Thursday, August 29, 2013

Enchanting Woman, Tragic Life

I found this enchanting collection of photos of actress Gabrielle Ray, while I was looking at portraits of Victorian women for inspiration. Not being able to read the words on a page drives me crazy, which might be why I was driven to find out more about Ray.

In her day, Ray was regarded as one of the most beautiful actresses in the London theatre and had the kind of celebrity status Princess Diana did, as one of the most photographed women in the world. She began her career at age ten, in 1893 and was most popular around the turn of the century. Sadly, after a failed marriage, Ray never regained her former success and spent much of her later years in mental hospitals.

She was the fourth child of an iron merchant in Stockport and amazingly made her debut at the Royal Princess theatre in 1893. I don't know how she got from the little town called Cheadle, where she was born, to London's West End, but she was met with instant success!

During the 1890s, she also danced in the Blackpool Ballet.

She married Eric Loder in 1912, but he was unfaithful and the marriage only lasted two years. It's said that, after this split, she suffered from depression and alcoholism, which probably lead to her nervous breakdown in 1936. She was institutionalized for the next 40 years.

I've included some of my favourite photos of Ray here, but strongly recommend a visit to the site that I found them on:

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Miss Behaviour

The narrator in my book was a real woman, not a famous woman, not a talented woman, not an especially pretty woman, though it is said that she had nice lips and looked like a lily. She came from a respectable home, but didn't always do respectable things. I don't think she was a prostitute of any kind, but I think she may have met a few. I know there were many other women like her in the 1890s, but it is so difficult to find information about them because of the overwhelming urge for these women to appear "respectable."

I know that not all Victorian women were obsessed with being respectable. Oscar Wilde's mother disliked the term “respectable” and wouldn’t have anyone respectable in her house. She went by the name Speranza and liked shocking people. Still, many people respected her.

I'm not denying that many Victorians were obsessed with respectability. Bram Stoker, who was a close personal friend of Speranza, lived out his life in a sexless marriage and there's no evidence of him ever hiring a prostitute (though he might have actually been gay - don't believe me? Google his relationship with Walt Whitman...).

What I am saying is that for these Victorians, obsessed with respectability, maybe their obsession with it was part of the trap. Being a middle-class women probably meant that there was a lot of pressure on a woman to follow her family's wishes and avoid saying and doing dozens of things every day, but it didn't mean they all avoided those things all of the time. These Victorian women paid for their transgrassions, socially, see Degeneration, Decadence & Drink, but I don't think we can sum up a culture so easily.
"In order to merit protection a woman had to be obedient, submissive, and incapable of defending herself. Chivalry was reserved for those women who both needed and deserved protection -- a relatively select group. The right to protection was based on the assumption that women were weaker, softer, and generally very different from the strong men who protected them. Therefore protection was often reserved for middle class women. While it was possible for a working class woman to be respectable, some of the more delicate aspects of the feminine ideal were clearly beyond her." - Caroline Conley
We know from court records that most sexual assaults against women happened in the home. Most of these were by someone that was known to the victim. We also know that this kind of vulnerability did not fit with the Victorian ideal of respectability and didn't make those women any more worthy of the chivalrous protection of her male relatives. In many cases that went unreported, there are documents that indicate many women were even forced to mary their attackers.

Yet, as Conley asserts, it was possible for a working class woman to be respectable. Indeed, there was likely a working-class version of respectability, that may fit into some of the gray areas I wish to explore. Now, just because the rest of this blog post is about prostitution doesn't mean that I think that there wasn't a huge gray area between angel of the household and prostitute. My narrator wasn't either. She was just a woman, but the rest of this post is about prostitutes.

Website after website, journal after journal talks about how poor and working class women were forced into prostitution. When they talk about middle-class women breaking the mold, they overwhelming put it in a positive light and talk about women getting educations. But there were middle-class women who were not the least bit "respectable" and who made a living sleeping with men or having a boyfriend, someone we might call a Sugar Daddy today. These women were middle-class prostitutes who settled down into respectable middle-class lives - often with men who basically used to be their Johns.

As Mike J. Higgins says about male sexuality at this time, "Different contexts brought out different types of sexual behaviour." Unless we are talking about male homosexuality, we are also discussing women's sexuality when we talk about men's sexuality and I think that Higgins' observation is incredibly astute, especially when we consider the different spheres women were expected to operate within.

