Condescension, as a form of social interaction, is remarkable for its negative presence in Victorian culture. Condescension's nineteenth-century history is a study in failure, a recurring pattern of invocation and repudiation, a compulsive return to an image that should perhaps feel more anachronistic than it does. In Charity and Condescension, Daniel Siegel sets himself the challenge of explaining a phenomenon that admittedly “may be no more than a nexus of multiple ideas sedimented together, with no unifying logic, no semantic code” (18). Although a disclaimer such as this runs the risk of inadvertently doubling as a description of the scholarship itself, Siegel confronts this challenge by demonstrating convincingly that condescension left its mark on Victorian literature. And though a discussion of condescension may seem narrowly focused, Siegel offers a surprisingly wide-ranging study of this particular philanthropic “script” as a, perhaps necessarily,...

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