"She was not a guilty woman, neither was she a saint; she was an upright, charming woman, a little frivolous, somewhat impulsive, but always pure; she was a queen, at times ardent in her fancies for her favourites and thoughtless in her policy, but proud and full of energy; a thorough woman in her winsome ways and tenderness of heart, until she became a martyr."
"We have followed the history of Marie Antoinette with the greatest diligence and scrupulosity. We have lived in those times. We have talked with some of her friends and some of her enemies; we have read, certainly not all, but hundreds of the libels written against her; and we have, in short, examined her life with– if we may be allowed to say so of ourselves– something of the accuracy of contemporaries, the diligence of inquirers, and the impartiality of historians, all combined; and we feel it our duty to declare, in as a solemn a manner as literature admits of, our well-matured opinion that every reproach against the morals of the queen was a gross calumny– that she was, as we have said, one of the purest of human beings."
"It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely there never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she had just begun to move in, glittering like a morning star full of life and splendor and joy. Oh, what a revolution....Little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fall upon her, in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor and of cavaliers! I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards, to avenge even a look which threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded...."
~Edmund Burke, October 1790
A Note on Reviews
Unless otherwise noted, any books I review on this blog I have either purchased or borrowed from the library, and I do not receive any compensation (monetary or in-kind) for the reviews.
These were the real David Copperfields and Oliver Twists. Beaten, exploited and abused, they never knew what it was to have a full belly or a good night's sleep. Their childhood was over before it had begun. Using the heartbreaking first-person testimony of these child labourers, Humphries demonstrates that the brutality and deprivation depicted by authors such as Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy was commonplace during the Industrial Revolution, and not just fictional exaggeration.
She also reveals that more children were working than previously thought - and at younger ages.
As British productivity soared, more machines and factories were built, and so more children were recruited to work in them. During the 1830s, the average age of a child labourer officially was ten, but in reality some were as young as four.
While the upper classes professed horror at the iniquities of the slave trade, British children were regularly shackled and starved in their own country. The silks and cottons the upper classes wore, the glass jugs and steel knives on their tables, the coal in their fireplaces, the food on their plates - almost all of it was produced by children working in pitiful conditions on their doorsteps.
But to many of the monied classes, the poor were invisible: an inhuman sub-species who did not have the same feelings as their own and whose sufferings were unimportant. If they spared a thought for them at all, it was nothing more than a shudder of revulsion at the filth and disease they carried.
Living conditions were appalling. Families occupied rat and sewage-filled cellars, with 30 people crammed into a single room. Most children were malnourished and susceptible to disease, and life expectancy in such places fell to just 29 years in the 1830s. In these wretched circumstances, an extra few pennies brought home by a child would pay for a small loaf of bread or fuel for the fire: the difference between life and death. A third of poor households were without a male breadwinner, either as a result of death or desertion. In the broken Britain of the 19th century, children paid the price.
The fact that a link is provided here in no way constitutes an endorsement of everything on the other end of the link.
Comments are moderated. If a comment is not published, it may be due to a technical error. At any rate, do not take offense; it is nothing personal. Slanderous comments will not be published. Anonymity may be tolerated, but politeness is required.
I would like to respond to every comment but my schedule renders it impossible to do so. Please know that I appreciate those who take the time to share their thoughts.