Deborah Cohen. Household Gods: The British and Their Possessions. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. xvii + 296 pp. $40.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-300-11213-9.
Reviewed by Peter Clark (University of Helsinki)
Published on H-Albion (December, 2007)
Consumerism in the nineteenth century has been looked at from many angles: retailing and the rise of those temples of modernity, department stores; the construction and architecture of villa-dom and suburbia; gender and privacy; the second-hand market; furniture manufacture; and so on. In this imaginative and handsomely presented study Deborah Cohen focuses on the "British love affair with the domestic interior from the age of mass manufacture to modernism" (p. x). She explores the question of why the Victorians and their successors decorated and furnished their rooms in the distinctive ways they did, largely by looking at the ideas and writings of a wide range of cultural trendsetters, a growing number of them women. She argues for the relative sparseness of bourgeois home furnishing in the early Victorian era and the lack of concern for taste--reflecting the strong influence of evangelical (and nonconformist) morality and frugality. Here the impression of sparseness comes mostly from paintings and more use could have been made, perhaps, of other evidence such as lists at house sales. From mid-centuryof be been madee tcd.
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