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That Bestial Visor

"Every good poet includes a critic, but the reverse will not hold."
—William Shenstone

In the popular memory the interwar years in Western Europe were a period of instability, inertia, and poverty or, as Auden described the 1930's, "a low dishonest decade." One seldom hears about the interesting fact that during those interwar years, in England at least, there was a huge increase in the numbers of a new middle class of small business owners, local professional people, managers, and civil servants who lived in the thousands of new suburban houses being built around every town and suburban village. Although the more prosperous among them had a servant or two, or at least employed "help," and owned a car, most of them were not too different from the lower classes they came from. All of them tended to keep their children at school until they took their School Certificate at 16, or, in growing numbers, stayed on through the sixth form to prepare for university entrance.

Unlike the old middle class, these people had no connection with the landed gentry or the aristocracy, and no wish to ape their manners. They were a self-made people of peasant or proletarian background, confident, self-reliant, politically conservative, and for the most part innocent of what Matthew Arnold called "culture." They were often eccentric, even weird, in...

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