The Spectacle of Intimacy: A Public Life for the Victorian Family

The Spectacle of Intimacy: A Public Life for the Victorian Family

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Princeton University Press

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The Spectacle of Intimacy: A Public Life for the Victorian Family

Love of home life, the intimate moments a family peacefully enjoyed in seclusion, had long been considered a hallmark of English character even before the Victorian era. But the Victorians attached unprecedented importance to domesticity, romanticizing the family in every medium from novels to government reports, to the point where actual families felt anxious and the public developed a fierce appetite for scandal. Here Karen Chase and Michael Levenson explore how intimacy became a spectacle and how this paradox energized Victorian culture between 1835 and 1865. They tell a story of a society continually perfecting the forms of private pleasure and yet forever finding its secrets exposed to view. The friction between the two conditions sparks insightful discussions of authority and sentiment, empire and middle-class politics.

The book recovers neglected episodes of this mid-century drama: the adultery trial of Caroline Norton and the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne; the Bedchamber Crisis of the young Queen Victoria; the Bloomer craze of the 1850s; and Robert Kerr's influential treatise, celebrating the ideal of the English Gentleman's House. The literary representation of household life—in Dickens, Tennyson, Ellis, and Oliphant, among others—is placed in relation to such public spectacles as the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill of 1848, the controversy over divorce in the years 1854-1857, and the triumphant return of Florence Nightingale from the Crimea. These colorful incidents create a telling new portrait of Victorian family life, one that demands a fundamental rethinking of the relation between public and private spheres.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691006680
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 06/05/2000
Series: Literature in History Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.89(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Acknowledgments xi

INTRODUCTION The Trouble with Families 3

PART ONE: The Political Theater of Domesticity

CHAPTER ONE The Trials of Caroline Norton: Poetry, Publicity, and the Prime Minister 21

CHAPTER TWO: The Young Queen and the Parliamentary Bedchamber: "I never saw a man so frightened" 46

PART Two: Beneath the Banner of Home t

CHAPTER THREE Sarah Stickney Ellis: The Ardent Woman and the Abject Wife 65

CHAPTER FOUR Tom's Pinch: The Sexual Serpent beside the Dickensian Fireside 86

PART THREE: Was That an Angel in the House?

CHAPTER FIVE Love after Death: The Deceased Wife's Sister Bill 105

CHAPTER SIX The Transvestite, the Bloomer, and the Nightingale 121

PART FOUR: The Architecture of Comfort and Ruin

CHAPTER SEVEN On the Parapets of Privacy: Walls of Wealth and Dispossession 143

CHAPTER EIGHT Robert Kerr: The Gentleman's House and the One-Room Solution 156

PART FIVE: The Sensations of Respectability

CHAPTER NINE The Empire of Divorce: Single Women, the Bill of 1857, and Revolt in India

CHAPTER TEN Bigamy and Modernity: The Case of Mary Elizabeth Braddon 201

EPILOGUE: Between Manual and Spectacle 215

Notes 221

Index 247

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