Noblesse Oblige (book) - Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

Noblesse Oblige was received with favourable reviews.

Unabashedly snobbish and devastatingly witty, Miss Mitford achieved enormous success and popularity as one of Britain's most piercing observers of social manners... Indeed, one of Miss Mitford's pet concerns entered the history of obscure literary debates when, in 1955, she published perhaps her most famous essay on upper-class and non-upper- class forms of speech. The essay sparked such a controversy in Britain, with responses from many major literary figures, that Miss Mitford was compelled a year later to bring out a thin book, "Noblesse Oblige," with her disquisition on the subject as its centerpiece. Her argument, a set-piece even today among literary parlor games, was that the more elegant euphemism used for any word is usually the non-upperclass thing to say--or, in Miss Mitford's words, simply non-U. Thus: It is very non-U to say "dentures"; "false teeth" will do. Ill is non-U; sick is U. The non-U person resides at his home. The U person lives in his house. And so forth. —The New York Times In these days of penurious peers and vanishing stately homes, how can one tell whether an Englishman is a genuine member of the Upper Class? Last week, in a slim anthology of aristocratic manners edited by aristocratic Novelist Nancy Mitford (Noblesse Oblige; Hamish Hamilton), England got an answer that has managed to stir up everyone from Novelist Graham Greene to Actor John Loder. Not since Humorist Stephen Potter launched the cult of gamesmanship had the nation been so obsessed as it was over the difference between U (Upper Class) and non-U. — Time Magazine

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