Both The Americans and The British love to wallow in the bathos of ‘high toned’ entertainments: The Pallisers, Upstairs Downstairs, a bit of an anomaly, but still within the nostalgia parameters? And Downton Abbey. Wistful nostalgia for another age, refracted, or is that white-washed? to meet the needs of moderns, awash in the current fashionable cynicism, and longing for the soothing balm of movie/television kitsch.
Its a pity that Mr. Ganesh hasn’t read Edward Copeland’s ‘The Silver Fork Novel:
Fashionable Fiction in the Age of Reform’
In the early nineteenth century there was a sudden vogue for novels centring on the glamour of aristocratic social and political life. Such novels, attractive as they were to middle-class readers, were condemned by contemporary critics as dangerously seductive, crassly commercial, designed for the ‘masses’ and utterly unworthy of regard. Until recently, silver-fork novels have eluded serious consideration and been overshadowed by authors such as Jane Austen. They were influenced by Austen at their very deepest levels, but were paradoxically drummed out of history by the very canon-makers who were using Austen’s name to establish their own legitimacy. This first modern full-length study of the silver-fork novel argues that these novels were in fact tools of persuasion, novels deliberately aimed at bringing the British middle classes into an alliance with an aristocratic program of political reform.
A literary expression wedded to status obsessions, in another Age, that took Austen’s novels as its natural precursor, in an etiolated form.
I find this sentence in Mr. Ganesh’s essay comic, to say the least: the Queen and Royal Family are still active, if symbolic figures, representative of a long dead Feudal/Imperial Triumphalism:
Even the good ones make a modern country — earlier than most to smash feudalism — seem past-obsessed to a creepy extent.