The Victorian Conscience

The Victorian Conscience

The Victorian Conscience

The Victorian Conscience

Excerpt

"VICTORIANISM" in the twentieth century is a term of reproach. It has come to mean all those habits of thought and sentiment personified in Mrs. Grundy and identified with the conventions of Queen Victoria--those unimaginative, bourgeois proprieties against which our rebellious age levels satiric shafts. We scorn its eminent respectability; its complacent, humorless, pompous customs; its hypocrisy, particularly in matters of sex; its prudish fear of a literature that "calls the mantling blush to the maiden check." We recall that it criticized Dickens' Tale of Two Cities as mere rubbish, Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre as a free novel, heathen and horrid in taste, George Eliot Adam Bede as vulgar, Mrs. Browning Aurora Leigh as hysterically indecent, Thackeray Vanity Fair as morally disgusting, Kingsley Griffith Gaunt as immoral ("the modesty and purity of women cannot survive its perusal"), and Meredith The Ordeal of Richard Feverel as indelicate, quite improper for the genteel clientele of Mudie's Circulating Library. We remember Tennyson's alarm at "maiden fancies wallowing in the troughs of Zolaism." We cannot forget that Hardy's career as a novelist was prematurely concluded by the vicious attacks on Jude the Obscure . We smile . . .

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