The period between 1880 and 1900 is one of the most intriguing in the cultural history of Great Britain. At the very height of its power, the British Empire was nonetheless at the mercy of several contrary historical factors, including notably the aged and largely apathetic Queen Victoria and the pressures for social change engendered by the Industrial Revolution. From The Forsyte Saga which described upper-middle-class life to The Picture of Dorian Gray which reflected the decadence of society as a whole, the records of the time reveal that the veneer covering Victorian England was peeling away. Hard to believe, but this was the time when the House of Commons felt obliged to hold a lengthy debate on the hitherto unmentionable topic of prostitution in the streets of London and when it was possible to follow the adventures of a serial killer, Jack the Ripper, in the morning papers every day. And yet this was also the time when a new generation was daring to challenge people's ideas on what constituted the aesthetic, when Whistler found himself in serious opposition to the likes of the art critic Ruskin and his Pre-Raphaelite 'brothers', including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Sir John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt. Fully and richly illustrated, this book describes the end of a world, the end of an era, and puts the final years of the Victorian Age into their historical perspective.
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