Chapter

Poverty and the Ideal Self

Thomas Dixon

in The Invention of Altruism

Published by British Academy

Published in print May 2008 | ISBN: 9780197264263
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734816 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5871/bacad/9780197264263.003.0007

Series: British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Monographs

Poverty and the Ideal Self

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The 1880s were the pivotal years in Victorian moral thought. A new wave of awareness of the plight of the urban poor was expressed in a range of both practical and intellectual activities. Some, such as Charles Booth, committed themselves to a vast project of social-scientific surveying and classifying of the urban poor. The 1880s was also the decade that saw the flourishing of respectable unbelief. The atheist Charles Bradlaugh took his seat in Parliament, and the agnostic Thomas Huxley became president of the Royal Society. The best-selling novel of the decade, Mrs Humphry Ward’s Robert Elsmere (1888), told the story of an Anglican clergyman losing his faith and founding a new religious brotherhood in the East End of London based on a humanistic reinterpretation of Christianity.

Keywords: Victorian moral thought; 1880s; Charles Bradlaugh; Thomas Huxley; respectable unbelief; Robert Elsmere; Charles Booth

Chapter.  20909 words.  Illustrated.

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