Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England
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Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England

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4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  1,306 ratings  ·  165 reviews
Nineteenth-century Britain was then the world's most prosperous nation, yet Victorians would bury meat in earth and wring sheets out in boiling water with their bare hands. Such drudgery was routine for the parents of people still living, but the knowledge of it has passed as if it had never been.

Following the daily life of a middle-class Victorian house from room to room...more
Paperback, 499 pages
Published November 17th 2005 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2003)
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Amy
Apr 25, 2007 Amy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Do you thank God every day that you don't have to empty the chamber pot? Because you should.
This book taught me that Oh My GOD, I was SO born in the right century. I picked this book up in the gift shop of the Fricke Museum in NYC last summer and couldn't put it down. It is fascinating how women back in the day coped with all that house-cleaning. No wonder so many of them claimed to be "delicate." I would, too, if washing a load of laundry took two back-breaking days! Heck, I AM too delicate for that kind of work.

But more than just informing the reader of the daily chores, this book g...more
Jae
So this is a book basically designed and written specifically for me, if ever one was. It's a cultural history of middle-class Victorians, looking at what daily life was like for them by moving room by room through a typical house. Each chapter focuses on a different room, describing not only what was in the room but also the type of activities that happened in the room, sometimes with less than obvious links (of course the kitchen chapter looks at the types of food people ate, but for instance...more
Melinda
Ever wonder how the Victorians actually lived? This book uses the house plan as a method to show how life was lived in each room. Fascinating so far, and I've only gotten about 25 pages in!

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I cannot overemphasize what an enjoyable book this was to read. The author has taken books that were written by the great writers of the Victorian era (Charles Dickens, Beatrix Potter, Charles Darwin, John Ruskin), diaries and letters that they wrote, advertisements from...more
Kellie
I'll open with the fact that I'm not a very eloquent or thorough reviewer. That being said, this book takes one through each room of the middle/upper-middle class Victorian home and explains (in great detail) what each specific room is used for. Sound dry? Not one bit, as we also learn a great deal about the relationship between Victorian family members as well. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and the significant other read it also with much vigor (and his main reading material consists of partic...more
Carol
What an interesting read -- I couldn't put it down. The Victorians brought the idea of home to the forefront in a new way. They separated their world into a public sphere (work) and a private sphere (domesticity). The Victorian home was a refuge from commercial life with morals, and guidelines to protect the soul. Rooms were no longer multiple-purposed as in the 18th century, each had a different function.

Flanders goes through the Victorian home room by room, discussing everything historically a...more
C.A.
This is a good comprehensive look at domestic affairs in Victorian England, organized by topic. The writing is lively and engaging, and the organization makes it easy for cross-referencing or a quick look at a piece of information. It does a good job at keeping a class-wide gaze, moving from what the poorest to the richest could expect from life. One of the things I like best about it is the overview of the domestic staff and how common they were; an invaluable resource for anyone interested in...more
Wealhtheow
A masterful survey of the details of day to day life in Victorian England, with particular focus on London and the middle class. The author draws on medical texts, advertisements, diaries, letters, and even fiction to describe the quotidian drudgery, dirt, and mentality of that time and place. The past really does seem to be a different country--the assumptions (that wearing something because you liked it was strange and antisocial, that children needed bland food and few vegetables, that liking...more
Cera
This was extremely awesome in many ways, but I had a few problems with it too.

The awesome first: it is an incredibly readable book that zips along at a good pace, focused on the lives of *actual* middle-class Victorians rather than the fantasy middle-classes of a lot of popular Victorian novels & domestic manuals. The book uses the home as its organising structure, talking about the material reality of each room but also what the room represented to its inhabitants & delving into the asp...more
Gail Carriger
I wanted to love this book. I wanted it to be useful and a wonderful reference for writing about the Victorian era. Don't get me wrong, it is certainly full of extremely useful information but that information is impossible to access it is so badly organized. Most of the time I just find it unbelievably frustrating.

For one thing, there is no glossary so the reader is left to intuit the difference, for example, between a parlor and a drawing room. The index, while present, is not at all extensive...more
Inder
This is a delightful and readable history of domestic life in Victorian England. I especially recommend it to readers of Victorian fiction - thanks to this book, I'll never read a fictional meal scene, or a sick-room scene, the same way again. Actually, one of the most delightful things about this book is the way the author relies on descriptions in Victorian fiction to help her flesh out this portrait of the Victorian home, which makes this almost as fun to read as the fiction she quotes from.

