Thursday, May 29, 2014

Children in Prison and Other Cruelties of Prison Life by Oscar Wilde

On 25 May 1895, at the height of his career, Oscar Wilde was convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to two years' hard labour. Wilde and his fellow inmates faced a regimen of "hard labour, hard fare and a hard bed." Accustomed to all of the finest things in life and utterly shunned by the public, who once adored him, Wilde simply could not bare prison life. His health declined sharply, and that November he collapsed from illness and hunger, rupturing his right ear drum in the fall. Within a few short years this injury would lead to his death.

After serving his sentence, Wilde remained concerned for some of the younger inmates at Reading Gaol. In February 1898, he published "Children in Prison and Other Cruelties of Prison Life." The publisher's note appears as follows:

The pamphlet begins by addressing the editor of the Daily Chronicle:
Sir, - I learn with great regret, through an extract from the columns of your paper, that the warder Martin, of Reading Prison, has been dismissed by the Prison Commissioners for having given some sweet biscuits to a little hungry child. I saw the three children myself on the Monday preceding my release. They had just been convicted, and were standing in a row in the central hall in their prison dress, carrying their sheets under the arms previous to their being sent to the cells allotted to them. I happened to passing along one of the galleries on my way to the reception room, where I was to have an interview with a friend. They were quite small children, the youngest - the one to whom the warder gave the biscuits - being a tiny little chap, for whom they had evidently been unable to find clothes small enough to fit. I had, of course, seen many children in prison during the two years during which I myself was confined. Wandsworth Prison, especially, contained always a large number of children. But the little child I saw on the afternoon of Monday, the 17th at Reading, was tinier than any one of them. I need not say how utterly distressed I was to see these children at Reading, for I knew the treatment inshore for them...
Wilde published Children in Prison as an attempt to publicize and promote action to end the scandal of child prisoners incarcerated in British jails. The pamphlet was first published in letter form to the editor of the Daily Chronicle newspaper in 1897. In prison Wilde saw the many young boys locked up with adults, who posed various dangers to the young boys, causing them ‘sheer terror.’ Many children were locked away in near darkness for 23 hours each day, and fed only on water and ‘badly baked’ bread.

To draw attention to the scandal, Wilde describes the case of warden Thomas Martin, who was dismissed from his post for offering a biscuit to a child found to be ‘crying with hunger’. Wilde advocated that no child be imprisoned for any reason if they were less than 14 years old.

You can see the entire pamphlet online through the British Library. The library has introduced a wonderful new resource, "Discovering Literature: Romantics and Victorians," which makes available over 1,200 Romantic and Victorian Literary treasures.

Follow me on Twitter @TinyApplePress and like the Facebook page for updates!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Images of London in 1893

I'm including more paintings and sketches in my images of London in 1893 because I feel like the illustrate the influence of street photography on art. When you finish scrolling through these, look at Images of London in 1894.
Tower Bridge under construction with
river traffic in the foreground (1893).
'Going North, King's Cros Station' (1893) by George Earl
East London Railway Station (1893)

The newly-erected statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus (1893)
Illuninated Gardens Imperial Institute London (1893)
"A London Newsboy" (1893), by Augustus Edwin Mulready
July 1893 timetable of the London,
Chatham, and Dover Railway.
The Amazon Warriors advertised above.
Same people as above, but this image has been partially colourized
Members of the Pompier Ladder crew won
an international competition in London in 1893.
Dance lessons at Oxford music hall, London,
week beginning Monday, 30 October 1893.
"The Rivals." London (1893) by W. Dendy Sadler
English bar and barmaids, London (1893)
A play at the Royalty Theatre (1893)
The Hambro' Synagogue, Fenchurch Street (1893)
One of the most prolific London street photographers of 1893 was Paul Martin, who took the following images:
A porter at Billingsgate Market (1893)
A magazine seller at Ludgate Circus (1893)
Street ‘urchins’ (1893)
Cab Accident, High Holborn (1893)
Flower woman, Ludgate Hill Station (1893)
Billingsgate Market (1893)
Children dance around a maypole (1893)
Images of London in 1893 is part of a series I'm posting on 1890s London. For more, look back at previous years: 1889, 1890, 1891, and 1892.

