And of course everyone knows what a middle-aged moralist of my type warns his juniors against. He warns them against the World, the Flesh, and the Devil. But one of this trio will be enough to deal with today. The Devil, I shall leave strictly alone. The association between him and me in the public mind has already gone quite as deep as I wish: in some quarters it has already reached the level of confusion, if not of identification. I begin to realize the truth of the old proverb that he who sups with that formidable host needs a long spoon. As for the Flesh, you must be very abnormal young people if you do not know quite as much about it as I do. But on the World I think I have something to say.
Snobbery is not the same thing as pride of class. Pride of class may not please us but we must at least grant that it reflects a social function. A man who exhibited class pride – in the day when it was possible to do so – may have been puffed up about what he was, but this ultimately depended on what he did. Thus, aristocratic pride was based ultimately on the ability to fight and administer. No pride is without fault, but pride of class may be thought of as today we think of pride of profession, toward which we are likely to be lenient.
Snobbery is pride in status without pride in function. And it is an uneasy pride of status. It always asks, “Do I belong – do I really belong? And does he belong? And if I am observed talking to him, will it make me seem to belong or not to belong?” It is the peculiar vice not of aristocratic societies which have their own appropriate vices, but of bourgeois democratic societies. . . .
The characteristic work of the novel is to record the illusion that snobbery generates and to try to penetrate to the truth which, as the novel assumes, lies hidden beneath all the false appearances. Money, snobbery, the ideal of status, these become in themselves the objects of fantasy, the support of the fantasies of love, freedom, charm, power, as in Madame Bovary, whose heroine is the sister, at a three-centuries remove, of Don Quixote. The greatness of Great Expectations begins in its title: modern society bases itself on great expectations which, if ever they are realized, are found to exist by reason of a sordid, hidden reality.
From Lionel Trilling’s 1947 essay “Manners, Morals, and the Novel.”
My thanks to http://mthollywood.blogspot.com/
and to Tolstoy, for his writing which inspired C. S. Lewis to warn:
The lust for the esoteric, the longing to be inside, take many forms which are not easily recognizable as Ambition. We hope, no doubt, for tangible profits from every Inner Ring we penetrate: power, money, liberty to break rules, avoidance of routine duties, evasion of discipline. But all these would not satisfy us if we did not get in addition the delicious sense of secret intimacy. It is no doubt a great convenience to know that we need fear no official reprimands from our official senior because he is old Percy, a fellow-member of our ring. But we don't value the intimacy only for the sake of convenience; quite equally we value the convenience as a proof of the intimacy.
My main purpose in this address is simply to convince you that this desire is one of the great permanent mainsprings of human action. It is one of the factors which go to make up the world as we know it-this whole pell-mell of struggle, competition, confusion, graft, disappointment, and advertisement, and if it is one of the permanent mainsprings then you may be quite sure of this. Unless you take measures to prevent it, this desire is going to be one of the chief motives of your life, from the first day on which you enter your profession until the day when you are too old to care.
The entire essay is at http://www.limbicnutrition.com/blog/archives/025484.html