'Dominion: The History of England Volume V', by Peter Ackroyd - Review

By Crane, David | The Spectator, September 15, 2018 | Go to article overview

'Dominion: The History of England Volume V', by Peter Ackroyd - Review


Crane, David, The Spectator


'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us ... in short,' as Charles Dickens famously told the first readers of A Tale of Two Cities, it was a period very much like their own.

Dickens was right. John Stuart Mill once claimed that the two great 'seminal minds' of the period were Coleridge and Bentham, and in that brilliant yoking of opposites -- the warm, creative current of Coleridgean thought and the chillier stream of Benthamite utilitarianism -- is summed up all the contradictions and paradoxes that the Victorian age was heir to.

This is the fascination of the period. It was simultaneously the age of Archdeacon Grantly and John Henry Newman; of Cobden's Manchester School and Disraeli's Young England, of the Lancashire mills and the Eglinton tournament; of brash confidence and crippling anxiety; of stultification and thrusting modernity; of philanthropic energy and harsh indifference -- and the challenge for any general history is to make some narrative sense of all this. Macaulay could look back 170 years ago with some complacency on a story of steady improvement; but no writer as steeped in Dickens and Dickens's London as Peter Ackroyd is --'London made Dickens, and Dickens made London,' he has written elsewhere --is going to fall for any such Whiggish optimism.

In fact, if there is a unifying factor here it is just how grim the whole century and most of those who sailed in her can seem if you look at things through Ackroyd's eyes. He has a soft spot for Canning, Peel, the early Gladstone and, oddly, that old 'painted pantaloon', Lord Palmerston; but when it comes to the country's rulers, from the old, mad, blind George III and his 'arch-mediocrity' Lord Liverpool, to the spoiled and petulant Victoria and that mighty bollard of inertia, Lord Salisbury, that is really just about it.

He has more than a point of course -- there is not a lot to be said for Prinny or William IV -- and not much more for the aristocratic interest that for most of the century clung on to power. In the aftermath of the Corn Laws repeal an exultant Cobden might tell Francis Place to 'bless' himself that he lived in such times; but as Ackroyd rams home, every single step towards democracy, civil and religious liberty or free trade was bitterly opposed by the landed interests who resisted change of all kind. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

'Dominion: The History of England Volume V', by Peter Ackroyd - Review
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    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.