Review: Victorian Minds by Gertrude Himmelfarb

Gordon, Scott. Victorian Studies 12, no. 3. 1969.


MOST OF THE CHAPTERS IN THIS BOOK ARE reprintings of essays originally published elsewhere – the earliest in 1949 and the latest in 1966. Some of them are scholarly papers based on research in depth, some are essays written for popular intellectual magazines, some are book reviews, and some are introductory essays for reprints of well- known classics. The result is too heterogeneous to be a “book” in more than a physically descriptive sense. Professor Himmelfarb notes in her introduction that all these previously-published essays have been revised and most of them extensively rewritten for this publication, but the result is not a sustained commentary on Victorian intellectual life or a coherent image of it revealed by the examination of selected facets. The reader finds himself repeatedly consulting the fly- leaf in order to put himself into proper con- text, that is, to know whether he should read a chapter as if he were reading the Partisan Review, or the Journal of British Studies, or an introductory essay designed for students. The essay on Bagehot, for example, has a “large” title which promises much: “Walter Bagehot: A Common Man with Un- common Ideas,” but it is little more than a note, and it is necessary to observe that it was originally written for The New York Review of Books to salve an impression of pretentiousnes.

Read more on: Review: Victorian Minds by Gertrude Himmelfarb