Peter Gay’s inquiry into the ideas and sensibilities dominating nineteenth- century culture is one of the great achievements of modern historical writing. This is the fifth and final volume, now published in paperback for the first time.
Peter Gay’s The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud has revolutionized our thinking about the nineteenth century as a whole and particularly about its dynamo – the middle classes. Gay’s achievement is to summarize the interior life, the mentality of the nineteenth century. In uncovering the roots of modernism, he shows us a hidden side of the Victorian era.
The Victorians we meet in this volume are not the stodgy, complacent characters of drawing room comedy. They are instead a varied crowd, from the capitalists in the top tier of the bourgeoisie eager to be recognized as gentlemen or, better yet, dubbed as nobility, to those at the bottom of the pile, the clerks and craftsmen mortally afraid of sinking into the mass of the proletariat. What they share is an anxiety, driven by their concern to advance up the social pyramid or at least to maintain the status they have achieved.
The stage is thus set for the explosion of modernism accompanied by an inevitable reaction against the subversive avant-garde of artists, composers, and writers as varied as Cezanne, Picasso, Stravinsky, Shaw, Ibsen, and Zola. No one reading this concluding volume of Peter Gay’s magnificent re-evaluation of the nineteenth century will ever again use the term ‘Victorian’ as a synonym for dull.
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‘Such is Mr Gay’s breadth of learning that at times it seems impossible to believe that a single person could know so much and in such detail… With the aid of Freud, the nineteenth-century conflicts between instinct and civilization are here as fully examined as anybody could wish.’
Frank Kermode, New York Times Book Review
"Peter Gay deserves to be congratulated for what will surely be a landmark in revisionist literature about the Victorians . . . a fascinating insight into our own anti-bourgeois obsessions."
DANIEL BRITTEN, 'Independent on Sunday'
"Packed with fascinating material about the place of art in the lives of prosperous enlightened businessmen. 'Pleasure Wars' gives a plausible account of the place in the history of art of innumerable middle-class patrons, shoppers and collectors – the individuals who founded the orchestras and art galleries, libraries and major art collections, which would form a focus of high cultural life in the expanding cities of the late century. Gay chronicles the anxious love-hate relationships between cultural producers and consumers, the artists and the middle-classes they relied on but loved to hate. . with a magisterially touched by nostalgia for the ancien regime whose sad, triumphant story he tells in this immense panoramic survey."
HUGH HAUGHTON, 'Observer'
"One cannot help admiring the vision behind Peter Gay's vast enterprise 'The Bourgeois Experience', of which 'Pleasure Wars' is the fifth and final volume. Overall, it amounts to a comprehensive resurrection of a class too long despised . . . No historian wears such a learning so lightly when it comes to telling a story in mellow prose. Gay has few peers."
ROY PORTER, 'Sunday Times'
AS usual, drawing on a dizzy array of sources, Gay works them into a narrative both fluid and precise, grand and detailed, from time to time stopping to nail a point with a detailed case history, such as that of Victor Chocquet a humble customs-house clerk, who spent every sou he had collecting pictures by Cézanne, and every ounce of energy trying to explain to sceptical friends just why the visible brush strokes and dodgy perspective meant the man was a genius. Extraordinary . . . in a bravura performance, gay claims that he, like Freud has always known there is a social world independent of our imaginings. Things happen that we have not invented or unconsciously summoned up. The trick says Gay lies in finding a way to move backwards and forwards between the two worlds, the historic world 'out there' and the version of it which we create out of fear and desire. And if anyone doubts that it can be done, they have only to read gay to see what has already been magnificently achieved."
KATE HAMILTON, 'Literary Review'
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Book Description Fontana Press, London, U.K, 1999. Card Cover. Book Condition: New. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Softback. Bookseller Inventory # 016561