The Abnormality of Youth, 1926

I read something once that said that “the good old days” have always been regarded as being around 50 years ago. That’s 50 years ago from the vantage point of whatever the current year is. I suppose for the older generation, it was the time of their rose-tinted youth, and for everyone younger, it was a semi-legendary time just out of reach – near enough to feel like we’re almost part of it, but long enough ago to feel definitely of a different age.

Of course, now the 1960s are an unbelievable 50 years ago and are officially “the good old days”. I wasn’t there, but that is absolutely my sentiment now. Ever since I was a teenager I wished I was somehow, magically in the 1960s. I thought if I thought about it hard enough, I might wake up in 1967. But it never happened (obviously).

One of my favourite books in 1987 was “It was twenty years ago today” by Derek Taylor, telling the story of the Beatles, Sergeant Pepper, and the exciting times of 1967. As I was 13 at the time, 20 years ago was an unimaginably long length of time to me. That was 28 years ago now, and the thought I was then closer in time to Sergeant Pepper than I am now to the time I read the book almost doesn’t compute in my mind. The march of time is a strange and wondrous thing.

Lord Malmesbury in 1926 was certainly of the opinion that the youth of today didn’t know they were born. As pretty much every generation thinks about the next one, or the one after, at some point. And the younger generation in turn are baffled and dismiss the oldies as not knowing what the hell they’re talking about.

As Zygon Clara wisely said in Doctor Who the other week, “You’re just middle-aged. No offence, but everybody middle-­aged always thinks the world’s about to come to an end. It never does.”

Malmesbury comes to the frankly startling conclusion that womens place is in the wrong, them and their damned emancipation, and “the wage-earning classes” leave much to be desired. Upper class males were absolutely unreproachable though, no problem there. Hang on though – what exactly does he mean by “the gradual weakening of the individualism which had hitherto characterised our race”? Is he talking about mixed race relationships?

Portsmouth Evening News, 24th February 1926

Portsmouth Evening News, 24th February 1926



Abnormality of Youth

“There is something wrong with the youth of to-day – something not quite normal,” said the Earl of Malmesbury, speaking on “Modern Youth” at the 1912 Club in London last night.

The value of youth, he said, could not be estimated, but lately we had been indulging in an actual worship of youth, which was wrong. We must have ideals, but we had been disposed to make youth an idol, rather than an ideal.

The worship, and too great freedom of youth, was largely due to the emancipation of women.

The children, seeing their mothers bent upon amusing themselves, thought they could do the same, and a child always took the cue from the mother, and not from the father.

Young men of what was formerly called the “leisured classes” had greatly improved in tone and character, although the girls of the same classes still showed room for improvement.

In the great mass of the young people of the wage-earning classes, the most deplorable feature was the gradual weakening of the individualism which had hitherto characterised our race.”

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