Farewell Victoria Author:T.H. White Farewell Victoria seems to have been written in this spirit: the author sets out to capture and record some of the commonplace, mundane, and fleeting fragments of life in the Victorian and Edwardian eras before they pass from memory. He tells his story by focusing on the ordinary life, one affected by the important events of the time, but not in... more »tegral to them. In doing this he recognises that recorded history tends to be the stories of exceptional people and exceptional events, and it is this that skews the picture. Instead he uses wonderfully evocative prose to construct a comprehensive mosaic more fully describing the experience of any person living in those times. Disraeli, Gladstone, Victoria and Edward are mentioned, but they remain in the background.
His principal character is Mundy, the son of a groom, born in 1850 into a world that still retained some artifacts of its medieval past. Mundy dies 83 years later; his life is lived during a time of unprecedented change. We first encounter him at the age of eight, an uncomprehending child, completely accepting of the world into which he was born. He lives his early life at the manor of Ambleden, a world of rural beauty, imposed structure, and simple pleasures: of trees and animals and hunting, and Pic-Nics, and segregated bathing, and horse-drawn bathing machines. We return to Mundy at distinct moments in his life, some personally important, and some important to the nation. We follow him to the savage wars in Zululand, and to retirement in Hastings. And we follow him as he becomes increasingly unimportant to Society, just like the horses he has always loved and cared for.
The book reads as a lament for that which is left behind, and for the fact that all existence is temporary. Mundy is the last living of his contemporaries, and so as every child is introduced we are reminded that he or she grew into an unrecognisable adult, and is already in a grave. Nothing sustains; everything described here has vanished; what has been passed over is no longer valued. It is a reminder: the experiences and memories stored in Mundy's brain will never be observable again; when he dies it is all lost.
However, there is no sense here that progress is something to be avoided, or that the past was idyllic, only a recognition that modernity came at a price, and that price was the loss of individuality. It is suggested that the modern world is one of crowds and communal pleasure, and of observing someone else achieve. It is pleasure in observing rather than doing, and in winning rather than in participating.
It is a lovely book, beautifully describing a world which no longer exists, and insisting that there is value in remembering the past.« less