Having cheerfully chewed my way through The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens’ London, I wondered what else the author – Judith Flanders – had done in the same vein. And so I promptly borrowed The Victorian House: Domestic Life From Childbirth to Deathbed.
The Victorian House focuses on the life of the middle class, which makes a refreshing change from the usual focus of either the extremely rich or dirt poor (I’m looking at you, Mr. Mayhew) and besides, one is far more likely to identify with the middle class than any other.
Ms. Flanders packs a lot of information into her writing, without getting too dry or running a topic into the ground. She frequently cites literature of the period to help provide context on certain subjects – such as the social minefield that was decorating the drawing room – but not so much that you’re left at sea if you haven’t read extensively of the period (as I haven’t).
I’ve not quite finished the book but I’m already profoundly grateful to be living when and where I am. There’s nothing like reading about the risks to health and safety that was gas lighting to make one quit grumbling about having to change a light bulb. And, whoa, life was filthy. I mean, I figured all that coal dust and the London “fogs” made everything a bit grimy by default but, no, even indoors dust and grime was horribly omnipresent – which is why some households didn’t consider an improvement in lighting all that much of a blessing!
Anyways, both books are definitely must-reads for anyone interested in middle and late 19th century in Britain, especially if you’re contemplating any living history activity.