Under its iridescent froth, the aesthetic movement, like the Fourth Party in Parliament, was an earnest challenge to that grey respectability which was thinning indeed but had not quite lifted: with all their exotic postures, the aesthetes were the lawful successors or exponents of Ruskin, Arnold, and Browning, much as Balfour and Lord Randolph were the true inheritors of Disraeli and Young England. They brought, or brought back, into English life much that we should be poorer without: they recovered for us something of a European standing, and something of a European outlook: refining form and opening new sources of delight. The mischief lay in the addiction to what was less excellent so long as it was less known, to mere paradox and mere perversity. But the movement furnished its own corrective in the comedy which it created or provoked. We may easily forget how deeply our picture of the Victorian age is coloured by its satire, and how much that we call Victorian is known to us only because the Victorians laughed at it; how persistently, in the classes accessible to comedy, defective types and false postures were ridiculed into a sulky self-suppression; worn-out fashions blown away,and new attitudes approved. And, whether for censure or encouragement, few of the Victorian satirists were so timely or so effective as Wilde, Du Maurier, and the Gilbert of Patience. — G. M. Young, Victorian England: Portrait of an Age


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Last modified 14 June 2018