Category: 19th Century

A Victorian “Commonplace Book” | Stephen Basdeo

I recently got hold of a “Commonplace Book” which dates from 1859. Commonplace books have been a feature of home life since at least the 1600s. Most often women—though not exclusively women—would compile various poems, drawings, or copy out “advice columns” from books and newspapers into these books for keeping later on.

The Man in the Moon

There stood train, its three classes, first, second, and third. “Good Heavens!” I exclaimed, and are not men equal? Have not these cursed distinctions of rank been yet levelled by the roar of the speeding steam? But I, for one, will never give in to aristocratic institutions. So saying, I got into the coupée of a first-class carriage…

“Saxon Grit”

St George’s Day seems as fitting time as ever to publish a “new” Robin Hood poem I found titled “Saxon Grit” in the archives of a long-defunct Christian socialist magazine titled The Labour Prophet in 1892.

Opium; or, How it Became a “Dirty Drug”

We live in an era in which, increasingly, governments in many western countries are realising that they are losing the so-called “War on Drugs”. Some countries have completely decriminalised certain substances, while in some states in the USA, you can buy marijuana over the counter for both medicinal and recreational use. Our attitude to illicit substances is increasingly looking not too dissimilar from that held by many people in the early nineteenth century.

The Awakening Conscience

William Holman Hunt’s painting of “The Awakening Conscience” (1853) told an all-too-familiar story: that of the working-class “kept woman” ensnared into a debauched lifestyle by an upper class man.

Jack Harkaway: The Victorian Harry Potter

The Victorians in many ways were just like us: they enjoyed a good scandal whenever it was reported in the press, they liked both trashy and high-brow entertainment, and like today, they had their popular heroes adored by both adults and children. Let me introduce you to the Harry Potter of the late-Victorian era: Mr Jack Harkaway.