Contemporary English Literature

By Mark Longaker; Edwin C. Bolles | Go to book overview
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POETRY & FICTION
1890-1914
Victoria, 1837-1901
Edward VII, 1901-1910
George V, 1910-1936

ENGLAND AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY

DURING TWO decades before war swept away the last vestiges of the nineteenth century, the high tide of the greatest empire since Rome flowed through the streets of London. It bore the whole harvest of the effort begun in the days of Elizabeth in war, trade, science and colonization, bringing to the upper classes born to enjoy those fruits what was rightly called "the lordliest life on earth." In the brilliant pageantry of the Diamond Jubilee of 1897 it became a spectacle of armed power, of proud young dominions and subject peoples accepting their overlord, and of Englishmen quickened with an imperial consciousness that had not been felt at the Golden Jubilee ten years before. In the center was the Queen, now visibly near the end of her days but still a great symbol of sovereignty, within whose reign the vast majority of her subjects had passed their whole lives. Around her the nation was more loyal and prosperous than it had ever been. No wonder the Englishman thought of his life as "ageless, effortless, ordered" and destined to go on indefinitely as it had been. The solemn warning of Kipling "Recessional" he took to be fine rhetoric.

Of course, the price of all this splendor was high and there

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