Alexander Waugh

A Class Apart

Aristocrats: Power, Grace and Decadence

By

Little, Brown 438pp £25 order from our bookshop

Public enthusiasm for aristocrats is at an all-time low, and it’s no use saying that Boris Johnson and David Cameron are going to walk the next election and therefore the aristocracy must be enjoying some sort of revival, because that is just not true. Aristocrats make people cross. They are regarded as idle, feckless, rich and unintelligent, or in the peevish words of New Labour as ‘privileged’ and ‘elite’. Johnson and Cameron will win the election not because they are ‘toffs’ but in spite of it, as the electorate will only vote for Etonians through clenched teeth. No, there is only one type of aristocrat that seems to retain any degree of public affection nowadays, and she is the pretty woman in high heels, a fur coat, a funny hat, sparkling jewels and a 1920s motor car, the Gosford Park or Brideshead Revisited type, with clear, pale skin, a flat chest, and a clipped voice, whose glamorous, modish and aesthetic way of life evokes waves of nostalgia, on which dreams (especially those of the impressionable American middle class) are often and easily made. 

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'One of the best aspects of Kaufmann’s book is its optimism' Here's @BurlM11's review of @epkaufm's Whiteshift. ,
    • Whom did Picasso label a 'bristly pig'? Read Rosalind P Blakesley's review of The Collector by Natalya Semenova to… ,
    • Alexandra Gajda on Anna Beer's new biography, Patriot or Traitor: The Life and Death of Sir Walter Ralegh ,
    • Mark Lawson reviews @jonathancoe's Middle England - The Rotters' Club for our Brexit age. ,
    • 'Behind every book that is published lies ... a haunted landscape, populated by the ghosts of things written and ex… ,
    • 'We once more live in a great age of dragon invention' Here's Tom Shippey on Martin Arnold's The Dragon ,
    • RT : Man at the q&a part of the book panel: Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't s… ,