Alexander Waugh

Bringing the House Down

The Gentry: Stories of the English

By

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The Gentry is a depressing title for a book, which conjures up uncharitable images. It makes me think of a hangdog Etonian, stubborn, aloof, courteous, risk-averse and mean with his money; a tall, clean-shaven, straight-haired fellow whose rose-coloured corduroy trousers and easy manner disguise an inability to articulate expressions of love or enthusiasm; a man who is respected by his peers for reasons painfully disconnected from his own record of personal achievement, one whose fine houses, lands and inherited possessions – the very things that once kindled in his heart fierce feelings of family pride and superiority over his siblings – now serve only to underscore a dutiful and guilty conscience.

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