Tag Archives: Victorian Life

The Illustrated London News

Victorian Life: The Joys of Primary Material

pictures of a large package with a book inside

Look what was waiting for me when I returned home yesterday evening!

There is something extremely satisfying about about receiving a large package containing a book (or more). The pleasure is even intensified when you’re a bit… eh… crazy about Victorian life & culture and you know that the book inside said package is a volume of a Victorian newspaper. In a recent blog post, Koenraad Claes draws attention to the importance of considering the material aspects of newspapers and magazines when studying Victorian periodicals. Thus, size, for example, is of great importance:

When you read the magazine in its excellent digitization by Adam Matthew Digital, it will of course always be as large as your screen. From this you cannot gauge how large or small this periodical actually was, and this is one of those rare cases where size does matter, because it not only affects the production costs, but also makes the magazine either look like its competitors or stand out amongst them.

But apart from such important considerations of the material side of Victorian periodicals, there is also the sheer joy and pleasure of leafing through a physical copy and studying the articles and ads and illustrations. When you’re working with digitized texts, you’re typically searching for specific things and only rarely do you look at an issue as a whole. When you’re leafing through a physical copy, by contrast, you get a much clearer picture of the curious conglomeration of various different topics that can be found in a large number of Victorian periodicals, especially those that are of a more general nature like the Illustrated London News.

The Illustrated London NewsThe aforementioned large package that was waiting for me when I returned home yesterday, contained a copy of the ILN from 1848, and as always I was enchanted when I leafed through the volume for the first time. The newspaper not only covered news from home and abroad…

"The Epitome of News"…London news…

20151125_084154…news about the Queen and the royal family…

"Court and Haut Ton"…theatre news, and information about the weather, the stock exchange, corn prices, etc., but it also contained sheet music, articles (and illustrations!) on design (see the little tea pot and candy spoon above), fashion plates…

Paris fashion for February 1848…puzzles and chess problems…

A chess problem…and even embroidery patterns (!!!).

embroidery pattern
But, of course, since this is 1848, the year of the revolutions in Europe, a lot of articles in the volume deal with the revolutions in France…

barricades in Paris

Barricades in Paris

…and Germany.

Barricades in Berlin

Barricades in Berlin

And I was tickled pink to find at the very end of the volume a picture of St. Paul’s in Frankfurt (my home town!), where the first German parliament met in 1848. ūüôā

St. Paul's in Frankfurt

Victorian Life: At Home with the Authors: Samuel Rogers

Victorian Life: At home with Samuel Rogers
If you think that only people of the 20th and 21st centuries are interested in celebrity news, think again. Not only did Victorian periodicals include news about the day-to-day life of the royal family, but “At Home with” articles also became rather popular. In 1860, The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine ran a series of articles called “Poets: Their Lives, Songs, and Homes”, which were accompanied by pictures of said homes. I was quite thrilled to find one article about Samuel Rogers, a member of the old Holland House circle which I researched for The Lily Brand. By now, Rogers’ work is more or less forgotten, but at the time of his life, he was well known (at least in London circles), though perhaps not necessary for his poetry as becomes clear in the following snippet from the article in The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine:

“[…] it is rather as a lover of poetry, and the friend of literature, than a poet, that Rogers presents himself to the mind.

Certainly, ‘pleasing’ as his poetry no doubt is, we can scarcely imagine the want of it creating any considerable gap in English literature: he was neither the originator of a new school nor the expositor of novelty in thought, feeling, or expression, and his chief merit lies in being merely elegant and graceful. Taste and elegance, indeed, were his peculiar attributes; and we may almost say the former was so prominent a characteristic that his love for poetry, elegant poetry, was but a part of this idiosyncrasy. […]

In the history of literature, Rogers is the link connecting the age of Johnson and Goldsmith with the present. He was born on the 30th of July, 1763, nearly ten years before the death of the latter, and he lived until December 18th, 1855. He was alive when the ‘Vicar of Wakefield,’ ‘The Traveller,’ and ‘The Deserted Village’ were given to the world; and he lived to see Tennyson made poet-laureate, and to read ‘Vanity Fair’ and ‘Pickwick.’ […]

Samuel Rogers was the third son of Thomas Rogers, a wealthy London banker, of Freeman’s-court, Cornhill, from which place he afterwards removed his business to 29, Clement’s-lane, Lombard-street. His private residence was Stoke Newington, and there the poet was born, in the first house on Newington-green, not far from Ball’s Pond. The family belonged to that wealthy class of Protestant Dissenters satirized by Mr. Thackeray in ‘The Newcomes,’ and in the quiet routine of such society our author lived until he emerged as a poet. […] [H]is first published poem, ‘Ode to Superstition,’ appeared when he was only in his twenty-sixth year, and we can scarcely imagine so polished a composition to have been his first effort.

