Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wigs on the Green by Nancy Mitford (Vintage Books 1935)

'The Union Jack Movement is a youth movement,'  Eugenia cried passionately, 'we are tired of the old. We see things through their eyes no longer. We see nothing admirable in that debating society of aged and corrupt men called Parliament which muddles our great Empire into wars or treaties, dropping one by one the jewels from its crown, casting away its glorious Colonies, its hitherto undenied supremacy at sea, its prestige abroad, its prosperity at home, and all according to each vacillating whim of some octogenarian statesman's mistress -'

At this point a very old lady came up to the crowd, pushed her way through it and began twitching at Eugenia's shirt. 'Eugenia, my child,' she said brokenly, 'do get off that tub, pray, please get down at once. Oh! when her ladyship hears of this I don't know what will happen.'

'Go away Nanny,' said Eugenia, who in the rising tide of oratory seemed scarcely aware that she had been interrupted. 'How could anyone,' she continued, 'feel loyalty for these ignoble dotards, how can the sacred fire of patriotism glow in any breast for a State which is guided by such apathetic nonentities? Britons, I beseech you to take action. Oh! British lion, shake off the nets that bind you.' Here the old lady again plucked Eugenia's skirt. This time however, Eugenia turned round and roared at her, 'Get out you filthy Pacifist, get out I say, and take your yellow razor gang with you. I will have free speech at my meetings. Now will you go of your own accord or must I tell the Comrades to fling you out? Where are my Union Jackshirts?' Two hobbledehoys also dressed in red, white and blue shirts here came forward, saluted Eugenia and each taking one of the Nanny's hands they led her to a neighbouring bench where she sat rather sadly but unresistingly during the rest of the speech.

'We Union Jackshirts,' remarked Eugenia to the company at large, 'insist upon the right to be heard without interruption at our own meetings. Let the Pacifists' - here she gave her Nanny a very nasty look - 'hold their own meetings, we shall not interfere with them at all, but if they try to break up our meetings they do so at their own risk . . .'