“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Julian Assange And The English Middle Class.

with 20 comments

Try as I might I can never understand the English middle classes.

I am probably somewhat at a disadvantage in understanding their attitudes and fixations, but Julian Assange’s release on conditional bail has revealed another peculiarity.

Assange is staying at the Manor house of one of his backers, Captain Vaughan Smith.

Smith is the founder of the Frontline, a journalist club, and presumably not short of a penny or two, as he is standing surety with others for Julian Assange, yet the Sydney morning Herald reports that Captain Smith will be charging his guest during the stay:

“Ellingham Hall, he told the court yesterday, was a perfect location for Mr Assange as it was around a mile away from the nearest police station.

“It’s a short distance on a bicycle. I can cycle it in about 15 minutes,” the Guardian reported Captain Smith as saying.

“It’s an environment where he would be surrounded. We have members of staff. My parents live in proximity as well. My father was a Queen’s Messenger and a colonel in the Grenadier Guards.”

The manor has been in the Smith family for 225 years and was previously owned by the Johnsons, who the Smiths married into, Captain Smith told the Guardian before the court hearing.

“Some of the buildings are even older. On the walls are paintings of the people who bred me,” he said. “My grandfather liked shooting and I’m partial to it myself.”

Paying guests at the large estate can spend their days shooting pheasants and partridges and dine on the produce grown in an organic farm on the grounds.

Mr Assange would also value the privacy of the large estate. The nearest train station is Diss, the Guardian reports, while the nearest city, Norwich, is a half-an-hour drive away.

But there’s a catch. Captain Smith says the Australian has to pay for his stay at Ellingham Hall, and at starting rates of £10, it might burn a fairly big hole in his pocket. “

How true that is I can’t say, but it seems strange to charge a house guest, or at least it does to me.

What peculiar middle-class customs they have in Norfolk?

Written by modernityblog

17/12/2010 at 02:45

20 Responses

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  1. Who exactly is supposed to be middle class in this story?


    17/12/2010 at 02:47

  2. er, Capt. Smith and his folks…..


    17/12/2010 at 02:48

  3. Surely these people are upper class! Middle class is a fluid term which might include people who are very wealthy but once you get into ancestral portrait territory then you are probably upper class – and this man’s family has apparently lived on the same estate for over 225 years which makes it seem an open and shut case. (And I’ve just spotted that his house has its own Wikipedia entry.)

    (Actually my sister-in-;aw has a small painting of some early c.19 ancestors but she lives in Palmers Green so probably counts as middle class!)

    Sarah AB

    17/12/2010 at 09:11

  4. Yeah, well, sort of, but he has to rent out rooms in his house, so I’d argue the upper class wouldn’t have to do that 🙂

    Plus he worked for a living….


    17/12/2010 at 10:41

  5. At Mesquito Manor guests may cut firewood, trap hogs, mow pastures, dig kaleche, and repair bobwire fences. All for a low low low price of $200 a day.


    17/12/2010 at 11:26

  6. Would Assange be safe tho? 🙂


    17/12/2010 at 12:44

  7. Oh, sure. But not from blisters.


    17/12/2010 at 17:26

  8. Mesq,

    So when the Feds coming looking for Assange you’ll be there with your shotgun? Ready to hold back the encroachment of the Government?


    18/12/2010 at 00:56

  9. If they have a warrant, they are welcome to him. Even if it’s merely for Swedish “rape.”


    18/12/2010 at 10:53

  10. I was going to say what Sarah said – surely he’s the ruling class?


    18/12/2010 at 19:27

  11. Well, he’s not really ruling anything, surely, you mean the potential ruling class?

    I doubt any “real” member of a ruling class would rent out rooms….

    That brings me to Richard Branson, who rents out an Island that he owns….which to me appears strange, if you had his money would you, need, want people running around your place, just for a few bob?

    I don’t think it is all down to money or having a Manor, rather that mean, penny pinching mentality that you so often find amongst the lower middle classes and how that has infected other strata of society…

    That’s what I am trying to get at…the insecurity that compels otherwise rich and wealthy people to act like cheap landlords…it strikes me as a very middle class attitude


    18/12/2010 at 19:38

  12. I agree that penny-pinching and selfishness are middle class traits, but I don’t know enough about the captain to know if this is the right way to see him. He was an officer in the Grenadier Guards, which I don’t think many lower middle class people achieve.

    The ruling class in Britain is not all about money. It is about, if this is not too pretentious a term, cultural capital too. The people that run the civil service, the diplomats, the officer corps, the MPs, the magistrates and judges, the barristers – not all of them are rich, but they have power.


    18/12/2010 at 19:45

  13. But why put up £20,000 surety for Assange, THEN charge him rent?

    As I wrote, after years of study I still don’t understand the English Middle Classes…. 🙂


    18/12/2010 at 20:17

  14. When I am living frugally, I am “mean.” When I live profligately, I am “materialistic.” We bourgeosie really can’t win.


    18/12/2010 at 21:05

  15. But why put up £20,000 surety for Assange, THEN charge him rent?

    He must be hoping Assange is going to be staying a long time if he’s going to recoup that investment.


    18/12/2010 at 21:39

  16. This is off topic, but it relates to another pathology of some sections of the middle class: sexual exoticism.

    I just caught up with Assange’s dating profile: “I like women from countries that have sustained political turmoil. Western culture seems to forge women that are valueless and inane.”



    19/12/2010 at 09:47

  17. Tut tut the Daily Mail!!


    19/12/2010 at 14:19

  18. What is it with you brits obsession with middle class this or that?


    19/12/2010 at 16:41

  19. Bruno,

    It is not just “Brits”.

    More a sociological point, you can’t really understand the English or their history unless you understand how they relate to “class” and its interaction with them.

    In this case, I see it is rather peculiar how someone would talk about Assange as a friend, put money up to support him, yet then want to charge him rent in a large empty manor

    That to me is rather incongruous.

    It is that commodifying of relationships down to pound and pence that I find so peculiar amongst the English middle classes.


    19/12/2010 at 16:59

  20. […] Julian Assange And The English Middle Class. […]

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