Bright Young People
This is a fascinating study of the amorphous body of brittle, peacock-brilliant hedonists who in the 1920s came to be known as the bright young people. There was no intention or planning behind this – it emerged as a reaction to the horrors of the Great War and was quickly seized upon by the media. Its members, thrust into the public eye, became famous and very often notorious. Some, such as Evelyn Waugh and Cecil Beaton, came from relatively modest backgrounds and rode the movement to become highly successful in their fields. Others, like Elizabeth Ponsonby, Stephen Tennant and Brenda Dean Paul used their privileged lifestyles and became celebrated purely for social excesses. It is instructive to see how in today’s vacuous celebrity-led culture, even in the 1920s the mass media’s obsession with surface and glitz was evident. The literary responses to this phenomenon are covered in an instructive chapter, and as a conclusion, the decline of the leading bright young folk are described – rather a melancholic and nostalgic tale.