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Noblesse Oblige: An Enquiry into the Identifiable Characteristics of the English Aristocracy (Oxford paperbacks) [Hardcover]

Nancy Mitford , Osbert Lancaster
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Nov 1989 Oxford paperbacks
Nancy Mitford's "The English Aristocracy" in 1955 sparked off the great debate about U and non-U usage. The articles collected here include contributions from Alan Ross, Evelyn Waugh, "Strix", Christopher Sykes, and John Betjeman.

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Noblesse Oblige: An Enquiry into the Identifiable Characteristics of the English Aristocracy (Oxford paperbacks) + Her Ladyship's Guide to the Queen's English
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 114 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New edition edition (Nov 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192827073
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192827074
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 12.7 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 553,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nancy Mitford was born in London on November 28 1904, daughter of the second Baron Redesdale, and the eldest of six girls. Her sisters included Lady Diana Mosley; Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire and Jessica, who immortalised the Mitford family in her autobiography Hons and Rebels. The Mitford sisters came of age during the Roaring Twenties and wartime in London, and were well known for their beauty, upper-class bohemianism or political allegiances. Nancy contributed columns to The Lady and the Sunday Times, as well as writing a series of popular novels including The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, which detailed the high-society affairs of the six Radlett sisters. While working in London during the Blitz, Nancy met and fell in love with Gaston Palewski, General de Gaulle's chief of staff, and eventually moved to Paris to be near him. In the 1950s she began writing historical biographies - her life of Louis XIV, The Sun King, became an international bestseller. Nancy completed her last book, Frederick the Great, before she died of Hodgkin's disease on 30 June 1973.

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Customer Reviews

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1.0 out of 5 stars One Star 4 Oct 2014
By Joan C
Verified Purchase
Too dated
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very English 11 Nov 2004
By Megan - Published on
Americans think that "My Fair Lady" is sort of a joke, akin to pulling someone with a Jeff Foxworthy redneck accent out of West Virginia and teaching him to talk like a Connecticut River Valley Knickerbocker. I always thought so too, until I actually lived in England and married a Brit. America is such a big country, but we have so few accents... unlike England where a native can tell what street in which city you grew up on just by hearing your voice! The system is so concrete that it is impossible to fake out anyone who "knows."

This is a sort of difficult book for Americans to read, because we don't really understand just how important language is as a social and class divide in England. It is still the case, but when Ms. Mitford's essay was first published it was even more concrete. At times, I grew a little bored of the book because even though I understand that it is a big deal over there, the democratic American spirit in me doesn't particularly like or appreciate it.

The book consists of Ms. Mitford's essay, and several supplemental and follow-up essays and letters about it. It is worth a read if you are interested in class in England, or in linguistics (though keep in mind that it's best described as "anecdotal linguistics" and not as a real academic study). However, it is rather snobby at times, though she tries to cover this up with her considerable sarcasm and wit, and Americans who haven't witnessed firsthand the language snobbery that goes on over the pond might be confused.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How times change where proper speech is concerned... 17 Feb 1998
By I. Hakala - Published on
I found the book very humorous. It was contridictory to many of the current
standards, however quite insightful as to the nature of the cyclical patterns of the
"Upper Class". I would recommend it for anyone interested in
linguistics and the different subjective views of what is correct or incorrect.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Attention: all fans of Jane Austen, Lord Peter Wimsey, Evelyn Waugh, Queen Elizabeth, and Annie Tempest: 30 May 2010
By Karen Anderson - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you are interested in what the British Aristocracy is all about, or more specifically, what are the external signs of an aristocrat, try to get your hands on a copy of this book. It is a lively exploration of the quaint turns of phrase, social peculiarities, and other habits that identify the British upper-classes (charmingly referred to as U), as distinguished from the lower-classes (non-U).

As the title suggests, what makes an aristocrat is a sense of Noblesse Oblige, or the obligation of the nobility to put his high position at the service of those beneath him, and at the service of the common good. That being said, there is always a je ne sais quoi about the fictional and non-fictional characters of the Aristocracy that make them sometimes irresistible and other times loathsome, but always fascinating, and often extremely funny.

If you simply want to know for the sake of idle curiosity--or if you want to avoid the blunders (beginning with audible self-promotion and ending with obnoxious table manners) that might make the occasional aristocrat you run into at a dinner party either enjoy your conversation (think of Elizabeth Bennet) or avoid you like the plague, (think of Mr. Collins) you will enjoy this book.

If you are a sociologist studying the nature of class-distinctions which the human race routinely creates (in spite of every attempt to prevent it) than you will REALLY enjoy this book.

If, on the other hand, the very thought of social class gives you hives, avoid this book at all costs.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars book review 27 April 2010
By Charlotte Baldwin - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It was not as interesting as I thought it would be. But the service was excellent.
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