The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 22 August

Are begging letters from friends and acquaintances the new junk mail? Thomas Blaikie advises on how to reply
Dear Thomas,
A new phenomenon seems to be the offspring of our friends sending begging letters, often backed up by texts and calls from their parents. Recently, a young man asked us if we could put him in touch with anyone who might help with funding for a website he wants to set up. He was looking for £10,000. We sent him £50 but found the whole situation embarrassing.
Mary Courtney, Birmingham

Dear Mary,
I’ve heard about this, too. Emily- Rose Eastop was recently in the news when she engaged in something called crowdfunding, to raise £26,000 to do a postgraduate degree at Oxford. Crowdfunding is where you advertise online for contributions from absolutely anybody. Emily-Rose has been attacked as spoilt and posh but her methods are e€ffective. Sir Simon Rattle, the conductor, has pledged £1,000 and Steven Pinker, the popular science author, also has donated. Crowdfunding is on the increase among the young to fund all kinds of enterprises.

In your case, your friend’s son is taking a more strategic approach but it amounts to the same thing. I’m not sure that necessarily it has to be embarrassing for you. Enterprising young people can hardly be blamed for trying to take advantage of their parents’ connections and have done so throughout the generations. You may recoil in principle from the tiniest whi€ of nepotism but at least it’s an improvement on them moping in their rooms.

You’ve assumed that this young person wants to be given money but it could be that his request is: do you know anyone who can help? You could respond either yes or no, perhaps adding that he needs to make his intentions a little clearer. Is he looking for donors or investors? He should be looking for investors, so he’ll have to explain how his website will be a good investment.

But in other instances, young people want funding for travel or, as with Emily-Rose, to pay for a degree. There’s no investment aspect. Should they approach their parents’ better-off€ friends? It might be more tactful to try crowdfunding in the Œfirst place because then the appeal is only to strangers, but I don’t absolutely outlaw the former method, if undertaken with caution.

By tradition, those with largesse have always given to others known through personal connection and thought worthwhile. The response should be straightforward and unembarrassed but not unfriendly. You either do or don’t think the proposal viable; you can or cannot help. Whatever, there’s no turning the tide now. The old-fashioned system of patronage is back.

One thing, though: the parents of the young person who is raising funds should stay out of it entirely.

Please send your questions to or write to him at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER


According to a recent BBC report, apartment-living in Paris is perilous. And since most of the city is apartments, it’s a worry. The buildings are old and sound insulation is poor. But, complain that you hear every cluck of Madame’s Louboutin heels on the floor above, and you’ll get a curt note from her accompanied by a solicitor’s letter, saying that she has just restored her parquet and rugs would ruin the effect. Never mind the effect of her brutal stilettos. A few geranium leaves drifting onto a neighbour’s balcony will also provoke a legal gale. Best not to contemplate the unthinkable – a pushchair in the hallway! The Palais de Justice beckons for years to come.

What’s the point? Madame de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV, complained of noise nuisance from below at Versailles, so while she was away at one of her other palaces, the floors were ripped up and the gaps stuffed with flock. Could this be a plan for Paris? Although it wouldn’t deal with the stray geranium leaves. No, I think the Parisians are having far too much fun with their grand lawyerly exchanges. Unbearable to give them up.