I am looking for the source of a notion of Edmund Burke’s that the English aristocracy turned to eccentric behavior in order to distinguish themselves from the “new men” who were acquiring estates in the country and aping the aristocrats’ lifestyle and deportment. It struck me as a strikingly modern psychological-sociological observation, especially in the way that it teeters on the cusp between perceptive and outlandish. (I am quite sure the theory was Burke’s, but not 100% sure – likely from the “Reflections” or from one of his speeches on Warren Hastings.)

  • Is it possible that you are thinking of the family letter he wrote about Robert Crook, as discussed by F. P. Lock? "To salve his faith in the social hierarchy, Burke had to remind himself that Crook was a nouveau riche, and (as the allusion to Molière hints) only by courtesy a only by courtesy a 'gentleman'." – Brian Z Jun 30 '20 at 17:05
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    Many of such allusions were made not by Edmund Burke but Bernard Burke in his "Burke's Peerage". Could you be thinking about him? – gktscrk Jun 30 '20 at 17:07

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