The ideology of the angel of the household restricted the way that many middle-class women performed their identities. It also changed the way that men interacted with them. In a letter to the Times (4 November 1847), "Joseph" writes:
I doubt if it ever occurred to any man to attempt the seduction of a woman whom he really believed to be modest and virtuous.
For a man to call an unmarried middle-class woman (angel of the household) by her first name, implied that he wanted to marry her! Meanwhile, many poor and working-class girls were called by their first names all the time. A poorer woman named Kathryn might have been called Kate, but "Kate" was also a slang term for prostitute!

Through my research, I'm growing to believe that poor and working-class women "turned tricks" because it was expected or assumed. The context, in which poorer women lived, was one, in which men behaved differently toward them than they would the "purer" angel of the household. I've also grown to believe that the more middle-class a prostitute was the greater her physical mobility throughout social spaces.

Physical mobility through social spaces: I think that a poor or working-class prostitute could be seen in a working class pub without anyone falling off their bar stool. I think that a better-dressed middle-class prostitute might have been escorted into Henry Irving's Beefsteak Room.

Please, if you disagree with any of these thoughts, let me know. The quality of my story depends on it!

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Woman's World Magazine

Fashion is such an essential part of the mundus muliebris of our day, that it seems to me absolutely necessary that its growth, development, and phases should be duly chronicled.
Oscar Wilde was editor of Woman's World Magazine from 1887-1889 and wrote the above in response to criticisms of the magazine's fashion pages. As a writer, trying to recapture some sense of the times, I'm incredibly grateful to those, like Wilde, who documented the frivolity of their times.

Wildeans often think of Oscar Wilde's love of ancient Greece in terms of how he idealized the ancient Greek approaches to men's sexuality, but we can see how he used the classics as models for women's lives as well, when we look at articles he published in Woman's World during those years, articles like “The Women of Greece,” “Woman and Democracy,” “Roman Women at the Beginning of the Empire,” and “A Pompeian Lady.”
The Woman’s World, edited by Mr. Oscar Wilde, gracefully got up as it is in every respect, has taken a high place among the illustrated magazines. Written by women, for women and about women, striking out an original line, it merited the success it has obtained. - The Times (December 1888)
In the 1890s, journalism was increasingly seen as an acceptable career path for a woman. Oscar Wilde's mother supplemented her income this way, she even wrote a piece for Woman's World called "Historic Women." Oscar Wilde's contributors were established female writers, society women, students, professional women and feminist campaigners. Julia Wedgewood, a well-known suffragist, authored "Women and Democracy." 

Readers followed social issues and philanthropy and were overwhelmingly feminist. Of course, with Oscar Wilde at its helm, Woman's World became associated with aestheticism, but it was also linked to women in pursuit of higher education.

Something new that I learned today is the an 1880s and 90s synonym for the "New Woman" was "Girton Girl" because Girton referred to England's first residential college for women, established in 1869. Annie Edwards published a novel called A Girton Girl (1885), which has been digitized by Google, and was published in three volumes, dealing with many of the themes of a late-Victorian New Woman's life.

A laboratory at Girton College Cambridge (1900) 

Poetically, Elaine Showalter writes:
New Women and decadent artists were linked together as twin monsters of a decadent age, sexual anarchists who blurred the boundaries of gender.
I imagine them as very well-dressed and likable monsters, which reminds me that I started this tangent thinking about what my protagonists would wear to a very formal dinner party in 1889/90. 

Toward this end, Oscar Wilde called upon the ancient Greeks and wrote in  Woman's World that women could follow the ancient principles of Greek dress by suspending their dresses from their shoulders, even with sleeves, thereby creating rich and rippling folds.

Most of the information in this post comes from my own research and an essay by Isobel Hurst "Ancient and Modern Women in Woman's World."

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Drinking Gin with the Wildes

Imagine it's 1893 and you have a room full of thirsty authors. As a good hostess, what would you serve? To this end, I'm composing here, a Victorian drink menu.

Victorian Lemonade

1 1/2 parts Beefeater Gin
2 part water
1/2 lemon
1/4 simple syrup
mint leaves
Garnish with a lemon wheel and serve to Speranza. Oscar Wilde's mother preferred gin to most other alcoholic beverages in the 1890s. That being said, Speranza may have also enjoyed Sloe Gin.

"London Dry" was the generic term for the dry gin that became popular during the era. They called dry gin "London Dry," regardless of where it was actually produced and flavouring your London Dry with sloe berries was popular among middle-class women.

