Complicating a pervasive view of the ethical thought of the Victorians and their close relations, which emphasizes the domineering influence of a righteous and repressive morality, Wainwright discerns a new orientation towards an expansive ethics of flourishing or living well in Austen, Gaskell, Dickens, Eliot, Hardy and Forster.
In a sequence of remarkable novels by these authors, Wainwright traces an ethical perspective that privileges styles of life that are worthy and fulfilling, admirable and rewarding.
Presenting new research into the ethical debates in which these authors participated, this rigorous and energetic work reveals the ways in which ideas of major theorists such as Kant, F.
H. Bradley, or John Stuart Mill, as well as those of now little-known writers such as the priest Edward Tagart, the preacher William Maccall, and philanthropist Helen Dendy Bosanquet, were appropriated and reappraised.
Further, Wainwright seeks also to place these novelists within the wider context of modernity and proposes that their responses can be linked to the on-going and animated discussions that characterize modern moral philosophy.