This book was the inspiration for an enormous achievement. The Peoples Palace for the entertainment and instruction of the working class was opened in the East End in 1887, five years after the book was published. It had changed peoples lives and was an incredible support for those who had previously no art gallery, theatre, library, concert hall or gymnasium.
The heroine of the book wants to tell these people "life is full, crammed full, overflowing with all kinds of delights. It is a mistake to think that only rich people can enjoy these things.... You shall learn music and forthwith all the world will be transformed for you; you shall learn to paint, to carve, to model, to design, and the day shall be too short to contain the happiness you will get out of it. You shall learn to dance and know the rapture of a waltz...you shall even learn the great art of writing and learn the magic of a charmed phrase."
She does not wish this done purely for altruistic purposes. It is intended to imbue a critical faculty, to cultivate a sense of the arts that will civilise and import a sense of noble discontent which will endow the working man and woman with ambition. However, this is not just a book with a social agenda. It is a hugely informative story, part social documentary, part mystery, part thriller and not least a wonderful romance!
Public Domain (P)2014 Assembled Stories