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By Valerie Wainwright

Complicating a pervasive view of the moral considered the Victorians and their shut kin, which emphasizes the domineering effect of a righteous and repressive morality, Wainwright discerns a brand new orientation in the direction of an expansive ethics of flourishing or dwelling good in Austen, Gaskell, Dickens, Eliot, Hardy and Forster. In a series of outstanding novels by way of those authors, Wainwright strains a moral point of view that privileges sorts of lifestyles which are useful and pleasurable, admirable and profitable. featuring new examine into the moral debates during which those authors participated, this rigorous and vigorous paintings finds the ways that rules of significant theorists corresponding to Kant, F. H. Bradley, or John Stuart Mill, in addition to these of now little-known writers comparable to the priest Edward Tagart, the preacher William Maccall, and philanthropist Helen Dendy Bosanquet, have been appropriated and reappraised. additional, Wainwright seeks additionally to put those novelists in the wider context of modernity and proposes that their responses will be associated with the on-going and lively discussions that represent smooth ethical philosophy.

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Extra resources for Ethics and the English Novel from Austen to Forster

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42 Moore’s thesis impressed contemporaries within the Bloomsbury circle, at least for a time. Among them, Forster, it would seem, had his doubts, however. It is with equanimity that on her marriage to Mr Wilcox, Margaret Schlegel relinquishes precisely such highly valued goods – literature, art, the stimulating conversation of her friends – on the grounds that they are no longer the most desirable of ‘things’. 43 Given her revision of the good life, it is more appropriate, apparently, that her own energies are employed in constructing the more exclusive companionate partnership she now desires.

This wholehearted belief in another’s goodness is what prompts Dorothea to rescue the disgraced Dr Lydgate, to make his life ‘whole’ again. Dorothea is George Eliot’s life (restoring) force. Her loyalty to her friend is of a very special kind: it is infused with a super-abundance of trust. In the Finale Dorothea’s own life becomes fulfilling when she is able to participate in the ‘beneficent activity’ that characterizes her companionate marriage. In a quiet way, at the end of Howards End Forster’s heroine acts beneficently too, distributing a large part of her unearned income to the needy.

What it makes sense to do becomes separated from what is worth doing. As Henry’s wife, it makes no sense for her to pursue this particular interest. Her forthright rejection of the often efficacious notion that the privileged have a duty towards the deprived would seem to be the marker of a radically discriminating or independent mind. But is it? Margaret’s marriage to Henry Wilcox provides Forster with the opportunity to trace the many ways in which influence may be exercised. Margaret will adopt his vocabulary, sometimes apparently unknowingly.

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