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People, not abstract ideas, make history, and nowhere is this more revealed than in A. N. Wilson's superb portrait of the Victorians, in which hundreds of different lives have been pieced together to tell a story - one which is still unfinished in our own day. The 'global village' is a Victorian village and many of the ideas we take for granted, for good or ill, originated with these extraordinary, self-confident people. What really animated their spirit, and how did they remake the world in their view? In an entertaining and often dramatic narrative, A. N. Wilson shows us remarkable people in the very act of creating the Victorian age.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099451860
ISBN-10: 0099451867
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 49mm)
Pages: 752
Imprint: Arrow Books Ltd
Publisher: Cornerstone
Publish Date: 4-Sep-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » A N Wilson's compendious and exuberant account of the Victorian era is provocative in that he sees our world as the Victorian world unchanged. It's not a matter of influence, but of basic social structure and spiritual, philosophical and political preoccupations. Even colonialism is still with us in the form of the exportation of liberal values, whether through Christian Aid or the United Nations. This is a portrait of an age, certainly not an academic history. As such it is personal and journalistic, sometimes novelistic in its approach. Wilson's restless mind flits from personality to personality; characters and illustrative anecdotes are more important than the broad brush-strokes of more theoretically inclined and overt commentators. It's justified in being a huge, detailed book for a 'baggy monster' of an era. A vast wealth of literature of the period has been digested and assimilated - Carlyle, Christina Rossetti, Mayhew's London lives, the art criticism of Ruskin, but also people like Harriet Martineau who were popular at the time but are no longer read. These perspectives are reflected back to us in a way we in the 21st century can comprehend. Whether Wilson's subject is Chartism, the Crimean War or experiments in photography, his energetic style does justice to the vitality and wit of an era so often regarded as stuffy. The death of Victoria's predecessor William IV, 'dropsical, drunken, stupid', is clearly a moment Wilson relishes. Victoria's own decline is marked by the image of bored equerries at Osborne House playing golf in the snow with red billiard balls. For the most part secondary sources are used, and amongst the wealth of incident and tale-telling, which at points becomes somewhat disorganized and rambling, there's no great originality. But it is engaging in the style of a novel by Dickens, whose view of the Victorian world was of a 'teeming, moving screen of hilarious characters', an aesthetic which Wilson's historiography deliberately and successfully adapts. (Kirkus UK)

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Author Biography - A. N. Wilson

A. N. Wilson was born in 1950 and educated at Rugby and New College, Oxford. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he has held a prominent position in the world of literature and journalism, winning prizes for much of his work. He lives in North London.

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