Aestheticism as much an attempt tonescape from traditional authority andnprescription as the political selfdelusionnthat insists on projecting anUtopian enterprise upon some othernpart of the globe? And are not bothnthese undertakings refined and sophisticatednanalogues of the adolescentnrebellion against parental and othernVictorian RestorationnVergil compared human progressnwith a man rowing against the current:nIf he relaxes at the oars fornonly a moment, he begins to driftnbackwards, inexorably, with thenflow of the river. Sometimes it takesnseveral generations to realize whatnexactly is being lost in the course ofntime. Throughout the 18th century,nthe peculiarly Protestant civilizationnof England was slowly beingntransformed into something else;nthe forms remained—the church,nthe crown, the universities—butnthey were the facades of a buildingnin the process of being gutted. Thenmanners and morals of the uppernclasses in the early 19th centurynwould make a congressman blush,nand the tone was set by the bloated,ntasteless Germans who occupiednthe throne. By far the best of thenGeorges was the high-spirited kingnwho lost his American inheritance,nbut for the latter part of his reignnpoor George III was utterly mad asnthe result of (probably) porphyria.nHis sons, the “wicked dukes,” lednlives that are best forgotten. Whenna properly reared young womanncame to the throne and had thenwisdom to marry a decent and intelligentncousin, the stage was setnfor the social restoration that hasnbeen known, ever since, as thenVictorian era.nVictoria has had her share ofnbiographers—pedantic, political,nand polemical. Lytton Strachey wasnat once among the best and worst:nbest because he took the queennquite seriously and worst becausenhe was Lytton Strachey—the sortnof vermin that Victoria had sentnscuttiing under baseboards, Stanleynmodes of authority which has nownreached crisis proportions among ournyouth?nPerhaps what we need to do first is tonstop trying to escape, and then we cannstart rebuilding what we have rightnhere. In such an endeavor, knowledgenof the wisdom and beauty of traditionalnChinese culture and thought couldnREVISIONSnWeintraub’s Victoria: An IntimatenBiography (New York: E.P. Dutton;n$26.95) is a well-researched, popularnbiography by a competent literarynhistorian, and there are worsenways to spend a week. What isnwrong with Weintraub’s book isnsummed up by the subtide: an intimatenbiography. The last such worknI remember reading was Fawn Brodie’snscandalous treatment ofnJefferson—little more than an extendednlie. Weintraub is no liar, butnin his eagerness to paint Victoria innthe colors of a passionate woman,nhe misreads a great deal more thannthe queen’s character. Who, I wonder,nwill be surprised to discovernthat the queen was passionately innlove with Prince Albert or that, tonall appearances, they were what wenshould now call “sexually compatible”?nWhile social historians likenLawrence Stone and Philippe Ariesnhave tried to “prove” that our ancestorsnwere different from us innevery possible way, their work cannotnbe taken seriously by any sensiblenperson who has read his grandmother’sndiary. Cultures change,nbut the basic facts of life—“birth,ncopulation, and death” — and ofnthe human character do not. Wenare one with Adam and Eve, boundnto them inextricably by our geneticncode. Albert and Victoria and allntheir generation were simplynhuman.nThe broader context of Victoria’snreign is entirely missing. Everythingncomes down to personalities.nWeintraub virtually fawns uponnDisraeli and repeats every bit ofntittle-tattle against Gladstone hencan find. Because he has no graspnof political history, he obscuresneven the significance of Victoria’snnnindeed play a most constructive rolen— Confucianism in particular hasnmuch to offer in the formulation of anresponse to disturbing aspects of politicalnideology. But let us realize thatnwhen we idealize another culture wendo it no honor; and let us keep ournpriorities in line as we strive to reweaventhe frayed tapestry of civilization.nextended family connections withnPrussia and Russia. Add to this ancertain propensity for jaded vulgarisms—thenqueen is said to be satisfiedn”between the sheets”—and annobsession with what we used to callnfemale complaints, and you have anbook even more repellent than Strachey’s.nOne virtue, however, the booknhas: By dwelling upon Victoria’snpersonal life, it becomes clear hownun-English she really was. She andnAlbert were never happier thannwhen they were visiting the oldncountry; they settled upon Scotlandnfor vacations, because it remindednthem of Goburg. Although Weintraubndoes not say so, it becomesnapparent that part of what Victoriandisliked in Gladstone were the verynqualities that made him “the people’snWill.” While Disraeli exultednin ceremony and was flattered to benable to flatter royalty, the evangelicalnand very English Gladstone hadnno stomach for such nonsense.nThere are many reasons whynVictorianism was doomed to fad,nbut there is one that has not, to mynknowledge, been considered: In hernconception of morals and manners,nthe queen was as foreign as CharlesnII, who had spent his life at thenFrench Court. The English tooknwell enough to the Christmas treesnand domestic gemiitlichkeit, butnthere are limits. Many Americansnconfess to a similar uneasinessnwhen they hear tales of conservativenplans to use the nation’s schools asnpart of an effort to rebuild (reallyncreate) an ideology of democraticnnationalism. As one friend of oursnwould say, all this talk of the Americannexperiment in democracy is,nfrankly, un-American. (TF)nJULY 1987/29n