Follow me on Twitter @TinyApplePress and like the Facebook page for updates!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Gandhi, Vegetarianism, and 1890s London

Grouse or partridge, pheasant, duck, woodcock or snipe; quails from Egypt, fattened in Europe; oysters, swallowed between mouthfuls of bread and butter; Scotch broth; and turtle soup, that is how I generally imagine a "proper" Victorian table. Although decadent, these types of tables were considered unenlightened by a growing number of the English middle- and upper-class, who were adopting vegetarianism. Sadly, Victorian vegetarians consumed some rather dull fare. That would, however, begin to change, as Mahatma Gandhi was in London writing prolifically on the subject of food.

Gandhi arrived in London on 4 September 1888 to begin law school at University College. Though he avoided eating meat and drinking alcohol throughout his life, he didn't join the London Vegetarian Society until 1890-91. Once he did join, he wrote at least twelve articles on vegetarianism for the organization's journal, "The Vegetarian," between 7 February 1891 and 16 April 1892. He didn't stop writing for the Vegetarian after April 1892, but his articles were less frequent, and his next one bore the title: "English Misrule in India."

Gandhi begins with a five-part series: "Indian Vegetarians." The first part outlines reasons behind Indian vegetarianism, including religion, caste, and poverty. Next, Gandhi focuses on the two main daily meals, explaining them for his English readers. In part three, Gandhi really begins to extol the superiority of India's diet over the English. Indian flour, Gandhi explains, "is far superior to the ordinary flour that is used here for the much abused white bread." His concluding paragraph, re the English influence on Indian beverages, includes words that would have greatly appealed to the significance of the English teetotaler's cause.
The most that tea and coffee can do is to cause a little extra expense, and general debility of health when indulged to excess, but one of the most greatly felt evils of the British Rule is the importation of alcohol - that enemy of mankind, the curse of civilization - in some form or another. The measure of the evil wrought by this borrowed habit will be properly guaged by the reader when he is told that the enemy has spread throughout the length and breadth of India, in spite of religious prohibition ; for even the touch of a bottle containing alcohol pollutes the Mahomedan, according to his religion, and the religion of the Hindu strictly prohibits the use of alcohol in any form whatever, and yet alas! the Government it seems, instead of stopping, are aiding and abetting the spread of alcohol.
In part four, Gandhi sets out to destroy the myth that vegetarians are weaker than omnivores. To further the point, in part five, Gandhi describes the life of an Indian shepherd, which is "in many respects, is an ideal mode of life. He is perforce regular in his habits, is out of doors during the greater part of his time, while out he breathes the purest air, has his due amount of exercise, has good nourishing food and last but not least, is free from many cares which are frequently productive of weak constitutions."

Over the next few months, Gandhi writes to educate English vegetarians about Indian vegetarian life. At the time Gandhi was writing, vegetarianism was still in its infancy in London. The Vegetarian Society's was only just founded in 1847. Victorian vegetarians made the break from traditional cuisine for various reasons, such as varied as self-improvement, expense, health concerns, and genuine concerns about animal cruelty. When Gandhi wrote about the foods of India, he was likely expanding the diets of many vegetarian Victorian Londoners.

Typically, vegetarians in London in the 1890s were eating lentil or other bean soups, bread-crumb omelets, boiled onions in butter (seasoned with nutmeg, pepper, and salt), and potatoes made several ways. The things Gandhi could teach them about spices alone must have led to so much invention. 

Until 1903, Gandhi continued to publish articles from abroad with the Vegetarian Society, though his writing would take an important turn. Come back for more on that soon!

Follow me on Twitter @TinyApplePress and like the Facebook page for updates!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Images of London in 1892

A continuation from my posts on images in London in 1889, 1890, and 1891.

