Recently I read Leah Price’s How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain. According to the publisher, this book is mostly for fans of Victorian literature and bookworms of the 21st century. And they did a really great job charming booklovers: the book looks amazing, with a dustjacket covered with paper roses, and the actual cover bound in cream linen with silver letters on the spine. It looks amazing.

The back cover promises a study of how books were used as missiles, doorstops, food wrapping, or spouse-ignoring devices. But don’t be fooled! This book will not teach you that most fish were wrapped in pages of Great Expectations, or that most fires were kindled with Jane Eyre. Despite the light summary text, this is in fact an academic study on how books were perceived for different groups and classes, what functions books would have on both a practical and intellectual level, and how books influenced people in Victorian Britain. The book is definitely not bedtime-reading material, being fully outfitted with footnotes and very long sentences. It does feature some personal anecdotes and the author speaks of herself at times, which keeps the book light and pleasant.

Nowadays in the Western world, even though not everyone likes to, almost everyone is able to read. This was different in the Victorian Era. There were large groups of people who could not read at all, and large groups of people who aspired to read, in order to appear higher-classed. This had some interesting effects: books warning their readers to handle it properly and not dirty it, discussions about whether young girls should read, and if so, what should they read? Lower classes moving from using books as sandwich wrappers to identifying themselves as readers. People buying books or dummy spines for the sole purpose of appearing to be well-read (Dickens, the book says, lined his study with dummy spines, for example “cat’s lives” (in nine volumes).)

A wide variety of themes is explored in the various chapters. In the chapter The book as go-between, the problem of servants reading books is studied. The chapter talks about the fear of books blurring social distinctions, of making servants forget their work or of them treating books poorly. And how do you get your wive to dust the books but not read them?

In The book as burden, unwanted literature is discussed. Over time, the book changed from an expensive, wonderful, wanted item into something that could be unwanted and rejected, for example certain religious tracts or Victorian junk mail.

The repellent book talks about how books can be used to avoid company or conversation. It speaks of people pretending to read in order to not be disturbed, and of marriages in which the man reads a paper and the woman reads a novel.


One of the illustrations of the book: “How to make a chatelaine a real blessing to mothers”

All in all, I thought this book was a very interesting read, nicely written and very well illustrated. I would definitely recommend it to all book-lovers and students of Victorian literature. When you know how books were viewed, received and treated at the time of publishing, it will definitely give you a greater understanding of any Victorian text you’re studying.

You can read an excerpt here: http://erb.kingdomnow.org/leah-price-how-to-do-things-with-books-excerpt/

You can purchase the book here: http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9714.html

The Victorian era was birthed when Queen Victoria took the throne of the United Kingdom in 1837 at the tender age of 18. It’s what happened throughout her reign and marriage that spawned the era. Queen Victoria was creative, adventurous, innovative and unafraid of trying new things. The era’s so-called “mother of feminism” launched a period of fashion that would last for over 50 years and become a worldwide phenomenon that still influences culture today.

This Victorian era was essentially broken up into two periods: the early period (1837-1860) and the mid- to-late period (1860-1901).

Early Victorian Period
The early period’s fashion was characterized by ditching hats for bonnets, Gigot sleeves which “collapsed” around a woman’s arms and dresses which showed off a woman’s neckline. Skirts were worn so that they poofed out like an umbrella from the waist on down.


Mid to Late Victorian Period
The mid-to-late period, however, was characterized more by “Princess line” one-piece gowns, which eventually evolved into dresses with trailers, that being that parts of the formal dress lagged (better known as “trains”) behind the woman wearing it.

These were designed to showcase a woman’s figure, especially if that woman was slim and trim. Other characteristics of this period were mutton sleeve legs, brightly-colored dresses and tailor made suits that women would wear. Those who wore traditional Victorian era clothing were considered among the social elite because they were taking after the Queen, who was of the highest social class.


Victorian Style in Wedding Dresses

Now that you know a little bit about the Victorian era and what fashion trends were popular during that
time, you can probably draw some parallels with modern day society, most notably with weddings.

