The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed

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9780007131884: The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed

A middle class home, circa 1850, of the sort that many people live in today, is the focus of Judith Flanders' book. The Victorian age is both recent and unimaginably distant. In the most prosperous and technologically advanced nation in the world, people carried slops up and down stairs; buried meat in fresh earth to prevent mould forming; wrung sheets out in boiling water with their bare hands. This drudgery was routinely performed by the parents of people still living, but the knowledge of it has passed as if it had never been. Running water, stoves, flush lavatories - even lavatory paper - arrived slowly throughout the century; and most were luxuries available only to the prosperous. Judith Flanders' new book is itself laid out like a house, following the story of daily life from room to room: from childbirth in the master bedroom, through the scullery and kitchen - cleaning, dining, entertaining - on upwards, ending in the sickroom and death. Under Judith Flanders' guidance the Victorian house opens up in front of the reader to become a full exploration of Victorian life. Through a collage of diaries, letters, advice books, magazines and paintings, she shows how social history is built up out of tiny domestic details. Through these we can understand the desires, motivations and thoughts of the age. Many people today live in Victorian terraces, and so the houses themselves are familiar. But the lives are not.

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About the Author:

Judith Flanders is the author of critically acclaimed A Circle of Sisters (2001), nominated for the Guardian First Book Award, and a frequent contributor to the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, the Evening Standard and the TLS.

Review:

Praise for A Circle of Sisters 'A Circle of Sisters is a revelation. The MacDonald sisters, each interesting in herself but also an astonishing foursome, blow away all the tired platitudes about 'Victorian women'. Judith Flanders recreates their extraordinary lives with sympathy and insight.' Roy Porter 'This is a terrfic book -- a biography of four remarkable sisters, all at a go, and also a pageant-like exhibition of Victorian artistic and middle-class life, public and domestic. The astonishing skill of its complex narrative, and the sustaining wealth of allusion and social comment, make it seem almost incidental that one of the sisters should have been the mother of a Prime Minister and another the mother of Rudyard Kipling.' Jan Morris 'A most impressive debut: a scholarly, entertaining, constantly interesting biography.' William Trevor 'A scintillating debut. The author gives fascinating insights into the lives of this brilliant group, holding her huge cast of characters firmly controlled and vividly realized in a finely maintained structure -- no small feat -- as she weaves her complex web of relationships, beliefs, values and social mores. An engrossing chronicle. I turned the last pages of this real tour de force, with its ingenious mix of turbulent private lives and fascinating background material, with real regret, and its aroma has haunted me for days.' Penelope Hughes-Hallet

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