The Naked Heart by Peter Gay
Volume IV of The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud: `One of the major historical enterprises of the decade' - New York Review of Books
Peter Gay's epic multi-volume history of the ninteenth century - The Bougeois Experience is, unquestionably, one of the great achievements in the modern writing of history. By focusing on the lives, institutions, attitudes, tastes, goals and passions of the West's middle classes, Gay has revolutionised our thinking about the ninteenth century as a whole and, in particular, about the social group that was its dymano - the middle class. In this magnificent and acclaimed work, the world's Victorians are laid bare.
The nineteenth century was intensely preoccupied with the self, to the point of neurosis. During the very decades of the most sustained campaign for the mastery of the world ever undertaken, the bourgeois devoted much time - and perhaps, even more, anxious time - to introspection. This book, fourth in a series of five, deals with the inner life and charts this struggle for inwardness. `The secret life of the self,' writes Peter Gay, `had grown into a favourite and wholly serious indoor sport.'
Illustrious Victorian names tumble over one another. Philosophers from Hegel to Nietzsche; psychologists like Wundt and Charcot; and, of course, Marx and Freud. But it is the ordinary bougeois that occupy centre stage here - the readers of biographies, histories and novels rather than their authors - as they encounter open or secret support for their desires, or no less open or secret resistance to them. As with all Gay's books, this is a sparkling portrait of an age - informative, penetrating, and a work that will be widely read, debated and re-read.