"The sun sets on Britain," the London Review of Books' July 4 cover proclaims.
No, the provocative headline has nothing to do with the American Revolution.
Outlined in red above the cover illustration of a darkening sky at twilight, the headline refers to literary critic James Wood's illuminating article on Brexit's connection to Eton, the English school for boys that has bred the country's establishment since its founding by Henry VI in 1440.
Running as the review's regular Diary feature, with no other headline, Wood's piece is informed by his own experience at Eton as a middle-class scholarship student. Unlike Wood, many of the school's young men came from the country's ruling class and generations of school alums, known as Old Etonians.
Etonian David Cameron when he was prime minister called for the Brexit referendum, and left office when it was unexpectedly approved. Brexit proponent Boris Johnson, now the leading Conservative candidate to replace Theresa May as prime minister, attended the school, as did Jacob Rees-Mogg and other Brexit supporters.
Wood echoes author Fintan O'Toole in finding that the Etonians' Brexit advocacy rose from "a combination of Thatcherite lust for economic deregulation and postwar nostalgia for lost imperial might."
The Etonian Brexit supporters all took a general history class at the school at age 13, reading Jan Morris's book about the rise and fall of the British empire, "Heaven's Command." For Johnson, Cameron and Rees-Mogg, Winston Churchill's funeral in 1965 marked the sunset of British glory, briefly restored by Thatcher.
Johnson's admiring biography of Churchill reflects his belief that Britain can revive its greatness apart from Europe. Rees-Mogg has expressed similar views. The Brexit supporters share a resentment that Germany, which lost World War II, leads Europe economically while Britain, a war victor, has declined.
Wood points out that Churchill's great-grandson, Etonian Hugo Dixon, is a main Brexit opponent. Yet old school ties are stronger than political beliefs: Johnson in the acknowledgements for his Churchill book thanks Dixon, at whose Greek home he wrote a chapter.
Unlike Etonians who have joined Britain's ruling class, Wood has enjoyed success in the United States writing for the New Yorker. A Harvard professor, Wood is one of the few literary critics who has achieved widespread readership. Also a novelist, Wood is married to author Claire Messud.
For Wood, an exit from the European Union will mean "the sun sets on Britain." But he understands that the sun never sets on Old Etonians, whose wealth and power never wane.