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All Pre-war Writers Were Toffs

All Pre-war Writers Were Toffs

All Pre-war Writers Were Toffs

‘Ay up, Ethel, A’ve done m’ ten-hour shift down t’pit. It were right ‘ot today. What does’t thy think A should do after ma bath and supper? Write an article for old Lord Alfie Northcliffe of t’Times or start a new best-selling novel for thy uncle Sir James the Knightsbridge publisher? A’m fair mithered’.

How many times do you think those, or similar, words were heard in the working-class hovels before the Second World War?

My guess is never. Every writer knows how difficult it is to get into the groove after a hard day, which is one of the reasons why all pre-war writers were toffs. For centuries… because they were the only ones who could read and write and had the time to do it.

The toffs basically wrote for each other, their own kind. Working-class people didn’t have the education, money or time for novels, which means that the Baby Boomers are the first generation of working-class writers and their parents were the first working-class readers of literature too.

But I don’t remember being taught that in school. I was always told how wonderful so-and-so a writer was. I am not doubting that people find them wonderful, or even that they are or were, but… Why weren’t we told that they were all rich upper and middle-class toffs?

You might say that it is not important which class they came from, but why did/do the toffs lie about it then?

Think about it. How many times do they hold pre-war authors up as ordinary people – Shakespeare, Hemingway, Orwell – when they were nothing of the kind. They must have had a good education for a start and that was not widespread until recently  – in fact very recently. In my lifetime!

They often modify it by saying that they only went to ‘minor public schools’.

Minor public schools? How could my grandmother have sent twelve children to minor public schools when finding the halfpenny a day that they had to pay every day to go to ordinary state school in the Thirties and Forties was a strain anyway?

Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into the hype (to keep it clean). Think for yourself, don’t believe them.

The Establishment never tires of trying to present one of its own as a working-class hero, but when you look deeper, they were all public school toffs, even if they didn’t ‘have any money’. How many ‘poor people’ in your street are studying in private (public) schools?

And it has only been since the war that private schools have been forced to take a quota of plebs.

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All the best,

Owen

Podcast: All Pre-war Writers Were Toffs