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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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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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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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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The Radical Politics of Wuthering Heights 

In 1847, when Emily Brontë published Wuthering Heights under the male pseudonym Ellis Bell, reviewers didn’t quite know what to make of it. Many were dismissive and a handful recognized it as a work of genius, but all were baffled. “This is a strange book,” one succinctly remarked.[1] Charlotte Brontë tossed a further wrench in the literary market machine when she revealed herself and her sisters as women three years later. Emily, by the second printing of her novel in

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Humans vs. Animals: Reimagining the Role of Martians in H.G. Wells’ ‘The War of the Worlds’

If you have ever read or heard of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds (1898), then you will be familiar with its role in the literary world of science fiction fantasy and reality. With the recent launch of a new BBC three-part adaptation of Wells’ classic tale, there is no better time to discuss the novel in a new light, reimagine the role of Martians and provide new critical insight into the relationship between the human and the

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