Bright Young Things discussion

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Group Reads Archive > Bright Young People (Whole Book Thread)

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message 1: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Please use this thread to discuss the whole of...

Bright Young People The Rise and Fall of a Generation 1918-1940 by D.J. Taylor Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation 1918-1940 by D.J. Taylor D.J. Taylor


message 2: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb What happened here Ally? Did no one discuss this book? Was it nominated as the non-fiction choice for March 2011?

It looks really interesting and I was considering nominating it for June.


message 3: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
At that time we were testing having multiple threads for each book. We were splitting the books into sections so it happened that people commented in one or more sections but not all...we eventually forun it unworkable...if you search the archive you'll probably find other threads fo this one.


message 4: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb Ally wrote: "...if you search the archive you'll probably find other threads fo this one. "

OK, great. Thanks. This was the only thread that came up in the search but I'll have a more in depth look as I'm really interested by this book.


message 5: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Try this one: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/5...

...it was the only one that generated comment at the time...


message 6: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb Ally wrote: "Try this one: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/5...

...it was the only one that generated comment at the time..."


Thanks Ally. I've added a comment.


message 7: by Nigeyb (last edited Dec 31, 2013 12:32PM) (new)

Nigeyb Sarah wrote: ""I wouldn't be able to read Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation 1918-1940 until January.""

Sarah wrote: "I also got Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation 1918-1940 which I'm very excited about as I hope we're doing a Hot Books Small Group Read here soon."

Portia wrote: "Hi. I am a new member and would like to join the Bright Young People discussion"

I got Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation 1918-1940 out of the library today. I will read it in January 2014. I think it's easiest to just revive this old thread rather than start a new one. So that's what I've done. See you here again soon.

Jan C wrote: "I still haven't finished Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation 1918-1940"

This might give you renewed focus and motivation - come and join in Jan.


message 8: by Erin (new)

Erin | 39 comments I read this a couple of years ago and found it fascinating - will reread for this discussion. My copy (in Australia) is titled Bright Young People: The Lost Generation of London's Jazz Age which put a slightly different slant on it.


message 9: by Nigeyb (last edited Jan 03, 2014 12:32AM) (new)

Nigeyb I'm underway with Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation 1918-1940.


I will be interested to compare and contrast this with our current (Jan 2014) non-fiction choice The Age of Illusion: England in the Twenties and Thirties, 1919-1940, and The Long Week-end: A Social History of Great Britain, 1918-39 which was another BYT non-fiction choice in 2013. It's a fascinating era and one that lends itself to numerous different studies and interpretations.

Although it's early days with this book I can see that it is quite detailed. I'm already encountering numerous names that I have come across (e.g. Elizabeth Ponsonby and the Jungman sisters), in particular when reading Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead - yet another of our non-fiction choices from 2013. Being a member of BYT it's like doing a degree course isn't it?

What is already clear is that the Bright Young People were the first to enter that Faustian pact with the press that set the template for so many future celebrities. Indeed it was the Daily Mail that coined the term "Bright Young People". As D.J. Taylor ominously notes, "The Bright Young People formed an instant compact with the press which, in the end, was to prove their undoing."

The First World War cast a long shadow, and it's not surprising that many who just missed it might turn their survivor guilt into a defiant stand against the values that had taken the country into carnage and tragedy. However, for every high, there is an inevitable low, and we know that the 1930s was not a kind decade so the narrative is already clear for many of these hedonists. What comes after the cocktails and laughter?


message 10: by Nigeyb (last edited Jan 03, 2014 11:27PM) (new)

Nigeyb I've now read another chapter and I must confess to being confused about why Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation 1918-1940 did not get more interest and discussion here at BYT when it was originally picked as a non-fiction read in Feb 2011. It's a thorough and thoughtful analysis of our era. Indeed that part of the era after which this group is named.

Interestingly, according to contemporaneous reports, a Bright Young Thing was considered a more dismissive and frivolous term than Bright Young Person. A Bright Young Person could also be a Bright Young Thing, however it was far from certain that a Bright Young Thing would also be a Bright Young Person. Now you know.


message 11: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1525 comments Located my book last night so I hope to get back to it shortly.

