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Posts Tagged ‘history’

It would go too far to describe the entire history of gardening in the Nineteenth Century, so I’ll just give you some tidbits:

Wardian Case: The Wardian case was invented by Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward, in 1829. By accident he found out that his ferns grew very well in bottles, and he developed this idea to a larger case to hold full-grown flowers. This meant a great increase in the amount of flowers available in Europe. It became easier to import flowers because they were encased in a constant climate and did not suffer from the change of air and temperature while they were transported, and it was easier to keep exotic flowers alive during winter.

(Image from Wikipedia.)

Lawnmower: The lawnmower was invented in the first half of the Nineteenth Century, and was inproved quickly from a large and difficult machine to something that could be used by hand, by everybody. (Of course, women would not mow lawns.) The invention of the lawnmower caused a big rise in lawns in garden design around 1840, where before mostly flower arrangements and grit were fashionable.

Using flowers in interior design: Of course the Victorians were keen to find new ways to decorate the interior. Flowers were increasingly used in the Nineteenth century, not just as a bouquet but arranged as large ornaments. Here are some images from the book “The Victorian Flower Garden” by Jennifer Davies.

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A popular pastime in the Nineteenth Century: an organized fern hunt. Found ferns could be added to ones fern collection, which was immensely popular.
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You know how, while fun, Victorian books can be a little slow at times? Here you can read your favourite books, condensed to about four lines. Some are a little awkward, but some are really great, too. My favourite is from Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad:

Mr. Marlow

I’m the good side of mankind, upstanding and respectable.

Mr. Kurtz

I’m the bad side of mankind, once honorable, now mired in depravity.

The Jungle

I’m the heart of mankind, home to sinister darkness and corruption.

(Mr. Kurtz dies. Mr. Marlow is reborn.)

THE END

The actual Heart of Darkness is quite a magnificent story, a bit gothic and spooky, and very symbolic. It deals with empirism, and the corrupting power of society, the nineteenth-century trade with Africa, and colonialism. You can read it online here!

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One of my favourite Victorian novels is Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now. Even though it is meant as a satirical novel and most characters and events are probably exaggerated, it seems to give quite a good image of Victorian society.

The book started as a series in the newspaper, which is visible in the many, many subplots. It is almost like a Victorian soap series! It deals with a bussinessman, who swindles people with crooked railway stock, a young baronet who tries to elope with a lady to use her money to gamble, a hack writer who tries to seduce newspaper owners so they will give her good reviews, and a girl trying to choose the right man to marry.

the novel is available online but in this case, I’d advise to buy an actual copy (it’s sold for around 11 USD on amazon) since the book is very long.

Want to read more? Here are two interesting essays:
Anthony Trollope
Reimagining Heroism on Victorianweb

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Last week I told about the book I read, in which Prince Pückler-Muskau tells about his travels abroad. Here are some more bits from the book.

Prince Pückler attends a breakfast at the Duke of Devonshire’s at Chiswick. It begins at three, and last until past midnight. The brother in law of Napoleon was there. There was a big chaos of coaches driving up, a cabriolet was crushed and many coaches were damaged, because everyone wanted to get as close to the house as possible. The Duke brags that the dessert alone had cost him a hundred pounds. At two o’clock he leaves for the Duke of Northumberland’s, where a small party of about a 1000 people will take place.

Description of a concert: “The rooms were choke-full, and several young men lay on the carpet at the feet of their ladies, with their heads against cushions of sofas on which their fair ones were seated. This Turkish fashion is really very delightful: and I wonder extremely that C— did not introduce it in Berlin.” [C--- is the English ambassador in Berlin]

He is surpised at the press freedom: the “Great Captain” who wants to re-enter parliament is called ‘a spoiled child of fortune’ in the newspaper. In Germany, censorship was introduced in the 1820s by Klemens von Metternich.
He receives 5 to 6 invitations a day for social gatherings, and goes out quite a lot.
When he is going horsebackriding with some ladies in the countryside, air balloons are seen. I didn’t know air balloons were used (except by scientists and adventurers) that early!