Sloe Gin
1lb sloe berries
8oz caster sugar
1 3/4 pint gin
Prick the skin of the sloes all over before placing in a jar. Add the sugar and the gin, then seal and shake. Store in a cool dark cupboard and shake every other day for a week. Then shake once a week for at least two months. Strain through muslin into a bottle.

This obviously takes more than an afternoon to prepare, so I might wait until she invited me to one of her salons, then bring it as a hostess gift.

Gin also became popular among military men and men who were travelling as a way of getting your daily dose of quinine, thereby warding off malaria. For writers who travelled to India or Africa, like Oscar Wilde himself, you might serve this simple drink.

Gin & Tonic
1 wineglass of gin
2 lemon slices
3 lumps sugar
ice (or iced-water)
But I'd probably want to serve Oscar Wilde absinthe because I'm like that.

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Getting Around

One of my favorite contemporary writers (William Gibson) once said that one of the biggest problems he faced when writing was how to move his characters around. I know what he means. I sometimes find that I have problems with scene changes. I find my characters so fascinating that I would gladly chronicle every moment of their lives for the duration of the story, but know that could be tedious for my readers. Then I sometimes have the problem, because my work is set in the 1890s, of how to move my writers from place to place, physically. I'm talking transportation.

The most exciting thing that happened in transportation in London of the 1890s is, without a doubt, the Bersey Cab. Bersey Cabs hit the London streets in 1897. They were the first "horseless" taxis in the greatest city in the world. At their peak, inventor, Mr. Walter Bersey had over 75 of these "horseless" carriages on the road in London and they were probably the first experience most Londoners had of cars at the time.

Bersey Cabs were electric cars. They could only travel thirty miles on a charge, but a clever system was devised to make changing the battery quick and easy. Sadly, unreliable tires and a failed attempt to generate his own electricity did Bersey in financially and he went out of business in 1899.

Honestly, as excited as I am by the electric taxis, the writers I've been talking about in this blog would have considered the vehicles a spectacle. Like many Londoners, they might have been embarrassed to be seen riding in them. If they got in them at all, it would have been as a lark. 

My writers would have relied primarily on horse and steam power to get them around town. Sometimes, they would take a train, but, for shorter trips it was probably the hansoms of Sherlock Holmes stories that got authors from place to place.

The most popular form of hansom was properly called a "cabriolet," which is where we get the word "cab" from. "Taxicab" is actually a word that is American in origin and was coined by Harry Nathaniel Allen of the New York Taxicab Company. He used the term as a contraction of "taximeter cabriolet," which referred to a vehicle for hire. The vehicle pictured above was so popular that it's proper name became a standard descriptor.

The taximeter part of that serves as a good reminder that these cabs cost money and anyone, who has read Dickens, should remember that most of London was poor. The trains were cheap enough to allow many people a way to commute, but this too was a drastic change from the way that things used to be.

Working as a clerk, in Dublin, Bram Stoker's father, Abraham Stoker walked three miles to work every day and it was probably uphill both ways. It stands to reason that many Londoners did the same thing, but in 1829 omnibus services began operating. Like modern bus services, these were colourful carriages covered in ads.

The omnibus was a very popular form of transportation for those who could not afford a private vehicle and they were still on the streets after thirty years of competition with horse-drawn trams on rails, also called horsecars. These ran earlier in the morning and were cheaper than the buses.

I understand how horsecars could beat the omnibuses by running earlier for less, but I don't understand the advantage of putting what looks like the same thing on rails. If any experts on the subject know and care to leave a comment, I would appreciate it. 

I'd like to wrap up by saying something about bicycles, but, those were still used primarily for recreation. I found a list of what women shouldn't do on bicycles in New York. These are things like not fainting in the road, not boasting of your long rides, not asking people what they think of your bloomers, not going to church in your bicycle costume, and not cultivating "everything that is up to date because you ride a wheel." Women cyclists were called "centurions." 

The suffragist, Susan B. Anthony said:
Bicycling has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride on a wheel.It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. 
According to Anthony, by 1896, women were buying 25-30% of all bicycles. The Rudge-Whitworth ad recommends the bicycle as a means of transportation, but I still think this was primarily a pastime for the middle class and wealthy.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bram and Emily: Vampires to Werewolves

Emily Gerard, sometimes known as Mrs de Laszowska, Emily Laszowska, Emily Gerard, or Emily de Laszowska Gerard, was a Scottish-born Victorian writer, who is remembered for her perceived influence on the novel Dracula. While that's important and is (admittedly) what got me interested in her, she did publish six novels in the 1890s, one in collaboration with her sister.

