The Age of Sense is Upon Us


According to the Guardian, that is. In a review of a new program(me), “Snog, Marry, Avoid,” which apparently involves “makeunders” of vulgarly dressed young women into something more ladylike, it is noted that there is none of the excessive sentiment that one normally encounters in such shows.

There have been two great ages of sentiment. The first began at the end of the 18th century, when the newly powerful middle class, looking to assert themselves over the coarse peasantry and the often coarser aristocracy, invented a new way of being. They emphasised politeness – a new system of morals and manners – and sentiment. Weeping decorously at a novel or poem and suffering from nerves and melancholy indicated that you belonged to the ascendant class.

Of course, not everyone played the game. The fightback started almost immediately: Jane Austen’s novels are partly driven by a need to satirise, and so correct, this new fashion. Austen wanted to see more sense and less sensibility, but soon everyone was at it. It took most of the Victorian era for sentiment to be worked out of our system.

We recommend a larger allowance of prose in one’s daily study in order to prepare for the New Age of Sense. Thanks to Alert Janeite SLW for the link.