Lord knows I can't go outside. They think that Monday might break the cold record of -27º, which I do remember and that was right cold. Possible blizzard conditions because of the wind conditions this evening (from the 8-10" we received over the holiday). So they have warned everyone not to go outside unless absolutely necessary. So maybe I can get some reading done.


message 12: by Nigeyb (last edited Jan 03, 2014 01:10PM) (new)

Nigeyb I heard that the east coast of America, specifically NYC, is in the grip of some appalling weather. I guess the same applies to Chicago. Good luck Jan. It sounds as though staying indoors is the most sensible option - and you've got plenty of great books to while away the hours.

I look forward to your thoughts.


message 13: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb I was interested and surprised to discover that fellow middle-class adventurers Evelyn Waugh (a London publisher's son), and Cecil Beaton, were arch-enemies, despite both using the connections they made at blue-blooded cocktail parties to forge careers that rapidly took them out of the Bright Young orbit altogether. The antipathy lasted right up until Waugh's death.


message 14: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1525 comments If you listen to the narrative for My Fair Lady (at least the one I have) many people weren't crazy about Beaton. In the narrator's case it was because he would grab credit for things he'd had nothing to do with. And I think that is similar to comments that I have seen in multiple places.


message 15: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb Interesting. Thanks.

I've just finished the chapter on Waugh and Beaton that explores the differing paths they both took to much the same end. A very interesting and well written chapter.


message 16: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb Ally wrote (in March 2011): "I tried this book last year but just couldn't finish it. I've picked it up again now that it's won our March Group Read poll but I'm still finding it a bit of a struggle.

Despite the interesting people and events I just can't seem to connect with D.J. Taylor's writing. It's coming across as a bit pretentious to me and rather than telling us the story of bright young history its dry 'name dropping'. It also lacks structure for me flitting from event to person to prank to a different person - no connecting thread for me so far.

hmmm so far a little disappointing - such an interesting subject to have been made so dry and unentertaining!"


I'm almost a hundred pages in and am really enjoying it. The book is getting progressively better and better, and I am finding much of it fascinating. D.J. Taylor is approaching the era from a number of different and fruitful angles. It's far more than "name dropping". Each case study or anecdote helps to build a picture of the era, and the context and the history of those that could be labelled Bright Young People.

I am on the chapter about parents and children, that centres around the dissolute Elizabeth Ponsonby. As a parent myself, I feel very sorry for her parents. D.J. Taylor's access to her parent's diaries really bring their anguish and horror to life, and it's giving me a completely different perspective on the seemingly frivolous and playful antics of the Bright Young People.

Elizabeth made a half-hearted attempt at acting, and later took a short-lived job as a dress-shop assistant, but basically drank to excess, gave parties and practically bankrupted her parents, who fretted helplessly. “It hurts us to see you getting coarse in your speech & outlook in life,” her mother wrote to Elizabeth in 1923, suggesting “you ought to enlarge your sphere of enjoyment - not only find happiness in night clubs & London parties & a certain sort of person.” This sounds like any parent’s out-of-touch lament, but the Ponsonbys had genuine cause for concern.

Bronwyn wrote (in May 2012): "I don't find it to be merely name dropping either. I think that given the subject matter and that so much is just parties and who people knew and hung out with, it off course has a bit of name dropping. It doesn't bother me though, I expected it. And it's less than I expected, actually. It would be like trying to write about some of the 'celebrities' now without making it look like name dropping. Why are these people famous, really? Because they know people, because they are in the tabloids, etc.

I do agree that there's not much connecting the book together. It's very much just a series of essays, but that doesn't really bother me. I wish it was a bit more connected overall, but the thematic chapters are fine too.

I'm enjoying it overall, but I do wish it were a bit more fun."


There is certainly a sense of foreboding - and it is a serious analysis of the era so perhaps it's a bit too much to expect it to be fun, it is however fascinating. In a sense the Bright Young People are having their larks as the Titanic begins to sink beneath them. It will inevitably turn into a type of morality tale. I fear for Elizabeth Ponsonby - and her brother.

