Victorian and Edwardian perspectives from popular literature
This collection of articles and pictures, taken mainly from my bound volumes of Victorian and Edwardian magazines, provides a unique look at life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I have begun with Marie Corelli — one of the most popular writers of the period, but now almost forgotten. Her article, Swagger Religionists, is from The London Magazine of 1912. I have also featured some racist and eugenics literature from the 1920s-30s, in-
cluding a chapter of Britain’s Jewish Problem, by M G Murchin (a pseudonym), and British Brains — the Best, by Arnold White (1848-1925), an English journalist and rabid eugenicist. The Knowles family register is from the Bible of Charles Knowles, my father’s mother’s father, who was born in 1843. In 1866 he married Martha Ramshaw in Gravesend, where he was a Customs officer. See the family register notes for further information. — Alan Ireland, NZ
Two portraits of Queen Victoria, in feminine and martial attire
Left: The Queen in the Royal Closet, St George’s Chapel, Windsor, 1846. Right: The Queen at a review at Windsor, 1837. Both pictures are from Life of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, by G. Barnett Smith, 1887.
The Life and Times of Queen Victoria, by Robert Wilson
This picture, from Volume III of the four-volume set, shows Queen Victoria with the future Kaiser Wilhelm — the ogre of World War I. As this website develops, I will post more engravings from these books.
Engravings of Palestine in the 1870s, before the Zionist invasion
The engravings are from The Land and the Book (1881), by William M Thomson, a missionary for 45 years in Syria and Palestine. He describes Jerusalem as “the common property of the whole Christian world”, but admits that, “on approaching the Holy City, you enter upon an arena of great uncertainty and endless controversy. Nearly every author who has written about Jerusalem has some special theory in regard to questions Biblical, theological, topographical, or legendary, which he seeks to explain and defend. With the exception of the general outlines of the city, there is scarcely an identification which has not been disputed, and the discussions about them have not only been earnest but long, and often acrimonious.” Click here for the gallery.
The Palestinians were a peaceful, settled people, living in small towns and villages and tilling the land.
John Bull holds the door against women’s rights activists, 1870
Of course, nice English ladies, pictured at far right, want nothing to do with these harridans. The cartoon is from Punch, which could always be relied upon to poke fun at any woman who stepped out of line.
The defiance of defeated France, captured by Punch in 1870
As France went down to defeat in 1870, in the Franco-Prussian war, Punch was there to record its pain and humiliation — and also to poke fun at its vainglorious emperor, Louis Napoleon. In the history of the world, has a famous name ever promised so much and delivered so little? Never again would France be an empire — or a monarchy, for that matter. The caption to the picture on the left quotes from the Marseillaise: “Aux armes, citoyens; formez vos bataillons!” evoking the spirit of the French Revolution of 1789, which led to the first French republic. But this time, the red flag of the Paris Commune, rather than the Tricolor, would later fly above the city’s walls. To view cartoons, click here.
The strait-laced Victorians: Suckers for sentimentality
The verse is, as always, excruciatingly bad. From Hand and Heart family and temperance magazine, 1895.
The Seven Ages of the Typical Englishwoman, by M. Mostyn Bird
Whatever the faults and foibles of the modern Englishwoman may be, it is certain that the sparing of the rod of criticism is in no case responsible for the spoiling of the child. From infancy to old age we are now exposed to a running fire of comment and complaint. No one seems able to take us comfortably for granted, as in the good old days. The age is marked by a passion for putting woman under the microscope. We are dissected, analysed, experimented upon; and, curiously enough, instead of resenting, we invite the process. We seem not only willing but eager to spread all our little stock-in-trade on the laboratory-table, and to join with gusto in the work of classification. Click here to read the article.
M. Mostyn Bird is most famous for The Errand of Mercy: A History of Ambulance Work Upon the Battlefield, 1913.
The Good Years: From 1900 to the First World War
These were the years “after plumbing and before taxes”, the blurb to Walter Lord’s book says. “A time of unparalleled optimism when America, with the surge of new prosperity, began to compete with Europe.” The mood of the times was captured by a cartoon in the Houston Post, which shows “1900” arriving via that clever novelty — the car.
Other resources and historical features at Hourglass era
The printed word reigns supreme: An editorial conclave in 1898
The Imperial German Army in 1911: Its strength and its weakness
Racism in Australia: ‘The Yellow Peril’
When Blacks were benighted ‘Kaffirs’
Pencil sketch of the sinking of the Titanic, April 15, 1912
The last minutes in the life of the Schutte-Lanz 11, shot down on September 3, 1916
What a Young Woman Ought to Know, by Mary Wood-Allen, M.D., Vir Publishing, 1905
The Ladies’ Handbook of Home Treatment, Signs Publishing, 1912. “Secret vice” examined
Prudery & Passion: Sexuality in Victorian America, by Milton Rugoff, Rupert Hart-Davis, 1972
Her Royal Highness Woman, by Max O’Rell, Chatto and Windus, 1901. Feminists belittled and ridiculed
The human sandwich: A Victorian mental patient locked in a restraint device
The Queen’s telegram to Mrs Mary Milliken Fletcher on her 100th birthday
The end is not nigh: Daniel Yergin and peak oil
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