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By Barbara W. Tuchman


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Extra info for The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914

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Of these, about three million were in white-collar or service trades--clerks, shopmen, tradesmen, innkeepers, farmers, teachers-who earned an average of £ 75 a year. Fifteen and a half million were manual workers, including soldiers, sailors, postmen and policemen and those in agricultural and domestic service who earned less than £50 a year. The "poverty line" had been worked out at £55 a year, or 21s. 8d. a week, for a family of five. Indoor servants slept in attics or windowless basements. Agricultural laborers lived in houses for which they paid a shilling a week, and worked with scythe, plow and sickle in the fields from the time when the great horn boomed at five o'clock in the morning until nightfall.

It was said of Mr. " The Duke's family could always tell by the speed of morning prayers if Mr. Knox were hunting that day or not Mr. Henry Chaplin, the popular "Squire" in Lord Salisbury's Cabinet, who was considered the archetype of the English country gentleman and took himself very seriously as representative in Parliament of the agricultural interest, took himself equally seriously as Master of the Blankney Hounds and could not decide which duty came first. During a debate or a Cabinet he would draw little sketches of horses on official papers.

Wilde, conforming to the duty of a decadent, was already engaged in destroying himself. In his role of aesthete, voluptuary and wit, he had hitherto been protected by the enamel of success. His incomparable talk enraptured friends as his plays did the public. " Nor did success satisfy him, for . satiety required-that he must taste the ultimate sensation of ruin. " He precipitated his own arrest by taking action for libel against i the Marquess of Queensberry. The ensuing tnals tore away Society's screen of discretion and gave everyone a shuddering look at the livid gleam of vice: panders, male prostitutes, hotel-room assignations with a valet, a groom, a boat-attendant picked up on a beach, and blackmail.

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