..I should not publish that if I were you, Tennyson

For Osbert, Edith and Sachie Sitwell, as for Virginia Woolf and friends in the so-called Bloomsbury set, having the idea of oneself as an artist was an illusion which friends were perilously good at fostering and encouraging. That is the peril, for an artist, of ‘sets’. When Tennyson read some of Maud aloud in Benjamin Jowett’s drawing room at Oxford, the Master of Balliol said, in his high squeaky voice: ‘I should not publish that if I were you, Tennyson.’ No such voice in the early decades of the twentieth century was ever heard in the Sitwell’s drawing-room, nor over the other side of London in Bloomsbury. ..

Of course, as soon as Facade appeared on a public stage it was lampooned and condemned by all the critics. The Sitwells took this as evidence of the philistinism of the bourgeoisie. The British tradition had been firmly established, of talentless ‘arty’ people convincing themselves that exhibitionism was a substitute for talent. It could be said that this had been going on in the nineteenth century to some extent, but in the twentieth century, there came a parting of the ways in England, especially in London, between good popular books, art and music, and ‘highbrow’ versions which only the initiated could appreciate. Within this veiled holy of holies, the initiates could learn to mouth the names of composers and artists they were supposed to admire, without actually possessing any discernment at all.

– A. N. Wilson, After the Victorians (2005)

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