(K. Brent Tomer),
One Hot Summer: Dickens, Darwin, Disraeli and the Great Stink of 1858. By Rosemary Ashton. Yale University Press; 338 pages; $30 and £25.
IF YOU wanted to devote an entire book to a year in Victorian Britain, 1858 would not be an obvious choice. Rosemary Ashton, who has done just that, admits as much. No famous novel was published, and the government, like many just before it, collapsed in a vote of no confidence. Historians prefer 1859: Charles Darwin published his “On the Origin of Species”, the Liberal Party was founded, and Dickens, Tennyson, Eliot and Mill all produced major works. 1861 brought the death of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria’s withdrawal from public life. So why 1858?
Ms Ashton sees the year’s importance reflected in the lives of three Victorians. Benjamin Disraeli would have to wait until 1868 to become prime minister. But his second run as chancellor, beginning in 1858, proved his worthiness as he steered…Continue reading