Prince Pückler also shares with us some information on the dandy. “An elegant [a dandy] requires per week: 20 shirts, 24 pocket handkerchiefs, 9-10 pairs of summer trowsers, 30 neckhandkerchiefs (unless he wears black ones). 12 waistcoats, stockings à discretion.
He dresses 3 to 4 times a day: a breakfast toilette: a chintz dressing gown and Turkish slippers. A morning riding dress: frock coat, boots and spurs. A dinner dress: dress coat and shoes. Then a ball dress: ‘pumps,’ which means shoes as thin as paper.”

I hope you enjoyed Prince Pücklers adventures in England! I’ll go back soon and write down some more.

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Recently I have been reading the book Tour in Germany, Holland and England in the years 1826, 1827 & 1828, with remarks on the manners and customs of the inhabitants, and anecdotes of distinguished public characters. In a series of letters / By a German prince by Hermann Ludwig Heinrich von Pückler-Muskau, in a translation by Sarah Austin, London, 1832.
The book is a collection of letters by Pückler-Muskau (1785-1871), written to his love Julia. I wasn’t allowed to take the book from the libary, or make copies, so I transcribed some parts of it, because it’s quite amazing.

“This evening, a splendid fête at Lord H—-‘s closed the Easter festivities. Most fashionable people now make another short stay in the country, and in a fortnight hence the season proper begins. I am going bach to Brighton for a few days, but shall wait for the Lord Mayor’s dinner.

[april 16th] This took place today in Guildhall; and now that I have recovered from the fatique, I am extremely glad I went. It lasted full six hours, and six hundred people were present.” There were two bands of music, tabled in parallel setting, and toasts of a national character (which he dissaproved of, being German). The ladies were “frightfully dressed and with a tournure to match.” At 12 the ball began, but the Prince was too tired from dining for six hours in uniform, that he drove home in a hurry and went to bed.

I have some more fragments from the book, which I will post next week!

If you’re interested in Prince Pückler’s work, you can read an interesting article on his influence on American landscape gardening, in this PDF.

If you’re interested in travel literature (it was quite a fad!) you can find a list here.

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While the making public of gardens in order to create people’s parks was something that first started in the eighteenth century, many public parks were created in the nineteenth century, as well.
When planning new cities or neighborhoods, parks started to be planned in. The most important reason was the increasing urbanisation and industrialism. The public park was meant to provide the working man with a little nature, when he couldn’t visit actual nature anymore because of the increasingly expanding city borders.

It was thought that public parks would help the population educate itself by learning from nature, as well as provide opportunities for exercise, for example walking or field sports. Another idea was that parks would help battle exessive drinking, because after a day of hard work, men could now take a walk in nature instead of drink beer at the local pub…That’s some sound Victorian reasoning, I think.

One of my favourite public parks is Berlin’s Tiergarten, redesigned in the 1840s by Lenné:

Unrelated: I’m in awe with this lady’s creations!. I was happily surprised to see she was from the same country as me, as well!

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A book I’m really fond of right now is Fashioning the Bourgeoisie:A History of Clothing in the Nineteenth Century by Philippe Perrot, translated by Richard Bienvenu.

When department stores like Le Bon Marché first opened their doors in mid-nineteenth-century Paris, shoppers were offered more than racks of ready-made frock coats and crinolines. They were given the chance to acquire a lifestyle as well–that of the bourgeoisie. Wearing proper clothing encouraged proper behavior, went the prevailing belief.

As opposed to many fashion history books, this one offers not just timelines on when skirts became wider, but tries to explain the meaning of it, the meaning of fashion both in the nineteenth century as well as in contemporary society, and researches issues such as the lack of colour in mens suits since the 1790s. It’s quite academic, (actually, I found it in the university library) and it’s great to see a more serious, scientific approach to Victorian fashion history.

