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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Racial Adventure Stories for Victorian and Edwardian Children

As the British empire encroached ever farther into new territories inhabited by thousands of ethnic groups, Victorians debated the most likely reasons for their own imperialist success. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) inspired those seeking a scientific explanation, who composed cranial and facial measurement charts positioning distinct “races” in descending order; below the European appeared the Asian, Native American, African, and, lastly, the Australian Aborigine. In my research on Victorian attitudes to race and empire, I find

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BBC’s 2020 Dracula and its Others

Remakes of Victorian novels abound in the twenty-first century. While Dracula seems to be a particular favourite for re-writes, we seem consistently drawn back to the Victorian era for our gothic monsters: The Limehouse Golem, Penny Dreadful, Jekyll + Hyde, Sweeney Todd, and many more.[1] Beth Palmer describes these almost Freudian re-imaginings as ‘dramas which are often […] seeking to re-stage, in different ways, the neo-Victorian double-act of surprise and recognition: the Victorians were so strange; the Victorians were strange

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The Case of the Extraordinary Sidekick

“I am not retained by the police to supply their deficiencies” [1] Sherlock Holmes to Dr John Watson, ‘The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle’ Policing remains, today, a highly contested activity of the state.[2] It has professionalised—and bureaucratised—a great deal since its nineteenth-century inception, but it remains plagued by a fundamental anxiety that the police, not Lady Justice, are blind. This post explores the underlying mistrust of the professional police that flows from Conan Doyle’s Sherlock stories through to the

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Italian Refractions of the Victorian Gothic: Matilde Serao’s Fragmented Human Subject

In a compelling exploration of interdisciplinarity, the Victorianist Kelly Hurley examines the influence of nineteenth-century science on contemporaneous literary developments. Hurley argues that radical developments in a range of fields dislodged a comfortable anthropocentrism, which in turn asked uneasy questions of humans’ self-assigned transcendency within the natural order: The new discoveries in the geological and biological sciences required a radical rethinking of humanity’s position relative to its environment: its intimate relation to lower species; the role of the mere individual

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Sympathy in Public, Sympathy in Private: An Introduction to Novelist Edna Lyall in Two Parts (Part 1)

Sympathy sold well in the late-nineteenth-century literary marketplace. When the novel We Two (1884) by Edna Lyall (pseudonym of Ada Ellen Bayly, 1857–1903) became an overnight sensation, Lyall cut a figure that was ready-made to slip into the role of sympathy spokesperson. Her career became a sympathetic enterprise in more than one sense. Not only did she write sensitively to ease myriad anxieties crowding the minds and lives of lower-middle-class readers; she also aspired to instill in readers a habitual

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