Bestselling the Victorians: Bill Bryson’s ‘At Home.’

Bryson’s 2010 “Short History of Private Life,” the newest of the author’s bestselling works, assumes the enormous task of documenting the development of domestic life from the earliest traces of human dwellings up to the present day. The Daily Telegraph’s review, which appears on the opening page of the book, rightly, but perhaps unintentionally, highlights the problematic readability of Bryson’s study: “[Bryson has] extracted the most arresting material [from 508 books] and turned the result into a book that, for

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A Tale of Two Book Club Selections: Oprah Reads Dickens

by Ryan D. Fong University of California, Davis For many years now, at the beginning of the Dickens Universe conference held each year at UC Santa Cruz, eminent Victorian scholar and Universe director John O. Jordan affectionately introduces the weeklong proceedings by asserting that “Charles Dickens is the train station through which all things in the nineteenth century pass.” Indeed, it is difficult, if not impossible, to think of any Victorian topic not represented or considered in Dickens’ novels and

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Are Victorian Adaptations Passé?

As Colin Firth basks in The King’s Speech’s afterglow, Emma Thompson pens a screenplay for My Fair Lady, and Baz Lurhmann directs The Great Gatsby, it seems that the heritage film industry is increasingly trading in Victorian sources for more modern fare. This displacement of Victorian source texts by 20th-century upstarts is clearly visible on television, as well. Masterpiece Theatre, the long-running public television program that imports British costume drama to American Anglophiles, noticeably skipped over Victorian texts in this

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The Show Queen (concerning PR and Princes)

                                              The latest figures suggest that ‘More than 24 million viewers [in Britain] watched the royal wedding’ of Prince William and Kate Middleton earlier this month (BBC). While the television cameras allowed access to the event itself, thousands chose to line the streets of London just to catch a glimpse of the young couple in the flesh as they were paraded from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace. In this promenading of royalty on their day of union, and

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Unlocking the Gate: Open Garden Squares Weekend

The weekend of 11th-12th of June 2011 sees some of London’s most secluded gardens open to the public.  Taking place across London, the Open Garden Squares event encourages visitors to encounter green spaces in the capital they didn’t know existed. Not only does this weekend satisfy curiosity and spark green-fingered adventures, it also offers the opportunity to delve into the area’s past.  This is particularly true of the private squares which dominate the landscape of Belgravia.  Belgrave, Cadogan, Chester and

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Modern Svengalis: Victorian Psuedoscience and Spiritualism in Contemporary Culture

Anyone curious about the influence of Victorian pseudoscience and spiritualism in our contemporary entertainment culture should take a stroll down Shaftesbury Avenue in London.  On the side of the Shaftesbury Theatre there currently is a giant sign with the word “Svengali” written on it in large bold letters.  The self-styled Svengali is the illusionist Derren Brown, a British author and performer who has appeared in numerous television series and the sign refers to his 2011 stage tour.  Like George du Maurier’s

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Pete Orford, ‘Scrooge in Space; updating A Christmas Carol for the twenty-first century and beyond’

 [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_KJG5w91cE[/youtube] A Christmas Carol is Dickens’ most appropriated tale, with an eclectic mix of artists involved in its retelling, from Mr Magoo to the Mr Men, and Batman to Barbie. The latest, and highly entertaining, offering was from the BBC’s flagship drama Doctor Who in its 2010 Christmas Special (aired in Britain on BBC1 on Christmas Day), in which the miserly Kazran Sardick (played by Michael Gambon) was the only man who could save the Doctor’s friends – and several

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Scrooge in Space; updating A Christmas Carol for the twenty-first century and beyond

  [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_KJG5w91cE[/youtube] A Christmas Carol is Dickens’ most appropriated tale, with an eclectic mix of artists involved in its retelling, from Mr Magoo to the Mr Men, and Batman to Barbie. The latest, and highly entertaining, offering was from the BBC’s flagship drama Doctor Who in its 2010 Christmas Special (aired in Britain on BBC1 on Christmas Day), in which the miserly Kazran Sardick (played by Michael Gambon) was the only man who could save the Doctor’s friends – and several

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Toasting Boz’s Bicentennial

As the two-hundredth anniversary of Charles Dickens’s birthday draws nigh, pre-bicentennial celebrations are already underway. Most recently, the New York Institute of Technology hosted a conference featuring several eminent Dickens scholars: http://www.nyit.edu/index.php/about_nyit/news-full/literature_lovers_explore_the_works_of_charles_dickens/ Commemorations of Dickens’s life will soon abound in his homeland and across Europe, as this helpful website announces: http://www.dickens2012.org/calendar If you find yourself farther afield from these metropolitan amusements, all is not lost. Follow Charles Dickens’s own instructions for creating a libation that is sure to lead to

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Drugs in Victorian Britain: A Wellcome Collection Symposium

“High Society” and “Drugs in Victorian Britain” by Cheryl Blake Price Sherlock Holmes took his little bottle from the corner of the mantle-piece and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case.  With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle, and rolled back his left shirt-cuff.  For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks.  Finally, he thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the

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