Victorian Bloomsbury

Rosemary Ashton

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While Bloomsbury is now associated with Virginia Woolf and her early-twentieth-century circle of writers and artists, the neighborhood was originally the undisputed intellectual quarter of nineteenth-century London. Drawing on a wealth of untapped archival resources, Rosemary Ashton brings to life the educational, medical, and social reformists who lived and worked in Victorian Bloomsbury and who led crusades for education, emancipation, and health for all.

Ashton explores the secular impetus behind these reforms and the humanitarian and egalitarian character of nineteenth-century Bloomsbury. Thackeray and Dickens jostle with less famous characters like Henry Brougham and Mary Ward. Embracing the high life of the squares, the nonconformity of churches, the parades of shops, schools, hospitals and poor homes, this is a major contribution to the history of nineteenth-century London.

Rosemary Ashton is professor of English language and literature at University College London and the author of many distinguished biographies and cultural histories of the nineteenth century, including George Eliot and 142 Strand.

"Long before the 'Bloomsbury Group' Bloomsbury had become a centre for dissenters, bohemians and high-minded professional people. Rosemary Ashton shows how this happened in a delightful book that threads the reader through a maze of streets and squares, stories and structures. I came to the end with a very satisfying feeling that I now knew my way around Bloomsbury in a way I had not done before." - Peter Mandler

"That Ashton has managed to tame 'Bloomsbury', and present it in such a coherent, digestible fashion, is triumph indeed."—Judith Flanders, Sunday Telegraph

"Did Bloomsbury exist before 1905, when the Stephen Siblings moved to Gordon Square and made the area famous? Rosemary Ashton's enlightening book, packed with wonderful characters and anecdotes, quashes that misapprehension forever."—Catherine Peters, Literary Review

"Rosemary Ashton… is an excellent guide to the institutions and personalities of 19th century Bloomsbury."—Martin Sheppard, Camden New Journal

"[a] fascinating account of the growth of a remarkable city." — Lesley McDowell, Independent on Sunday

"The clarity of Ashton’s exposition is deceptive. Victorian Bloomsbury is a big – addictively readable- book, but also a masterpiece of compression." —John Sutherland, The Spectator

"Victorian Bloomsbury is a compelling reconstruction of a formative era of British intellectual and social history."—Margaret Harris, Australian Book Review

"Ashton managed to find an identity for this ‘intellectual quarter’ long before its most famous intellectuals moved in."—David Horspool, The Guardian

"[An] indispensible addition to the literature of nineteenth century London. [Ashton] reminds us just how inexhaustibly fascinating that city was, and how much is still to be mined from its streets, its villages and its personalities… Given the significance of this small district in the story of modern London, it is extraordinary that we have had to wait till now for an intelligent and scholarly excavation of these critical years in Bloomsbury’s development."—Jerry White, Times Literary Supplement

"In her absorbing book, researched from the ground up, Rosemary Ashton maps out a cultural history of Bloomsbury in the 19th century." Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian

"The most impressive scholarly work I have read this year… There is a library’s worth of research compressed between its covers." —John Sutherland, New Statesman

“A highly comprehensive…invaluable for anyone interested in the history of [Bloosmsbury] or how a place grows and coalescences into a movement.”—The Daily Beast

“A treasure for historically minded Anglophiles.”—Choice

“Packed with excellent illustrations and information about some of the key characteristics of Victorian Bloomsbury . . .”— Adela Pinch, SEL

"Victorian impeccably researched, lucidly written, and highly informative. It draws extensively not only on archives but also on popular imagery of the period, giving a new sense, in Ashton's phrase, of the 'progressive role' played by Victorian Bloomsbury."—Laura Marcus, Victorian Studies 
Selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2013 in the Humanities Category.
ISBN: 9780300154474
Publication Date: November 13, 2012
400 pages, 6 x 9
44 b/w illus.
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