I...more
Roberta
Non credo di essere una vera appassionata dell'epoca vittoriana (anzi, come sempre ho le idee molto confuse sulla storia) però è un'epoca normalmente associata a grandi scrittori quali Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, le sorelle Brontë, Thomas Hardy, Elizabeth Gaskell e Anthony Trollope, solo per citarne alcuni che conosco, più o meno bene.

Questo saggio ci accompagna attraverso ogni stanza della casa vittoriana e, parallelamente, attraverso ogni stadio della vita umana spiegandoci - anche gra...more
Wendy
Feb 15, 2009 Wendy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Wendy by: Becki
Very interesting, though I thought it bogged down somewhere around the drawing room chapter, and the narrative device of structuring each chapter around one room of the house only sometimes worked--the parlor chapter didn't ever talk about the functions or furniture of a parlor (or explain how it was different from a drawing room, which I was most curious to learn), for instance.

I don't think I've read many books written or set during the Victorian Era, but I've read quite a few with characters...more
Tero Kuittinen
This is going to sound very unlikely - but this is one of those history books that gives you the frisson of really good science fiction. Victorians were bizarre creatures, but not necessarily for the reasons you would assume. The life just 140 years ago was truly strange, both for the wealthy and the poor. This period is kind of like the gateway to modernity. The lives of Victorians were in some ways very similar to ours; in others, they were brutally barbaric.

A fast, exciting read. Too bad most...more
John
What a terrific find! I was tempted to give it four stars for the tangents, but the thorough research really deserves all five; the bibliography has given me several ideas for further reading.
Abby
Unfortunately, I was not able to finish Inside the Victorian Home before I had to return it to the library but I enjoyed the part I was able to read. The book is best described as a social history of the 19th century but it uses the home as the lens for the discussion. Each chapter is devoted to a room found in the Victorian house. Flanders not only describes the function of the room and the typical furniture and decoration but she also describes the Victorian culture and attitudes.

I like that F...more
skein
It's easy to attribute everything to sex, especially when you're dealing with the past, and a hyper-sexualized viewpoint on the Victorians is a cliché. Those billowing gowns; those smothering draperies. Tight corsets, euphemisms, and fainting spells. Oh, my! So Flanders side-steps the issue entirely, via footnote. She just won't talk about it. There's an easy parallel here between her refusal to talk about sex and the Victorians' refusal to talk about sex. Call it ironic ...
Omitting such a huge...more
Austen to Zafón
What a great read! I was a little worried when i picked it up at the library and it was huge. It looked menacingly like a textbook and I thought, "Oh no, it's going to be dry and have piles of footnotes, or worse, endnotes." But it turned out to be an fascinating page-turner. Even the footnotes were engaging. And the author makes good use of advertisements, paintings, and quotes from contemporary novels, diaries & letters to support her claims. The book covers the lives of women (and to some...more
Wendy
Jan 09, 2013 Wendy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: owned
I've always said that I don't much care who won the battle, I want to know what they had for breakfast, or what they did on Saturday nights...Nowadays they call that 'Social History' and it's quite popular.

This book is written to answer just those kinds of questions. The Victorians were keen on "a place for everything and everything in its place", so this book builds each chapter on a particular room in a 'typical' Victorian home. We get to hear about what these rooms looked like, how they were...more
Rachel Crooks
Inside the Victorian Home fueled my imagination and wonderings like few books. I was enchanted to learn the intimate details of living in the 1800s, things I had never known before, such as that infants were fed on pureed bread and water and not milk, and that soaked tea leaves were placed on carpets in order to clean them. I learned how very cold houses were (often 50 degrees) and about the kinds of foods eaten and what a day consisted of. This isn’t a fictional book, of course, but it stirred...more
Leonie
The title is shorthand for “The domestic life of Victorian middle-class women.” The main thrust of this book, I think, is to emphasise that our image of the standard middle-class Victorian domestic set-up is often erroneously high-faluting. Advertising campaigns and housekeeping advice books conspired to suggest that the women buying and using soap and cookery books had the type of establishments where there were servants to do everything – while the fact that there was a market for this combina...more
Cissa
Solid background to Victorian noels, including much steampunk, as well as the actual ones written then.

In many ways- sometimes scarily- we share values with our Victorian ancestors. In other ways- it's a very foreign country for us.

