Title: Inside the Victorian Home A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England
Author: Judith Flanders
Year Published: 2003 (W.W. Norton & Company)
Year Purchased: 2004/2005
Source: History Book Club
About: I am lustfully curious about matters of domestic history. No, not marital details. I mean the inner workings of domesticity-cooking, shopping, consumerism, the running of households, servants, the cost of goods, wages. It may be a strange occupation, but then I have never claimed nor aspired to normalcy. Inside the Victorian Home is not the only book on the subject I own (although it was the first I bought). It breaks down and explicates on all of the above subjects (as well as social and political history), as filtered through rooms of a house: bedroom, drawing room, morning room, etc., before throwing us out on the street, as it were, in the last chapter. So many things can be learned-insights gained-from how we lived, perhaps even more than what we say or record for posterity. It is a gem of its kind, and one that I turn to for clarification on such matters.
Motivation: History + England + Domestic History= a book I could not resist.
Times Read: 2
Random Excerpt/Page 28: “If the family’s status was on display in the choice of the house, then it followed that location and public rooms were more important than comfort and convenience, and certainly more important than the private, family spaces.”
Title: What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew From Fox Hunting to Whist-the Facts of Daily Life in 19th-Century England
Author: Daniel Pool
Year Published: 1993 (Simon & Schuster)
Year Purchased: 1994
Source: A gift from an ex
About: This book is history-light. Don’t get your knickers in a knot, as that is rarely a bad thing! Although I love weighty, intellectually demanding tomes like a kid loves candy, lighter fare inhabits its own cozy corner of my heart. It took awhile for that to happen. Even as a pre-teen, I was (perhaps unnaturally) concerned with running out of time in which to read the world’s literary classics. Yes, I truly thought about such things as an eleven-year-old. As I thought that time was-a-wastin’, I wasn’t about to devote my precious allotment to “lesser” reading. Eventually, I discovered history books of the pop culture variety. I ate volumes whole, on a variety of history-related topics: fashion, art, film, photography. This led me down the lovely, informative and fun path that is littered with books like What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: well-researched, well-written and highly readable books devoted to popular and general history subjects. I have a preference for the Elizabethan and Victorian eras, with the Jazz Age coming in a very tight third. These are my idea of “beach reads”. Now, I’ll turn to the book at hand. Nearly every aspect of daily life that the average person could find interesting is discussed and dissected within its pages: etiquette, currency, society, marriage, kids, death, clothing, food, commerce, orphans, maids, “lesser folk”, crime, rural life, urban living, sex, balls, dinner parties, hygiene, occupations…..There is a handy glossary for those new to the era and its terms. Although not ground-breaking or revolutionary, it’s engrossing enough that it demands your attention from start to finish.
Motivation: It was a gift from someone who was trying to woo me. Unfortunately, it worked (for a time) because, obviously, books are a way to my heart. This gift was so perfect that it blinded me to all common sense and logic. Or, so I’d like to think.
Times Read: 2
Random Excerpt/Page 134: “In England in 1800 one could be hanged for sheep stealing, sodomy, murder, impersonating an army veteran, stealing something worth more than five shillings from a shop, treason, doing damage to Westminster Bridge, and about two hundred other offenses. (Killing a man in a duel, although murder, was considered socially okay for people of quality, so juries generally didn’t convict until the 1840s. Thereafter it became advisable to duel on the Continent, as Phineas Finn does.)
Happiness Scale: 9 1/2
Charles Dickens (Photo credit: Wikipedia) has some things he would like to share with you.