Philobiblon: A different view of Victorian life

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A different view of Victorian life

I'm now reading Margaret Oliphant's Hester, published 1883. It is a classic three-volume novel - we might call it a family saga - of strong women and weak and hopeless men. (At least so far ... I'm at the end of Volume I, but I get the feeling it is going to continue that way.) Catherine Vernon, the family matriarch, saves the family bank at the beginning of the book, and her niece, Hester, a strong-minded young woman, is shaping up as her replacement.

But I was particularly taken with its view of the Victorian era: "Mrs John Vernon" is Hester's mother, the wife of the man who almost destroyed the bank. and obviously not admired by the author.

"Mrs. John Vernon was considered very refined and elegant according to the language of the day, a young lady with many accomplishments. But it was the fashion of the time to be unpractical, just as it is the fashion of our time that women should understand business and be ready for any emergency."

Not a customary view of the 1880s ...


Blogger Ronnie Smartt said...

It is always the fashion of the time to think ourselves generally more advanced and probably better than our predecessors. With our belief in progress each generation considers itself the acme of perfection, except perhaps for a few with a little more insight.

12/01/2005 04:50:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Too true! There's also, however, a contradictory impulse, as expressed by the Daily Mail, to claim everything in the past was far better than today.

12/03/2005 12:15:00 am  

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