The Girl with the Swansdown Seat

The Girl with the Swansdown Seat

The Girl with the Swansdown Seat

The Girl with the Swansdown Seat

Excerpt

"The history of the Victorian Age will never be written; we know too much about it," said Lytton Strachey, in the language of Gilbert Chesterton. He might have said there was no Victorian Age. The two generations and three nations of Englishmen who were Queen Victoria's subjects had little in common but their boundaries in space and time. The landed lord, the city merchant, the factory worker of 1837 inhabited widely different worlds; and their children who saw the dim newsreels of the Queen's funeral in 1901 had lived through more change, material and moral, than half a dozen preceding generations.

The absurdity of the label "Victorian" is never more apparent than in generalizations about "Victorian morality" --a phrase often used to describe a rigid, Puritanical attitude towards sex. In this sense, "Victorian," and particularly "mid-Victorian," are almost synonyms for "virtuous"; the words suggest a tableau of pure women and passionless men, citizens of a solemn, glandless Utopia where duty has routed desire and children are frequently born but never made.

Little research is necessary to show that this pretty picture-post-card oleograph of sex life in nineteenth-century England has no more relation to reality than Edward Lear's description of the domestic habits of the Jumblies. It is questionable, of course, whether the sexual behaviour . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.