Gail Carriger's Reviews > The Victorian House

The Victorian House by Judith Flanders
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Sep 01, 11

bookshelves: soulless-research, victorian-books
Read in September, 2011 — I own a copy

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. You might read, for example, that something called a "copper" exists in the scullery but should you wish for a sentence somewhere in the book explaining what a copper is the index will not help you (despite the fact that there happens to be a sketch of said copper later on in the book). This means that if you wish to know something, or find something, you must skim through the entire book in the hopes that it pops out at you.

In addition, the author jumps around temporally so the reader is never certain what part of the Victorian era the information address as the author only occasionally includes dates.

In the end I am left assuming several things. This is not meant as a reference book. It is more the adaptation of a PhD thesis on the house as a reflection of Victorian domestic life. Why else, for example, does the "Parlor" chapter address childbirth, and the "Drawing Room" chapter address marriage? As opposed to, oh I don't know, a description of the contents, arrangements, and objects in a typical drawing room or parlor of 1860. Or the difference between the two? It's all very well and interesting to learn about weddings and childbirth, but perhaps the chapters should have been titled accordingly. It would make for a very different sort of book.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Amy  Eller Lewis You might be more interested in "Inside the Victorian Home: A portrait of domestic life in Victorian England" by Judith Flanders. Not quite a reference (more of a cultural history). Also arranged by room, but they don't talk about Childbirth in the Drawing Room chapter. (Horrors!)

Gail Carriger Alice wrote: "You might be more interested in "Inside the Victorian Home: A portrait of domestic life in Victorian England" by Judith Flanders. Not quite a reference (more of a cultural history). Also arranged b..."

Sounds like the same book. This one is also by Flanders. And I'm unlikely to buy another book by her again, way too disorganized. A cardinal sin, in my world. But thank you for the thought.

Do you know of any good obscure reference books for the actual structure and interior decoration of the Victorian home, by any chance? Names and use of objects and household staff, that kind of thing.

message 3: by Emily (new)

Emily perhaps Mrs. Beetons book of household management? there is also a childrens book that was published this year called "A visual dictionary of Victorian life" by Kalman, Bobbie.

message 4: by Courtney (new) - added it

Courtney Ostaff What you want is Robert Kerr's *The Gentleman's House." Luckily, it's in the public domain, here:

A copper is a large stockpot with its own enclosed fire, called a copper because it's generally made out of copper. ;) Page 140 in Flander's book. You need to get comfy with searching full-text books (CTRL+F). Or get a research assistant. :)

A copper is also described in Kerr's book, which is searchable in the full-text format, or you could just print the pdf, if you're inclined.

You may also find this interesting: Hill's Manual of Social and Business Forms By Thomas Edie Hill
The English home By Sir Banister Fletcher

message 5: by Courtney (new) - added it

Courtney Ostaff Also, oddly enough, the Google preview version has an index that gives you page 160 (sorry, not 140), with an extensive description of said copper. Maybe you got a crappy edition?

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