Noblesse Oblige (book) - Overview


This collection of essays started with Nancy Mitford´s article “The English Aristocracy”, published in 1955 in the magazine Encounter. The expressions “U” (Upper Class) and “Non-U” (non-Upper Class) came to prominence in this article, which sold out the edition of the magazine immediately after publication. The article caused a great deal of light-hearted controversy. The book was published one year later. There is sharp disagreement among the U´s who have contributed to this book.

Considered one of the most gifted comic writers of her time, Nancy Mitford said she wrote the article about her peers “In order to demonstrate the upper middle class does not merge imperceptibly into the middle class”. She said differences of speech distinguish the members of one social class in England from another. The daughter of a Baron, she was therefore a "Hon" − honourable. Deborah Mitford Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire, the youngest of the famously (and sometimes infamously) unconventional Mitford sisters, wrote a letter to Encounter” about the article saying: “... as the co-founder, with my sister Jessica, of the Hons Club, I would like to point out that ... the word Hon meant Hen in Honnish... We were very found of chickens and on the whole preferred their company to that of human beings ...”.

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