That’s right, if you’re planning a nice wedding, with the bride decked out in a formal white wedding dress, that dress has Victorian roots, even for the most modern bride. Many brides-to-be also like to seek dresses with more of a Victorian flair to them, because women during the Victorian era of time were considered “pure and immaculate.”


And “pure and immaculate” is what many brides desire on their big day. It’s why they wear a white dress, a tradition that emerged when Queen Victoria herself was married. For an example of this, think back to some of the characteristics in fashion during the Victorian era previously mentioned. Princess-like, one-piece gowns. Dresses that reveal a woman’s neckline. Formal dresses that featured a train. Now think of the last wedding that you went to and what the bride looked like walking down the aisle. There are probably many similarities, just with a modern day twist to it.

Victorian Influence on Everyday Clothing

Weddings are one thing, but every day fashion is another. Hence, fashion designer Jessica McClintock, the founder of Gunne Sax, which eventually became the internationally-known Jessica McClintock, after her namesake. McClintock is notorious for designing her clothing line after the Victorian era and this line continues today, but with a more modernized edge. Most recently, the fashion designer has released a clothing line featuring “lush fabrics, laces and heirloom styling” in which the blouses and dresses that make up the clothing line are Victorian inspired.


The Victorian era ended more than 100 years ago, but its footprints can still be seen in homes. But there’s more to modern day Victorian era than the bricks that still stand tall today in many of America’s cities. There’s fashion, arguably the most significant trend that emerged during that time period, which continues to influence fashion designers and society today.

This guest post is by Edwin who regularly writes about celebrities, TV, movies, and fashion for the Celebutaunt blog on USDish.

Have you ever finished a book and immediately went to search on wikipedia, just to have some themes and symbols explained, or to see how other people interpreted the book? Or have you ever missed reading books in English class, where every detail could be explained, words and actions put in the right context, and you get so much more from the book then when reading it on your own? If so, I have some very good news for you! Recently I read the book The Annotated Emma and let me tell you, I want all my books to be annotated now. Regular books just won’t do any more.

The Annotated Emma
is the original text by Jane Austen printed on the left side, and the annotations by David M. Shapard (PhD and 18th century expert) on the right side. This makes the book very nice and easy to read, since you don’t have to flip to the back of the book or keep up with footnote numbers, and there is plenty of space for the notes and images to go. According to the official website the notes contain: 

-Explanations of historical context
-Citations from Austen’s life, letters, and other writings
-Definitions and clarifications
-Literary comments and analysis
-Maps of places in the novel
-An introduction, bibliography, and detailed chronology of events
-Nearly 200 informative illustrations

In this way, I learned that the word “afternoon” was used only for the hour or two between dinner and the full onset of evening, as a result the word was used more in summer. And that mr. Knightly used his farm horses to drive his carriage, which was much cheaper than keeping especial carriage horses (mr. Knightly was a thrifty man when it comes to dating!)

If you love Jane Austen, or enjoyed Emma (the book or the series), you will definitely enjoy this book. You will pick up on more hints and symbols in the text, words and habits are explained, and you get maps and a chronology. It’s an excellent book to read, whether you’ve read a lot of Austen (because you will learn many new facts) or whether you’re an Austen novice and a little scared of a text this big and old (the notes will explain everything!)

The downside (since every review needs one): This book is HUGE! You could bring serious harm to people just by lugging it around in your backpack. That is, if you’re able to lift your backpack with this book in it. Unlike many classic English literature paperbacks, this book is printed on really good quality paper, but this makes it even larger and more heavy. Definitely read at home, preferably at a steel-reinforced table.

Okay, all kidding aside, a book that I heartily recommend. It has just been released and you can purchase it here.

Hi dear readers, it’s me, checking in with a tiny update! Recently I have been writing about steampunk and I want to share with you an article I just wrote, about how Victorians viewed the future. You can read all about it here. It’s all about things Victorians invented, and how they thought the future would look like. It’s short, but an interesting subject.


Relatedly, I was asked to draw you attention to The Steampunk World’s Fair 2012, taking place this summer in New Jersey. Being in the Old World, I won’t be able to come, but it seems like an amazing event so do make sure to drop by if you’re able!

