Bricks, Mortar and Moonshine
The short period in Britain between the end of Victoria's reign and the outbreak of hostilities on the Western Front has often been characterised as an age of materialism. The long-standing critical neglect suffered posthumously by Bennett, Galsworthy and Wells suggests that most scholars have, explicitly or otherwise, accepted as correct her verdict that the Edwardian novelists were unable to see beneath the surface of the material world. This chapter describes at both forms of Edwardian materialism with a focus not on patrimony, aristocracy and inheritance, but on creation and innovation. It examines how and why the topic of house-building was represented by the 'Edwardians' in some of their most important works. Most of us miss the poetry and the clues to social and economic relations that lie beneath the surface of our material world; the Edwardian novel, at its best, reminds us of the moonshine amongst the bricks and mortar.