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Search tags: victorian-england
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text 2017-09-28 22:13
Which to choose?
What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist--the Facts of Daily Life in 19th-Century England - Daniel Pool
How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life - Ruth Goodman

In my ongoing effort to pare down my shelves, I've decided to confront what has been the glaring coexistence of two books on my shelf: Daniel Pool's What Jane Austen Ate, What Charles Dickens Knew and Ruth Goodman's How to be a Victorian. Both are similar, yet they may not be similar enough

 

Pool's book has been taking space on my shelf for over two decades. His goal in writing it was to explain Victorian life as it's represented in its most enduring cultural artifacts: the many novels of its age. Have you ever been confused by various English legal courts chronicled in Dickens's novels, or the different types of servants mentioned in Trollope's works? If so, then this is an ideal book to have.

 

Goodman's book is more recent. and her approach is different. in it, she dissects Victorian life by describing its daily routines, from sunup until bedtime. This is not just the product of documentary research, though, as Goodman adopts an archaeological approach by describing her firsthand observations of the physical objects (such as clothing) and other artifacts now preserved in museums and other collections. It's not always an idea approach, but in the case of this book it works well.

 

As you can see there is considerable overlap between the two books, yet at the same time the differences are not so great as to easily justify getting rid of both. So I'm trying to decide what to do. Do I get rid of one of them? If so, which one? Any suggestions you might have, especially if you've read one or both of these books, would be greatly appreciated.

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review 2017-07-27 02:19
PRETTY JANE AND THE VIPER OF KIDBROOKE LANE: a TRUE STORY OF VICTORIAN LAW AND DISORDER by Paul Thomas Murphy
Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane: A True Story of Victorian Law and Disorder: The First Unsolved Murder of the Victorian Age - Paul Thomas Murphy

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  Jane Clouson is found on Kidbrooke Lane dying after a vicious beating. She is taken to the hospital where she later dies. The police now have to find the murderer. As they look at her short life and listen to what her friends have to say they believe they have found their murderer and arrest him. Next comes the court of law and the court of public opinion.

This is interesting. Mr. Murphy uses modern forensic techniques to review the case and show who the murderer is. Unfortunately, forensic science was just beginning in 1871 and what we know now is not what they knew then. Because of technicalities and a "judge" who had made up his mind, this case seems like a travesty of justice. I liked how each person is followed through the book. I also liked the synopsis of how modern forensics would prove who the murderer is as well as how the police put their case together. I like the history

 

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review 2017-06-01 06:19
Podcast #50 is up!
Radicalism and Reputation: The Career of Bronterre O'Brien - Michael J. Turner

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it I interview Michael J. Turner ot his new biography of James Bronterre O'Brien, the 19th English radical writer who was a key figure in the Chartist movement. Enjoy!

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review 2017-03-24 21:00
A good book to gain an overview on a particularly complex and fascinating topic for those working in law and/or psychiatry.
Mad or Bad: Crime and Insanity in Victorian Britain - David J. Vaughan

Thanks to Pen and Sword History for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book that I voluntarily review.

As a psychiatrist, and having worked in forensic psychiatry in the UK for a number of years, mad or bad is indeed one of the questions that we’re asked very often. (Of course, the two categories are not mutually exclusive, but in the eyes of the law there are certain prerequisites that need to be complied with to be able to apportion guilt). Therefore, I was very curious to read this book that dealt with the issue of insanity and criminal justice in the Victorian era.

The book is divided into five parts, discussing the main players in the debate, the conditions that were listed under the insanity label, the history of the debate, a part discussing ‘mad women, bad women’, and the last and longest part that discusses in more detail the case studies that caused the debates and the legal changes discussed in the book.

Personally, I was fascinated by reading details about the cases behind some of the defences and legal terms still in use today. Having an overall view of the period and what was behind the discussions illuminates and helps explain the legal changes, placing them at a historical and social moment in time. As a psychiatrist, I was particularly interested in the issues of diagnosis and the discussions as to the different categories used to classify disturbed mental states, including some that sound difficult to believe now (like the many ‘women’s conditions’ that justified all kinds of crimes). Although the details of some of the cases and the discussions might sound bizarre, the truth is that matters are not that clear even now, and even if the debates are framed differently, a decision is not always easy to reach.

The case stories are fascinating to read in their own right and cover the most famous and relevant cases of the era. They provide a great overview without going into excessive detail and would be a good starting point for people who want to delve deeper into the subject, whilst providing a general background to others who might be looking for orientation and general reading on the topic. The book is well organised, written clearly, and provides a good summary of the main issues whilst illustrating them well without excess detail or the use of unnecessarily complicated terms.

A good read for anybody interested in issues of criminal justice, insanity and law in Victorian England, particularly those that pertain to the treatment of women by the legal system of the time. A word of warning: the passing of time hasn’t made these cases less upsetting or shocking, so although the book doesn’t dwell unnecessarily on the gore details, you might find some of them hard to read.

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review 2017-03-20 16:10
A Perilous Undertaking (Veronica Speedwell #2)- Deanna Raybourn
A Perilous Undertaking - Deanna Raybourn

While Victorian England is not generally my go-to time period (Usually I am a sucker for anything Tudor-Era or Dark Ages), one Miss Veronica Speedwell is quickly making me think I should venture out of my bubble more often. This is the second novel in the Veronica Speedwell series. It is just as much fun as the first. Hopefully there will be many more adventures to follow. 

 

The mystery wasn't anything overly complicated and shocking. I had most of it figured out rather quickly. The characters are what sell. Veronica borders on anachronistic at times but her snark and wit are enough for me to forgive the offense. Stoker hits just about every point on my literary boyfriend checklist. The eye patch is just a delicious bonus. I imagine him to be much like Alan Van Sprang's Sir Francis Bryan from The Tudors. Just in Victorian dress. Lady Wellie was a fantastic addition to the ever growing cast of characters. 

 

In addition to getting to know Veronica and Stoker better, I was also introduced to how to say dildo in a variety of languages. Seriously, I don't think I've seen the word phallus so many times in a book since the textbook I had for a college class on Human Sexuality. If that isn't enough to peak your interest, I'm not really sure what more I can offer. I can't recommend this series enough for people interesting in taking a quick romp through Victorian England. And really, how can you say no to that cover? 

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