All entries for May 2007
May 28, 2007
- The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed
- Judith Flanders
‘It is the Englishman who wishes to be by himself in his staircase as in his room, who could not endure the promiscuous existence of our huge Parisian cages, and who, even in London, plans his house as a small castle, independent and enclosed…he is exacting in the matter of condition and comfort, and separates his life from that of his inferiors.’ (The French philosopher Hippolyte Taine writing of his time in England, p.xxxvii).
This is the most compelling examination of life in a Victorian household that I’ve read. Throughout, Flanders offers interesting insights into the daily grind of a typical middle-class family and their servants. Especially in her chapters on ‘The Nursery’ and ‘The Kitchen,’ she brings many of the roots of our post-modern conceptions to light. For instance, in her examination of child-care she highlights the beginning of the shift from a parent-centred universe to our own child centred one (33) and in her discussion of cultural spaces she traces the growth of suburbia.
My heart is touched by all I cannot save;
So much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot in with those who
with no extraordinary power
re-constitute the world.
From: Adrienne Rich, ‘Natural Resources’, in The Dream of a Common Language (New York, W&W Norton, 177), p.67