Gerard's works were popular enough that two are available online, including her 1890s novels: A Secret Mission (1891) and The Voice of a Flower (1893).

The more I read about Gerard the more I relate. I almost feel like I should just start calling her Emily, but that might be some form of disrespect. Like my husband, Gerard's husband worked in a different country. She moved from Scotland to Transylvania to be with him. Reckless scholars might call me studious, but Gerard definitely was and, like me, she researched her new land to make herself feel at home.

Her essay, Transylvanian Superstitions, is widely believed to have provided inspiration to Dracula's author, Bram Stoker. The essay is available here and Dracula is available here. Stoker originally wanted to locate his vampire in Tyrol, but, it is believed that reading Gerard's work changed his mind, so Dracula wound up in Transylvania instead.

In her Essay, Gerard writes:
Among the various omens of approaching death are the ungrounded barking of a dog or the crowing of a black hen.

Bram Stoker definitely adopts this omen. Jonathan Harker hears "a dog howling all night" under his window on his way to Transylvania and there are dogs barking all along the road. All of Dracula is peppered with the howling of dogs, but no hens of any colour.

When Gerard begins speaking about vampires specifically in her essay I'm reminded of the Polish vampire graveyard that was recently uncovered, where the bodies were buried in a way that is similar to what she describes here.
There are two sorts of vampires — living and dead. The living vampire is in general the illegitimate offspring of two illegitimate persons, but even a flawless pedigree will not ensure anyone against the intrusion of a vampire into his family vault, since every person killed by a nosferatu becomes likewise a vampire after death, and will continue to suck the blood of other innocent people till the spirit has been exorcised, either by opening the grave of the person suspected and driving a stake through the corpse, or firing a pistol shot into the coffin. In very obstinate cases it is further recommended to cut off the head and replace it in the coffin with the mouth filled with garlic, or to extract the heart and burn it, strewing the ashes over the grave. That such remedies are often resorted to, even in our enlightened days, is a well-attested fact, and there are probably few Roumenian villages where such has not taken place within the memory of the inhabitants.
Stoker's Van Helsing certainly knows what to do with the undead:
"I shall cut off her head and fill her mouth with garlic, and I shall drive a stake through her body."
Dracula is also a shape-shifter, like the were-wolves that Gerard writes most of her essay about. Gerard tells us that:
First cousin to the vampire, the long exploded were-wolf of the Germans is here to be found, lingering yet under the name of the Prikolitsch. Sometimes it is a dog instead of a wolf, whose form a man has taken either voluntarily or as penance for his sins.
Movies that have burst out of Dracula make much to do of the vampire as a tragic hero being punished for his or sins through a dreadful transformation, though not usually into a werewolf as well. Read both works and tell me if you think that Stoker learned this from Gerard?

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Degeneration, Decadence & Drink

First published as Entartung (1892), Max Nordau’s major work was published in English as Degeneration in 1895. In Degeneration, Nordau transfers Bénédict Augustin Morel’s notion of degeneracy to the arts circles of his time, suggesting that authors and artists are as degenerate as criminals, prostitutes and lunatics.

Some of what we call fin-de-siècle decadence, Nordau called degeneration. This decadence was also on trial in 1895, along with anything else that had to do with Oscar Wilde. Decadence and degeneration are two of the major themes that I'm most interested in the artists and writers of the 1890s. It permeated every aspect of the aesthetic life from fashion to diet to decorating and consumption. Nordau observed this in Degeneration, which, historian, Steven E. Ascheim describes as:
...a veritable diatribe of cultural criticism that characterized virtually every modernist fin-de-siecle current as a symptom of exhaustion and inability to adjust to the realities of the modern industrial age.

I can't imagine fully tackling all of Nordau's views on the aesthetic movement in a single blog post. Nor am I interested in fleshing out the coincidental timing of the release of Nordau's work in London with regards to Wilde's trials, though I find it interesting enough to note and wish to further add that Nordau actually mentions Wilde in his work, asserting that Wilde considered himself above morality. Here, however, I intend to just lightly touch on some of Nordau's ideas, as well as what Wilde, Bram Stoker and H.G. Wells had to say, about why writers drank.

