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The Victorian Eighteenth Century

B.W. Young

Published in print October 2007 | ISBN: 9780199256228
Published online January 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780191719660 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199256228.001.0001
The Victorian Eighteenth Century

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The Victorians were preoccupied by the 18th century. It was central to many 19th-century debates, particularly those concerning the place of history and religion in national life. This book explores the diverse responses of key Victorian writers and thinkers — Thomas Carlyle, John Henry Newman, Leslie Stephen, Vernon Lee, and M. R. James — to a period which commanded their interest throughout the Victorian era, from the accession of Queen Victoria to the opening decades of the 20th century. They were, on the one hand, appalled by the apparent frivolity of the 18th century, which was denounced by Carlyle as a dispiriting successor to the culture of Puritan England, and, on the other they were concerned to continue its secularizing influence on English culture, as is seen in the pioneering work of Leslie Stephen, who was passionately keen to transform the legacy of 18th-century scepticism into Victorian agnosticism. The Victorian interest in the 18th century was never a purely insular matter, and the history of 18th-century France, Germany, and Italy played a dominant role in the 19th-century historical understanding. A debate between generations was enacted, in which Romanticism melded into Victorianism. The Victorians were haunted by the 18th century, both metaphorically and literally, and the book closes with consideration of the culturally resonant 18th-century ghosts encountered in the fiction of Vernon Lee and M. R. James.

Keywords: Thomas Carlyle; John Henry Newman; Leslie Stephen; Vernon Lee; M.R. James; Puritans; Romanticism; Victorianism; English culture; Victorian culture

Book.  208 pages. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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Table of Contents

Introduction in The Victorian Eighteenth Century

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Carlyle and the ‘Distracted Century’ in The Victorian Eighteenth Century

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The Stephen Family and the Eighteenth Century in The Victorian Eighteenth Century

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Hanoverian Hauntings in The Victorian Eighteenth Century

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