VIRGINIA WOOLF SMITES THE MIDDLEBROWS. I posted here about how I was impressed at an early age (perhaps seven) by an article in Life magazine which divided people by their lifestyles into lower brow, middle brow, or high brow. I have recently, some sixty years later, discovered that Virginia Woolf was one of earliest users of the classification system. This article in Slate by David Haglund says that the first use of “middlebrow” was by Punch in 1925, only seven years before Woolf wrote this attack on Middlebrows, which was published posthumously. (My spelling of middlebrow is all over the lot, but everybody seems to spell it differently.) I think that Woolf was trying for a light, humorous touch, and failing. She purports to be praising low brows and high brows as opposed to middle brows, but the condescension to low brows matches the condescension to middle brows. Woolf concludes her essay/draft letter: “If any human being, man, woman, dog, cat or half–crushed worm dares call me ‘middlebrow’ I will take my pen and stab him, dead.”

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