I'd add that Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation 1918-1940 is the perfect book to read after Highland Fling by Nancy Mitford, and The Mitford Girls: The Biography of an Extraordinary Family by Mary S. Lovell. The connections and insights just keep on coming. I'm very glad Sarah and Portia inspired me to read this book.


message 17: by Portia (new)

Portia My pleasure, Nigey. I have The Bright Young People on the top of my Next Read Table, so thanks to you for inspiring me to dust it off ;)


message 18: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb ^ Great news Portia. I look forward to hearing what you make of it.

I'm into Chapter Five now "The Revolt Into Style" in which D.J. Taylor summarises the Bright Young People's world as..

"A world of whistle-stop journeys through home counties back lanes, frenzied telephone calling and constant changes of plan, all-day drinking and physical exhaustion, dominated by the search for novelty.

Essentially the tone of Vile Bodies or of Elizabeth Ponsonby's routines as glimpsed in her parents' diaries.


As I mention above, D.J. Taylor had access to Elizabeth Ponsonby's parents' diaries.

Their first hand comments really bring their anguish and horror to life, giving me a completely different perspective on the seemingly frivolous and playful larks of Elisabeth and her Bright Young People chums. It's heartbreaking stuff.


message 19: by Ruth (new)

Ruth I've just started the book. There's a lot of names bandied about in the first chapter aren't there! I sat with my tablet looking them all up on Wikipedia to try and get them straight in my head before I carried on. I also managed to find an image of the photo he describes where Lytton Strachey comes along afterwards and describes Bright Young Things as having feathers for brains.
Mention of the disapproval of people like Strachey and Orwell made me start to think about the differing attitudes and lifestyles of various sections of society at this time. It's a fascinating period isn't it.


message 20: by Nigeyb (last edited Jan 04, 2014 08:18AM) (new)

Nigeyb ^ Thanks Sarah. Don't worry about the names. It soon settles down and the key players emerge.

Does your edition have photos in? Mine does. Including the one of the BYPs dressed in Mozart style outfits with the road diggers. And a whole series of photos of Elizabeth Ponsonby (with friends and family). Elizabeth Ponsonby emerges as a key representative of the narrative trajectory of some of the BYPs.

Sarah wrote: "Mention of the disapproval of people like Strachey and Orwell made me start to think about the differing attitudes and lifestyles of various sections of society at this time."

Later on in the book it becomes apparent that the BYPs were a tiny group of people and not at all representative of the general population. That said, they were very influential, the newspapers loved them and gave them lots of coverage, and the intergenerational conflict was probably something that cut across all social groups.

It's great to be able to discuss this book with you Sarah - and Portia. Thanks for inspiring me to read it.


message 21: by Nigeyb (last edited Jan 04, 2014 09:29AM) (new)

Nigeyb Nigeyb wrote: "Does your edition have photos in? Mine does."

And some fabulous and witty contemporaneous cartoons from Punch magazine.


message 22: by Nigeyb (last edited Jan 04, 2014 09:30AM) (new)

Nigeyb I'm now reading Chapter 6 "Party Going: 1929" which is probably the best yet. Along with an interesting account of the original party themes (all the BYP parties in 1929 were put in the shade by the Circus Party convened by the young couturier Norman Hartnell) and two key marriages, there are signs that the scene is beginning to fracture and lose its appeal for some of the more thoughtful participants...

Here's Evelyn Waugh's comments, who by 1929 was very much an insider, albeit one with a broken heart, describing the Bright Young People in Vile Bodies. They exhibit naïveté, callousness, insensitivity, insincerity, flippancy, a fundamental lack of seriousness and moral equilibrium that sours every relationship and endeavour they are involved in. Those vile bodies....

Ouch.


message 23: by Portia (new)

Portia I was a teenager in 1960s America. I remember at the time the Roaring Twenties mentioned often in comparison. When Twiggy and her Flapper-style clothes and haircut became all the rage, of course all of our dresses had to have waists dropped to the hips and we had to cut our Beatles-girlfriend long hair and bangs. And, of course, the free love and the marijuana and the LSD certainly compares to the free-wheeling behavior of The Bright Young People.

