This book explores the theory and practice of Victorian liberal parenting by focusing on the life and writings of John Morley, one of Britain’s premier intellectuals and politicians. Reading Morley’s published works—much of which explicitly or implicitly addresses this relationship—with and against other writings of the period, and in the context of formative circumstances in his own life, it explores how living one’s life as a liberal extended to parenting. Although Victorian liberalism is currently undergoing reappraisal by scholars in the disciplines of literature and history, only a handful of studies have addressed its implications for intimate personal relations. None have considered the relationship of parent and child. Four of the chapters document how John Morley was parented and how he defined himself as a parent, based on newly available archival materials. Two other chapters analyze his many writings on or concerned with parenting and parenthood.
Morrison has chosen a topic that has rarely been discussed or even recognized—namely child-rearing, the implementation of values, and “how living one’s life as a liberal extended to parenting.” . . . [B]y choosing Morley as the instantiating figure of liberal parenting, Morrison is able to show that liberalism might be detectable not only at the level of certain first-order values determining goals and everyday choices but also on the meta-level about how to conduct discussions, make values explicit, and structure our lives.
- Adam Tamas Tuboly, Victorian Review
The sequence of the chapters works well in providing a thorough examination of Morley’s written musings on parenthood, integrated seamlessly with an analysis of his own practices in raising his stepchildren, nephew, and step-grandchildren. I came away with a renewed appreciation of and interest in Morley and also a better understanding of how liberal philosophy has impacted approaches to parenthood.
- Natalie McKnight, Journal of British Studies