The Right Fork

The chronological niche which the generation of D.J. Taylor’s title occupies, 1918-40, will be remembered by future historians—if, indeed, there should be any such creatures among the oafish homunculi now incubating in the totalitarian crucibles of modern life—for sheltering the end product of the West’s millennial evolution.  Good or bad, foolish or clever, talented or sterile, these men and women were witnesses to a gradual transition “in which one kind of upper-class existence was turning imperceptibly into another.”  After them, the deluge.  Words like upper-class and imperceptibly could no longer be used to describe social reality and its modality of change.

Taylor mentions in passing that, in 1925, “the number of people in the United Kingdom whose annual income, net of tax, exceeded £10,000” was around 1,300.  We may remember this as we come across a contemporary injunction to staff by Lord Northcliffe, proprietor of the socially astute Daily Mail, to get “more names in the paper.  The more aristocratic the better . . . Write and seek news with at least £1,000-a-year man in mind.”  Taylor puts this in context, explaining that “the average provincial clerical wage, for example, was barely a tenth of this figure”—that is, £100.

Today’s corresponding clerical wage is in the neighborhood...

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