In Search of the Bourgeoisie

“How beastly the bourgeois is,” sneered D.H. Lawrence, “especially the male of the species.”  What courage and imagination a writer must have to revile a social class that has been under attack for over a generation!  Aristocrats (and would-be aristocrats) look down their noses at the bourgeoisie’s convention-bound moralism and dismal commitment to hard work and self-restraint, while the working classes and their intellectual allies deride the bourgeois attachment to the stuff that dreams are made of.  (My apologies to the late John Huston for lifting a line he gave to Sam Spade.)

We all have our little conceits, and Lawrence, though he took after his bookish schoolteacher mother, appears to have regarded himself as a true son of the laboring classes and yet—great minds do not shun contradictions—one of nature’s aristocrats.  I wonder what young Lawrence thought he was making of himself, when he went to school on scholarship and qualified as a teacher, if not an aspiring bourgeois.

One of the funniest bits on Monty Python turned the tables on the author of Sons and Lovers: A young miner (Eric Idle), dressed in a suit and speaking university English, comes into his parents’ apartment.  Derided by his father, a Yorkshire-speaking playwright (Graham Chapman), the son accuses Dad of wearing out...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here