So I may have mentioned this, but I LOVE Victorian England. In fact, if I ever go to grad school, it would be to study Modern Literature and History 1850-Present(or something similar). I’ve been shifting through my to-read list, and I found these gems and thought I would share them.
The Victorians by A.N. Wilson: A.N. Wilson singles out those writers, statesmen, scientists, philosophers and soldiers whose lives illuminated an age on the cusp of modernity. He illuminates, through these signature lives, how Victorian England started a revolution that still hasn’t ended.
Victorian London: The Life of a City 1840-1870 by Liza Picard: Like her previous books, this book is the product of the author’s passionate interest in the realities of everyday life – and the conditions in which most people lived – so often left out of history books.
This period of mid-Victorian London covers a huge span: Victoria’s wedding and the place of the royals in popular esteem; how the very poor lived, the underworld, prostitution, crime, prisons and transportation; the public utilities – Bazalgette on sewers and road design, Chadwick on pollution and sanitation; private charities – Peabody, Burdett Coutts – and workhouses; new terraced housing and transport, trains, omnibuses and the Underground; furniture and decor; families and the position of women; the prosperous middle classes and their new shops, e.g. Peter Jones, Harrods; entertaining and servants, food and drink; unlimited liability and bankruptcy; the rich, the marriage market, taxes and anti-semitism; the Empire, recruitment and press-gangs.
The period begins with the closing of the Fleet and Marshalsea prisons and ends with the first (steam-operated) Underground trains and the first Gilbert & Sullivan
Bluestockings by Jane Robinson: Robinson presents the eye-opening and inspiring story of the first young women who overcame all the odds to get their education and attend university. Using the words of the women themselves, ‘Bluestockings’ charts the fight for and expansion of higher education for women from 1869 through to the 1930s.
A London Child of the 1870s by Molly Hughes: Molly Hughes vividly evokes the small, everyday pleasures of a close family life in Victorian London: joyful Christmases, blissful holidays in Cornwall, escapades with her brothers, schooldays under the redoubtful Miss Buss. The urban counterpart to Flora Thompson’s Lark Rise to Candleford, there is the same easy intimacy with the reader, the same intensity of recollection. Her college life at Cambridge and her first teaching jobs provide a fascinating glimpse into another world, full of everyday period detail, vividly and humorously told.
I haven’t read any of these yet, and I think some of them may be fairly hard to find, but I’m really looking forward to reading them some time soon. If anyone’s read any of the above books, any opinions would be most welcome!