Gift ideas -- choicest new books for the holidays; Victoria's grand empire; The Spectacle of Empire, by Jan Morris. New York: Doubleday & Co. 255 pp. $29.95 .

England at the height of Queen Victoria's reign was a remarkable blend of style and spectacle - the United Kingdom with its 41 million citizens, ruling an alien population of 340 million souls in the far-flung corners of the globe. Jan Morris, author of the acclaimed ''Pax Britannica'' trilogy, here sets down some of the impressions of that empire, from the braggadocio of such ''living legends'' as General Gordon and Dr. David Livingstone to the turreted Government Houses that adorned so many foreign hilltops. Her capsule texts on the proprietorial role of the armed forces, on the empire's building styles, and on its patriotic poets introduce more than 250 photographs and illustrations, many of them appearing in print for the first time.

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