Nostalgia for a return to the Victorian era is usually prompted by a desire to regain the discipline of a less liberal and cosseted period and a more rigorous and stricter education system.
Its cultural values are less appreciated. The 19th century is seldom depicted today as a time when the arts and sciences were uniquely held in high esteem as the greatest glory of the country.
Yet Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, made an important point in the MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival last night when he said that it was indeed an era when both poetry and the sciences flourished in the United Kingdom, and that prominent citizens such as Lewis Carroll, the Oxford mathematician and author of Alice in Wonderland, embraced both aspects. If we can use the language of Victorian values to promote a return to a more enlightened era where knowledge of all kinds is cherished, we could perhaps enlist the support of traditionalists and liberals for such a renewal.
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