The Victorian age was a period of immense consolidation in terms of peace and prosperity, in terms of wealth and power, and in terms of artistic productivity. When Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, her imperial sway extended over a fifth of the habitable world. Her capital city and her Houses of Parliament represented the apex of international dominion. The reign which began in the age of the stage coach ended with the British Isles netted from corner to corner with railways linking manufacturing city with country town, pit-head with dock, rural estate with the metropolis. And the reign was accounted an era of peace. The Crimean War (1853–56) and the Indian Mutiny (1857–58) were significant enough to stir patriotic fervour, but too far away to disturb public complacency. Irish political unrest and even the suffering endured during the potato famine of the 1840s seem scarcely to have ruffled the nation’s peace of mind. Agitations of a more intellectual kind preoccupied many thinking people.
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