Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Death in the Victorian Family

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Death in the Victorian Family

Article excerpt

Death in the Victorian Family. By Pat Jalland. (New York: Oxford University Press. 1996. Pp. xii, 464. $45.00.)

Victorian England is often perceived in the popular mind as a period of cultural repression and religious hypocrisy. Much of what that age valued has been denied in the more permissive atmosphere of late twentieth-century culture to the point that accurate analyses of Victorianism-and particularly Victorian religion-must bear the burden of popular bias and an intellectual climate far removed from the world of the Victorians. Historians like Gertrude Himmelfarb have sought to temper our perceptions with studies of Victorian society and thought that point to the common virtues held by most Victorians which transcended class, gender, and ideology. These transcendent virtues provided a core of beliefs which blended traditional ideas with new socio-economic realities.

Pat Jalland's work on death in Victorian England follows in a similar vein. Drawing on detailed personal accounts of the deaths of close family members found in fifty-five diaries and memoirs (the same sources used in her earlier work, Women, Marriage and Politics, 1860-1914), Jalland offers a revealing picture of the process and perception of death in middle-class Victorian society. Jalland challenges Phillipe Aries' view, included in his ground-breaking study The Hour of Our Death, that nineteenth-century death and dying conformed to a Romantic ideal of the "beautiful death. …

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