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Death in the Victorian Family

Overview

This engrossing book explores family experiences of dying, death, grieving, and mourning between 1830 and 1920. Victorian letters and diaries reveal a deep preoccupation with death because of a shorter life expectancy, a high death rate for infants and children, and a dominant Christian culture. Using the private correspondence, diaries, and death memorials of fifty-five middle and upper class families, Pat Jalland shows us how dying, death, and grieving were experienced by Victorian families, and how the manner ...
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Overview

This engrossing book explores family experiences of dying, death, grieving, and mourning between 1830 and 1920. Victorian letters and diaries reveal a deep preoccupation with death because of a shorter life expectancy, a high death rate for infants and children, and a dominant Christian culture. Using the private correspondence, diaries, and death memorials of fifty-five middle and upper class families, Pat Jalland shows us how dying, death, and grieving were experienced by Victorian families, and how the manner and rituals of death and mourning varied with age, gender, disease, religious belief, family size, and class. She examines deathbed scenes, good and bad deaths, funerals and cremations, mourning rituals, widowhood, and the roles of religion and medicine. Chapters on the deaths of children and old people demonstrate the importance of the stages of the life-cycle, as well as the failure of many actual deathbeds to achieve the Christian ideal of the good death. The consolations of Christian faith and private memory, and the transformation in the ideas and beliefs about heaven, hell, and immortality are analysed. The rise and decline of Evangelicalism, the influence of unbelief and secularism, falling mortality, and the trauma of the Great War are all key motors of change in this period.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This is by far the best account we have of elite Victorian attitudes toward dying and death....[It is] a book rich in telling detail, sensitive to its subjects, a very important contribution to a growing literature on death and dying."--Victorian Studies

"...in both depth and breadth this is a valuable contribution to Victorian social history, revealing the rich diversities and intriguing implications in the social construction of a universal and inevitable physiological process."--American Historical Review

"Well conceived, organized, and written..."--Choice

"This book deserves a wide audience for its thoughtful and thoroughly professional approach to a topic of vital contemporary concern and interest."--The Catholic Historical Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198208327
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/28/2000
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Pat Jalland is Associate Professor of History at Murdoch University, WA. From 27 January 1997 she will be Professor of History at the Institute of Advanced Studies, Australian National University. Her books include Women, Marriage, and Politics 1860-1914, which won the non-fiction prize in the 1987 Western Australia Week Literary Awards.

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Table of Contents

List of Plates
Introduction 1
1 The Evangelical Ideal of the 'Good Death' 17
2 The Revival and Decline of the Good Christian Death 39
3 Bad Deaths, Sudden Deaths, and Suicides 59
4 Death and the Victorian Doctors 77
5 Nurses, Consultants, and Terminal Prognoses 98
6 'That Little Company of Angels': The Tragedies of Children's Deaths 119
7 Death in Old Age 143
8 In Search of the Good Death: Death in the Gladstone and Lyttelton Families 1835-1915 161
9 Funeral Reform and the Cremation Debate 194
10 The Funeral Week 210
11 Widows: Gendered Experiences of Widowhood 230
12 Widowers: Gendered Experiences of Widowhood 251
13 Christian Consolations and Heavenly Reunions 265
14 The Consolations of Memory 284
15 Rituals of Sorrow: Mourning-Dress and Condolence Letters 300
16 Chronic and Abnormal Grief: Queen Victoria, Lady Frederick Cavendish, and Emma Haden 318
17 'A Solitude beyond the Reach of God or Man': Victorian Agnostics and Death 339
18 Epilogue. After the Victorians: Social Memory, Spiritualism, and the Great War 358
Notes 382
Location of Manuscript Collections 443
Index 447
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