Lastly I want to thank you, readers, for visiting my blog! I haven’t been actively writing here for a very long time and was positively SHOCKED to see how many people still visit this blog on a daily basis. I never knew so many people were interested in the nineteenth century! This makes me very happy and I want to sincerely thank you for coming to read and learn about the Victorians.

Of all the many passions and crazes in nineteenth-century gardening and
natural history, none was as long lasting or as wide reaching as fern fever.
Ferns were not just the obsession of a few professional botanists, nor even
of the thousands of amateur gardeners and naturalists, but held a popular fascination
for much of society. If you decorated and furnished your house, went to the seaside,
strolled in pleasure gardens, patronised the theatre and concerts, visited exhibitions,
read novels, played music, or spent time in hospital, you encountered ferns and
ferneries. In numerous ways Pteridomania, as fern madness was christened, epitomised
the exciting, enquiring, innovative, industrious, creative, and contradictory reign of
Queen Victoria in which it occurred.

This is part of a book I just finished reading, called Fern Fever: The Story of Pteridomania, written by Sarah Whittingham. This book describes the popularity of ferns in the nineteenth century in all its aspects.

It could be possible that the idea of a book about ferns does not seem to exciting. Think again! This book will make you love ferns and fern-collecting, even if you only had lukewarm feelings about ferns before. This book is definitely a pleasure to read. Even though it contains lots of information, it is written in a very pleasant and comprehendible style. Throughout the book there are many colour plates and interesting images. The text is very well researched and thorough, so that it will be an interesting read both for people who are new to ferns and for the expert fern-lover. The book incorporates a lot of background information and general information on the nineteenth century, making it a good all-round book to read. Definitely recommended for everyone who wants to contract fern fever, or is already feeling feverish!

Topics included are: how to collect ferns, fern equipment, women writers, collecting and cultivating ferns, fern furniture, and more.

(Image Courtesy of the National Library of Australia, Canberra. From Fern Fever: The Story of Pteridomania (c) Frances Lincoln Ltd. and Sarah Whittingham. US $60.00.)

A downside might be is that the book is very extensive, counting 240 pages. It’s so thorough though that noone will ever have to write about ferns any more, it really covers every subject.

Weirdly, the front cover is an exact copy of an older book’s cover, which is reproduced inside the book. It seems just like the text was erased, and new texts inserted. It seems strange, for a book that is so well-researched, not to deserve it’s own front cover.

Anyway, don’t let that stop you! The book is available here: http://www.franceslincoln.co.uk/en/C/0/Book/3159/Fern_Fever.html

This is from Tours of a German Prince by Prince Pückler, I thought it was funny to see how some things don’t really change in almost 200 years time! “La petite bouche” means having a tiny mouth, or little appetite at dinner.

Victorian Lampposts

This is a guest blog by Benjamin Knowles from Victorian Lampposts

Firstly I would like to thank Geerte for creating this wonderful blog, I know many people have (like me) received a great deal of pleasure in reading it and I do hope you continue.

Victorian Lampposts, a family passion for the last 30 years, and despite common misconception, they’ve actually had a rather short lifespan to date. During the Victorian era, lampposts were quite different to the type we expect to see today. Mainly gas powered, a civil servant would be employed to perform his rounds at dusk and light each one in turn. Since the early 1900’s the lamppost has still stirred the same human emotions, if they’re dimly lit they become haunting and eerie, if they glow bold and bright they give us a feeling of safety and security. It’s strange to think how such an innate object can stir such feelings.
100 years later and the general public are increasingly fond of these pieces of Period Victorian architecture. Members of the public in a city suburb in Bristol recently complained when the Local council removed 30 Victorian lampposts and relocated them to a more fashionable and wealthy area.

For me and our small family business, this love continues, as we continue to enjoy, to restore and to recreate these timeless Victorian masterpieces, lighting up a small corner of our world whilst keeping integrity, craftsmanship and passion at the core of our efforts.
Picture taken of our latest Victorian Lamppost reinstalled in all its glory in Southport.

If you would like to know more about our Lamppost regeneration and recreation please see our Victorian Lampposts at EnglishLampposts.co.uk


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