Magazine March 22, 2021, Issue

Masses of Humanity

(Deberarr/Getty Images)

In the lost city we lived like aristos. Not robber barons or barons, but gentry — the people who supplied the narrative voice or narrative focus in the great age of realistic fiction, from the waning of the picaresque to maybe just past the Second World War. “I” never fixed the plumbing or emptied bed pans, did the dishes or cooked a meal. He or she never rewired a light; sometimes, romantically, he might stoke a fire in a fireplace, but he never chopped and stacked the wood. There were occasional adventure stories and explorer’s tales, but “I” overwhelmingly came …

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