Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Marriage and Morals Among the Victorians can be best described as a collection of eleven occasional essays. Most appeared first in prestigious periodicals such as The American Scholar, Commentary, The New Criterion, and The New Republic. Several are extended reviews of scholarly monographs, biographies, or collections of letters. The title of the volume may be misleading, since it applies directly only to the first essay in the collection. In all the essays, Himmelfarb is interested in the larger question of the “moral imagination” of the Victorians: a belief in doing the right thing in a society that had substituted right conduct for religious belief as the means of dealing responsibly with the problems of society. For her, this moral imagination was a controlling influence that led the Victorians to do good things for others as well as to adhere to principles that later generations could only ridicule or admire.

Although they are loosely connected by some association with the Victorian age (1837-1901), the essays in this volume range both forward and backward from that period to explore the development of the Victorians’ special brand of morality and to examine the influence of their thought and conduct on succeeding generations. Five selections treat Victorian issues and figures directly. The title essay offers a general survey of the social climate that led men and women to adopt certain attitudes...

(The entire section is 555 words.)