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 exceptional novels via those authors, Wainwright strains a moral point of view that privileges kinds of lifestyles which are precious and pleasing, admirable and profitable. providing new study into the moral debates within which those authors participated, this rigorous and lively paintings unearths the ways that rules of significant theorists reminiscent of Kant, F. H. Bradley, or John Stuart Mill, in addition to these of now little-known writers equivalent to the priest Edward Tagart, the preacher William Maccall, and philanthropist Helen Dendy Bosanquet, have been appropriated and reappraised. extra, Wainwright seeks additionally to put those novelists in the wider context of modernity and proposes that their responses should be associated with the on-going and lively discussions that represent glossy ethical philosophy.
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Additional info for Ethics and the English Novel from Austen to Forster
As she takes stock of the prevailing attitude to women, an attitude that is generally undermining of constructive endeavour beyond the bounds of domesticity, George Eliot offers an interpretation of what belongs to the supreme virtue that is ‘moral saintliness’. This is virtue that recognizes no constraint in the form of domestic boundaries or conventional notions of what it is ﬁtting and not ﬁtting (for a woman) to do. In Middlemarch the greatest and yet the most hazardous of the virtues is (over) trust.
From the perspective of the individual life, although this may seem simply to entail choosing goals, and the means to achieving them, such an aim is, at critical moments, linked to the question of who one chooses to be: [When] we reach the plane of Ethics … choice reigns notoriously supreme. An act has no ethical quality whatsoever unless it be chosen out of several all equally possible. To sustain the arguments for the good course and keep them ever before us, to stiﬂe our longing for more ﬂowery ways, to keep the foot unﬂinchingly on the arduous path, these are the characteristic ethical energies.
2, p. 128. 42 Ethics and the English Novel from Austen to Forster belief in an ideal of strength of character, which has crucial links with the ethos of the gentleman/warrior. Since the strong character will not tolerate any assault on what is fundamental to his strength – his sense of self-assurance – and the gentleman will uphold at all costs the cause of honour which lies at the very core of his identity (and which brings into play notions of respectability and reparation, which serve to justify the desire to categorize and condemn), this moral endeavour looks set to fail.