The Moral Imagination by Gertrude Himmelfarb
When Gertrude Himmelfarb published Lord Acton: A Study of Conscience and Politics in 1952, Victorian culture still seemed a chamber of horrors—aesthetic, intellectual, and otherwise. Such, at least, was the picture painted by Lytton Strachey in Eminent Victorians (1918), which looked pityingly on the 19th century as a long diversion from the great path of the Enlightenment, until Freudian psychology and modernism in the arts would set the wheels turning once more.
To correct this vision has been the thrust of Himmelfarb’s career as a historian. In a succession of books and essays (including in Commentary), she has explored the Victorian response to such varied subjects as poverty, marriage, and Darwinism, and in the process has done much to rehabilitate Victorian culture in all its complexity, nuance, and bracing sense of moral and social responsibility.
About the Author
Michael J. Lewis, a frequent contributor, teaches at Williams College. He is the author most recently of American Art and Architecture (Thames & Hudson)