Another reason that 19th century croquet is much more elegant and wonderful than modern croquet (other than the superior croquet set proportions) is that the game was played differently. Modern croquet, to the best of my knowledge, is played only as an individual. The goal of the game is to get through the wickets and finish before anyone else, and you can croquet any other player out of the way to accomplish this. For anyone who doesn't know - if you hit your ball, and it touches another, you have the opportunity to put your ball next to theirs, put your foot on your ball and hit it. The force travels through your foot-stabalized ball, into the opponent ball, which then goes rolling away. That is a really easy thing to understand in person, but surprisingly difficult to describe verbally.
Anyway, in the 19th century, croquet is played in teams. I feel like this adds a great deal of interest to the game. Some balls you want to croquet away from their goal, but you also want to help the people who are on your team. This sounds much more civilized to me. Also, sometimes you will go through the final wicket. At this point, you could stake-out, finishing the game. If you play as an individual, this is worth doing, because you win. But if you are playing on a team, you can become a "rover" and go around croqueting balls - helping teammates and hurting the opponent team. After all, you can't win until all members of your team stake out.
Doesn't that just sound like a more friendly game? Much more civilized.