The book illuminates the cluster of signs upon which the Victorians drew in order to derive meaning from the experience of growing old within a culture just beginning to take age into full account. The pictures of old age generated through fiction, journalism, science, and the fine arts reflected and shaped the quality of life for older people; they provided words and images which helped to form a conceptual basis for understanding ‘senescence’ as an integral phase of existence. The governing principle of the book is that frictions arose between elderly people whose numbers and needs taxed the state which sought to identify, classify, and provide for them. The book interprets these volatile relations as they appear in narrative form, social policy or cultural attitudes. It suggests that the terrors, anxieties and yearnings of old age as well as its pleasures and humors often exceed and challenge the emerging conventions.
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