I am just beginning Bright Young People: The Lost Generation of London's Jazz Age. I look forward to seeing how we were similar and how we made our own way.


message 24: by Nigeyb (last edited Jan 04, 2014 01:20PM) (new)

Nigeyb ^ That's an intriguing idea Portia.


It's probably only possible to try and draw comparisons by reducing each group to crude and reductionist stereotypes but (with that caveat in mind) here's an off the cuff attempt...

BYP / Hippies

Narrow social strata / wider range of social groups
Metropolitan / Rural and city-based
Alcohol orientated / Dope and LSD orientated
Small numbers / mass movement
Seeking to outrage / seeking enlightenment
No political agenda / seeking social change

Both groups were certainly in conflict with the older generation (though that applies to most youth groups), and as you say there were some fashion parallels.

I look forward to your conclusions Portia.

I've just finished Chapter 7 - Success and Failure : Two Portraits about Robert Byron and Brian Howard. A couple of reasonably interesting case studies but I'm not sure they deserved an entire chapter. It did illustrate how many BYPs required significant patronage from wealthier friends and how, at the outset, their youthful promise seemed inevitably that it would become fulfilled, which of course did not always happen.

Meanwhile at the end of Chapter 6, we learn that the Pellys (Elizabehth Ponsonby and Denis Pelly) are now moving in loucher circles - and Denis is fired from his job for stealing from the petty cash, only his father in law saving him from a court case and imprisonment. All this revealed through the diaries of Elizabehth Ponsonby's parents which remain heartbreaking to read.


message 25: by Portia (new)

Portia Just a gentle reminder, Nigey, the 60s started on the college campuses and, back then, mostly well-off kids went to college. Remember that a lot of young men got out of going to Viet Nam because they had college deferments. The protest movements came out of Columbia and The University of California at Berkeley. It is only in the last 20 years or so, since someone figured out there is money to be made from selling loans to kids, that everyone has the right to chalk up $100,000.00 in debt to earn a degree. (But THAT is waaaay off topic! :-))


message 26: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb ^ Good points Portia.

Though there were the folk origins too, and the bohemian and beat aspects, so perhaps not all well off college kids?


message 27: by Portia (new)

Portia Yes, but they started in the 50s and those musicians and poets and professors got onstage and spoke to my generation. (I hate folk music. Too much force-feeding of Joan Baez :P) Perhaps we could call them the between the wars (WWI and Viet Nam) generation of Americans, couldn't we?

But, I'm referring to my age group and the 60s. Remember, too, that for American kids of the 60s, the decade started off with the hope of Camelot that was brutally ended on November 22, 1963 when our President was assassinated. We had Viet Nam. We had the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., and not two months later, Bobbie Kennedy was killed. All this time, my generation of young men were being sent to fight a stoooopid war. "The flower of a generation," and all that, no?

With a smile, I am going to call you on your comparison between alcohol and LDS. Substance abuse is substance abuse, wouldn't you agree? And alcohol was illegal in the 20s here. Bathtub gin, and all that.

I will definitely agree that the Bright Young People were a special group. It is not fair of me to lump them in as a whole with then entire Flapper Generation. They deserve their own place.


message 28: by Portia (new)

Portia Here is another difference between the BTP an the 60s Gen. We had The Pill, and before AIDS, we had it all. The women of the BYP didn't have that advantage. Were they as "free" as we were? Today, everybody "hooks up". Glad I don't have a daughter to lose sleep over.


message 29: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1525 comments I've got to agree with Portia. There really wasn't a wider range of society indulging in the free life in the '60s, at least here. To avoid the draft people went to school (and my "dummy" brother flunked out and got drafted - only served in DC though). Drugs were kind of widespread but then so was alcohol during Prohibition.

