It was in the year 1785—on a fine evening, in the month of May —that three young students, in the uniform of the Military College of Paris, were occupied in the pleasant discussion of a repast in the restaurant at St. Cloud which overlooks the park, and which every visitor of the present day to that sacred shrine of gastronomy knows by the name of Legriel’s. The first of the three individuals, whom we have thus abruptly alluded to, was about sixteen years of age, with a peculiar expression of countenance, which inspired respect rather than any softer feeling, and a blue eye that was in itself a soul. His companions were his juniors—probably by about a few months; and they were two fine, tall, handsome young men, with commanding though graceful figures, and eagle glances which bespoke all the military enthusiasm that filled their bosoms.
The following poem was written by Victor Hugo during the 1830s and first translated into English in a book titled “Songs of Twilight” by G.W.M. Reynolds.
Suddenly the middle classes “saw themselves” in fiction, so to speak. The next major novelist, Samuel Richardson, also wanted to give readers a “realistic” novel. In 1740, he published Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded. This novel, set in readers’ own times (the 1700s for 1700s readers) was written as though it was a series of letters written by the title character, Pamela, a servant girl in the household of Lord B——, to her poorer family in the country. This format, used by many novelists since, including Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, became known as the epistolary novel. Now, Pamela was a pure and virtuous girl, but her depraved master, Lord B, is infatuated with her. He offers her many fine things, which she refuses, because she is virtuous. He spies on her undressing through the keyhole of her room, and even attempts to rape her, but she resists him. Then at the end of the novel, Lord B is so impressed with her virtue that he marries her, to which she eventually consents, for she has in fact fallen in love with him. Richardson’s message was clear: if a woman holds on to her virtue (if she doesn’t have sex before marriage) then she will be rewarded, either in this life or the next.
‘“The Christmas season, which to others is a blessing, shall become to thee a curse: for thou hast forfeited all claim to that salvation and that mercy which He … ensure[d] on behalf of his elect!”’
“The empires of civilization have crumbled like sandcastles in a horror of anarchy. Thousands upon thousands of unburied dead, anticipating the more deliberate doom that comes and smokes, and rides and comes and comes, and does not fail, encumber the streets of London, Manchester, Liverpool … the fields lie waste, wanton crowds carouse in our churches, universities, palaces, banks, hospitals … in several towns the police seem to have disappeared.”
Stephen Basdeo The Following was a lecture delivered by Stephen Basdeo at Richmond: The American International University on Wednesday 18 November 2020 to students in GEP4180: Organised Crime in Popular Culture. Although […]
“A few remarks on that abominable traffic, the SLAVE TRADE, which, to the disgrace of Europe, has not yet ceased to exist, although the efforts of England have been so long directed to its abolition.”
In 1817 the press, politicians, and the public had Robert Southey in their sights; a play, written nearly 2 decades previously and containing “problematic” ideas, was unearthed. A media storm ensued. But instead of pandering to the media mob Southey refused to apologise and, what is more, called out his critics’ hypocrisy.
The working man was not completely at the mercy of unscrupulous employers who might withhold wages and sack them. They could use the law to get revenge.
The Basdeo family has a sordid murder-suicide among its Victorian ancestors. Even worse, insanity was thought “to run in the blood”….
“Something more goes to the composition of a fine murder than two blockheads to kill and be killed—a knife—a purse—and a dark lane. Design, gentlemen, grouping, light and shade, poetry and sentiment, are now deemed indispensable to attempts of this nature.”
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.
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…
A thin shawl was drawn over her shoulders; her dress was ragged and worn, her face deathly pale…In her pocket was found the remnant of the crust, and a copy of verses printed on red paper.
“My father would smash everythin’ he could reach and knocked my mother round awful so I ran away.”
It would have fallen to the lot of a poorly paid Victorian governess to practice playing Robin Hood with children in the nursery.
To make more room for the procession the police constables begin pushing people back. Charles Sweet was at the front of the line and received a blow on the head from a policeman’s cutlass. His head started gushing with blood. He died a few days later.
One of my favourite writers of the nineteenth century was George William MacArthur Reynolds. Although we know him primarily as a journalist and novelist today, he composed original poetry in practically all of his novels.
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.
The British people and the American people did not always like each other. The Americans had broken away from the empire in 1783 and relations remained frosty for over a century. But in the late Victorian era, British writers’ feelings about Americans began to change.
‘The truth and nothing but the truth’—it’s a well-known phrase used in courts of law and most of us have heard it on TV dramas. But where did the phrase first come from?
Universal suffrage was not achieved in England until 1918. However, a century-and-a-half before, one brave aristocrat proposed that all men have the right to vote. And he proposed this in the House of Lords of all places!
Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of Cloudesley were outlaws who were as famous as Robin Hood. Now they’re entirely forgotten!
In 1832, the publisher Charles Knight had a bright idea: every Saturday he would publish a new magazine which whose aim was to educate working-class readers about their world. It would not contain news, and would therefore be exempt from the Stamp Tax (the much-hated “tax on knowledge”), meaning that its retail price would be very low at only 1d.