Books, Reading, and Daydream Believing: Christy Carew Has ‘Nothing’ to Do

The current pandemic triggered what appears to be a reading revival. As I noted media discourse on people accumulating books, I wondered whether sometimes these books were companions to a daydream, as individuals imagined an alternative present or felicitous future; experiencing, as Charlotte Bronte expressed it in Villette, “the life of thought, and that of reality”.[1] Researching fictional experiences of reading in women’s writing at the fin de siècle, I notice a book is often accompaniment to a daydream. It

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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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Claws and Petticoats: The Victorian Lion Queens

In a recent article I wrote about Maccomo, the first black lion tamer in Victorian England. But working with wild cats was not only just for men. Several Victorian women became famous in their own right for braving the lion’s cage. The earliest mention of a female working with wild cats appears in the Liverpool Mercury on 1 August 1845: ‘A Mrs. King, who takes the title of the Lion Queen, has been exhibiting her foolhardiness at Glasgow, by going

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Hysteria and Victorian Women in Art

In ancient Greece there existed the medical concept of a woman’s “wandering womb”; that is, the womb could move about the body, obstruct breathing and press on other organs to cause various symptoms of illness. It was “an animal within an animal”, according to the celebrated ancient Greek physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia. In the late nineteenth century, the notable French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot began his study of unusual physiological symptoms presenting in women, such as nervous anxiety, faintness, irritability, uncontrolled

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Picturing the Angel Outside the Home

When one pictures Victorian advertising, a fairly consistent image springs to mind: that of trade cards depicting corset-clad white women alongside their respectable husbands and cherubic children. These advertisements are intended to ensnare the morally sensible “angel of the house,” and persuade her that a particular brand of soap or soup or other household product is guaranteed to enrich her family’s wholesome lifestyle. But the Victorian era also gave rise to two earth-shaking consumer products that were intended to transport

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Flora Shaw: The Times, imperial travels, and a woman in empire

Flora Shaw was a journalist and Colonial Editor of The Times, 1893-1900. She secured this position due to a widely praised series of ‘Letters’ from South Africa, penned during the first of a number of visits to South Africa, Australia, and Canada in the following decade. Shaw visited South Africa and Australia in 1892-3, Canada and the Klondike in 1898, and South Africa in 1900 and 1902. Shaw was an evangelising imperialist, as Dorothy O. Helly and Helen Callaway have

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Wish You Were Here: Victorian women pioneers of travel photography

In September 1835, Constance Talbot wrote to her husband asking if he would be taking his small experimental “mousetrap” cameras on a visit to Wales. She remarked, “It would be charming for you to bring home some views.”[1] Four years later, William Henry Fox Talbot announced his invention of Photogenic Drawing at the Royal Society, London, and started the extraordinary creative phenomenon we know now as positive / negative photography. We all take photography for granted: it’s an indispensable, ubiquitous

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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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Laura Foster, ‘Merry Christmas in the Workhouse’

Laura Foster completed her PhD at Cardiff University in 2014. Her interdisciplinary research focuses on the representation of the workhouse in nineteenth-century culture, with a particular focus upon periodical publications and visual material. Her most recently published article, ‘Dirt, Dust and Devilment: Uncovering Filth in the Workhouse and Casual Wards’, is available to read online at Victorian Network. A perusal of the December issues of the Illustrated London News or the Graphic is a gratifying pastime for anyone indulging a

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