Call Me Mister

Call Me Mister

George Watson

An essayist laments the demise of formal address and other useful ceremonial distinctions.  

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0m 40sec

Some years ago, when T. S. Eliot was the grand old man of English letters, a younger poet, Kathleen Raine, wrote a letter to a newspaper complaining about the growing lack of formality in London literary life.

She had just had a letter from an aspiring young poet she hardly knew addressing her as "Dear Katherine." So the offense was double. Her name was Kathleen, after all, and in any case they were not on first-name terms. Worse still, the letter writer was asking her to show his poems to someone he called Tom Eliot, whom he had never met. It was all going too far, said Miss Raine, too far and too fast, and unless someone protested it would all go further still.

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About the Author

George Watson, a Fellow of St. John's College at Cambridge University, is the author of The Lost Literature of Socialism (1998).

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