I’ve been reading a book called Rose. It’s by a woman named Rosina Harrison (1899–1989), who served for many years as lady’s maid to Nancy, Viscountess Astor (1879–1964), British politician and socialite. It’s a very good book — lucid, intelligent, and written by a person of pronounced individuality. If you ever want an account of the way the British class system worked, this is the book for you. What interests me at the moment is Harrison’s account of her mistress’ charitable impulses.
Lady Astor was an irascible person who chronically settled arguments with her assistant by telling her to “shut up.” She was very rich, but like many other rich people she was also cheap. She spent money lavishly on her homes, her clothes, her entertainments, and her travel, but when Rose, who was her prized associate, asked for a raise in her annual salary, which was about $7,500 in modern American money, her lady increased it by only $500, and did it in such a way as to discourage Rose from ever asking again. “I never asked for another rise, and I never got one. At that time goodness was supposed to be its own reward” (119–20).
These are the qualities that distinguish her from the members of our own dominant class — the politicians, “educators,” media controllers, and crony capitalist billionaires.
Nevertheless, Rose notes that Lady Astor enjoyed charitable giving: “I’ve seen her give five pounds [$500] to a street beggar.” She was also fond of giving or “lending” money to her aristocratic friends. “’You’ll never get it back, my lady,’ I used to tell her, watching her sign cheques for hundreds of pounds, ‘and it’ll only make them worse.’ ‘Shut up, Rose,’ she’d say . . .” (123).
Lady Astor was a beautiful woman with a curious charm and strength of character. I can’t describe those qualities of hers; I leave the task to Miss Harrison, who makes a good job of it. But they are the qualities that distinguish her from the members of our own dominant class — the politicians, “educators,” media controllers, and crony capitalist billionaires whose ambition is to convert Americans who work into Americans who serve. Their carefully chosen agent, Joe Biden, was a supremely apt choice — a man totally devoid of either charm or character, a man who irresistibly recalls the nebulous but offensive Mr. Thompson, the “head of the state” in Atlas Shrugged: “In any group of three, his person became indistinguishable, and when seen alone it seemed to evoke a group of its own, composed of the countless persons he resembled.”
No Lady Astor he, or they, but don’t bother to ask for a raise, even of the size that she gave out. If you get one, the aristos will just tax it away and give it to people who don’t work. The big bucks go not to honest beggars but to fellow aristocrats with theoretical jobs: the “public servants,” careerist “scientists,” leaders of “nonprofit” pressure groups, “capitalists” of Big Tech, “artists” on the dole, nihilist “professors” — and just try to hire a college president for less than a million dollars a year. Biden has never had a real job, but somehow he became very rich; the same can be said of the Clintons, except that they became fabulously rich. As for “business,” that’s a land where the worst thing that happens when you screw up is an “exit package” costing several million dollars to the shareholders and consumers.
These aristocratic positions are supposed to be demanding, and they are, in a way. Picture yourself going from one “meeting” to another, getting your opinions from remarks delivered, at excruciating length, by your fellow blowhards, reading speeches written for you by some junior aristocrat, and issuing “statements,” written by the same, that no one, let alone you, can bear to read. This sounds pretty arduous to me, but I had the same reaction to Miss Harrison’s accounts of Lady Astor’s life as she traveled from one hunt or ball or country conclave to another, changing her clothes five times a day, and fussing about her shoes and jewels. I wouldn’t want to do it. I wouldn’t want to be a member of the New Order, either. But Lady Astor evidently enjoyed it, and so do the CEOs, university administrators, professional humanitarians, and other leading figures of Our Democracy.
Biden has never had a real job, but somehow he became very rich; the same can be said of the Clintons, except that they became fabulously rich.
The nicest thing, of course, is that someone else is paying for the ride. Mrs. Astor got her money from her husband, a nice guy who had inherited it. Our aristocrats get it from the nice guys who actually worked for their money, but who don’t ask to keep it — even while the aristos constantly ask, or demand, more wealth for their charitable endeavors: $4.7 trillion rudely requested just this month.
If you’re baffled by this, so was Miss Harrison. “How they could ask,” she said (124), “I don’t know. There was more pride amongst the poor than among some of the aristocracy.”