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Tag Archives: Victorian England

Ooops – I nearly forgot that it’s my turn to post today. (My excuse: I was teaching today, and when I came home I fell asleep on the couch.)

After I finished my essay for the Punch Digital Archive that I mentioned in my last post, I turned to a fun project I had thinking about for quite some time: to put together a historical archive for my own Victorian magazine, Allan’s Miscellany, complete with selected articles. Fictional reporters reporting about (mostly) real news? Yeah, that’s my kind of historical-geek-catnip. 🙂

Earlier this week, the Allan’s Miscellany digital archive finally went online, complete with very serious scholarly commentary –

Though articles were published anonymously or pseudonymously, as was the wont in the Victorian Age, the early issues of Allan’s clearly display the  influence of its charismatic editor, William MacNeil.”

– and a selection of articles from October 1839, December 1842, and April 1847. Real news!

“Visitors to Madame TUSSAUD’S elegant exhibition of waxworks will find that the collection has recently been extended to include figures of Calvin, Knox, and Luther as well as Her Majesty, in her Robes of State.”

Snarky reviews of (mostly) real books!

“The second part of Lady CHARLOTTE GUEST’s translation of the “Mabinogion” from the Welsh has just been released. While the “Literary Gazette” was thrown into raptures over the volume, we cannot help but wonder whether such old-fashioned romances as are included in the “Mabinogion” will not induce even more chivalric delusions in readers who easily fall victim to such humbug. We therefore cannot recommend Lady CHARLOTTE’s translation to young men of the gentry and the aristocracy.”

This was, of course, the perfect excuse to rummage around several Victorian magazines in search for contemporary amusements, theatrical productions, book releases, and political news. And I found the most amaaaaaaaaazing stuff!!! (she squeals.)

Like the Christmas pantomime that the guys from Punch (yes, my Punch!!!!) wrote for the Christmas season of 1842: “PUNCH’S PANTOMIME; or, Harlequin, King John, and Magna Charta,” performed at Covent Garden.

Even better than that: for the same year I also stumbled across a mention of the Glaciarium – London’s very first ice-skating rink with artificial (!!!) ice. It was installed in the Baker Street Bazaar at Portman Square, and the rink itself was surrounded by an Alpine panorama, which seems to have been partly painted and partly a scenery with rocks, little cottages and benches for visitors to explore. (The image above, however, is from Punch.) The Glaciarium was only open for two years, from 1842 to 1844. When it closed at the Baker Street Bazaar, it was apparently removed to another location, though I wasn’t able to find anything on that.

Still – an ice-skating rink with artificial ice in 1842? That find pleased my inner historical geek to no end! 🙂

What about you? What kind of news would you be looking for when rummaging through old magazines? Book reviews? News about the Queen? The latest fashion trends?

(Amanda is putting on her Laurel McKee hat—which is probably a black fascinator with a red rose and some feathers—to launch her new book One Naughty Night, book one in the Scandalous St. Claires series! Comment for a chance to win a signed copy…but if you don’t win, it’s available in ebook for the promo price of 2.99 from June 4 to July 2!!)
Under the cover of night…nothing is forbidden…
Lily St. Claire will do anything for the family that saved her from the streets.  With their support, the young widow has become the hostess of The Devil’s Fancy, London’s most exclusive gaming den.  She’s determined to restore the St. Claire family fortune, lost a century before to the despised Huntington clan.  But a ghost from her past may be her ultimate undoing…
The son a a duke, Lord Aidan Huntington is handsome and wealthy, with a taste for adventure and a reputation for wickedness.  A gambler and a rake, Aidan can’t resist a seductive woman with secrets–but one naughty night with Lily leaves him wanting more.  As Lily is drawn into London’s dark underworld by an old enemy, Aidan will risk everything to save the woman who has awakened his deepest desires…
After I finished writing about Georgian Ireland in my “Daughters of Erin” trilogy, I wanted to do something very different for my next project. So I turned to my very earliest historical love—Victorian England!
In this intriguing first St. Claire romance, McKee introduces a delightfully down-to-earth heroine…readers will cheer Lily in her quest for happiness and look forward to the sequels –Publishers Weekly
It all started when I was about ten years old and I came across a battered copy of Jane Eyre on my parents’ bookshelf. I think they used it for a college class or something, but after reading the first page I was totally hooked into Jane’s world. (Though I was deeply shocked—spoiler alert!–Bertha in the attic. I had to go back and read the whole book again just to be sure). After reading it three times, I ran out and and found a pile of other Victorian novels, like Dickens and Gaskell (though I admit I was too young at the time for Wuthering Heights. I hated it then, but I have a deep appreciation for its uniqueness now), I also read non-fiction about Queen Victoria and her world. But then I moved on to other historical loves, like the Regency and Tudor England, and never tried a Victorian-set novel of my own.
Until a couple of years ago, when I watched the movie Young Victoria and fell in love with the costumes. I confess—it was clothes, and the fact that I’ve always loved a “family feud” story, that led me to this story, and to Lily and Aidan and their families, the ducal Huntingtons and the underworld St. Claires.
I am completely in love with the St. Claire and Huntington families. Not only did this first book in a new series by Laurel McKee have me thoroughly enjoying the story between Lily and Aidan, I was just as drawn into both their families and the supporting characters who were involved just enough to add interest to their own stories that will be coming up in the series. But, this was Lily and Aidan’s story and I enjoyed everything about it, from the suspense coming from a man from Lily’s past to her and Aidan’s naughtiness in the bedroom.  –Happily Ever After Reviews
When I was younger I had a fantasy vision of what Victorian life was like, but for this book I wanted to delve deeper and give a more realistic picture (especially of Lily’s Dickensian childhood before she was adopted by the St. Claires). The sixty years of Victoria’s reign marked an enormous shift in society and the way the world worked. The way people traveled, shopped, dealt with illness, childbirth, and death, even the way they dressed and read, were very different from what came before. There was gaslight and then electricity, railroads, factories, the world of the arts (the theater was booming, as were the visual and decorative arts, and novels by authors like the Brontes and Dickens were sensations), the rise of the middle classes, and the expansion of the British Empire into every corner of the globe. All led by a woman who was the very image of domestic responsibility, unlike her uncles.
But it was also a time of vast social differences, a new emphasis on the appearance of respectability, and a whole hidden underworld of dark activities like drug use, prostitution, and pornography. The contrast between what really was and what things appeared to be was wider than ever before. I loved incorporating all these aspects of Victorian life into Lily and Aidan’s story!
For and excerpt and more info, visit my website! And if you would like to read more about the period yourself, here are just a few sources I found helpful…
Donald Thomas, The Victorian Underworld(1998)
Jennifer Hall-Witt, Fashionable Acts: Opera and Elite Culture in London, 1780-1880 (2007) (It was Elena who recommended this book, which is fascinating!)
Michael Mason, The Making of Victorian Sexuality(1994)
Suzanne Fagence Cooper, The Victorian Woman(2001)
JJ Tobias, Crime and Police in England, 1700-1900(1979)
Sally Mitchell, Daily Life in Victorian England(2009)
FML Thompson, The Rise of Respectable Society, 1800-1900(1988)
What do you love about Victorian England?? Comment for a chance to win a copy!
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