The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud, Vol. 4: The Naked Heart: Naked Heart v. 4

 
9780006863687: The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud, Vol. 4: The Naked Heart: Naked Heart v. 4

Volume IV of The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud: ‘One of the major historical enterprises of the decade’ – New York Review of Books

Peter Gay’s epic multi-volume history of the ninteenth century – The Bougeois Experience is, unquestionably, one of the great achievements in the modern writing of history. By focusing on the lives, institutions, attitudes, tastes, goals and passions of the West’s middle classes, Gay has revolutionised our thinking about the ninteenth century as a whole and, in particular, about the social group that was its dymano – the middle class. In this magnificent and acclaimed work, the world’s Victorians are laid bare.

The nineteenth century was intensely preoccupied with the self, to the point of neurosis. During the very decades of the most sustained campaign for the mastery of the world ever undertaken, the bourgeois devoted much time – and perhaps, even more, anxious time – to introspection. This book, fourth in a series of five, deals with the inner life and charts this struggle for inwardness. ‘The secret life of the self,’ writes Peter Gay, ‘had grown into a favourite and wholly serious indoor sport.’

Illustrious Victorian names tumble over one another. Philosophers from Hegel to Nietzsche; psychologists like Wundt and Charcot; and, of course, Marx and Freud. But it is the ordinary bougeois that occupy centre stage here – the readers of biographies, histories and novels rather than their authors – as they encounter open or secret support for their desires, or no less open or secret resistance to them. As with all Gay’s books, this is a sparkling portrait of an age – informative, penetrating, and a work that will be widely read, debated and re-read.

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Review:

‘Wide-ranging and highly stimulating… No historian of the nineteenth century on either side of the Atlantic can ignore it.’
Asa Briggs

‘Gay’s survey of social attitudes in the nineteenth century is a massively successful enterprise. He is immensely well read, and he has a gift for making coherent sense out of a great mass of material. His style makes his work a pleasure to read.’
Anthony Storr, Literary Review

From the Back Cover:

Peter Gay's multi-volume into the ideas and sensibilities which dominated nineteenth-century culture, The bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud – described by George Steiner as ‘a work on the grand scale, both informative and penetrating’ – is one of the great achievements in modern historical writing. In 'The Naked Heart' – the fourth volume of The Bourgeois Experience – Gay examines the intense middle-class preoccupation with the self.

'The Naked Heart' crosses seemingly impenetrable divides. Gay moves across gulfs separating business magnates from those without university education; he touches the lives of housewives and of women who acted boldly, beyond domesticity, by entering harshly competitive fields as professional authors and by making themselves into indefatigable gadflies of a male-dominated world. He follows the middle-class preoccupation with inwardness through self-portraits and autobiographies, fiction both elevated and popular, and works of history – all more widespread in the nineteenth century than ever before – and through the intimate confessions so characteristic of middle-class men and women. In investigating the inner life of the whole Victorian bourgeoisie, Gay turns also to the letters and confessional diaries of both obscure and prominent men and women. These revealing documents round out a sparkling portrait of an age. 'The Naked Heart' is a work that will be widely read, praised, debated and re-read.

‘Gay is a master of the broad sweep… he draws on a mass of material connected with the fine arts and music, and with the writing of biography, history, fiction and diaries… 'The Naked Heart' has an ambitious frame of reference, a huge bibliography and some intriguing byways.’
CLAIRE TOMALIN, 'Sunday Telegraph'

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