Lady Clementina Hawarden: photographic pioneer

Next to a window with shafts of light providing shadowy illumination into a sparsely furnished room stands an adolescent girl. There is a look of casual awkwardness about her, yet she has an enigmatic stare towards the camera, showing a degree of trust shared between herself, the model and the photographer.  Beyond the window is a blurred view of the city, lost in the power of the intimacy of the dramatic pose struck by this girl, the subject of the

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Hard Times and radical collectivity in the era of COVID-19 

One of the most memorable – and puzzling – moments in Charles Dickens’s Hard Times (1854) occurs when the beleaguered factory worker Stephen Blackpool falls into an abandoned mineshaft.  Ostracized by his fellow mill “Hands” for his refusal to join the union, prevented by intractable Victorian divorce laws from marrying his true love Rachael, and framed for a bank robbery he did not commit, Stephen flees the grim, industrial city of Coketown but changes course when Rachael implores him to

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How Victorian Cookbooks are Helping Us Cope with Covid

It is a truth universally acknowledged, at least by the Internet, that one way to cope with Covid is to bake banana bread. From social media to Stanley Tucci’s recent diary of quarantine cooking in The Atlantic to the New York Times’ “At Home” section, Americans are hearing at least one persistent and unified message about Covid-19: we should all be cooking. Or baking. Preferably bread. At first glance, the reasons behind the uptick in home cooking seem obvious. Shopping

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Costumes in the Limelight

Costumes are powerful objects, which carry multiple meanings and memories in their fibres. Through three connected blog posts, I will highlight the importance of costume for performance: revealing the insights costumes offer into the lives of the people who designed, made, wore and saw them. Commencing with Ellen Terry’s ‘Beetlewing Dress’, moving on to Edwin Moxon’s embroidered ‘shorts’, and concluding with Kitty Lord’s carefully padded ‘Symmetricals’, I will showcase the information which these unique garments offer about the performer, performance,

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‘“Who am I, then?” Tell me that first, and then, if I like being that person, I’ll come up: if not, I’ll stay down here till I’m somebody else’: Femininity and Madness in ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ (1865)

Unlike many other examples of “Golden Age” nineteenth-century children’s literature that promoted morality through allegorical form, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) was without a clear instructional purpose. In this post, I consider two images by Sir John Tenniel (1865) and Salvador Dalí (1969) in order to reinterpret Wonderland’s possibilities through femininity and madness. In the Victorian period, ‘madness’ was a gendered construct associated with ideas of the feminine, such as hysteria.[1] Although Alice is represented as a child

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Victorian Horse Shows: Spectacle, Leisure, Commodity

Horse shows, stalwarts of summer rural life, began as a Victorian phenomenon. Materialising in both London and Dublin in 1864 as responses to a sharp decline in the equine population, they coincided with the increasing promotion of leisure as an antidote to the pressures of modern work.[1]  Leisure pursuits were allied to ‘the quickening pulse of commercial enterprise which did much to enlarge and glamourize leisure,’ and horse shows quickly became busy marketplaces catering to pleasure and social ambition.[2] Previously

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Women in the business of waking up industrial Britain

Today, most of us cannot imagine waking up at the desired hour without our alarm clocks and smartphones. Clearly, such devices add to the convenience of our lives. But how did people wake up when alarm clocks did not exist or were not affordable to ordinary people? How did people ensure that they were not late for work? The answer is with the aid of “knocker ups”. Knocker ups were human alarm clocks –they were employed by clients who needed

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JVC 25.2 is now available

Given the challenging circumstances in which we are all working – authors, editors, the team at OUP, our anonymous reviewers – we are especially proud to launch the Summer issue of Journal of Victorian Culture. We want to thank all the contributors to the work of the journal for their patient and too often unsung efforts on behalf of JVC.  Our cover image comes from Victoria Mills’ richly illustrated open access essay on Charles Kingsley’s Hypatia, a mid-century novel that

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An Introduction to Novelist Edna Lyall in Two Parts (Part 2)

Edna Lyall’s persona in the literary marketplace – as a compassionate author of novels rooted in sympathy – was satirized in 1891 by Punch. Her popular work Donovan was parodied as Sonogun by ‘Miss Redna Trial, Author of “Wee Jew;” “A Lardy Horseman;” “Spun by Prating,” &c., &c., &c.’.[1] A short note from ‘the fair Author’ caricatured Lyall further, giving readers her foolproof recipe for ‘pleas[ing] the publishers and captur[ing] the public’: The philosophic infidel must be battered into belief

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The Adventure of the “Petticoated Police”

“In cases of mere suspicion, women detectives are more satisfactory than men, for they are less likely to attract attention.”[1] Ebenezer Dyer to Loveday Brooke, ‘The Redhill Sisterhood’ What detective doesn’t begin with “mere suspicion”? And yet the “petticoated police”, as Mrs Paschal terms herself and her female colleagues in one of the earliest detective stories featuring a female detective, remain outliers in a genre dominated by Sherlock Holmes and his brothers.[2] Even Joseph Kestner’s exploration of early female detectives,

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