Old Gods Falling

Old Gods Falling

Old Gods Falling

Old Gods Falling

Excerpt

EIGHTEEN eighty-seven! Jubilee year, when the British Empire celebrated the completion of half a century with Queen Victoria on the throne. June 21st was the day of celebration, and George Gissing declared the scene 'amazing'. "At night all the great streets were packed from side to side with a clearly divided double current of people, all vehicles being forbidden. You walked at the rate of a funeral horse from top of Bond Street to the Bank, by way of Pall Mall, Strand, etc. Such a concourse of people I never saw. The effect of illuminated London from the top of our house here was strange. Of course, I didn't try to see the daylight proceedings."

So a casual observer might have written after the Jubilee of George V. in 1935. And they had much the same motive for celebration in 1887; in the words of Sir Richard Holmes, Librarian at Windsor Castle under Edward VII, "the Jubilee was a great rally of the people round the Throne; it was the apotheosis of constitutional monarchy, it was the triumph of that unique system which had been built up through the centuries." It was an occasion for hearty self-congratulation by the respectable, self-respecting body of the public which formed the backbone of the British Empire and the bulwark of its security--the men of property who comprised the great new middle-class created by the Industrial Revolution.

These people had more obvious cause for self-congratulation than their grandchildren forty-eight years later, for theirs was the golden age of prosperous complacence. During the half- century since Victoria came to the throne, the discontent prevailing at her accession had vanished from memory; the "hungry forties", when men like Thackeray were republicans, Peel took his life in his hands to repeal the Corn Laws and replenish the the national exchequer with an income tax of sevenpence in the . . .

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