The Moral Imagination: From Edmund Burke to Lionel Trilling

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9781566637220: The Moral Imagination: From Edmund Burke to Lionel Trilling
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One of America's most distinguished intellectual historians explores the minds and lives of some of the most brilliant and provocative thinkers of modern times: Edmund Burke and John Stuart Mill, Benjamin Disraeli and Winston Churchill, Jane Austen and George Eliot, Charles Dickens and John Buchan, Walter Bagehot and the Knox brothers, Michael Oakeshott and Lionel Trilling. In their distinctive ways, Ms. Himmelfarb argues, they exemplify what Burke two centuries ago and Trilling most recently have called the moral imagination.

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About the Author:

Gertrude Himmelfarb's other books include The Roads to Modernity; One Nation, Two Cultures; The De-Moralization of Society; On Looking into the Abyss; Poverty and Compassion; Marriage and Morals Among the Victorians; Victorian Minds; Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution; and Lord Acton. In a distinguished career as an historian, she has received a great many honorary degrees and fellowships and, most recently, the 2004 presidential National Humanities Medal. She lives in Washington, D.C.

From Publishers Weekly:

The intellectuals celebrated in this pleasing collection of essays are not your father's conservatives but your great-great-grandfather's, provided he was a well-to-do English gentleman. Neocon historian Himmelfarb (One Nation, Two Cultures) specializes in Victorian Britain and profiles some of its leading writers and statesmen, along with philosophical forerunners and descendants, to probe the complexities of two centuries of conservative thought. In her subtly revisionist accounts, novelists Jane Austen, George Eliot and Charles Dickens become conservative-minded moralists; liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill emerges as a closet conservative, when not swayed by his father or wife; and "Tory Democrats" Benjamin Disraeli and Winston Churchill, both supporters of early social welfare programs, demonstrate the latent progressivism of conservative politics. Far removed from American-style free market fundamentalism, the strand of conservatism Himmelfarb traces is respectful of tradition, accepting of an organic class system softened and humanized by personal ties and manners, and suspicious of schemes to rationalize society. Despite her brief for this outlook's continued relevance, it seems less a coherent belief system than a reaction to the liberal and radical ideologies driving modernity. Still, Himmelfarb's stylish blend of literary criticism and intellectual history yields a stimulating reappraisal of a multifaceted and influential worldview. (Apr. 7)
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