The full-text of Degeneration is available here and I'll begin with a quote from it. Nordau writes:
WE have recognised the effect of diseases in these fin-de-siecle literary and artistic tendencies and fashions, as well as in the susceptibility of the public with regard to them, and we have succeeded in maintaining that these diseases are degeneracy and hysteria. We have now to inquire how these maladies of the day have originated, and why they appear with such extraordinary frequency at the present time. Morel, the great investigator of degeneracy, traces this chiefly to poisoning. A race which is regularly addicted, even without excess, to narcotics and stimulants in any form such as fermented alcoholic drinks, tobacco, opium, hashish, arsenic which partakes of tainted foods (bread made with bad corn, which absorbs organic poisons (marsh fever, syphilis, tubercu-losis, goitre), begets degenerate descendants who, if they remain exposed to the same influences, rapidly descend to the lowest degrees of degeneracy, to idiocy, to dwarfishness, etc. That the poisoning of civilized peoples continues and increases at a very rapid rate is widely attested by statistics.

When I read that, I can't help but feel there is something very modern about it. If we didn't feed our children gluten or non-organic dairy, if we didn't smoke or drink, we wouldn't have problems with ADHD and depression. Of course, I think there's some (just a little bit of) wisdom in Nordau's words. I don't want to eat arsenic tainted food and drugs are bad for you, but I hesitate. Are drinking and drugs a symptom or the problem?

Nordau says:
The drinker (and apparently the smoker also) begets enfeebled children, hereditarily fatigued or degenerated, and these drink and smoke in their turn, because they are fatigued.
Fatigued, respiratory conditions and fetal alcohol syndrome, I say potato and Nordau says patatto. But then, I love Victorian words for alcoholism and alcoholics. Nordau throws in a little misogyny for good measure.
The erotomaniac 'degenerate' stands in the same position to the woman as a dipsomaniac to intoxicating drinks. Magnan has given an appalling picture of the struggles waged in the mind of a dipsomaniac by the passionate eagerness for the bottle, and the loathing and horror of it.
Now, I've been mocking Nordau, but the essence of what he says in that last quote is ahead of its time - that is until later when he equates "dipsomania" or "madness for drink" with all of the other madnesses of his time, including: "aichmophobia" the fear of pointed objects; "arithmomania" the madness for numbers; and "oniomania" a madness for buying (I really like that last one). Though the Victorians had their crazies and their teatotallers, they didn't really understand alcoholism or addiction as a disease. In the quote above, Nordau recognizes the struggle of addiction, as if he sat in on one of today's AA meetings. Only a few doctors in the 1890s, mostly working with Dr. Norman Shanks Kerr (1834-1899) thought of abstinence from alcohol as a cure for "dipsomania."

Kerr was recognized in London as an avid support of the Temperance Movement and was a strict teatotaller. His was the radical idea that the only permanent cure for sever alcohol withdrawal (delirium tremens) was to stop drinking permanently. Oh course, he still treated the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal with opium, but who's perfect?

Wilde preferred opium to alcohol, but understood that:
Alcohol, taken in sufficient quantities, may produce all the effects of drunkenness.
Nordau felt that:
Oscar Wilde apparently admires immorality, sin and crime.
Nordau, somewhat rightly, believed that Wilde achieved more through his personality than through any effort or work. Nordau recognized Wilde as the representative of the Aesthetic Movement in England. Meanwhile, in The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde writes:
Beer, the Bible, and the seven deadly virtues have made our England what she is.

W.B. Yeats said:
The problem with some people is that when they aren't drunk, they're sober.
H.G. Wells advised against taking alcohol regularly and compared it to polite conversation:

