The aristocracy of silver fork novels were intrinsically tied to politics. The social calendar revolved around the opening and closing of Parliament, and a peer was expected to contribute votes to his party. The difference between Whigs and Tories revolved around more than just political opinion: it informed on social circles, traditions of behavior, and even dress.

The Great Reform Act of 1832 opened up voting rights slightly to the wealthier middle class, and these class tensions played out heavily in the genre.

'On the Science of Electioneering'. Punch and London Charivari (London, England), Saturday, September 18, 1841; pg. 110. New Readerships.

‘On the Science of Electioneering’.
Punch and London Charivari (London, England), Saturday, September 18, 1841; pg. 110. New Readerships.


  • “’you surely are by far too enlightened to suppose that this country can ever again be governed upon Tory principles’” (Cheveley 297).
  • “’a Tory is either a fool or a knave’” (The Governess 107).


  • “the Whigs are a horrid set of people (politically speaking), vote for the Roman Catholics, and never get into place; they give very good dinners, however” (Pelham 2:82).
  • “’believe me, moderate Whiggism is a most excellent creed. It adapts itself to every possible change, – to every conceivable variety of circumstance. It is the only politics for us who are the aristocrats of that free body who rebel against tyrannical laws” (Paul Clifford 1:162).
  • He “was a man of sound and upright principles, though unfortunately a whig” (Hyde Nugent 1:10).

Women in Politics

  • “’she begins to rave about politics – and devoutly wishes the nation had not debt . . . and wishes Ministers would compel the cotters to build chimneys, and give up potatoes’” (Granby 3:194).
  • “’Oh, how I hate all politics! . . . Begging the gentlemen’s pardons, I don’t think it improves them at all. It makes them so business-like and wiggy. As for us women, it really ruins us completely’” (Granby 3:193-194).
  • “’Fortunately she is a tory [sic]. That side suits our sex the best . . . I cannot abide a female democrat. It is shocking to hear ladies raving about liberty’” (Granby 3:194).
  • “’Ladies are not formed for politicians, at least I hope no lady with whom I have an connexion either is, or fancies herself so’” (Love and Pride 2:159-160).
  • “’Women are not formed to rule; and sovereignty is not their sphere’” (Agnes Serle 1:126).

Hunting and Politics

  • “Lord Estonville kept a fine pack of fox-hounds for the purpose of maintaining his political popularity” (The Heir of Mordaunt 1:140).
  • “’I am entirely of the opinion, first, that it is absolutely necessary for the safety of the nation that game should be preserved; secondly, that if you take away game you take away country gentlemen’” (Pelham 2:249-250).
  • “Politics could never supply the erudite conversation of sportsmen, for, in reality, the thorough-bred country gentleman hates politics, as soon as his own election is over” (The Governess 44).

General Conventions

  • “revolutions in politics have the singular faculty of accomplishing revolutions in dress, – as the moment-hand and hour-hand of a dial are actuated by the same movement” (Cecil 10-11).
  • “It is supposed that nineteen was considered too tender an age for a commencement of the political education of men who are enabled by the law of the land to become legislators at on-and-twenty” (Arlington 1:69).
  • “’is he Whig or Tory?’ ‘I don’t know: what was his father?’ ‘A staunch Tory of the true sort’ . . . ‘Then I bet the son is a Whig: hereditary politics are out of date, and now-a-days the sons are found on the opposite side’” (Arlington 1:93).
  • “Men do not really desire to be equal, but they do desire (though perhaps they dare not always avow it) to be distinguished above their fellows” (Arlington 3:202-203).
  • “Party threw no cloud over pleasure. Fashion took no note of faction” (The O’Briens and the O’Flahertys 2:149).
  • “’Ask Lord de Lisle what a Radical is like, and he will tell you that every man who differs from himself and the aristocracy of –shire, is a Radical’” (The Governess 106).
  • “’In my opinion,’ quietly added Lord Calvert, ‘politics, in its proper acceptation, is the only study worthy the attention of a man of sense’” (At Home 1:191).
  • ‘”Never consider politics as a profession. Be independent in your principles as you are in your circumstances; but never condescend to be a party-man’” (At Home 1:192).



One thought on “Politics

  1. Pingback: Silver Fork Etiquette: A Hunterian Associate Project on 19th century self-help fiction | University of Glasgow Library

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