The structure of this book is excellent for those of us who wonder more generally, what was it like? I can see it's less helpful; for people doing specific research.

Still, as a reader, I think it worked very well. The set-up is browsing through the rooms in a middle-c...more
Shawn Thrasher
This one far exceeded my hopes, wonderfully - I could barely put it down. I never realized Victorian times were so filthy, grimy, dark, and generally unpleasant. Victorian era movies and television shows tend to leave out the carpets of cockroaches that invaded homes each night, the constant battle against soot and smell, the adulterated food, the absolutely unending battle with laundry. So well written and obviously well researched; I loved the inclusion fiction from the time as source material...more
Christy B
This book is invaluable to someone either simply curious about the home in the Victorian era or someone who wishes to write in that era. I fall into both categories. The book will immensely help me in my writing. I love how each room was split up by chapters and that there was even a chapter for 'The Street.'

This book very much de-romanticizes the era and provides a real look into the ins and outs of an upper middle-class home during a single day in Victorian times.
Kylie Towers
Cool book that would make a great text book. It describes the Victorian home in the same manner that humans generally live their lives. It starts with the nursery where one is born; throws in some interesting tidbits about the lives of the help; moves through the parlors and dining rooms of midlife, and ends up in the bedroom where many often died. The Victorians were a quirky lot and not much has changed - read: they were a lot like us.
Melanie
How could I not love a book that included a sample menu for an entire week of Victorian meals, instructions for washing clothes before the advent of laundry detergent (including info on what pieces had to be taken apart, washed separately, and then sewn back together again every time they needed cleaning), and an anecdote about one Mr. Thomas Crapper, inventor of, you guessed it, a commercially-successful toilet?
Suzanne Fox
Flanders' work is uniformly excellent: impeccably researched, rich in detail, and lucidly written. This book is no exception, making it a superb resource on Victorian domestic life and customs for anyone writing about the era, as well as for those who are just fans of Victorians or Victoriana. Its difference from other such books (like "What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew," a book I own, use and enjoy) is its thoroughness....Flanders really gets down to the nitty-gritty details, offeri...more
johnny dangerously
I can't recommend this book highly enough! It serves as a truly excellent introduction into Victorian life, all while relying on the milieu of Victorian literature, and the Victorian domestic sphere. What the book should really be called is 'Domesticity in the Victorian Age', but I suspect that wouldn't've sold as well.

From following the unstintingly fascinating life of Arthur Munby, to delving into the secrets of Dickens, the book always feels honest yet polished, and extremely informative. Th...more
Gwen
Fascinating stuff. The way this book is set out (going through a Victorian house room-by-room) gave the author the chance to go over a huge variety of material that just wouldn't be cohesive in any other format. Exploding boilers on bathtubs, terrible terraced housing architecture, different mourning periods for different relations and the clothes used for each type of mourning, what "London fog" actually was, the rise of suburbs and commuting, the huge amount of chemicals and crap that went int...more
Lark
I am always happy to discover insights into times past!

Excellent research, excellent pictures/drawings to explain various topics, easy to understand writing style, nicely parcelled out catagories! Why have I not heard of this author before ?

Thoughts that stuck with me: 37 pounds of clothing worn each day by typical middle class Victorian woman... Doing laundry should have required a chemistry degree and a hazmat suit... living with an appalling amount of insects and vermin despite the constant...more
Sasha
This book contains interesting facts about Victorian middle class domestic life that will enrich any reading of Victorian literature.

The author sprinkles extracts from memoirs and novels throughout the book-beware, there are some minor spoilers! The book is written from the female perspective and each chapter ostensibly focuses on a different room in the house-the parlour, the bedroom, the dining room etc. However these only act as a starting point to some quite in depth explanations about Vict...more
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Judith Flanders was born in London, England, in 1959. She moved to Montreal, Canada, when she was two, and spent her childhood there, apart from a year in Israel in 1972, where she signally failed to master Hebrew.

After university, Judith returned to London and began working as an editor for various publishing houses. After this 17-year misstep, she began to write and in 2001 her first book, A Cir...more
More about Judith Flanders...
The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens' London A Circle of Sisters: Alice Kipling, Georgiana Burne-Jones, Agnes Poynter and Louisa Baldwin Consuming Passions: Leisure and Pleasure in Victorian Britain Writers' Block

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