From Library Journal
The final installment of Gay's multivolume study of the 19th-century bourgeois experience (e.g., Naked Heart: The Bourgeois Experience, Victoria to Freud, LJ 10/1/95) is a welcome addition to the literature. Current historical stereotypes of the bourgeois are rather flat, regarding them as either extremely confident or extremely insecure, depending on which authority is consulted. Gay's work systematically attempts to determine which is correct through an examination of their attitudes toward art, literature, and the concept we know as modernity. Throughout, Gay maintains that to view the bourgeoisie as stiff-necked and incapable of genuine affection or the enjoyment of pleasure is dangerously simplistic. In fact, the bourgeois experience was multidimensional, as were the bourgeois themselves. They were a revolutionary force, notes the author, whether they engaged in reactionary or modern crusades, and their ideas shaped the 20th century. An insightful and challenging book; recommended for general and specialized libraries.
-?Frederic Krome, Northern Kentucky Univ., Highland Heights
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
National Book Award winner and Freud biographer Gay, in the last volume of his five-part history of the Victorian era, disassociates bourgeois from tasteless and Victorian from prudish. He does so by analyzing art support, which shifted during that era from royal patronage to bourgeois demand. Businessmen associations from Munich to Manchester established museums and orchestras, and clerks demanded affordable reproductions of masterpieces. The wealthier collected art to mimic nobility; the poorer to ward off association with the lower classes. Gay notes that their lack was money, not taste: bourgeois collectors were the first to buy impressionists and modernists. Sometimes, his examples seem sketchy for academia or undigested for laypeople, and he never comments on social ills that still need addressing. But Gay does offer new facts, new sources, and new views about the Victorian age and its anxieties and new interpretations of Flaubert, Freud, Picasso, and others--all of which help present a fuller view of the bourgeois and the Victorian age. Kevin Grandfield
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