Category Archives: rich men

Humours of an election

Mid-morning. A few days before a general election. Dalrymple and a confederate are at his mansion in one of the prettier small towns — as yet unbesmirched by the socialist planners — of the English midlands. The pair have enjoyed a large traditional English breakfast including beefsteak, washed down with pints of Burgundy (from the well-stocked cellars of Dalrymple’s château near Alès), and are now sharing a very decent bottle of port. There is a knock at the heavy oak door. Dalrymple directs a liveried footman to open it. An opposition candidate, with her unpleasing 20-year-old son in tow, present themselves at the threshold. They have come to canvass the doctor’s vote.

CANDIDATE’S SON: (mutters something incoherent and derogatory about the incumbent Member of Parliament, who is standing for re-election.)

DALRYMPLE: The Member* came out very well in the expenses scandal — he didn’t claim a penny.

CANDIDATE’S SON (assuming that the word ‘rich’ is a moral accusation): That’s because he’s a rich man.

DALRYMPLE: Is that not an argument for having only rich men in parliament? Better a parliament of rich men than one of men who enter parliament to become rich.

[Exeunt, amour propre wounded, the candidate and her son.]

DALRYMPLE (turning to his confederate and chuckling): Poor young man! I was only teasing him a little, and getting him, still a student, to exercise his mind and escape for a moment from the clichés with which that capacious instrument has probably been filled from birth.

CONFEDERATE: An oafish youth, to be sure. But what in fact is your view on the matter, doctor?

DALRYMPLE: Rich men, provided they start their political careers in their 50s at the earliest, are the best suited for political life. They are more likely to accept the rôle of servitor of their nation than master of it.

Canvassing for Votes, Hogarth, Humours of an Election series (1755), Sir John Soane’s Museum

*Dalrymple’s home when he is in England is in Bridgnorth, and his representative in the Commons is Philip Dunne, Member of Parliament for the Ludlow constituency (covering the district of South Shropshire, and the district of Bridgnorth wards of Alveley, Bridgnorth Castle, Bridgnorth East, Bridgnorth Morfe, Bridgnorth West, Broseley East, Broseley West, Claverley, Ditton Priors, Glazeley, Harrington, Highley, Much Wenlock, Morville, Stottesdon, and Worfield). Dunne is one of the 50 ‘saints’ — MPs who minimised their (taxpayer-funded) expenditure. In Dunne’s case, his parliamentary expenses were minimised to zero.

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Those classless societies, Australia and the USA

Dalrymple is taken to lunch in a grand club by some very rich men. They give him

the benefit of their opinion on Britain’s rigid class system. They appear not to notice that they are being served by a flurry of obsequious men, whose grovelling is certainly the equal of any that I have seen anywhere.

Since Dalrymple’s hosts are

intelligent and cultivated, I conclude that they must feel uneasy about the notion of class, perhaps even guilty at being themselves so obviously members of an upper class, and quite a rarefied one.

The embarrassment of Dalrymple’s interlocutors stems, he explains, from

a common confusion between a class society and a closed one. They are not the same thing. A classless society would be the most closed of all, because in it there could be no social mobility, upward or downward. Everyone would stay where he was because there would be nowhere else to go.