So far, I’ve tried to make all my posts have a point, even if it’s only (and it usually is) an itty-bitty one. But, I’ve been thinking with all of our posts on the nature of technology, isn’t part of the point of blogging that it doesn’t have to have a point? So here goes a very un-Victorian, completely self-indulgent post…
On my recent trip to the UK for BAVS-NAVSA, I dragged friends and family into one of my favourite self-indulgent activities: looking at Victorian things. That is Queen Victoria, in Leamington Spa! I visited a couple of friends there and could barely contain my excitement at being at the site of the courtship of Edith and Paul Dombey. I proposed romantic re-enactments of the scene at Warwick Castle. I tried to convince my friends that they had to read the novel so they could fully appreciate where they live, which shouldn’t have been tough considering they are also academics. But a 900 page Dickens novel is not for all.
I switched tactics and asked how they felt living in a tawdry Victorian Spa town where people who didn’t have enough money to go to Bath went.
Which really isn’t true anymore–the town was lovely, with nary a husband-hunting mother and daughter to be seen mincing down the paths in the local park.
I also went to Edinburgh for the first time, and a little tingle went up my spine when I heard the railway announcer call my train “The Flying Scotsman.” This is the same thing they called the line in Victorian times, and I didn’t get there much faster than I would have in 1880. I wondered if the name wasn’t a little offensive, and if that was why it wasn’t in print anywhere or on the side of the train in big letters.
The train tracks, I understand, are still the same. My cousin was kind enough to meet me at the station, which is good, as I get lost very easily. She also humoured me in looking at some Scottish pre-Raphaelite art by Sir Noel Paton at the National Gallery.
No reproduction could do the Quarrel of Titania and Oberon justice. (The study is above.) It is weirdly luminous and has almost a contemporary kitsch to it. (Or maybe, there’s an aspect of contemporary culture that embraces disavowed aspects of Victorian aesthetics?) My cousin let me stand there a long time counting the fairies. Then we went to George Square, where Noel Paton lived.
No 33, where Paton and his family lived, was gone. But several plaques told me that Jane Carlyle, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Sir Walter Scott all lived on this block. At different times, that is. I had somehow thought the square would be posher, but this must have been a southern bias. (This is bad for a Canadian.) I had visions of the white row houses in Bath and London. Who knows why.
At any rate, I ate a lot of shortbread, and got rained on several times without an umbrella, so I think my experience was authentic. I moved to Boston last week, and I think when I gather the energy to leave my place I might find some Victorian things here too. I can only hope my friends and family will humour me a little longer yet…