Speech, no doubt, is a valuable gift, but at the same time it is a gift that may be abused. What is regarded as polite conversation is, I hold, such an abuse. Alcohol, opium, tea, are all very excellent things in their way; but imagine continuous alcohol, an incessant opium, or to receive, ocean-like, a perennially flowing river of tea! That is my objection to this conversation: its continuousness.
In my research, I got onto this topic in response to the question: why do writers drink (there's a new book about it and here's a review). But Wells gives me no reason to assume that writers drink with more enthusiasm than anyone else. Bram Stoker's first book, The Primrose Path, is a moralistic romance novel about a protagonist who succumbs to alcoholism and eventually lets it ruin his life. Stoker was known to have practiced moderation in all things. Perhaps, the question I better ask might be: why would writers drink.
When I talk to other writers, artists and even academics, the guilty truth we share is that it feels like we are living the dream. Wells reinforces that notion In a Modern Utopia (1905):
The conditions of physical happiness will be better understood in Utopia, it will be worth while to be well there, and the intelligent citizen will watch himself closely. Half and more of the drunkenness of earth is an attempt to lighten dull days and hopelessly sordid and disagreeable lives, and in Utopia they do not suffer these things. Assuredly Utopia will be temperate, not only drinking, but eating with the soundest discretion
And yet, inside that passage there is a certain hedonism. Is it hedonistic to have all of what you want?
Good heavens, my dear boy, don't look so tragic! The secret of remaining young is never to have an emotion that is unbecoming. Come to the club with Basil and myself. We will smoke cigarettes and drink to the beauty of Sibyl Vane. She is beautiful. What more can you want?
In that passage from The Picture of Dorian Gray, we have hedonism in the form of drinking, smoking and the pursuit of sex. We have the idea that getting what you want should make you happy. Does having everything you want and not being happy make you feel guilty? Do people drink because they are unhappy?

I digress for fear of running into a long meditation on happiness and self-medication. Self-medicating is, I think, what Nordau felt the degenerate thought he or she was doing by drinking. He just found artists more despicable for finding it beautiful.

To that effect he says:
When Raffaelli paints shockingly degraded absinthe-drinkers in the low drinking dens of the purlieus of Paris, we clearly feel his profound pity at the sight of these fallen human beings, and this emotion we ex-perience as a morally beautiful one. In like manner we have not a momentary doubt of the morality of the artist's emotions whenwe behold Callot's pictures of the horrors of war, or the bleeding, purulent saints of Zurbaran, or the monsters of Breughel van der Holle, or when we read the murder scene in Dostojevsky's Raskolnikow. These emotions are beautiful. Sympathy with them gives us a feeling of pleasure. Against this feeling the displeasure caused by the repulsiveness of the work cannot prevail. When, however, the work betrays the indifference of the author to the evil or ugliness he depicts, nay, his predilection for it, then the abhorrence provoked by the work isintensified by all the disgust which the author's aberration of instinct inspires in us, and the aggregate impression is one of keenest displeasure. Those who share the emotions of the author, and hence are with him attracted and pleasurably excited by what is repugnant, diseased and evil, are the degenerate.
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Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Rise and Fall of the Cucumber Sandwich

Cucumber sandwiches immediately make me think of the Importance of Being Earnest and the manner in which Algernon gobbled them all. His character is often portrayed as gluttonous for doing so, but cucumber sandwiches really aren't very filling.

In fact, cucumber sandwiches weren't meant to take the place of a meal, but were served as a sign of one's status, like caviar used to be. The idea was that members of the Victorian upper class were men and women of leisure and could afford to eat food of little to no nutritional value - both by being able to waste money on it and by not needing to eat properly for work.

The cucumber sandwich's popularity was rumoured to have begun within the aristocracy, but it definitely ended with the working classes. In the Edwardian era, growers started growing cucumbers cheaply in hot houses throughout the year, making them more affordable and less prestigious. At the same time, tea, as a meal, became less common.

Now, for those of you, who want to try one, I've found tons of recipes online, but have learned that there were certain requirements for a truly refined Victorian cucumber sandwich. The most important thing is that the sandwich should be thin.

For this reason, a denser white bread is preferred. The density of the bread helps to maintain the structural integrity of slice, which should be cut thin enough that, when you hold it to a window, the sun can shine through it.

Keeping the sandwich thin, the cucumbers need to be sliced thin as well, but should be peeled first, if you are not going to make a decorative pattern around each cucumber slice with a fork on the peel. The sliced cucumbers are mixed in vegetable oil and lemon juice with a little white pepper.

Before placing the cucumber on the bread, the bread should be buttered, but just enough to keep the cucumber from making the bread moist.

Once you've constructed the sandwich, cut off the crusts and arrange them on a plate!

