Aging by the Book: The Emergence of Midlife in Victorian by Kay Heath

By Kay Heath

Getting older by means of the publication deals an leading edge examine the ways that heart age, which for hundreds of years were thought of the top of existence, used to be remodeled through the Victorian period right into a interval of decline. unmarried ladies have been nearing center age at thirty, and moms of their forties have been anticipated to turn into sexless; in the meantime, fortyish males anguished over no matter if their “time for romance had long past by.” famous novels of the interval, in addition to ads, cartoons, and clinical and recommendation manuals, Kay Heath uncovers how this ideology of decline permeated a altering tradition. getting older through the booklet unmasks and confronts midlife nervousness through studying its origins, demonstrating that our present unfavourable angle towards midlife springs from Victorian roots, and arguing that merely after we comprehend the culturally developed nature of age do we disclose its ubiquitous and stealthy impression.

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Because it was more difficult to be poor in the city than the country, when an agrarian populace moved to industrialized urban centers, the troubles of the lower class were worsened, especially the aging who were unemployable in new markets (Cole and Edwards 217). In addition, increased opportunities for wage-labor gave aging parents less control over their offspring as adult children became less financially dependent on their parents. Parental control over family inheritances waned, and the middle-aged lost power (Cole and Edwards 224).

Stephenson is described only briefly: “the shorter and younger of the two, had by far the more regular set of features, and was indeed remarkably handsome” (133), but Hubert’s physical presence is dwelt upon in a much more lingering fashion. He is “bronzed by the effect of various climates” and had perhaps no peculiar beauty of feature except his fine teeth, and the noble expression of his forehead, from which, however, the hair had already somewhat retired, though it still clustered in close brown curls round his well-turned head.

In addition, male marriageability is depicted as significantly threatened when a man reaches his forties. 16 Before mid-century, male aging causes fictive anxiety, but these plots usually address an age disparity between relatively young men—in their thirties—and younger women, and marriageability ultimately is determined by other issues. In The Widow Barnaby (1839), Frances Trollope depicts a man troubled by age, but his concern is qualified by other considerations with equal or greater significance, and he is relatively young by Victorian standards.

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