Worlds Old And New

The next issue of National Review will carry Dalrymple’s review of John Lukacs’ new book Last Rites, which Dalrymple calls “a short book that is not quite memoir, not quite philosophical treatise, but something in between.” Our beloved readers will no doubt feel as if the first paragraph of the excerpt below speaks of them.

Lukacs tells us that an era half a millennium long, that of the bourgeois, has now drawn definitively to a close. Of course, there are still cultivated people who read books and listen to real music, who behave with a certain ceremoniousness and dress without wishing to appear as if they had just emerged from a slum tenement despite being enormously rich; but they are a decreasing minority…

…Americans, in his opinion, are less reflective, shallower, and more vulgar and egotistical than they were when he first arrived in the country. There was then a recognizable upper class, with refinement of manners and an interest in something other than money; now, there remains an elite (for no society is without one), but it is a much cruder one, consisting merely of the poor man writ rich…

I sympathize viscerally with a lot of what Lukacs says. I live in a country, Britain, in which things have gone a lot farther than in America…There are people with more money and less money, but they have very similar tastes. It is only the scale of indulgence in them that varies, not what is indulged in.

National Review subscribers can read the review via NR/Digital. Non-subscribers may purchase a membership for $21.95 per year or, of course, buy a copy of the March 23rd issue when it hits the shelves.

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