The Naked Heart: The Bourgeois Experience Victoria to Freud
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In The Naked Heart, Peter Gay explores the bourgeoisie's turn inward.
At the very time that industrialists, inventors, statesmen, and natural scientists were conquering new objective worlds, Gay writes, "the secret life of the self had grown into a favorite and wholly serious indoor sport."
Following the middle class's preoccupation with inwardness through its varied cultural expressions (such as fiction, art, history, and autobiography), Gay turns also to the letters and confessional diaries of both obscure and prominent men and women. These revealing documents help to round out a sparkling portrait of an age.
turn of the century, the brilliant and original left-wing German political artist George Grosz aptly illustrates the way that readers cooperate with writers to generate their unique inner experience. He declared himself lastingly grateful to the tales of derring-do that had rescued him from the tawdry realities of his proletarian existence. “It seemed as though our unconscious dreams were lent more reality when our thoughts, nourished by popular articles and drawings, floated along—far away, high
James Smith Allen, Popular French Romanticism: Authors, Readers, and Books in the 19th Century (1981) and In the Public Eye: A History of Reading in Modern France, 1800–1940 (1991), are pioneering studies. For Britain, recent scholarship has worked to undo the nostalgic, “aristocratic” perspective of Q. D. Leavis, Fiction and the Reading Public (1932). For a corrective, see R. K. Webb’s meaty essay, “The Victorian Reading Public,” in The New Pelican Guide to English Literature, vol. VI, From
the 1820s was, he said, facing a “revolution of the middle” that “threatens it with a new terrible crisis and a general convulsion.” Like his former chief, Metternich, Schlegel regarded the bourgeoisie as the truly revolutionary element in European society—an unconscious compliment (only partly warranted) intended as a stern reproach. Germany, he added, is relatively calm only because “most governments have seriously worked to restore, or revive, old corporate institutions in German fashion.”
bedeviling the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie: a vacillation over just what constitutes appropriate self-revelation and authentic inwardness. Mill’s way of scanning his past from a later perspective and under his wife’s alert eyes more or less unconsciously lowered the temperature and intensified the reticence of his self-portrayal. Other nineteenth-century autobiographers, though, deliberately exploited their double vision to improve rather than to mask their self-understanding. A rewarding
“The greatest master of English prose within our generation entrusted the story of his life to one of the most skilful of living writers.”19 Froude had made his mark with a multivolume study of England in the century of the Reformation, and, like Justi a fine stylist, he saw no incompatibility between the demands of biographic art and biographic science. Readers had every right, Harrison implied, to expect a feast; but to him and to others Froude’s life of Carlyle and edition of his