The Making of Victorian Values: Decency and Dissent in Britain, 1789-1837

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Penguin, 2007 - 445 pages
Ben Wilson's The Making of Victorian Valuesis the history of an era rather like our own-a time when dissenters and rebels were hemmed in by conformists and hardheaded authoritarians, a time when a nation on the eve of global domination fretted about its future. It was, however, a period when those who argued that a British empire would be a disaster for liberty were eventually squashed by imperialists, just as those who railed against mindless materialism were in the end rolled over by industrialists and the promoters of luxury goods. The Making of Victorian Valuesreveals an era when people were obsessed with the need to appear authentic, and yet forever had doubts about who was and who wasn't-concerns familiar to the "me" age we know so well.

Wilson begins with the libertine spirit inspired by Byron, Shelley, and the Romantics; he ends with the rise and eventual victory of stolid middle-class values. The result is a radical tour de force, a brilliant reworking of the pre-Victorian age. Once portrayed by Paul Johnson in his bestselling The Birth of the Modernas the years when virtue finally trumped corruption, Wilson reveals a far more compelling story-and a more engrossing and scandalous one, too. It is a story about hypochondriacs and cranks, killjoys and dandies, rakes and priests, advocates of free-speech and those against it-people who were made awe struck by Britain's emerging role as the economic and political powerhouse of the world, but who were also deeply anxious about the responsibilities a vast empire might require.

Wilson is heir to the great radical historians of the twentieth century, E. J. Hobsbawm and E. P. Thompson, among them. He brushes aside scholarly politesse and refuses to join in unnecessary academic point-settling, and his invigorating literary abilities will win many admirers who would otherwise know this history only through the works of nineteenth-century fiction.
 

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THE MAKING OF VICTORIAN VALUES: Decency and Dissent in Britain: 1789-1837

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They didn't emerge full-blown from the prissy head of history: The values we now associate with the Victorians were formed by the experiences, mores and manners of their immediate ancestors.Wilson ... Read full review

Contents

Untaught Feelings
1
HYPOCHONDRIA 17891815
23
Introduction to Part One
25
SINKING SINKING SINKING
37
DRUNK ON LIBERTY
66
RESOLUTE DEBAUCHES
91
REFORMING SAINTS
117
TOO STRONG FOR LAW
140
ACADEMIES OF VICE
243
RICH AND RESPECTABLE 18211837
271
Introduction to Part Three
273
BYRONED
284
PROGRESS
307
MERRY ENGLAND
336
NO CANT
362
Acknowledgements
390

THE GLORIES OF THE GREAT
169
THE THEATER OF WAR
193
THE ARTS OF PEACE 18151821
211
Introduction to Part Two
213
INJUDICIOUS KINDNESS
219
Notes and References
391
Bibliography
414
Index
434
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Page 421 - LIFE IN LONDON : or, the Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, Esq., and his Elegant Friend, Corinthian Tom.

About the author (2007)

Ben Wilson is a graduate of Cambridge University and the author of The Triumph of Laughter: William Hone and the Fight for The Free Press, published in the UK in 2005.

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