Piston, Pen and Press

Our autumn issue, 28 3, contains an important Round Table, Piston, Pen and Press, covering new scholarship on nineteenth-century working-class literary cultures, from Mechanics Institutes to periodical poetry. The convenors of Piston, Pen and Press remind us that JVC has a rich tradition of publishing work on labouring class culture.

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The Woman Professional and De Facto Non-Biological Motherhood in ‘The Story of a Modern Woman’

Ella Hepworth Dixon’s novel, The Story of a Modern Woman (1894), unlike many of its mid-century predecessors and fin-de-siècle contemporaries, does not burden its heroine, an aspiring professional woman, with marriage and biological motherhood.[1] Mary Erle, the main protagonist of Dixon’s novel, “did not care for babies” and “would rather have had a nice, new, fluffy kitten.”[2] Having thus described Mary’s lack of interest in children in no uncertain terms, Dixon’s narrative is also careful to point out her natural,

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‘Hearts and Pockets’: Consumerism and the early Salvation Army

Figure 1 (header image): An advertisement for the wide range of goods to be purchased at the Salvation Army Trade Department, including an illustration of shoppers in the ‘Salvation Emporium’ showroom on Clerkenwell Road. From Salvation Army newspaper War Cry, 18 November 1893. Salvation Army International Heritage Centre. The notion of a ‘consumer identity’ is simultaneously ubiquitous and elusive. We are all consumers; and many of us do our best, in one way or another, to ensure that our consumer

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‘Dear Boss, I am staying in Manchester at present’: Regional Jack the Ripper Letters and Northern Representation

‘Dear Boss, I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled.’ [1] [2] Scribbled in red ink, these sentences marked the first of several letters attributed to the serial killer known as

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Lady Clementina Hawarden: the silhouette motif in photographic art

1st June 2022 marked the bicentenary of the birth of pioneering photographer Clementina Hawarden (1822-1865), one of the most significant women to contribute to early photography. In this blog I highlight a specific genre within the extensive Hawarden photographic collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, concentrating on use of the silhouette as a stylistic motif in her photographic portraiture. Viscountess Clementina Hawarden, née Fleeming, left an extensive oeuvre of collodion photographic images marking her brief embrace of the

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Review: Alistair Robinson’s ‘Vagrancy in the Victorian Age’

Studies dealing with textual representations of homelessness in Britain during the early modern period are plentiful: for instance, Arthur Kinney’s Rogues, Vagabonds & Study Beggars: A New Gallery of Tudor and Early Stuart Rogue Literature (1973), A.L. Beier’s Masterless Men: The Vagrancy Problem in England 1560-1640 (1985), Linda Woodbridge’s Vagrancy, Homelessness, and English Renaissance Literature (2001), Patricia Fumerton’s Unsettled: The Culture of Mobility and the Working Poor in Early Modern England (2006) and Craig Dionne and Steve Mentz’s Rogues and Early

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Literary responses to the Cotton Famine in Lancashire

The Cotton Famine (1861-65) was a significant era of poverty and unemployment resulting from a blockade on raw cotton during the American Civil War, which hit Lancashire’s textile communities particularly hard. It produced a wide variety of contemporary literary responses, many of which have been under-discussed in scholarship on Victorian industrial literature. In the past decade, however, more effort has been put into archiving and analysing these responses. This is primarily seen in the University of Exeter’s open access digital

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‘Crushed Flounces and Broken Feathers’: British Women’s Fashions and their Indian Servants in Victorian India

‘We have had so many inquiries respecting Indian outfits, and necessary articles of dress for the Presidencies…’ (The Englishwoman’s Conversazione, Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, 1 July 1869). Britain’s imperial control and power over India had reached its epitome in the nineteenth century, as the East India Company had become entrenched, and later, the colonial society was consolidated by the imposition of Crown Rule in 1858. The nineteenth century, especially the second half, witnessed many British women crossing the seas to reside

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Language of Feminism in Arabic and British Fin-de-Siècle Writing

Writing a comparative PhD thesis on the New Woman in Britain and the Arab world at the fin de siècle entailed establishing similarities and differences in language usage in the early feminist movements in both cultural contexts. Considering that the New Woman is a well-established field of study in Western scholarship, the main focus of my research project was to demonstrate that, contrary to the assumptions made in existing literature – that the New Woman appeared in Arabic from the

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Venerating Verses and Disrespectful Ditties: Informal Music Inspired by Queen Victoria

Over the course of her record breaking six-decade reign, Queen Victoria was the subject of numerous formal and informal musical compositions alike. While most formal music was reverential in nature and sought to praise the monarch, by and large the informal music that Victoria inspired among the lower classes tended to contain derogatory or mocking depictions of the queen. However, there were a small number of compositions that celebrated Victoria’s personal and political successes. Still, most of these were informal

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