I will be brief and to the point this morning.
I thrill to microhistory, and this book is one that well defines the term.
Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Benjamin Disraeli (was not aware he swung both ways), George Eliot, Karl Marx, William Thackeray…all within the time frame of the dreadful heat and smelly stench of the Thames in the summer of 1858. I marvel at how one researches books of this kind, let alone writes the narrative that beats like a human heart. While I read a lot of books of the types I much enjoy, it is always a pleasure to be bowled over. This is a ten-strike.
As they negotiated their lives day by day, Darwin, Dickens, Disraeli, and their contemporaries had no certain sense of how their circumstances might change or their problems be resolved, while we can make use of the historian’s gift of hindsight to ‘trace the pattern’ of the ‘atoms’ as they fall on the protagonists in the hot months of 1858.
I made such a point yesterday with this post.