In Defence of Aristocracy by Peregrine Worsthorne - review by Alexander Waugh

Alexander Waugh

Nanny Knows Best

In Defence of Aristocracy


HarperCollins 160pp £15 order from our bookshop

THE USE OF the word 'toff' to deride anyone of a certain peculiar breeding seems to have gained an unopposed currency. Popular newspapers positively encourage it. One day it might be fun to go through a week's editions of The Guardian replacing every instance of the word with 'yid', 'towel-head' or 'prole' just to see how it reads. Of course these terms will always stir up hornets' nests but it is interesting - is it not? - that 'toff' should be the only such term of abuse to have passed through the great filtering machine of political correctness without the raising of a single media editor's eyebrow. Perhaps the reason for this is that toffs don't particularly mind what they are called and, even if they did, would be too well mannered to complain about it. How many generations of toffs were brought up on Nanny's old mantra, 'Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me'?

Sir Peregrine's In Deferue of Aristocracy makes no attempt to uphold the arcane principles of primogeniture, hereditary legal privilege, or titles of nobility. His arguments are more subtle than that. What he hankers for is the return of an 'aristocracy', a term he uses in its original, etymological sense to

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

A Mirror - Westend

Follow Literary Review on Twitter