An Essayby Alfred George Gardiner
I think, on the whole, that I began the New Year with rather a good display of moral fireworks, and as fireworks are meant to be seen (and admired) I propose to let them off in public. When I awoke in the morning I made a good resolution. . . . At this point, if I am not mistaken, I observe a slight shudder on your part, madam. “How Victorian!” I think I hear you remark. You compel me, madam, to digress.
It is, I know, a little unfashionable to make New Year’s resolutions nowadays. That sort of thing belonged to the Victorian world in which we elderly people were born, and for which we are expected to apologise. No one is quite in the fashion who does not heave half a brick at Victorian England. Mr Wells has just heaved a book of 760 pages at it. This querulous superiority to past ages seems a little childish. It is like the scorn of youth for its elders.
I cannot get my indignation up to the boil about Victorian England. I should find it as difficult to draw up an indictment of a century as it is to draw up an indictment of a nation. I seem to remember that the Nineteenth Century used to speak as disrespectfully of the Eighteenth as we now speak of the Nineteenth, and I fancy that our grandchildren will be as scornful of our world of to-day as we are of the world of yesterday. The fact that we have learned to fly, and have discovered poison gas, and have invented submarines and guns that will kill a churchful of people seventy miles away does not justify us in regarding the Nineteenth Century as a sort of absurd guy. There were very good things as well as very bad things about our old Victorian England. It did not go to the Ritz to dance in the New Year, it is true. The Ritz did not exist, and the modern hotel life had not been invented. It used to go instead to the watch-night service, and it was not above making good resolutions, which for the most part, no doubt, it promptly proceeded to break.