Though for well over a century the novels of R.S. Surtees have maintained a steady readership, his books have been comparatively neglected in the literary and social studies of his period. Norman Gash's stimulating book is both a contribution to Surtees studies and to Victorian social history. It has often been observed that Surtees' fiction furnishes a wealth of material for social historians, and Professor Gash sets out to exploit the
opportunities it offers. He places Surtees' novels in their historical context, and uses the novels and other writings to enlarge the historical evidence. Through the views of an
unorthodox and sceptical early Victorian novelist, Norman Gash examines a familiar landscape from an unfamiliar angle, illuminating the conservative world of the countryside, small provincial towns, and the seedier side of London. This is a scholarly and entertaining study by an eminent historian of the nineteenth century.
'attractive survey of early Victorian society'
Norman Gash, The Times
'this is as good, certainly as readable and authoritative, account of daily life in the age of Peel as one could wish'
Times Literary Supplement
'There are two or three marvellous surveys here of topics in Victorian social history where Gash has brought together the fruits of omnivorous reading in diaries, letters and memoirs of the period, with only a slight prompting from Surtees.'
London Review of Books
English Studies Vol 75 no 6
`Gash makes no concession to modern fashions in social history. No statistical table impedes the text, and no jargon mars the lucidity of the prose ... this book provides a splendid compendium of early Victorian attitudes, behaviour patterns and foibles, culled from both within and beyond the works of Surtees.'
R.D. Anderson, University of Edinburgh, EHR Apr. 96