Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Foppishness and Society.

Lord Hervey and His Friends  - William Hogarth

I've been brought up on Jane Austen. Back when I was a five years old, I would break out the hobby horses and pretend that I was Mr. Darcy. Now I may lose manliness points on this, but I've been told this increases one's attractiveness with the girls. I guess that's some consolation for the fact that I never grew up watching the 'A-team'. Anyhow, tossing my masculine insecurities aside for the moment, Jane Austen is an amazing author. She manages to craft a well done story, with intriguing characters and resolves it well. Six times. And she does it all about rich people.

Once upon a time, most of the stories one could read were about rich people. They were glorified as the amazing pinnacles of humanity. They could do no wrong. And then came the Marx and the mobs rose up, killed the rich people and created Democracy... oh wait. But in all seriousness, most stories that were written before the 17th century were mostly about rich people. This was mostly because the rich had the time to do things like write full length novels. But given that they were humans, they tended to represent themselves pretty well. So we end up with the story of the glorified rich.

I'm from two countries, the US and Ireland. Both places have a rather strong anti-aristocratic mindset, especially on the Irish side, where the British subjection has only just passed. This also exists in the liberal sphere. All and all, in this age of radical Democracy we have a widespread aversion to aristocracy. And there's some pretty good reasons for this. Aristocrats have done some pretty evil things in the past. They've made life miserable for a lot of people. This has lead many authors to view aristocrats as the villains. But people misplace the problem when they put it in aristocratic wealth and society, It's not. It's in the nature of humans given power.

Just like savages, aristocrats are easily either romanticized or demonized. Both miss out on the essential humanity of the subject. In order to write well about any subject we need to avoid both extremes. Neither will present to us an accurate picture of the way things were.

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