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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

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  2,419 ratings  ·  275 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
Paperback, 499 pages
Published November 17th 2005 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2003)
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Average rating 4.16  · 
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 ·  2,419 ratings  ·  275 reviews

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Apr 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you’re in the mood to spend a little time in the bedrooms ... and drawing rooms, and washrooms, and kitchens ... of (mostly) middle class Victorians, this book will satisfy every curiosity, right down to the smalls. Your smalls, by the way, would have been white if you were a real lady, because only women of loose morals would have worn colourful underclothes. This is the sort of delightful trivia you will find in this very engaging book — a cultural dalliance within a very rustic era. Despit ...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
Katie Lumsden
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really interesting book, brilliantly written and thoroughly engaging. I learnt so much from this - my only criticism would be that it focuses very much on the urban middle class house, rather than the wide variety of Victorian homes.
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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!


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
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is an engaging and informative survey of daily and home life for the middle classes in Victorian England. It is organized by rooms of the house, but the author uses each room as a segue to discuss various aspects of Victorian life: the nursery leads us to childrearing and the education of girls; the scullery, to the lives and expectations of servants; the morning room, to the etiquette of paying calls. The author pulls from diaries, letters, memoirs, official records and even novels to pain ...more
Aug 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008-books
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
Mar 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: victorian
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
Jun 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, non-fiction
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
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
A book I have been wanting to read for quite a while, but hard to find in the US. I bought a copy at the Charles Dickens Museum while on vacation in London, and I'm happy I found it. I enjoyed reading about how an upper-middle-class house of the era was "correctly" furnished. The author explained attitudes on how each level of society had expectations of how to properly furnish a house depending on the job and salary of the husband. The book while aimed at the general public would only be of rea ...more
Dec 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Emma Rose Ribbons
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: victorian
That was excellent. It took me a while to complete because most of it was done in small chunks during the holidays whenever my extended family would leave me alone for a couple of minutes. It was very easy to read and very informative. I seem to recall that Judith Flanders's style was a bit more convoluted with a ton more details (and figures, which I always find unnecessary in non fiction books, telling me what those figures show is enough) but I'm happy to say I was wrong. One of the best I've ...more
Jan 13, 2018 marked it as to-read
Or How to Be a Victorian - either one. Susanna gives both of 'em five stars. ...more
Jun 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 aspects of
Dec 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book that I unfortunately didn't have time to finish because two other people had requested it from the library and I didn't want to keep them waiting. I read about half of it. Chapters are arranged by rooms of the house, so I wanted to be sure to read the Bathroom chapter as I find the history of running water fascinating. It didn't disappoint, but I felt the author could have added a bit more on daily bathing habits. She did include some information about that, but certain ...more
Apr 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a good companion for "How to Be a Victorian" by Ruth Goodman. The books could not be more different in concept. Flanders is more scholarly, and as a result a lot less fun to read than Goodman. Goodman also actually has replicated Victorian life (food, clothing, etc) and the results are a lot of fun and compelling. Goodman's readers get a more sensory experience, while Flanders writes with the emotional distance of an historian. From Goodman, one gets a sense of the many limitations most ...more
Jan 13, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Tero Kuittinen
Jan 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jake Goretzki
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Lively cultural and social history, drawn from a good solid range of literary and everyday sources - from godawful guides on etiquette and mourning dress to advertising, etc. The 'home' framework of it is also decent (and the reason I came to this in the first place). Good to see plenty of Dickens and Copperfield references (the very sight of the name 'Tommy Traddles' still warms my heart and wins a star here).

My god. Victorians. Exquisitely, impeccably wrong about everything - apart from Darwi
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Not only does Flanders break down the social history of the Victorian middle class household, she also breaks past the facade of the ‘ideal’, or ‘perfect’ home. The Victorians are often portrayed as pious, successful, domestic goddesses & savvy businessmen, without struggle or vanity. The reality is much different.

Outlined in her book, the author takes us on a tour from room to room (the ideal Victorian household had an affinity for single use rooms & spaces), and opens our eyes to the daily ro
Nikki Morton
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you like to read classic English literature, I recommend this book. It gives a fantastic peek into the Victorian home (mainly middle class) and helps give context to basic life applications of the time; many things that are obsolete and we don’t necessarily understand these days. The author uses a variety of resources: many personal accounts as well as fictional novels from the period. Very informative and curiosity quenching.
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Love it! Flanders irrepressible sense of humour and finely tuned eye for the absurd, makes what could be dry reading, succulent.

In that much of her source material is unpublished period diaries, this book totally shatters preconceived notions of the era which have been fuelled by cinema.

Would enjoy sponsoring a lecture series featuring Ruth Goodman, Lucy Worsley and Judith Flanders in an open debate on various aspects of Victorian Social History.

Please Ms Flanders if you are listening, might I s
Laura Bang
This has been on my TBR for years, but what better time to read an extremely detailed, room-by-room examination of Victorian houses and culture than during a pandemic when staying home as much as possible? The title may sound dry and stuffy, but this is so very interesting and well-written.
Feb 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 3-star
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
Austen to Zafón
Feb 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 ext ...more
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Judith Flanders does for the Victorian home what she did for the Victorian city without leaving out anything that went on in the homes or how the people conducted their lives.
Each room has a special purpose and that individuality is kept to that room. Today we combine rooms and are comfortable throughout the house. In Victorian times, there was a place for everything and time was strictly adhered to. Dress was especially important and, while more complicated for women than for men, it clearly
May 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Picked this up intending to skim it and ended up reading it cover-to-cover, footnotes included. (Not the endnotes, where Flanders puts the many well-resourced but dry citations for her research. The footnotes she reserves for the very interesting tidbits, asides, and commentary and those are well integrated into each chapter. This is a fantastic approach that more research-based authors should consider.)

Flanders does an excellent job presenting her extensive research in a compelling way. The str
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.

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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

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