The book contains a lot of interesting images and fun anecdotes, which I will post about soon. Did you know for example that buying secondhand clothes was already in use in the eighteenth century? And buying something, wearing it to a party, and returning it to the warehouse the next morning was a known occurence in the nineteenth century, as well as people who stole things compulsively, and men who visited warehouses in order to sniff women’s clothes and steal their handkerchiefs?

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I just finished reading The Glass of Time by author Michael Cox. I must say, I was very pleasantly surprised! Usually I’m not a big fan of modern Victorian literature (mostly because it’s done badle quite often) but The Glass of Time makes a very nice read.

The book’s main character is Esperanza Gorst, who is send to serve as a lady’s maid to Baroness Tansor, by her mysterious Madame. By way of three letters, it is revealed to Esperanza why she is in the household and what her task is. During the course of the book, many secrets are revealed, some murders are witnessed, the beautiful architecture of the setting is described in detail, and we get to see some nineteenth-century London.
While the book at times tries to imitate actual nineteenth century literature, it’s a lot quicker than period literature and therefore makes a nice, easy read. In fact, I stayed up ’till late at night to find out whether Esperanza would succeed in her task! Definitely recommended.

The book’s not out yet but it’s up for preorder here.

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King Louis Philippe once said to me that he attributed the great success of the British nation in political life to their talking politics after dinner. (source)

Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, KG, PC, FRS (born Benjamin D’Israeli; 21 December 1804 – 19 April 1881), was a British Conservative statesman and literary figure. He served in government for three decades, twice as Prime Minister—the first and thus far only Jewish person to do so (although Disraeli was baptised in the Anglican Church at 13). Disraeli’s greatest lasting achievement was the creation of the modern Conservative Party after the Corn Laws schism of 1846.


An interesting (long!) article on dandyism.net

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Unrelated: If you are into history blogs and websites, check out this great article, listing one hundred history blogs. It’s quite a collection!

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Cannibalism

For those of you with a strong stomach or a bit of a morbid curiosity, here are some wikipedia links on cannibalism in the nineteenth century. There was quite a lot of cases of cannibalism in the nineteenth century, mostly by shipwrecked sailors.

The Boyd Massacre
The Boyd massacre took place in 1809, when local Maori killed 66 people at Whangaroa, a northern New Zealand harbour, as revenge for the crew of the ship The Boyd whipping the son of a chief who refused to work.
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The Cospatrick
The Cospatrick was a sailing ship that was the victim of one of the worst shipping disasters to a merchant ship during the 19th century. The ship caught fire south of the Cape of Good Hope on 17 November 1874 while on a voyage from Gravesend, England to Auckland, New Zealand. Only 3 of 472 persons on board at the time ultimately survived.
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Dalles des Morts
Dalles des Morts, also known as Death Rapids in English, was a famously bad stretch of the Columbia River upstream from Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada, now submerged beneath the waters of the Lake Revelstoke Reservoir.
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The Donner Party
The Donner Party was a group of California-bound American settlers caught up in the “westering fever” of the 1840s. After becoming snowbound in the Sierra Nevada in the winter of 1846–1847, some of the emigrants resorted to cannibalism.
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The whaleship Essex
The whaleship Essex left Nantucket, Massachusetts in 1819 on a voyage in the whaling grounds of the South Pacific to hunt sperm whales. On November 20, 1820, the Essex was struck two times by a sperm whale. The ship sank 2,000 miles (3,700 km) west of the western coast of South America. The twenty sailors set out in three small whaleboats, with wholly inadequate supplies of food and water, and landed on uninhabited Henderson Island.
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The Medusa
The Medusa (original French name: La Méduse) was a French frigate that gained notoriety when it struck the Bank of Arguin off the coast of Senegal in 1816, resulting in the catastrophic evacuation of its company, and one of the most infamous shipwrecks of the Age of Sail.
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