitted that they did, should be asked to explain such contemporary house-party sayings as ‘A gallant host does not refuse a lady’ – sometimes encountered in the form of ‘A […]

The Age Of Innocent Affaires

It is a commonplace that the Victorians considered female adultery far more blameworthy than male, and like most commonplaces perhaps entirely false. At any rate Edith Wharton, an observer and critic of the very society that is supposed to have practised that particular double standard, portrays it as practising the precise opposite: “It was easier, […]

The Parlour Game

One of Dostoyevsky’s novels features a parlour game, in which the players have to describe the worst thing they have ever done. In the end only one person actually complies, as the party is hopelessly distracted by arguing about the rules and whether it ought to be permitted at all. One man asks, what if […]

Living? The Servants Can Do That For Us

When I was young, ladies did not urinate, defecate, take a leak, use the toilet or even do anything as innocent as go to the bathroom – the last locution now being the standard for Americans who are above the bodily functions of the multitude. No, they went to powder their noses. The euphemism became […]

The Eleventh Commandment

The late twentieth century suffered from a grave misapprehension about the “Victorian” attitude to sex. In the first place, few other cultures before ours have been so concerned with the maintenance and display of the female figure. Secondly, some 19th-century voices may indeed have claimed that women did not enjoy sex or ought not to […]

The Angel Of The Home

In practice, religion is a variable mix of two things: the first is magic, that is, the attempt to gain worldly advantage by the command of spiritual forces. The second is puritanism, which occasionally means the renunciation of worldly pleasures for oneself, but more usually for other people. Since such vicarious renunciation generally proves unsuccessful, […]