Wednesday, May 09, 2007

TV trash dished out for the uneducated

Also in today's blog
Liberation Day

Today is Liberation Day in Guernsey and the other Channel Islands, the only part of Britain to be occupied during WW2.

At nine o'clock the All Clear siren, a familiar sound to people of my generation, sounded. Later, returning from posting a letter, I saw a Royal Marines band, including two young women, climbing into a coach outside an hotel on their way to play at St Peter Port's harbour when most of the festivities will take place.

Unfortunately the weather this morning is bad, grey and windy, but perhaps it will clear up this afternoon.

How's this for a rant?

"The eighteenth century was an age such as our imagination can barely comprehend; weltering as we do in a slough of habitual ugliness, ranging from the dreary horrors of Victorian sham gothic to the more lively hideousness of modern jerry-building, with advertisements defacing any space that might be left unoffendingly blank, and the tourist scattering his trail of chocolate paper, cigarette ends and film cartons, we catch sight every now and again of a house-front, plain and graceful, with a fanlight like the half of a spider-s web and a slip of iron balcony."

The writer goes on, "That there was no cheap, sophisticated entertainment for the masses was part of the state of things in which thousands and thousands of people were less comfortable, less well dressed, less entertained, less informed than they are today; but it also meant there was not a vast majority which by its very numbers imposed its ideas, it prepossessions and its tastes on the world in which the educated person must now exist; the lower middle class, as it is the most considerable among consumers, dictates the canons of taste by which, by its preponderating bulk, has corrupted and destroyed the standards of language, of architecture, of entertainment and of literature, which once prevailed."

That was published in 1938 in Elizabeth Jenkins' biography of Jane Austen [Victor Gollancz], "one of the best literary biographies published in England for many years. Everything that a biography should be: beautifully written, full of atmosphere, lively in humour and wisely critical."

What would Elizabeth Jenkins make of today's society, dominated by money and celebrity worship, one wonders?

In fairness to her, she does balance her criticisms by writing – "But if we are in danger of breaking our hearts over this spirit of beauty which has vanished from the earth, it is our duty to remember that there existed with it, ignored and tolerated, a state of squalor and wretchedness which, to this relatively humane and hygienic age, is nearly as difficult to visualize as its heavenly obverse."

"The state of English prisons as revealed by Howard's survey published in 1777, the London slums, in which Dr Johnson roughly computed that one thousand people starved to death every year, conditions in the Army and Navy, on active service, and when thrown crippled and destitute, without pension and without charity, on a heedless world, the savage callousness of the officials entrusted with the administration of Poor Relief…" and so on.

You would think that, almost 70 years on, our society would have found a way restore the spirit of beauty and eliminate the squalor and wretchedness. Some improvements have been made, but not nearly enough.

One has only to turn on the television to see that educated people still have little influence on the trash dished out to the uneducated masses.

The other evening I watched Hannah Scott-Joynt, [see photo left] daughter of the Bishop of Winchester, concluding a series about south coast cathedrals. Twenty years ago she would not have repeatedly referred to her father as "my dad". This was clearly a sop to the Coronation Street type viewer, who probably wouldn't have been watching the series anyway.

Interview with Elizabeth Jenkins

"Memoirs of 100 years as a literary lion" is the heading of an interview with Elizabeth Jenkins by Ruth Gorb I found at the Camden New Journal

The piece ends – "Doctors of the first rank, she says, are always attractive. She is quiet for a moment then says she had some successes with men, was always going from one disastrous attachment to another, but it was a doctor who was the love of her life and it was their relationship that inspired her to write her novel, The Tortoise and the Hare. “He was a surgeon and gynaecologist, Sir Eardley Holland. He was very distinguished, handsome, charismatic. I worked during the war in the Ministry of Information with one of his daughters, Chloe, and she engineered a meeting with him. “He took rather a shine to me. He wasn’t faithful to his wife. I wondered why she didn’t value him more; so many women, including me, would happily have changed places with her. I offered him my heart on a plate. Yes, he made me unhappy, but it was worth it. My feeling for him lasted after his death. It is still going on now.”


At 09 May, 2007, Anonymous Judy Astley said...

"He wasn’t faithful to his wife. I wondered why she didn’t value him more; so many women, including me, would happily have changed places with her."

Interesting - perhaps the wife DID value him, till he started cheating on her.


At 10 May, 2007, Anonymous Helen said...

I am often amazed when I find out the a partner of one of my friends and acquaintances are being unfaithful. I often refuse to believe it. But it is not possible to see what is going on in other peoples relationships. Maybe Dr Holland's wife was glad he was having sexual relationships with others, or maybe she had lost respect for him. When you lose respect for your husband it is usually the death noll for the relationship.

At 13 November, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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I'm sure that there are many readers of this site who are better dressed than Susan Boyle, better looking, with better figures and more lively romantic histories. And perhaps you too (I know I do) long to step in front of Simon Cowell and belt out a number that would cause his jaw to drop. But in my case that will never happen. It will not happen because however much I dream that dream, however much I spend on the right dress, however much botox I had, I can't sing, and Susan Boyle can.

At 14 November, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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I'm a Somerset Maugham fan, so I'd be happy to see a revival. Most people look a little blank a the mention of his name.

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