Mansex Fine: Religion, Manliness and Imperialism in Nineteenth-Century British Culture

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Mansex Fine: Religion, Manliness and Imperialism in Nineteenth-Century British Culture. By David Alderson. (Manchester: Manchester University Press. Distributed by St. Martin's Press, New York. 1998. Pp. ix, 207. $79.95.)

The subject of Alderson's book is very broad, but the texts used to support his thesis are mainly literary works of the Romantic and Victorian periods. He starts with Burke and ends with Wilde, but I believe it is Wilde's work and trial that provide the paradigm for this study. Alderson states his thesis on the last page of his text:

Grounded in an Anglican ethico-political sensibility which claimed to reconcile (Protestant) autonomy and (Catholic) submissiveness, ideals of manly self possession became integral to a national/racial character which was believed to possess a historical and global purpose and was defined in opposition to its unstable and feminised European others, the Celts. The `naturalness' of manly values resided in their largely undogmatic anathematisation of a generalisable atavistic principle of 'excess'-political, emotional, sexual-manifestations which were indicative of a lack of self-control which required quasi-patriarchal or even coercive correction. (p. 170)

If I read this correctly, it means that Catholics were suspect of being effeminate. I wonder that anyone besides Alderson would view the Irish in such a way The portrayal of the Irish in Punch, which Alderson uses, is of a simian type, one notch above the apes (they wore clothes and smoked). …