By Gertrude Himmelfarb
In a provocative examine that bristles with modern relevance, Himmelfarb demonstrates that the fabric and ethical dimensions of poverty have been inseparable within the minds of overdue Victorians, be they radical or conservative.
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Extra resources for Poverty and Compassion: The Moral Imagination of the Late Victorians.
The two works are a fascinating study in contrast: Mayhew’s personal, colorful, dramatic; Booth’s sober, analytic, and, in intention at least, objective. No less striking is the contrast between the two periods. ”24 If few remembered Mayhew, it was because he had not, in fact, been there before. The poverty that Booth “rediscovered” in the 1880s was very different from that which Mayhew had “discovered” in the 1840s. Mayhew’s “poverty” was primarily that of the “Street-Folk” and “Those That Will Not Work” (as the subtitles of his work put it).
Myron Magnet, who is working on a similar subject in another period and another country, offered much appreciated advice and encouragement. And Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan gave me the benefit of his practical experience in government and his ideas about social problems and policies when he commented on an essay that was a preliminary prospectus for this book at the Woodrow Wilson Center many years ago. I am also grateful to the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation for providing me with so gifted a research assistant as Diana Schaub, who relieved the tedium of borrowing books, photocopying articles, and checking footnotes by bringing to this very modern subject the perspective of philosophy, ancient and modern.
I had appreciated the efforts of the early Victorians to meliorate the effects of industrialism, urbanism, and all the social and psychological dislocations of that very troubled period. But I had not anticipated the intellectual and social ferment of the later period, the enormous surge of philanthropic and reform enterprises, the intensity and diversity of ideas, the earnestness and pervasiveness of the spirit of compassion. No period (least of all any period in English history, which is notoriously tradition-bound) is sui generis.