How to Be a Victorian
A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life
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A delightful tour through the intimate details of life in Victorian England, told by a historian who has cheerfully endured them all.
Ruth Goodman believes in getting her hands dirty. Drawing on her own adventures living in re-created Victorian conditions, Goodman serves as our bustling and fanciful guide to nineteenth-century life. Proceeding from daybreak to bedtime, this charming, illustrative work celebrates the ordinary lives of the most perennially fascinating era of British history. From waking up to the rapping of a “knocker-upper man” on the window pane to lacing into a corset after a round of calisthenics, from slipping opium to the little ones to finally retiring to the bedroom for the ideal combination of “love, consideration, control and pleasure,” the weird, wonderful, and somewhat gruesome intricacies of Victorian life are vividly rendered here. How to Be a Victorian is an enchanting manual for the insatiably curious.
Praise For How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life…
— A. N. Wilson
Goodman’s impeccably researched account will raise readers’ eyebrows with her adventures “living history”… [Her] charming guide richly illustrates what daily life was like for common people undergoing the massive social changes of the time and succeeds in presenting “a more intimate, personal and physical sort of history."
— Judith Flanders
Goodman skillfully creates a portrait of daily Victorian life with accessible, compelling, and deeply sensory prose… Compulsively readable.
— Erin Entrada Kelly
If the past is a foreign country because they do things differently there, we’re lucky to have such a knowledgeable cicerone as Ruth Goodman…. Goodman’s fascination with the objects of the past doesn’t lead her to fetishize or romanticize them. She is admirably matter-of-fact…. Revelatory.
— Alexandra Kimball
[E]ntertaining… Goodman mixes historical context with technical know-how; in addition to explaining why women wore corsets she tries wearing—and even making—one herself… [T]he book’s accumulation of detail on matters as diverse as purchasing a ticket for the new underground railway, administering an opium-based tonic to a baby, and signaling interest in a homosexual affair makes you feel as if you could pass as a native.
Goodman’s research is impeccable, and she attacks the topic with gusto, taking the reader through an average day and presenting the oddities of life without condescension… Although the book lends itself to being read in segments, I read it straight through like a novel, panting to know what would happen next.
— Patricia Hagen
[A] witty account of life during the monarch’s reign… [Goodman’s] interest in historical accuracy leads her to experiment with corsets and home cures. Research for the book led her ‘down harrowing avenues of hunger, disease, overwork, and abuse.’ Among the most upsetting are accounts of small children working harder than most adults do now, sometimes in dangerous and frightening environments, and on empty stomachs. Often a very funny read, the book takes seriously the suffering of these kids and their families.
— Kate Tuttle
Liveright, 9780871404855, 464pp.
Publication Date: October 6, 2014