Literary Tourism

In her obituary for Dinah Mulock Craik, Margaret Oliphant wrote how pleased the author had been to learn that American tourists were flocking to Tewkesbury, a medieval market town in Gloucestershire, “not so much to see the town and abbey, as to identify the scenery of John Halifax”.*  As postcards commemorating the sites of the novel attest, this literary tourism continued well into the twentieth century.  As late as 1977, Dorothy Eagle pointed tourists to the haunts and homes of the Author of John Halifax in The Oxford Literary Guide to the British Isles.

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For Your Weekend Amusement: Museum Links Roundup

The Frothingham's tobogganing on photographer William Notman's set (1869-70). Image property of the Musée McCord

In keeping with the levity that Alan introduced in his first post yesterday, I’d like to point you to some fun Victorian-related features at various museum and gallery websites.

First, at the Musée McCord’s website, there is a “Victorian Period” online game that tests your knowledge about social customs and dress. I reached a level that the game called being a “picture of politeness.” How about you? Will you be ejected from the ball for inappropriate dress? Continue reading “For Your Weekend Amusement: Museum Links Roundup”

Aesthetics Old and New

Molly Porkshanks Friedrich's Mechanical Womb on display at the Oxford History of Science MuseumI expected to be able to hear Molly Porkshanks Friedrich’s Complete Mechanical Womb tick. It didn’t look as though it should pulse with life, but I did anticipate a mechanical buzzing or whirring. I was alone in the basement of Oxford’s history of science museum, at what the museum billed as “the world’s first museum exhibition of Steampunk art.” I’m sure the little figure in the gravid pneumatic tube was honoured by the Continue reading “Aesthetics Old and New”

Avifauna for the Masses

Three rooks' heads from the Natural History Museum, London. First displayed in 1881.

I recently made at trip (or as one friend put it, “what you’re describing is a pilgrimage, Crompton”) to the Natural History Museum in London. It has all the qualities that I like in a museum: super-fatted gothic architecture, knowledgeable staff, and a sensational bird collection.

Victorian curatorial practices are curious to the contemporary visitor. A bird case from the Museum’s inaugural year, 1881, is tucked into one corner of the bird hall. Rather than displaying the mounted birds whole, the case is full of disembodied heads, wings, feet and feathers – the better, I assume, to teach the viewer about bird anatomy. The accompanying text is excessively didactic. The Latin names of the each joint and tendon season the explanatory prose since, as the 1886 catalog suggested, by “the aid of explanatory labels, the essential characters and the principle modifications of all these Continue reading “Avifauna for the Masses”

Victorian Bodies Exposed: Visiting the Wellcome Collection

I recently moved to London, England. For a Victorian scholar, living in England’s capital certainly has its perks, including the fact that I get to visit wonderful exhibitions, like the Wellcome Collection’s “Exquisite Bodies.” The Wellcome collection brings together the artefacts of entrepreneur and traveller Henry Wellcome, showcasing his interests in medicine, health, and sexuality. Continue reading “Victorian Bodies Exposed: Visiting the Wellcome Collection”

self-indulgence

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 Victoria Continue reading “self-indulgence”