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Post-war ‘decadence’

01 February 2019

January 31st, 1919.

[The inquest on the death in her Savoy Hotel suite of the actress Billie Carleton, 22, who had performed in a daring costume at a recent Victory Ball, had pushed the Peace Conference off the front pages of certain newspapers.]

IT WAS hoped that the end of the war would find the nation grown serious. We have passed through experiences which we should have expected to sober the national mind. Many people, no doubt, are duly impressed with the gravity of all that has happened and is happening, but it must be sorrowfully confessed that the signs of improvement are by no means evident. Last week, when the representatives of the free nations of the earth were assembled in conference over issues of the most tremendous import, the columns of our daily papers were filled with the details of a sordid inquest that seemed to absorb most of the public attention. That the Press should give it so large a share of its space when questions of such vast consequence are under discussion is a disquieting fact. And the case itself to which we refer is not an isolated incident, but is rather symptomatic of a diseased condition of society. The prevalence of a degenerate habit of drug-taking was made manifest by the revelations at the inquiry. In other ways also it appears that there is a tendency to resume the sillinesses and trivialities which we were lamenting in the days immediately preceding the war, and to regard the war as a tiresome episode which, for the time being, suspended them. Pastimes in themselves innocent are perverted into orgies. . . The reign of decadence seems to be approaching.

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