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Quotes / The Edwardian Era

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"There never was, I suppose, in the history of the world a time when the sheer vulgar fatness of wealth, without any kind of aristocratic elegance to redeem it, was so obtrusive as in those years before 1914. It was the age when crazy millionaires in curly top-hats and lavender waistcoats gave champagne parties in rococo house-boats on the Thames, the age of diabolo and hobble skirts, the age of the ‘knut’ in his grey bowler and cut-away coat, the age of The Merry Widow, Saki's novels, Peter Pan and Where the Rainbow Ends, the age when people talked about chocs and cigs and ripping and topping and heavenly, when they went for divvy week-ends at Brighton and had scrumptious teas at the Troc. From the whole decade before 1914 there seems to breathe forth a smell of the more vulgar, un-grown-up kind of luxury, a smell of brilliantine and crème-de-menthe and soft-centred chocolates — an atmosphere, as it were, of eating everlasting strawberry ices on green lawns to the tune of the Eton Boating Song. The extraordinary thing was the way in which everyone took it for granted that his oozing, bulging wealth of the English upper and upper-middle classes would last for ever, and was part of the order of things."
George Orwell, Such, Such Were The Joys

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The same period that [Stefan Zweig] calls the "Golden Age of Security" was described by his contemporary Charles Péguy (shortly before he fell in the First World War) as the era in which political forms that were presumably outmoded lived on with inexplicable monotony: in Russia, anachronistic despotism; in Austria, the corrupt bureaucracy of the Habsburgs; in Germany, the militarist and stupid regime of the Junkers, hated by the liberal middle class and the workers alike; in France, the Third Republic, which was granted twenty-odd years more despite its chronic crises. The solution to the puzzle lay in the fact that Europe was much too busy expanding its economic radius for any social stratum or nation to take political questions seriously. For fifty years — before the opposing economic interests burst into national conflicts, sucking the political systems of all Europe into their vortex — political representation had become a kind of theatrical performance, sometimes an operetta, of varying quality.
Hannah Arendt, Reflections on Literature and Culture
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