1. The Victorian Age – Background History

1. The Victorian Compromise

The word ‘Victorian’ derives from Queen Victoria who ruled for more than half a century and became the symbol of the nation. It was a complex and contradictory era: it was the age of progress stability and great social reforms. 

The Victorians were great moralisers, they were obliged to support certain values which offered solutions or escapes. They promoted a code of values based on personal duty, hard work, respectability and charity. 

These values were refined by the upper and middle classes who had the political and economic power. Respectability distiguished the middle from the lower classes and it was a mixture of morality, hypocrisy, severity and conformity to social standards. 

The family was a patriarchal unit where the husband represented the authority and the key role of women regarded the education of children and the managing of the house. 

Sexuality was repressed in its public and private forms, and prudery is the most extreme manifestation led to the denunciation of nudity in art and the rejection of words with sexual connotation in vocabulary. 

In the late 19th century expressions of civic pride and national fervor were frequent among the British. Patriotism was deeply influenced by the idea of racial superiority. There was a powerful belief that ‘races’ of the world were divided by fundamental physical and intellectual differences. The concept of ‘the white man’s burder’ was exalted in the works of colonial writers like Rudyard Kipling and the expansion of the empire was often regarded as a mission. 

Victorian emphasis upon moral conduct was influenced by Evangelicalism, inspired by the teachings of John Wesley (founder of Methodism). 

The Utilitarians and their theorist Jeremy Bentham neglected human and cultural values. The key words of their philosophy were: usefulness, happiness and avoidance of pain. 

Charles Dicken...

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