Victorian Heroism and the King Remodelled
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Victorian Heroism and the King Remodelled book
As suggested in the previous chapter, the notion of a spiritual quest, represented in the legend of the quest for the Holy Grail, was increasingly secularized and adapted by the Victorians to comment on social politics and behaviour. In the context of new bourgeois social formations and cultural concern with moving 'beyond place' in terms of established social and class structures, an 'immortality of self-realization' (Rowell, 15) became more pressing than pursuing spiritual salvation alone. The concept of moving beyond one's supposed place in a shifting society was imbricated with individualism and the formation of self-identity; the notion that the ordinary man or woman could forge their own destiny (articulated in Samuel Smiles's Self-Help (1859». One result of the Industrial Revolution's dismantling of existing social structures was indeed the creation of opportunities for individual heroism, albeit conditioned to a degree by gender, economics and competition; a chance to make one's name (Gagnier, 1991). The emerging sense of individual possibility (heightened perhaps by the two great reform bills of 1832 and 1867) made it seem that 'all men [are] possible heroes,.l Individual acts of heroism could be adapted within national or domestic discourses, or heroism realized as a religious confidence in social salvation gained through service, or as a confidence in the notion of service itself, whether civil or military.