“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional
intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the
streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the
house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled
against the darkness.”
In all seriousness, be careful out there tonight. As I watch the storm hit my office window I could not help but think of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Paul Clifford.
Regardless of your opinion on the quality of this sentence (I happen to like it), may I suggest the entire novel
Thanks to Project Gutenberg for making this book available online at no cost for our enjoyment.
Professor Jon Mee teaches in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Warwick. He has made a wonderful documentary posted on YouTube by the University (so they want you to have free access!). Chronicling Dickens from the perspective of a literary scholar, Mee takes us on a journey through London of the Nineteenth Century showing us Dickens childhood, his politics, and his literary skills.
I love Dickens. I’ve managed to read A Tale of Two Cites, Hard Times, Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend, Oliver Twist, Bleak House, and Nicholas Nickleby (my sentimental favorite – I fell in love with Smike). I intend to read all of Dickens and I hope to teach Dickens in the years to come. A wonderful storyteller. A profound commentator on his own culture. The ideal Victorian who moved from poverty to the middle classes, and eventually to wealth. As a wealthy man, he was a philanthropist who sought to fight poverty and protect women driven to prostitution.
Dickens was not perfect, but that makes him all the more attractive. It is Dickens’ humanity that is the most moving element of his work and his life. Dickens reached people of all classes, all sexes, and today he reaches people of many cultures.
Join me in my love of Dickens. Watch Dr. Mee’s wonderful documentary. Then, read one of his novels.
The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man
I admit, I’m not a reader of steam punk. My Neovictorian nature seeks out books like A.S. Byatt’s Possession or Will Self’s Dorian: An Imitation. I love fantasy novels but the fantasy I’ve read is always set in a medieval setting. So when I picked up Mark Hodder’s The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, I was confused.
I was attracted to the book because the central characters were Sir Richard Burton and A.C. Swinburne – great! It sounded like a Sherlock Holmes mystery so I was fascinated and could not wait to start.
Then, confusion set it. The steam punk world of Hodder’s 1860s London is very different from the one I knew. Men riding Swans to African Expeditions. An assassinated Queen Victoria. A Swinburne openly discussing his sadomasochistic desires in public places. Mechanical buses made out of bio-engineered caterpillars. What was going on? I was lost.
Then, I remembered that it’s a mystery. I was not supposed to understand what was going on entirely. Halfway through I realised that I needed to just sit back and enjoy the comic characters. A pre-teen Oscar Wilde is a paperboy! Herbert Spencer is a servant and eventually a mechanical creature. Gladstone shows up. Once you let go of reality (a difficult task for any Victorianist) this is a fun adventurous novel that I recommend to anyone with particular interests in mystery.
A final note: sorry to have been missing this week. A very busy week of work. I am still here and still loving this space. I have had visitors from about twenty different countries now and a few comments. I would like to here from you if you have something that should be added to the page, removed (I never mean to offend or to take advantage. Case in point: the link above is to the amazon page where you can buy Hodder’s novel)). I’m just curious and would love to hear from other curious people.
Hello everyone. It is so nice to see the more people are coming to the page and using the links that I’ve posted. Thank you for your visits and I hope that what you found here was either useful (we all must be of use!) or at least interesting. I’ve been busy writing my dissertation and obsessing over the American presidential election but today I discovered something I thought I would share.
A documentary posted by I-don’t-know-who called Queen Victoria’s Empire: Engines of Change. The full documentary is in sixteen parts of 15 minutes per part. I’ve only watched the first three but the narrator sounds like Donald Sutherland (a fantastic actor – you must see him as a fascist in 1900) and it is very entertaining so far.
By the end of part three, Prince Albert is preparing for the Great Exhibition of 1851 – a very important moment in modernity. If you like your urban lifestyle and technological developments that have taken us out of the stagecoach and off of the farm, then you should know what that is.
The coverage of the Irish Famine is particularly moving.
I really enjoy this and again, I do not own or claim to own or desire to profit from sharing this documentary. I just want others to enjoy the program.
Oscholars: The Companion to oscholars.com
The Oscholars is a wonderful online resources for scholarship on the Victorian fin de siècle. They host journals dedicated to Oscar Wilde, “Michael Field”, Vernon Lee, John Ruskin, and many others. They have also maintained a listserv for many years. Well, it seems that the list serve is coming to an end.
But fear not fellow lovers of decadent aesthetes and new women because they are replacing it with their own blog. Check out the link above as they begin to construct the site. Note the online edition of Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime while visiting. The purpose of the shift in media seems to be ease of access and speed for updates. I much prefer blogs to listserv systems so I’m quite happy with the change.
So, if you want to know more about the beautiful complexities of the Victorian fin de siècle – a period of impressionism, naturalism, symbolism, feminism, and aestheticism, then the contributors to the oscholars will be sure to please.
British Library Link to Audio for Christabel Pankhurst’s 1909 Speech
This is an amazing link to the British Library’s online website. I’m Facebook friends with the British Library and you should be too! Today they have posted a link to a page dedicated to a speech that Christabel Pankhurst gave in 1909 several hours after her release from Holloway Prison. She was in prison for organising public demonstrations by women fighting for enfranchisement.
This is an amazing find. Older recordings really expose how our voices have changed in the past century. It also shows how far we have come as a society. If you believe in democracy (I do, though it is flawed when such a small percentage of the population choose to vote), then this is an important moment in Western history.
This recording should remind us (especially our friends in the United States facing an election that will impact the entire planet due the economy influence of that country on the international stage) that democracy is something that people fought and died for. The suffragettes did not know we would face 10-page ballots in Florida (that’s terrible) but regardless, Christabel Pankhurst would say that it is our duty as citizens to stand in that line, no matter how long it takes. Pankhurst went to to fight for her democratic rights. What are you willing to do to fight for yours?
Thank you to the British Library for posting this today. The work that your publicly funded institution accomplishes every day astounds me. As a proud citizen of the commonwealth, I want to express my appreciation for the hard work that you do in order to preserve history and archive documents from around the world. It is this work that inspires me to continue my path as a scholar. I am humbled.
Good morning fellow Victorian and Edwardian Fanatics. Another new treat available for lovers of the Victorian age (sorry Edwardian England – I promise to dig up more post 1900 goodies in the days ahead!
The Female Detective: The Original Lady Detective – 1864
Before Conan Doyle gave us Sherlock Holmes, Forrester gave us Mrs. G. Mrs. G. is out to solve a mystery and the British Library is inviting us to join her on the adventure. Click on the link above to pre-order the book from the British Library. This is part of the BL’s reprint series of works from the 19th century.
So if mystery is your cup of tea, then you can pre-order the book now from the British Library or wait until it’s October 8th release.