IAIN H MURRAY
How Fiction Changed Britain
Late Victorian and Edwardian Britain saw a mega-change in reading habits. For the first time fiction took the primary place in book publishing, and the medium was taken up by brilliant and entertaining authors with an agenda for ‘a brave new world’. Such men as Thomas Hardy, H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw were the opinion makers for coming generations. ‘With the next phase of Victorian fiction’, wrote G.J. Chesterton, ‘we enter a new world; the later, more revolutionary, more continental, freer but in some ways weaker world in which we live today.’
Chesterton did not live to see the full consequences of the change but W.R. Inge predicted what was coming when he wrote:
No God. No Country. No family. Refusal to serve in war. Free love. More play. Less work. No punishments. Go as you please. It is difficult to imagine any programme which, if carried out, would be more utterly ruinous to a country situated as Great Britain is today.