The year 1910 is often cited as a watershed in the advent of modernism by British critics. The primary reference point is Woolf’s famous assertion that ‘on or about December 1910, human character changed’:
■ The change was not sudden and definite like that. But a change there was, nevertheless; and since one must be arbitrary, let us date it about the year 1910. The first signs of it are recorded in the books of Samuel Butler, in
The Way of All Flesh
in particular; the plays of Bernard Shaw continue to record it. In life one can see the change […] in the character of one’s cook. The Victorian cook lived like a leviathan in the lower depths, formidable, silent, obscure, inscrutable; the Georgian cook is a creature of sunshine and fresh air; in and out of the drawing room, now to borrow the
, and now to ask advice about a hat. […] All human relations have shifted — those between masters and servants, husbands and wives, parents and children. And when human relations change there is at the same time a change in religion, conduct, politics and literature.