Meet William Hanson. He can boast an ubiquitous online presence as etiquette expert. Whether he really has a claim to any "leading" etiquette expert status I don't know. To me, he is.
Some of his information seems, to me as a foreigner, a bit marginal at first glance, though interesting and by no means irrelevant (it IS more elegant and thus nicer to watch one's opposites to stir their tea as he suggests) which brings us to...
...the very non-marginal bits. As William says:
Good manners are all about other people, they are self-less, not self-ish......which is the essence of good manners. (I recommend watching the entire video.)
But what I most like about WH are the vile reactions he triggers from the chip-on-the-shoulder-brigade. They don't understand the essence and meaning of manners, they don't understand the dry wit and the tongue-in-cheek-aspect and they are all - I bet - frightf'ly lower middleclass. One of my many pet theories is that one can draw a fine line between the working and the lower middleclasses by looking for that chip. The lower middleclasses have it, the working classes don't. (The same applies, by the way, to the line between the middle and the upper middle and upper classes. The former adore Princess Diana, the latter don't. Try it!)
The most frightening bit for me was that they are coming across as so embarrassingly German and aren't we Germans, after all, a very, very lower middleclass country shaped by upstarts from the lower middleclasses.
However, all that is just based on my very personal empirical value and I may be wrong.
I first became intrigued in (or with - oh those pesky prepositions!) the English class system when I read Jilly Cooper. I had come to England first in 1983 (or had it been 1984?) to meet the people to whom I was going to lend my Trakehner stallion for their up-and-coming stud. A lifelong friendship ensued and I spent all my free time in County Durham and North Yorkshire from then on. And after a while, having by then read "Class: A View from Middle England" (1979), I came to the understanding: "My God, I KNOW all those people!"
|Not really topical but too handsome to be missed: Fernando, Trakehner premium stallion by Flugwind out of Freude II* by Gazal VII (Sh.Ar.) with yours truly in the early 14th century. (Photo Betty Finke.)|
|Fernando with my dear friend Freda during his time in England.|
|I know I get carried away, but he was just SO handsome (and a great performer and character to boot). He founded a small but quality stallion line in England. (Photo Sabine Burre.)|
When I first came across William Hanson and his videos I was amazed at what seems to be necessary of teaching those Brits. I come from two very German working class families. My father's was of the (as Jilly Copper put it in "Class") "rough and friendly", my mother's of the "tight lipped, respectable one on the verge of middle class" sort. My father did well in business and politics, we had live-in staff, I grew up with dogs and horses. When I was five I knew how to eat artichokes and, so they told me later, a great communicator with guests. When I watch those idiotic videos at YouTube (not WH's) which regale us with what oh-so bizarre, absurd, daunting, browbeating rules for "manners" dear poor darling Meghan now has to follow, I can't say but: "But that's the kind of behaviour any civilized family and their members would stick to, irrespective of class".
In England, I had very upper-classical friends who used to hold an almost ersatz-parental status for me (long not with us anymore) who briefed me before any dinner party about the background of the guests and about what not to talk. Not that I would have anyway, but it showed me what manners are about. Not so much about holding knife and fork correctly, but about not hurting people and that my parents were right in my upbringing.
Whatever, back to WH! I like that man. I like his dry wit and sense of humour, I like how he's using being camp as a "stylistic device", I'm sure he knows that he is probably the oldest looking man in his late twenties in human history, and I'm sure he doesn't give a damn. Enjoy this video and the two following ones where he makes mincemeat of his detractors.
I don't know William Hanson personally and I won't get any kickback for this. But maybe you'll enjoy his book as much as I did.
For me, it's not about being a social climber. I am not. But it's witty, funny and interesting. If you hate it, you're very probably lower middleclass. If not, you're not.
Addendum: I just came across this video...
... and I admire William Hanson's self control. I would have smacked that horrible woman.
"Please don't swear. I am not sitting here surrounded by expensive wallpaper for you to swear".
Best putdown in the history of human communication!