Books: Notable

VICTORIAN STUDIES IN SCARLET: MURDERS AND MANNERS IN THE AGE OF VICTORIA by Richard D. Altick. 336 pages. Norton. $7.95.

These case histories gradually create a portrait of Victorian life—social sport, gossip, entertainment—centered on a succession of gory crimes. In the process the author dispels once again the myth that a genteel, civilized Victorian England ever existed. Its underside was a subculture of squalor, misery and brutality, all sanctioned by public apathy.

English reporting has always been hospitable to murder, and Altick, who is a professor of literature at Ohio State University, has...

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