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By Kay Heath

Getting older by way of the booklet deals an cutting edge examine the ways that center age, which for hundreds of years have been thought of the best of existence, used to be remodeled throughout the Victorian period right into a interval of decline. unmarried ladies have been nearing heart age at thirty, and moms of their forties have been anticipated to turn into sexless; in the meantime, fortyish males anguished over even if their “time for romance had long gone by.” taking a look at recognized novels of the interval, in addition to ads, cartoons, and scientific and suggestion manuals, Kay Heath uncovers how this ideology of decline permeated a altering tradition. getting older by means of the booklet unmasks and confronts midlife nervousness via analyzing its origins, demonstrating that our present unfavorable angle towards midlife springs from Victorian roots, and arguing that purely once we comprehend the culturally developed nature of age do we divulge its ubiquitous and stealthy impression.

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Rider Haggard expresses a terrified response to the older woman who disguises herself with youth, refusing to age out of desirability. Taken together, these novels indicate that sexless service was a common convention of Victorian womanhood that required “women of a certain age” to become sexually extinct or be condemned as, at best, unworthy and at worst, horrific monsters. Marriageable heroines in Victorian fiction are, almost without exception, young, but midlife women do function as protagonists in subplots dealing with the exceptional case of the remarrying widow.

Rather than age giving way to youth, his deferral is an act of honor that proves his superiority. Agnes, however, never considers Hubert’s age an obstacle, and she rejects Stephenson outright when he makes a play for her affections. Though her friends suggest that she considers Stephenson, at twenty-two, too old for her seventeen years, she hints that a man “a great deal older” attracts her even more (219). Eventually Hubert overcomes his scruples and proposes to Agnes, but only after her aunt has been arrested for debt and is removed from Agnes’s life, leaving her destitute and in need of a protector.

As I will discuss at greater length in chapter 6, Victorians feared that humanity was degenerating, devolving into a more primitive and feeble form. Apprehension was directed especially toward the male physique; for example, in Henry Rumsey’s 1871 essay, “On the Progressive Physical Degeneracy of Race in the Town Populations in Great Britain,” he reports that the health, including height and weight, of military recruits was on the decline (Childs 1). By 1900, thirty percent of the 20,292 men who volunteered for the British army were considered physically unfit to serve (Walvin 254).

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