This question has NEVER been asked, never mind answered, here. Goodness. Lighten up, people.
Again I must quote Shaw to illustrate a point or two before putting the question to you guys:
The fact that English is spelt conventionally and not phonetically makes the art of recording speech almost impossible. What is more, it places the modern dramatist, who writes for America as well as England, in a most trying position. Take for example my American captain and my English lady. I have spelt the word conduce, as uttered by the American captain, as cawndooce, to suggest (very roughly) the American pronunciation to English readers. Then why not spell the same word, when uttered by Lady Cicely, as kerndewce, to suggest the English pronunciation to American readers? To this I have absolutely no defence: I can only plead that an author who lives in England necessarily loses his consciousness of the peculiarities of English speech, and sharpens his consciousness of the points in which American speech differs from it; so that it is more convenient to leave English peculiarities to be recorded by American authors.
Blah-blah-blah. You can't help loving the guy, even when he's talking nonsense. Note one thing here, though: while parodying American peculiarities more or less correctly ("cawndooce"), the intrepid "author who lives in England" fails to see (or simply disregards) the fact that American readers (rhotic speakers that we are) might be puzzled by his rendering of the English version as he presents it. Kerrrrrrrrrndewce? Really? Ah, those Brits ...
It invariably takes me a few moments to adjust when I'm talking to "those Brits," or watching a BBC show. The point is - yes, the two versions are different. Now, to business.
What puzzles me is the fact that at some point in the past (say around Shakespeare's time) all English dialects must have been rhotic (as suggested by, well, the sheer presence of the letter "r" in the English alphabet, for one thing. Wait ... It gets better ... Some British authors and actors make it a point, when portraying British aristocracy, to actually roll their r's (the way Italians, Spaniards, and Russians roll theirs)).
Wow. Please bear with me.
There is a theory (don't hold me to it; I can't remember where I read it; I am frivolous like that) that Byron and the Shelleys, as well as General Howe and General Burgoyne, spoke a version of English that was a lot closer to the American version of today than the British one. Some proponents of this theory maintain that some kind of high-brow conspiracy took place in England towards the middle of the Nineteenth Century whose purpose was to distance the aristocracy from the rabble - well, phonetically: hence the missing r's, and some h's, and the inexplicable French-like nasality of certain sounds. (I thought you guys hated the French).
Needless to say, any dialect, no matter how artificial in the beginning, will sooner or later take on life of its own and develop into something lively and natural-sounding: it's merely a matter of time, and not much time, either, only a generation or two. There isn't a shred of affectation in run-of-the-mill British speech today.
My question, though, is this: is there any validity to the theory? Does the author of the theory, whoever he may be, have a point? Is there any actual evidence to support it?