The Age of Reason was an eighteenth century movement, following the mysticism, religion and superstition of the Middle Ages. Thoughts and behaviour could be openly challenged, and people were free to pursue individual happiness and liberty. The shorter Age of Enlightenment - a period of great development in scientific thought and exploration - was embedded in the longer lasting Age of Reason.
Swinging away from traditional religion, reason, rationality and enlightenment became the new ideals. In 1794 Thomas Paine published The Age of Reason, a pamphlet criticising the established Church and questioning the Bible; this was followed in 1872 by Charles Darwin's The Origin of the Species in a break away from traditional theology which was to have a permanent effect on British society. By 1899, the Age of Reason had arguably given way to an age of capitalism and greed. In Fevvers' narrative, she pictures rationality lost beneath the surging growth of industry and the increasing pace of life.