To write my novel which is set in 19th century New England, I immersed myself into that world of red damask curtains, lace, and crinoline. I’d always been fascinated with the Victorian era and the more I read about how life was really like back then- the more I fell in love with it. (warts and all) How different people were from the moralistic novels written back then. I won’t dwell much on the subject now. That’s for a future post. I’ll just give you an example: a large number of babies were born prematurely. (read between the lines, folks)
For those interested in Victorian History, here are some book recommendations:
1. Inside the Victorian Home by Judith Flanders.
covers everything from interior design, occupations, eating habits, fancywork, hygiene, fashion, funerals, servants, dating rituals, and marriage.
2. Victorian London by Liza Picard
Topics include: smells, streets, education, amusement, religion, crimes and punishment, and much more…
Here is a quote from Chapter 1. Smells: “Imagine the worst smell you have ever met. Now imagine what it was like to have that in your nostrils all day and all night, all over London. But it was worse than that.”
Another quote: “The Thames stank. The main ingredient was human waste.”
Ah, it gets even better! “Sometimes chamber pots were upended out of windows on to the luckless passers-by, or on to the streets, their contents adding to the rich mix of dead dogs, horse and cattle manure, rotting vegetables.” (So next time someone rear ends your car- remember things could always be worse!)
3.Victorian and Edwardian Fashion A Photographic Survey by Alison Gernsheim
Detailed descriptions of the changing fashions for men and women throughout the era. Beards were a much bigger issue than I’d ever have thought. Fabulous photos of everyday people.
4.Inventing the Victorians by Matthew Sweet
read about real-life daredevils Blondin, Madame Genieve, and Selina Young.
picture shows and freak shows
chamber of horrors and drug use
(you’ll never look at the 19th century the same way again)
5. The Worm in the Bud by Ronald Pearsall
premarital sex, birth control, pornography, homosexuality, bondage and discipline. (much of it enjoyed by the middle and upper classes)
6. The Darkened Room by Alex Owen
interesting study on Spiritualism in the late 19th century
7. Daughter of Boston: The Extraordinary Diary of a Nineteenth-century Woman by Caroline Healey Dall
I’d been having horrible luck finding books on 19th century America. Oh, there were plenty of books on the Civil War, of course…but I needed books about how average people lived from day to day. Then, I stumbled upon this gem. Written from 1840 to 1865, it covers everything from her views on feminism, religion, abolition, and marriage. It also chronicles her meetings with famous members of the Transcendentalist Circle including: Elizabeth Peabody, Margaret Fuller, Emerson, and Theodore Parker.