The book recovers neglected episodes of this mid-century drama: the adultery trial of Caroline Norton and the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne; the Bedchamber Crisis of the young Queen Victoria; the Bloomer craze of the 1850s; and Robert Kerr's influential treatise, celebrating the ideal of the English Gentleman's House. The literary representation of household life--in Dickens, Tennyson, Ellis, and Oliphant, among others--is placed in relation to such public spectacles as the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill of 1848, the controversy over divorce in the years 1854-1857, and the triumphant return of Florence Nightingale from the Crimea. These colorful incidents create a telling new portrait of Victorian family life, one that demands a fundamental rethinking of the relation between public and private spheres.
The serene and maternal Mrs. Ramsay, the tragic yet absurd Mr. Ramsay, and their children and assorted guests are on holiday on the Isle of Skye. From the seemingly trivial postponement of a visit to a nearby lighthouse, Woolf constructs a remarkable, moving examination of the complex tensions and allegiances of family life and the conflict between men and women.