In 1792, his best known work, ‘Pleasures of Memory,’ appeared, and established his reputation; it was also the means of introducing him to the distinguished statesman, Mr. Fox, for whom he contracted a friendship almost romantic in its warmth and tenderness, and lasting uninterruptedly until the latter’s death. It was in accordance with the wishes of this friend that Rogers changed his residence to St. James’s-place, and emerged from the society of the merchants and bankers, the magnates of the dissenting class, into the ranks of fashion and genius — in that day almost synonymous terms. […]

It is well for Rogers that he¬† was possessed of an ample independence; his writings never could have been remunerative; and it may be even questioned whether they would have ever attained the rank they hold, had they been unaccompanied by the prestige of the author’s celebrity as a man of taste, and a person of consequence in society, from his known wealth, and the rank and talent of his associates. […]

Rogers was kind and generous to all who crossed his path. His actual vanity as an author — and its was actual — never produced mean envy; his ambition, and he had much, never created jealousy in his kindly nature; even his keen sensibility to ridicule, though it might provoke retaliation¬† of a similar kind, was never suffered to influence him further. The author might give satire for satire, but the man was incapable of revenge or persecution. […]


On Newington-green, was we have seen, the poet was born, and here he remained still he was about thirty years of age. Then he had chambers in the Temple for some five years, and finally removed to his mansion, at 22, St. James’s-place. Here it was that he wrote nearly all his poems, with the exception of the ‘Pleasure of Memory,’ and here it was that he was visited by the most celebrated men of his time — and his time, as¬† has been shown, was beyond the usual age allotted to man. The front of his house overlooked the Green Park, possession, also, a gateway into it, and the interior was richly and picturesquely adorned with the highest productions of art, in all the varied forms of drawings, prints, miniatures, medallions, antique ornaments, paintings, and sculpture. The distinctive genius of every country, and every school, seemed there to find its fitting place. Happy was the man who was thus able to gratify< his love of the noble and the beautiful — happier still, that he was gifted with the sensibility to enjoy his precious possessions!”

Victorian Life: Autumn Fashions

Victorian Fashion: A fashion print from 1860
What did the fashionable lady wear in the autumn of 1860? The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine has the answer! And because November has had such a mild start, I guess the dress for October will still do.

“This dress is made either in silk or mohair. If in the first, the colours most favoured are still nut-brown or a deep sea-green. The skirt is made in an economical style, having a deep flounce attached to a short skirt. This flounce is headed with a ruche either of its own material, a darker shade of the same colour, or of black silk, cut on the cross and pinked at each edge. The sleeve is long, having a second smaller one, which is cut up two-thirds of its length, both being trimmed round with the same ruche, and having a bow attached at the top of the opening. The body is full, and has a large bow with long ends at the front of the waist. These bows are all made of the same silk as the ruche, and are also pinked at each edge. It is a common thing for many ladies to have by them some quantity of black silk, in the shape of mantles, or other things which have fallen into disuse from change of shape, which may be made servicable¬† in this way without showing the least difference from new even to the most practised eye; and to such we recommend this application. When this dress is made of mohair, it may be either of a plain colur or a small check, either of which suits the style remarkably well.

As the autumn season brings with it many of the social parties which, while they put the balldress quite out of the question, yet demand a toilette of simple elegance, we will here mention one which is taking the lead in Paris on similar occasions. It consists of a muslin, either white or with a small pattern, or of  a barège made with a double skirt, the under one being trimmed with six narrow flounces, simply hemmed; the upper one with three. The sleeve consists of a large puff set into a band just large enough to pass over the hand and encircle the arm half way between the wrist and the elbow, and having a lace turned up over it. A fichu of net and lace covers the body, which is low. A broad ribbon bow, figured with bouqets, having long ends, is attached to the waist. Sometimes this bow is of black or coloured silk, pinked at each edge; but this is matter of taste.

For the promenade, the chief articles are jackets and mantles of striped cloth. The first of these are made large and simple, having a peculiarity in the sleeve, which is cut extremely wide, and put in large plaits into the arm-hole, from whence it falls quite unconfined. This jacket has also a small collar and pockets.”