The Austere Pleasures of Sidney and Beatrice Webb

The Webbs have invariably been portrayed as cultural philistines, concerned only with narrow utilitarian programmes of social and administrative reforms, preoccupied with the mechanisms of politics and largely oblivious of wider, more 'human' issues. Their concerns with art have been explicitly denied by many commentators, or acknowledged only in the case of Beatrice before she met Sidney. Once the Fabian partnership began, it has been argued, she turned her back on artistic interests or creative pursuits, partly out of deference to her husband's distaste for them. That distaste has been greatly exaggerated, as can be seen from the breadth of Sidney's own early interests in the arts.

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