The Best of OurnTimenby Geoffrey WagnernOur Age: English IntellectualsnBetween the World Wars — AnGroup Portraitnby Noel AnnannNew York: Random House;n479 pp., $30.00nElected Provost of King’s College,nCambridge, in his 30’s and subsequentlynVice-Chancellor of the Universitynof London, Lord Annan is a delightfulnperson who has given us andelightful book of scintillating eruditionnthat ranges far beyond the confines of itsnsubtitle. Indeed, there can hardly be ansingle English intellectual of significancenin this century who is not mentionednin it.nAs an etiology of upper-class England,nit is inevitably grounded in thatn”unique British institution,” the publicnschool, which is to say the privatenschool. Having been through one, I cannattest to Cyril Connolly’s opinion thatnthe experience dominates your life. Inhave seen two eldedy Englishmen introducednto each other and soon bringingnup the ritual question. Where werenyou at school? (It is a fairly meaninglessnone in Italy or France and stands apartnin intensity of definition from anynuniversity allegiance.) In my one briefnmeeting with T.S. Eliot, it was the onlynquestion he put to me.nAnnan rightly sees this code of thenpublic school man percolating throughnBritish life and letters, as well as politicsn(every member of Macmillan’s postwarncabinet, including himself, had been tonEton). The New York Times reviewernobjected to the elitist background ofnOur Age — only four percent of thenBritish population experienced anynform of higher education before thenlast war—but failed to see that thenbook is about Our Age rather thann”our age.” Annan capitalizes throughout.nThe code taught civilized behaviorn— or manners if you will (Winches­nREVIEWSnter’s motto being “Manners MakythnMan”); loyalty to institutions such asnschool, family, regiment; avoidance ofnconceit (“side”) as of any emotionalnshow; religion as a form of socialncontrol; and stoicism on playing ornbattlefield (one master sidelined tennisnas a sport since it didn’t hurt enough). Inwon’t mention the food.nPhilistinism was one of the results.nWhen Roger Fry showed some earlynMatisse to art students they jeerednback, “Drink or drugs?” An Oxfordnprofessor discredited Zola and Ibsen byncomparing their photographs withnthose of “any decent midshipman.”nMy own Oxford tutor, producingnShakespeare on the London stage, toldnme to avoid Ibsen as “barbaric,” whilenhis friend and colleague C.S. Lewisndetested T.S. Eliot.nThe code — which Kipling callednThe Law — has been covered in othernbooks, but never so entertainingly. Itnbequeathed a remarkable self-confidence,nepitomized by the story of thenDuke of Wellington strolling downnBond Street in plain clothes (mufti)nlater in life and being accosted by anman saying, “Aren’t you Mr. Jones?”nTo which the Iron Duke replied, “Myndear chap, if you can believe that, youncan believe anything.” Women’snschools aped the men’s, as in the selectnCheltenham Ladies College, wherenIndira Gandhi and Iris Murdoch werenchums, and the code was exported tonthe colonies.nThe rebellion against the code wasnintellectually rich. Churchill’s nephewnran away from Wellington and Toynbee’snson from Rugby. It was alsonperforce entirely upperclass; Annan’snsubjects for portraiture include BertrandnRussell (“a Whig holding advancednVictorian views”), VirginianWoolf (“the patron saint for the feministsnof Our Age”), the insufferablenStrachey, and Bloomsbury collectively.nAs for the university communists andnCambridge spies, Our Age parallelsnVerne W. Newton’s recent book onnthe vermin, Annan well quoting SirnHarold Acton that “Every villain isnfollowed by a sophist with a sponge” —ntruly a motto for our times.nA major dissent against the Establishmentntook the form of the cult ofnhomosexuality. But what Sir MauricenBowra called the Homintern is hard toninterpret to modern America wherenthe subject has become so politicizednand vulgarized and in a word disgusting.nIn England between the wars itnwas of course criminal conduct (Gielgudnso fined) rather than the rallyingnpoint for some new demonstration.nEngland had, in any case, a long andninnocent bachelor tradition. OnenAmerican professor put a sexual interpretationnon the fact that as a boy A.E.nHousman had his arm slung aroundnanother in a school photo. But in thosendays the cameraman carefully composednsuch groups and my father’snstudy was tapestried with old ruggernhearties so enlaced. Nor would the fewnlesbians of the British 20’s have beennanything but stunned by the feministnterror squads of modern America.nGenerally, the “queer” was not politicallynambitious then. Keynes did notnClassic Southern ReprintsnFromnJ. S. Sanders & CompanynAvailable in anquality paperbacknformat this fall’snSouthern ClassicsnSeries titles, undernthe editorship of M.nE. Bradford, includenThe Fugitive Poets:nModern SouthernnPoetry in Perspective,nedited by WilliamnPratt, $10.95; In OlenVirginia: Or, MarsenChan and OthernnnTheFugitivenBDCtSnModem Southern Poetrynin PeispectivenMiedbynWIUJAM PRATTnStories by Thomas Nelson Page, $8.95; Penhallynby Caroline Gordon, $10.95; The Tennessee, Old River: Frontier to Secession by DonaldnDavidson, $10.95; and Stonewall Jackson: ThenGood Soldier by Allen Tate, $10.95.nThese works can be purchased by sending ancheck, money order. Mastercard or Visa numbernto: J. S. Sanders & Company, PO. Box 50331,nDept. H, Nashville, TN 37205. Or call: (615)n790-8951. Please include $1.50 shipping fee fornthe first book and $.50 for each additional book.nThe Southern Classics Series books are alsonavailable through bookstores.nNOVEMBER 1991/35n