The decadent late-Victorian and Edwardian era


Can you see the end of Empire, dear?

The Age of Decadence: Britain 1880 to 1914. By Simon Heffer. Random House Books; 897 pages; £30.

IN the late Victorian and early Edwardian period of 1880-1914, at least (see article), Britain had a swagger in its step. You could see it in Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee of 1897 and Edward VII’s coronation in 1902, or hear it in the music of Edward Elgar. You could detect it in the objects of everyday life: coins of gold and silver, books bound in leather embossed with gold, stamps doubling as works of art. The middle classes lived in solid contentment, with enough space to bring up a family and enough servants to lighten the domestic drudgery. No wonder the generation shattered by the first world war and buffeted by the Depression, then by the rise of communism and fascism, looked back on the Edwardian era as an enchanted long-ago, when civilised people were forever taking tea on the vicarage…Continue reading

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