It is a little hard for me to tell some of these things because I did grow up in a suburban university town (living there again now). So that what may have been true for Evanston may or may not have been true for Podunk, Iowa.


message 30: by Val (new)

Val There was a blurring of the social classes in Britain after WW11, which did not really happen in the US because the hierarchy had never been as rigidly defined in the first place. The hippies of the '60s and '70s came from a wider social background than the BYPs of the '20s and '30s, but it was still not across all classes. I think that if we were to look for a working-class based youth culture it would be the teddy-boys of the '50s, then the mods and rockers of the early '60s. They were not as politically, socially or environmentally aware as the hippies. I don't know what substance they chose to abuse, although I gather (from Quadrophenia) that there was some pill-popping (amphetamines).


message 31: by Nigeyb (last edited Jan 05, 2014 01:02AM) (new)

Nigeyb Thanks Portia, Jan C and Val. Some wonderfully wise and informed comment.

I hadn't considered the Vietnam War aspect of the 60s in the US, which is a very good point. As Portia says "The flower of a generation," and all that, no?. Absolutely.

Back to the Bright Young People, D.J. Taylor explicitly states that any references to drugs (not including alcohol) were really just their attempts at being shocking....

"Tales of drug use amongst the Bright Young People were usually just a desire to shock or deliberately mislead. The real drug casualties in the late 1920s tended to be visiting Americans or veteran bohemians who had acquired their interest in narcotics on the Continent."

So what were they doing...?

A world of whistle-stop journeys through home counties back lanes, frenzied telephone calling and constant changes of plan, all-day drinking and physical exhaustion, dominated by the search for novelty. Essentially the tone of Vile Bodies or of Elizabeth Ponsonby's routines as glimpsed in her parents' diaries.

I'm now onto Chapter 8, ominously titled "Decline and Fall' which covers 1930/31...

The BYP's original movers and shakers are continuing to disburse.

Additionally the large scale press attention is transforming what was, at first, only the diversions of a few friends, into something significant. In this respect if reminds me of the punk movement which started as a few kids in London but, once the media got hold of it, it exploded across the UK but, in doing so, it was a pale imitation of the original freedom and creativity - becoming something more codified and narrow Nothing changes eh?

Evelyn Waugh is still flying the flag, newly divorced, finally successful, and now making up for lost time.

Meanwhile the the decline of the Pellys (Elizabeth Ponsonby and Denis Pelly) continues as they move in ever loucher circles. The pre-wedding hopes of Elizabeth's parents are now... a handful of dust.

I continue to really enjoy Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation 1918-1940. Thanks again for encouraging me to read it. I was initially put off by the lack of enthusiasm in the original thread - just goes to show, it pays to give everything a try.


message 32: by Val (new)

Val Wasn't there always an element of anti-war protest in the hippie culture here as well? I'm not quite old enough to remember much more than girls in floaty dresses and boys with long hair in the early days, but I seem to think there were demonstrations in Grosvenor Square and there was certainly a long-term camp at Greenham Common. (That was still there when I became old enough to understand something about politics.) There must have been enough anti-war feeling in the UK to keep us out of that particular conflict, since France, Australia and New Zealand were involved, as well as the USA.


message 33: by Nigeyb (last edited Jan 05, 2014 02:46AM) (new)

Nigeyb ^ Absolutely Val. Although without the threat of "the draft" hanging over young Brits it never really had the same resonance. The Grosvenor Square rally outside the US embassy in 1968 perhaps being the most high profile incident in the UK - police on horseback charging the demonstrators. There were other rallies and plenty of other anti-war initiatives too.

I am not clear how or why Britain stayed out of the Vietnam War. It feels in stark contrast to more modern times whereby Britain appears to feel compelled to follow the US into various conflicts around the globe (thinking Iraq and Afghanistan here).

Greenham Common was in the 1980s and was a Women's Peace Camp - all interlinked to earlier 1960s protest movements but quite distinct too. The Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp was an amazing achievement in hindsight - and really feels so hard to imagine happening in the modern era.


message 34: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb 'Chapter 9 : Celebrity Culture' is another very interesting chapter.


I am resolved to find out more about Tom Driberg who, in the 1920s, worked for the Daily Express as assistant to "The Dragoman". "The Dragoman" wrote a daily feature called "The Talk of London".

Tom Driberg went on to have an interesting and illustrious career (though that is not covered in this book). However...

