Polite patriotism: The Edwardian gentleman in English music, 1904 to 1914
Nineteenth-Century Music Review
Cambridge University Press
Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts
In Edwardian England many of the most widely acknowledged qualities of the national character coalesced around the figure of the English gentleman. One of his defining features was his emotional restraint, his 'stiff upper-lip'. But these were also years during which patriotic and even nationalist sentiment rose to a high tide, and there was considerable tension between the whole-hearted expression of nationalism and the restrain demanded by gentlemanly manners. This article explores this tension as it was staged and negotiated in the folk-song rhapsodies and nature portraits by Vaughan Williams, Holst, Delius and others during the years from 1904 to 1914. As a methodological basis the article adopts the notion of musical subjectivity-that is, the idea that music can offer a virtual persona with which the listener is invited to identify, and as whom he or she may participate in the musical activity. In this context it is possible to identify aspects of musical rhetoric, namely, the manners which regulate the interaction between the virtual subjectivity and the listener. Ultimately the article suggests that it is the embodiment of gentlemanly manners, every bit as much as the use of folk-song or the representation of English landscape, that accounts for the particularly English quality commonly identified in this music.