This is another period in history that I love reading about and watching on film, but would never survive if I were somehow transported back to it. I would last about ten minutes before being carted off to an asylum for “female hysteria” (i.e. calling someone on their BS and refusing to look decorative in a corner).
Still, the atmosphere of the time is great fodder for romance and horror writers, and I really enjoy exploring the products of their labors, especially when well written and researched.
Perhaps my favorite book of all time falls just within the parameters of the Victorian period: Jane Eyre. First published in 1841, it combines romance with a strong, independent female character. While Jane knows her own mind, she also knows her limitations. This is not to say that she doesn’t fall victim to periods of self doubt or indecisiveness, merely that she knows that the right answer is in her heart, if she can find it. For me, Charlotte Bronte has created characters that are more real than any of the caricatures that grace the pages of Jane Austen’s works. If you must watch the film, then the 1996 version is preferable (I haven’t seen any of the older ones (yet) but don’t care much for the newer ones. They have their good points, but…) Coming in at around 500 pages, though, no movie really does it justice.
On the flip side, there’s North and South. I’ve read the book and lost count of how many times I’ve seen the mini series, and I confess, I’d rather watch it than read it. The book was good, but a little preachy and somewhat dull in places. Conversely, I think that Dracula is much better in book form, though the adaptions to have one benefit in that they can skip the first half of book, and jump straight into the juicy action.
Other than great books, there are two other things that this time period makes me think of–knitting, and technology. Knitting continued to be popular with the lower classes in England, it was a fashion faux pas for the upper classes to wear it, however. Knitting was something that one did for charity, not for one’s own closet.
On the other side of the pond, though, where the Civil War was raging and left destruction in it’s wake, knitting was a way for women of all walks of life to support their men on the battle field and supplement their own wardrobes as fabric shipments and crops were interrupted or destroyed during the war.
When they weren’t blowing each other up, the Victorians came up with some pretty cool things–trains, steamships, and the first submarines, to name a few.
And of course, typewriters. This page has a more detailed overview (and might look familiar to a few of you!), but since this is already getting a little long, I’m just going to share a few pictures of some of my favorite early machines:
If you haven’t seen it yet, then you should check out this Flickr page. In fact, just add everything there to my wish list. Those machines a beautiful. (The photos above were borrowed from the Antique Typewriter Museum.) I actually couldn’t find a picture of one that I love, I think from the 1860s. I came across it when i was researching for my post on Japanese Typewriters, back when I had the podcast. Now I can’t find the image or any information on it. It’s akin to the writing ball, but it looks a bit like a pocket watch. Anyone know what I’m talking about?