Saturday, 11 November 2006
Class made simple

Some uppity colonials once claimed: “all men are created equal.” In America they have all kinds of fancy ideas about everyone being entitled to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. This is nonsense, of course, and in Britain we know better. We know our place. If you are born a costermonger or a chimney sweep, you know that life and liberty are not for the likes of you. Happiness, to you, means doffing your flat cap as your betters ride by and performing perfectly choreographed routines for their entertainment.


The English class system may seem peculiar to Americans, but it’s actually rather simple:


The “I Know My Place” sketch, from which this photograph is taken, had the 6ft 5in John Cleese looking down on the 5ft 8in Ronnie Barker, who looked up to Cleese but down on 5ft 1in Ronnie Corbett:


Cleese: (looking down) "I look down on him because I am upper class."

Barker: (looking up) "I look up to him because he is upper class," (looking down) "but I look down to him because he is lower class." (looking straight) "I am middle class."

Corbett: "I know my place."

Cleese: (looking down) "I get a feeling of superiority over them."

Barker: (looking up) "I get a feeling of inferiority from him but a (looking down) feeling of superiority over him."

Corbett: (looking up) "I get a pain in the back of my neck."

Things are changing, however. New-fangled and dangerous egalitarian ideas are creeping in. This started in the Sixties with Dame Barbara Cartland. When BBC interviewer Sandra Harris asked her whether class barriers had broken down, she replied: “Of course they have, or I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to someone like you.”

Posted on 11/11/2006 7:22 AM by Mary Jackson
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