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. Queen VictoriaThat 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.

Leamington Spa

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.

leamington spa park

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.

Edinburgh-Waverly RailwayThe 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.

George SquareNo 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…


One thought on “self-indulgence

  1. Karen, your post about the latitude we have to not make a point reminds me of a part of John Holbo’s Introductory post at the Valve that Rohan Maitzen linked to in a recent comment:

    “You can permalink your soul to the screen in elegant, Montaignean portions. You can conduct an abstruse seminar on a technical point of philosophy. You can bother disproportionately about some old book you like. You can do what no editor would let you, because editors are obliged to be unforgivably arrogant about what the audience won’t stand for.

    Your voice is your own, if you take responsibility for it. This unimpaired prospect of suiting myself holds back concerns that the sheer volume of blogstuff has gotten appetite suppressing.”

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