Sunday, 4 December 2011

Maybe it's just me...

OK, I am not going to name the book or the author. The only slight clue I'll give is it was set in the early 19th Century among the upper classes and it wasn't written by Jane Austen.

Yet again, a complete lack of understanding of titles and forms of address stood out. However, I'll pass lightly over this as I don't want to seem more obsessive than I am in reality, and I know that for a lot of people this just flies over their head anyway and doesn't spoil their enjoyment.

This week's moan is about inappropriate (for the time) social attitudes. For starters we have a gentlemen (a lord actually, although naturally he's too cool to use his title) on first name terms with his valet. Hmm, yeah, right...

But then all the main characters are so incredibly Left wing and PC that it screamed at me. I almost expected them to stand up after dinner (just before the ladies withdrew) and sing the Internationale. I mean, come on, this is early 19th Century England! There were not many Left wing PC types among the peerage and landed gentry at this time. Even reformers (Radicals) were in a distinct minority. Surely it's the art of the typical that convinces? If there'd been one, just one, fat-bellied Tory repressive among them I could have lived with it. But there wasn't even a hint of the typical social attitudes of the day.

When we talk about accuracy, it isn't just a matter of getting the belt buckles right, or what they had for dinner, or the correct name for the Bishop of Bath and Wells in September 1693. Surely, surely there has to be some attempt to reflect how the people of the times actually thought and behaved in relation to one another? And this is where it's hard - because by and large they did not think like us. Indeed, many of them did and said (by our standards) shameful things. But it's no use pretending that by some amazing chance the characters we choose to write about were all 21st Century people of correct opinions who happened to be born a few centuries earlier. Because they weren't.