The Soul of Indiscretion: Tom Driberg: Poet, Philanderer, Legislator and Outlaw by Francis Wheen looks like essential reading. The synopsis starts: Francis Wheen’s brilliantly comic portrait of one of the 20th Century’s great characters, Tom Driberg: wit, parliamentarian, serial cottager, alleged communist spy, and friend to the Kray Twins. Needless to say it's been added to my To Read list.

Driberg, a card carrying Communist, later defended his association with an inconsequential society column by arguing that he deliberately exaggerated the activities of the idle rich as a way of enraging working-class opinion and helping the Communist Party.

In 1933 Driberg mutated into William Hickey, a Fleet Street institution that continues to this day.

Later in the chapter we get to learn about Brenda Dean Paul. Her story is quite extraordinary. Her generous press coverage becoming the ultimate Faustian pact. I have just read what happened to her after this era (on Wikipedia) and, suffice it to say, things do not improve.

I will not say anymore about Brenda Dean Paul however I look forward to reading Portia and Sarah's impressions once they arrive at that section of Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation 1918-1940.

Chapter 9 - another fascinating chapter.

I'm now into the last 80 or so pages. I can't wait to read how D.J. Taylor pulls it all together.


message 35: by Val (last edited Jan 05, 2014 03:46AM) (new)

Val I was confusing Greenham Common with Aldermaston and thinking the protests were contiguous.


message 36: by Portia (new)

Portia My compliments, Nigey, for keeping me going with Bright Young People: The Lost Generation of London's Jazz Age. I'd hit a low point and was thinking of starting another book, but your questions and everyone else's comments got me back in. I will read until 4:00 PM EST (New York time) when The Ice Bowl begins. Two American football teams are facing off in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in temperatures predicted to be below 0°F (-17.7777777777778 ° C) with wind chills even colder. Now THAT'S reality TV ;-) The people from Wisconsin will be OK, but the fans coming in from San Francisco ... England does NOT have the corner on nutty "football" fans :-).


message 37: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb Well done Portia - keep going. And keep us informed with your thoughts and feelings.

Brrrrr. Chilly weather for football. Especially with the stop-start nature of American football.


message 38: by Nigeyb (last edited Jan 05, 2014 11:39AM) (new)

Nigeyb I'm onto "Chapter 10 : Gay Young People which has started well.


As D.J. Taylor observes, No English youth movement, it is safe to say, has ever contained such a high proportion of homosexuals or - in an age when these activities were still illegal - being so indulgent of their behaviour.

It is always shocking to be reminded of an age when homosexuality was illegal and could result in prison. Most of the gay BYPs appear to have been sufficiently well connected to afford them more protection than average homosexual man.

We get to meet Eddie Gathorne-Hardy, who like Brian Howard is quite an outrageous character. He's also completely open about his sexuality.

D.J. Taylor does make the telling comment that ...like his friend Elizabeth Ponsonby, Eddie Gathorne-Hardy was someone who flourished only in a particular environment and among a particular group of like-minded friends. The 1930s would leave him stranded, a piece of unclassifiable period jetsam thrown up on an ever more inhospitable beach.

I'm guessing this is going to the fate of a few of the BYPs.


message 39: by Portia (new)

Portia I am correct that many homosexual men were able to reach arrangements and marry? Noël Coward comes to mind, as does Danny Kaye here in the US.


message 40: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb ^ Of course Portia - very commonplace. D.J. Taylor noting that it was frequently concerned mothers who engineered these marriages of convenience.

Chapter 10 : Gay Young People concludes with the unlikely liaison between Siegfried Sassoon and Stephen Tennant - chalk and cheese, and the maddest of mad love. I look forward to your comments when you get to this part of the book,

I've just finished Chapter 11 - After The Dance : 1931-1939 that dwells on the thirties. The end symbolised by The Red and White Party of November 1931, the last great party of the BYP era, was roundly criticised as it coincided with a march on London by unemployed workers.

Apparently the most devastating critique of the Bright Young People is Cyril Connolly's 'Where Engels Fears To Tread' (1938), A transparent comment on Brian Howard. And a book that doesn't exist on GoodReads.

