Nobody could really call the last great Whig historian G. M. Trevelyan a Conservative almost by definition though many of his ideas would now be described as conservative with a small 'c'. Here is a somewhat hostile piece about Trevelyan and the Trevelyan family in general by John Vincent, which informs us, among other matters that the famed if outdated historian burned all his personal papers. Tory Historian recalls reading David Cannadine's biography and finding it most interesting as well as surprisingly sympathetic.

Trevelyan published his essay Clio, the Muse of History, in 1913 and in it he wrote:

The dispassionateness of the historian is a quality which it is easy to value too highly, and it should not be confused with the really indispensable qualities of accuracy and good faith.
A very useful piece of advice. Trevelyan never pretended to be dispassionate, a state of mind that cannot actually be reached. An historian who describes himself or herself as dispassionate runs the risk of misleading readers and students. However, it is unfortunately true that a number of Trevelyan's critics accused him of lack of good faith, a far worse crime in history writing.


And this account by Nathaniel Morton based on William Bradford's in the Wall Street Journal.

In pursuit of more detective stories Tory Historian came across Lee Jackson's Victorian mysteries, in particular A Metropolitan Murder that starts on the Metropolitan line soon after it opened in 1863, apparently only 3 years after the construction started. No particular opinion of it as yet. The style, which is mostly in the present tense is slightly irritating but the description of mid-Victorian London is fascinating. How good the plot is remains to be seen.


However, Tory Historian was led to Lee Jackson's website, which is very well worth studying. Called Dictionary of Victorian London, it is full of interesting information culled from writings of the period. It may not be exactly Tory or conservative in outlook but cannot fail to appeal to anyone who finds the period and the city interesting.

Twenty years ago today Margaret Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister. Tory Historian is far too well behaved to launch into invectives against the people in the lady's own party (something nobody outside this country ever understood) who engineered her premature departure. Not only they but, sadly, the whole party has paid the price.

Tory Historian is about to put that book back on the shelf but would like to quote one last paragraph, which says things that TH has also said before: so much about present-day America reminds one of Victorian Britain. Professor Himmelfarb puts it more eloquently:

Having derived a good deal of its own Enlightenment from the mother country, the United States is now repaying Britain by perpetuating the spirit of her Enlightenment. We are often reminded of the theme of American "exceptionalism". America was exceptional at the time of its founding, and continues to be so today. Europeans complain that the United States is unduly, individualistic, religious, and moralistic(the last meant invidiously). And so it is, by European standards, including British standards, today. But not by British standards of old. If America is now exceptional, it is because it has inherited and preserved aspects of the British Enlightenment that the British themselves have discarded and that other countries (France, most notably) have never adopted.
As they say, discuss.

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Tory Historian has spent some time recently reading M. V. Hughes's books about her life in Victorian London and the later one about life between the wars in Cuffley, a village just outside London that was, in that period, steadily moving towards becoming a suburb.


The question that comes to one's mind immediately is why is Molly Hughes not better known? She used to be on schools' reading lists as Tory Historian can recall but, possibly, such things no longer exist. Only one of the books is in print: A London Child of the 1870s was reprinted by Persephone Books with a Preface by Adam Gopnik that seems to have missed much that is of particular interest in the books. Amusingly enough, Molly Hughes wrote in A London Family Between the Wars that she distrusted books that needed somebody else's introduction to tell the reader why he or she should bother with the actual text.
She should be better known for those books and her life ought to be studied. First of all, she is a delightful writer though, apparently, her journalist son Barnholt assured her that her writing was innocent of any literary style. No woman is a heroine to her children.

Secondly, her description of changes in middle class life (lower and professional) in the last years of Victoria's reign and between the wars is fascinating precisely because it appears to be artless. As it happens, we do know though it is not clear how that she made certain alterations in her account. For instance, the volume of childhood ends with her father being killed in a street accident, just as her husband was to be much later. Somehow, it has been established that her father had, in fact, committed suicide having become involved in some financial fracas. Why he thought leaving his wife with very little money and five children to bring up was the desirable course of action is never explained, not even by people who firmly assure us that it was, indeed, suicide that brought his life to an end.

Thirdly, and most importantly, she gives a fascinating account of the development of girls' education and teacher training, particularly for girls' schools. Many of the fierce debates we have now about the need for training teachers and what the outcome might be are rooted in those years when Bedford College was a pioneering establishment and Molly Hughes was head of the training department from 1892 to 1897, though she had actually got her BA in Cambridge from what subsequently became Hughes Hall.

One cannot help wondering whether the absence of Molly Hughes from so many discussions of girls' education and Victorian women's writing has anything to do with the fact that she expressed no political views. In fact, her description of the people who insisted on driving buses and other public vehicles during the General Strike is positively gleeful.

Tory Historian is very apologetic: a combination of a bad cold and various other commitments produced a neglect of the most important thing, this blog. This cannot happen again.


For today, a quotation from Gertrude Himmelfarb's The Roads to Modernity, a telling comparison between the English and the French Enlightenments:
One historian [Ronald I. Boss] has described the philosophes' belief in the social utility of religion as a "paradox", a "contradiction", a "lag in their social thought" caused by their inability to create an organic, unitary conception of society based upon their secular beliefs. But there could be no such organic, unitary conception so long as the classes were divided, as the philosophes thought, by the chasm not only of poverty but, more crucially, of superstition and ignorance. For the British philosophers, that social chasm was bridged by the moral sense and common sense that were presumed to be innate to all people, in the lower classes as well as the upper. The philosophes, allowing the common people neither a moral sense nor a common sense that might approximate reason, consigned them, in effect, to a state of nature - a brutalized Hobessian, not a benign Rouseeauean, state of nature - where they could be controlled and pacified only by the sanctions and strictures of religion.
Much to be discerned from that comparison.

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