The Public Interest

A de-moralized society: the British/American experience

Gertrude Himmelfarb

Fall 1994

The past is a foreign country,” it has been said. But it is not an unrecognizable country. Indeed, we sometimes experience a “shock of recognition” as we confront some aspect of the past in the present. One does not need to have had a Victorian grandmother, as did Margaret Thatcher, to be reminded of “Victorian values.” One does not even have to be English; “Victorian America,” as it has been called, was not all that different, at least in terms of values, from Victorian England. Vestigial remains of that Victorianism are everywhere around us. And memories of them persist, even when the realities are gone, rather like an amputated limb that still seems to throb when the weather is bad.

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