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Misogyny and Dracula

If every wife understood the merits which a cheerful home has above all places in the eyes of an ordinary man, there would be less brutality than there is among husbands, and less hardships and suffering among wives.
These words come from Bram Stoker's The Primrose Path, published in 1875 - just three years before his own marriage to Florence Balcombe, Oscar Wilde's sweetheart. Their marriage became platonic, after the birth of their son, though there's no evidence that he ever mistreated her. However, I might be a little standoffish too, if my husband weren't a feminist and wrote such misogynistic things as Stoker did:
...most women have a feeling of possible hostility, or, at least, maintain an armed neutrality towards the former flames of the man that they love. - The Primrose Path
His most popular work, Dracula is full of misogynistic assertions, such as:
A woman ought to tell her husband everything. Don't you think so, dear? And I must be fair. Men like women, certainly their wives, to be quite as fair as they are. And women, I am afraid, are not always quite as fair as they should be.
I suppose that we women are such cowards that we think a man will save us from fears, and we marry him. I know now what I would do if I were a man and wanted to make a girl love me.
My dear Mina, why are men so noble when we women are so little worthy of them?
Hard to say what this means, but I don't think it's good:
These bans an' wafts an' boh-ghosts an' bar-guests an' bogles an' all anent them is only fit to set bairns an' dizzy women a'belderin'.
But there's more...
We had a capital 'severe tea' at Robin Hood's Bay in a sweet little old-fashioned inn, with a bow window right over the seaweed-covered rocks of the strand. I believe we should have shocked the 'New Woman' with our appetites. Men are more tolerant, bless them!
But, there, you can't trust wolves no more nor women.
A brave man's blood is the best thing on this earth when a woman is in trouble.
I tried to be stern with him, as one is to a woman under the circumstances, but it had no effect. Men and women are so different in manifestations of nervous strength or weakness!
She is one of God's women, fashioned by His own hand to show us men and other women that there is a heaven where we can enter, and that its light can be here on earth. So true, so sweet, so noble, so little an egoist, and that, let me tell you, is much in this age, so sceptical and selfish.
Misogyny, in my understanding, is derived from a fragile sense of masculinity, as Stoker demonstrates here:
I suppose there is something in a woman's nature that makes a man free to break down before her and express his feelings on the tender or emotional side without feeling it derogatory to his manhood.
Things are quite bad enough for us, all men of the world, and who have been in many tight places in our time, but it is no place for a woman, and if she had remained in touch with the affair, it would in time infallibly have wrecked her.
Think, dear, that there have been times when brave men have killed their wives and their womenkind, to keep them from falling into the hands of the enemy. Their hands did not falter any the more because those that they loved implored them to slay them. It is men's duty towards those whom they love, in such times of sore trial!
And misogyny in the form of a back-handed compliment:
She has man's brain...

And Stoker appears to loath women's sensuality and sexuality:
The women looked pretty, except when you got near them...
From that famous scene with one boy and three girls:
The women closed round, whilst I was aghast with horror.
And... as Lucy transforms into a vampire she begins walking around in various states of undress. She looks sexier when she's dead and they have to kill her by driving a phallic stake into her heart. Ok... maybe I'm going a bit far with the stake as phallic symbol, but you get the point. I think this is a case where Stoker speaks for himself.

The most insidious part of all of this is that many of these lines come from Stoker's female characters, which I immediately read as internalized misogyny, but really just serves to promote internalized misogyny by presenting these self-loathing women, whom Stoker regards as "noble."

I'm just glad that we eventually got Buffy!

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dirty Words

I'm sure all my readers know the stereotype about how tragic it could be to offend a Victorian's sensibilities, but that they were a lot dirtier than we give them credit for. Yet, when writing historical fiction, which I'm doing, I search and search for the language to describe the things they were obsessed with, but ought not discuss.

It turns out there's an awful lot of language they used, so I'm compiling here a glossary or thesaurus of Victorian dirty words - strictly for use in literary endeavours!

Lady parts: cock alley, cock lane, crinkum-crankum, cunny, dumb glutton, grinder, fruitful vine, madge, Miss or Lady Laycock, money ('Careful or you'll show us your money'), muff, notch, old hat (it was felt after all), one's commodity, quim.

Gentleman parts: arbor vitae, cock, cock stand, cods, dildo, doodle, gaying instrument, john, johnson, john thomas, lobcock, Nebuchadnezzar, pego, plug-tail, samson, tackle, tickle tail, whore-pipe, willy.

Some other fun words were: gamahuching or minetting (oral sex), lickerish (aroused), and a swill tub (a drunk).

Magda Knight provides a pretty extensive glossary of other terms too, which you can find here. Also, check out my post on cucumber sandwiches!

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