Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist
Darwin, Literature and Victorian Respectability

Darwin, Literature and Victorian Respectability


Part of Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture

  • Date Published: April 2007
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521872492

£ 72.00

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:

Looking for an inspection copy?

This title is not currently available on inspection

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • The success of Charles Darwin's evolutionary theories in mid-nineteenth-century Britain has long been attributed, in part, to his own adherence to strict standards of Victorian respectability, especially in regard to sex. Gowan Dawson contends that the fashioning of such respectability was by no means straightforward or unproblematic, with Darwin and his principal supporters facing surprisingly numerous and enduring accusations of encouraging sexual impropriety. Integrating contextual approaches to the history of science with work in literary studies, Dawson sheds light on the well-known debates over evolution by examining them in relation to the murky underworlds of Victorian pornography, sexual innuendo, unrespectable freethought and artistic sensualism. Such disreputable and generally overlooked aspects of nineteenth-century culture were actually remarkably central to many of these controversies. Focusing particularly on aesthetic literature and legal definitions of obscenity, Dawson reveals the underlying tensions between Darwin's theories and conventional notions of Victorian respectability.

    • An innovative interpretation of Victorian attitudes to Darwin and his theories
    • Uses an interdisciplinary approach and many unpublished sources
    • Reveals a surprising context for the many cartoons depicting Darwin, eight of which are included
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    Review of the hardback: '… a strikingly original, probing study that should command the attention and respect of scholars of Darwin and of Victorian scientific culture in general.' Frank M. Turner, Journal of BJHS

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2007
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521872492
    • length: 300 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 164 x 24 mm
    • weight: 0.63kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: Darwinian science and Victorian respectability
    2. Charles Darwin, Algernon Charles Swinburne and sexualised responses to evolution
    3. John Tyndall, Walter Pater and the nineteenth-century revival of paganism
    4. Darwinism, Victorian freethought and the Obscene Publications Act
    5. The refashioning of William Kingdon Clifford's posthumous reputation
    6. T. H. Huxley, Henry Maudsley and the pathologisation of aestheticism

  • Author

    Gowan Dawson, University of Leicester

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.