Gone but not forgotten, by 1938 - The era of mass unemployment, the Abdication, and the road to Munich - the Bright Young People had become almost wholly mythologised by the press: legendary, fantastic, not quite real.

And, needless to say, whilst all this is going on Elizabeth Ponsonby continues to worry her parents throughout the 1930s. After getting divorced her debts continued to mount...

I'm still really enjoying this book - a perfect BYT non-fiction book, and one that is adding more to my understanding of this endlessly fascinating era.


message 41: by Portia (new)

Portia I just found a parallel between present-day America and the young men of the BYPs. On Page 57, Taylor notes, "A very early piece of journalism from 1929 notes that 'things have not been particularly easy for those of us who have grown up in the last ten years.' Everywhere the young man looked, in fact, he found his path blocked by 'the phalanx of the indestructible forties.' All this added to a kind of 'arrested development' in which youth kicked its heels in frustration, denied the chance to shire, its dreams of glory perpetually deferred."

Because of the financial collapse, we hear story upon story of young men and women with Ph.D.s returning to live in their childhood bedrooms because they cannot find work in their field, not only because of the slow recovery from the financial crisis but because the older workers are afraid to retire. (I could make a snippish comment about taking any job to be free of your parents but this present generation doesn't seem to be bothered by that. The mind boggles.) Still, in fairness, if a young person doesn't begin with a job in the field he or she has trained for, the future is not so bright.

I plead embarrassed ignorance in asking if this problem exists in England.


message 42: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1525 comments In my family this was true in the '70s. My brother had his accounting degree and had his CPA and had a job to begin in the fall with an accounting firm. But until the fall he was stuck. He finally got a job driving a cab but that wasn't enough to find a decent apartment on. Not in Chicago anyway.

Gay people having false marriages was nothing new in the '20s. My great-grandfather was allowed to come home when his wife wanted to have another child. For a long time we had thought he was a drunk or something but my grandfather ran into him one day on the street and thought he was dressed rather well to be a drunk. I believe his wife left him a nickel (5 cents) for "reasons he best understands". They would probably have been married in the 1890s era.


message 43: by Portia (new)

Portia I'm glad you mentioned the job situation in the 70s. I had job/training issues myself. All better now. No whining:)


message 44: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1525 comments As did I in the late '70s -back to grad school, just like everybody else.


message 45: by Portia (last edited Jan 05, 2014 08:01PM) (new)

Portia Yeah. This was after the Masters, too. Post Viet Nam war recession. Pffft :P. All better now, but I took a job as a receptionist (how fast an you type, honey?) to keep myself from taking back my canopied bed with the stuffed animals on it, so I am not as understanding of kids going back home these days. But times change, and I have to change with them.


message 46: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1525 comments My sister had also moved in and out. So this was kind of a family trait. We had 2 tea carts and each of the girls was supposed to get one. However, my sister had very little furniture for her first apartment and she took them both and never gave one back. So I have been waiting since 1959 for a tea cart. I'm not holding my breath. Once she took anything it never came back.


message 47: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb Portia wrote: "I'd hit a low point, but your questions and everyone else's comments got me back in. I will read until 4:00 PM"

What are your latest thoughts and feelings about the book Portia?


message 48: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb Jan C wrote: "Located my book last night so I hope to get back to it shortly. Lord knows I can't go outside."

How are you getting on with it Jan? What are your latest thoughts and feelings? What are you enjoying? What is less successful?


message 49: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb Sarah wrote: "Mention of the disapproval of people like Strachey and Orwell made me start to think about the differing attitudes and lifestyles of various sections of society at this time."

The main one being the intergenerational conflict so wonderfully illustrated by Nancy Mitford in Highland Fling and Christmas Pudding. I think it's great that D.J. Taylor references these books on a few occasions to make various points.

So Sarah, what are your latest thoughts and feelings? What are you enjoying? What is less successful?


message 50: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1525 comments It got buried again.

Is this the thread where you were discussing the animosity between Evelyn Waugh and Cecil Beaton? I did pick up Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead and found a section where Waugh was picking on Beaton when they were schoolchildren. So it really did go way back. It sounds like it was based on nothing but the fact that Cecil was a beautiful child.


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