Tag Archives: edwardian wealth

Edwardian decay

‘Other people may see this country in other terms; this is how I have seen it. In some early chapter in this heap I compared all our present colour and abundance to October foliage before the frosts nip down the leaves. That I still feel was a good image. Perhaps I see wrongly. It may be I see decay all about me because I am, in a sense, decay. To others it may be a scene of achievement and construction radiant with hope. I too have a sort of hope, but it is a remote hope, a hope that finds no promise in this Empire or in any of the great things of our time. How they will look in history I do not know, how time and chance will prove them I cannot guess; that is how they have mirrored themselves on one contemporary mind’ (H.G.Wells, Tono-Bungay, 1909)

‘The sheer vulgar fatness of wealth’

Where the Rainbow Ends

‘There never was, I suppose, in the history of the world a time when the sheer vulgar fatness of wealth, without any kind of aristocratic elegance to redeem it, was so obtrusive as in those years before 1914. It was the age when crazy millionaires in curly top-hats and lavender waistcoats gave champagne parties in rococo house-boats on the Thames, the age of diabolo and hobble skirts, the age of the “knut” in his grey bowler and cut-away coat, the age of The Merry Widow, Saki’s novels, Peter Pan and Where the Rainbow Ends, the age when people talked about chocs and cigs and ripping and topping and heavenly, when they went for divvy week-ends at Brighton and had scrumptious teas at the Troc. From the whole decade before 1914 there seems to breathe forth a smell of the more vulgar, un-grown-up kind of luxury, a smell of brilliantine and créme-de-menthe and soft centred chocolates – an atmosphere, as it were, of eating everlasting strawberry ices on green lawns to the tune of the Eton Boating Song. The extraordinary thing was  the way in which everyone took it for granted that this oozing, bulging wealth of the English upper-middle classes would last for ever, and was part of the order of things. After 1918 it was never quite the same…’ (George Orwell, ‘Such, Such Were the Joys’ 1947)

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