Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Daily Life in Victorian London

Well, this blog has obviously not panned out quite as I'd hoped, not yet anyway. I have read numerous books since I reviewed Snuff but have been too busy to review any of them. I think I will come back to reviewing The Night Circus and the Burton and Swinburne books, as I particularly enjoyed them, but for now I am going to review my latest read: Daily Life in Victorian London edited by Lee Jackson.
I read this on my Kindle, which is a new development for me. I find it incredibly convenient; particularly as I commute on the Underground, and fitting more than one book in my bag in case I finish one isn't really practical. I have to say I prefer the experience of reading a book - it is so much easier to find something if you want to go back and check a previous page for example, and I also dislike not being able to see what other people are reading, as so many people on the tube are using e-readers now - but I do enjoy being able to look up words immediately and I think it is an unfortunate triumph of convenience over art.
Daily Life is a compilation of original 19th century material, put together by the man who edits The Dictionary of Victorian London (http://www.victorianlondon.org/index-2012.htm) a truly wonderful website which contains information on all aspects of Victorian London through a selection of contemporary sources.
The book is a "best of" the website, covering subjects from prostitution to household management to manufacturing. I had already read some of the sources mentioned as I wrote my MA thesis on the theatres of nineteenth century London, but there were many I had not read and I found nearly all of them to be deeply interesting.
I was moved to tears by the account of one woman's illegal abortion, but greatly amused by the description of the snail telegraph. The newspaper articles about terrorism and gang-violence could have been written last week, suggesting people do not change as much as we think they do.  There were also a number of excellent images both photos and cartoons which admirably illustrated the points made.
All in all, if you are interested in the history of London, or the Victorian period then this is a must read. The language is, predictably, a little dense in places but the extracts are fairly short and manageable and there are many interesting tidbits to learn.

Book: Daily Life in Victorian London
Author: Lee Jackson (Ed.)
Publisher: New Holland Publishers Ltd.
Score: 8/10

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