I recently ran across a quotation from George Orwell's autobiographical essay "Such, Such Were the Joys." Orwell wrote it in the 1940's about his childhood and his years at St. Cyprian's School and at Eton College. While I suspect these places were not the Home Counties gulag that Orwell describes, his reminiscences have a lot to say about coming of age for the middle classes in Edwardian Britain.
The one line that really stuck out for me was his description of the mood of the times in the years between the death of Queen Victoria (1901) and the outbreak of the Great War (1914).
- "From the whole decade before 1914 there seems to breathe forth a smell of the more vulgar, un-grown-up kind of luxury, a smell of brilliantine and crème-de-menthe and soft-centred chocolates — an atmosphere, as it were, of eating everlasting strawberry ices on green lawns to the tune of the Eton Boating Song."
Orwell's words give us an engaging portal into one of those days gone by.
It is for little reasons like this that I am a historian.