The Prose Factory: Literary Life in England Since 1918 by D J Taylor - review by Peter Washington

Peter Washington

Critical Thinking

The Prose Factory: Literary Life in England Since 1918


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One rarely hears the word ‘agreeable’ now, meaning pleasant or satisfying, but British cultural life in my youth seemed to be dominated by upper-middle-class, middle-aged men with fruity voices – Lord Clark of Civilisation being the paragon – who used it a lot, often contracting the syllables from four to three but stretching out the middle as if to compensate, the plummy sound of a-graah-bal expressing perfectly a certain cosy, proprietorial attitude not only to culture but to life in general.

These were prosperous, clever, comfortable men. Being metropolitan and worldly-wise, if perhaps a little smug, they were also self-aware, which explains why agraahbal often had a humorous, self-deprecating tinge to it, as if to say, ‘laugh at us if you like for being educated, privileged and superior, but we know

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