High Street Kensington (1892)
Façade of The Duke of York's Theatre (1892)
Cheapside (1892)
The Thames from Westminster Bridge, London (1892)
Kew Bridge, London (1892)
Construction of Tower Bridge (28 September 1892)
Fleet Street & St Paul's, London (1892)

All Souls Church, Langholm Place, London (1892)
A couple of dandies at Victoria Embankment Gardens, London (1892)
Inside Hanbury Street, Whitechapel,
Salvation Army shelter for women, by Paul Renouard,
The Graphic, 27 February 1892 (BBC website)
Fishmonger's Wife, The New Cut Market, London (1892)

Match Seller in Ludgate Hill, London (1892)
Maid's in a London Hotel (1892)
Buffalo Bill, London (1892)
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West toured Europe eight times,
the first four tours between 1887 and 1892
and the last four from 1902 to 1906.

Georgian riders in London (1892)
The End of the London Season:
The Last Church Parade of the Year (1892).
The Fancy Dress Ball at Covent Garden (1892)
By Arthur Hopkins
Sir David Evans (right) and his family at the Welsh Banquet
Mansion House, London (1892)
Keep browsing Images of London in 1893, 1894, and 1895.

Go back in time to 1889, 1890, and 1891.

Follow me on Twitter @TinyApplePress and like the Facebook page for updates!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


In so far as he wished to be remembered at all, it was not as a man of letters, but as a friend, a connoisseur of life, a man of sympathy un-aging and zest unstaled, a lover of simple jests, a laughing philosopher. - Stephen McKenna
Alexander Teixeira de Mattos
A Dutch journalist, literary critic and publisher, Alexander Teixeira de Mattos was best known for his work as a translator. It's unclear how they met or what they had in common, apart from writing and a love for the same woman.

Teixeira moved from Amsterdam to London with his family in 1874 when he was nine years old. There, he studied at the Kensington Catholic Public School, before attending the Jesuit school Beaumont College. Much the way Bram Stoker became involved with the Lyceum, Teixeira became involved with the Independent Theatre Society - only Teixeira didn't become obsessed. He also worked as the London correspondent for a Dutch newspaper, while editing other journals.

Fluent in English, French, German, Flemish, Dutch, and Danish, Teixeira became the official translator of the works of Maurice Maeterlinck, and would go on to translate Émile Zola, Alexis de Tocqueville, Maurice Leblanc, and many others.

In the 1890s, Teixeira was leading a group that sought to translate the canonical works of fiction by Continental authors for the English reading public. There, he oversaw the translation and publication of six banned novels by Émile Zola.

At the turn of the century, he married Willie's widow, Lily, becoming step-father to the most infamous Wilde of the next hundred years.

Follow me on Twitter @TinyApplePress and like the Facebook page for updates!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Someone You Shouldn't Have Fallen in Love With

Willie Wilde
Many a well-known hostess fell before Willie [Wilde]'s charms: one of them Mme Gabrielli sent him, according to Constance Wilde, 'wine, tonics, and bangles'.  - Joan Schenkar
Sometimes, I'll be reading and a word will make me stop. In the sentence above, I stopped several times at the word "fell." Why do we fall in love? Schenkar is talking about Victorian women, falling had other connotations for them... "fallen" women.
Ethel Smyth

I don't think Schenkar intended for that sentence to give me so much pause. People are "falling" for or "falling in love" with other people all the time! The women who fell for Oscar Wilde's older brother, Willie, didn't go on to lead the life of a fallen woman, as our contemporary understanding of Victorian morality indicates they should have. and Shenkar certainly doesn't imply that they did.
Mrs. Frank Leslie

Shenkar does go on to discuss Willie's relationship with the suffragette, Ethel Smyth. Smyth ended her engagement to Willie, then lead a long and happy life, which included artistic successes and love affairs straight through to her 70s. Willie's first wife travelled and flourished financially after their divorce. Divorcing Willie won her sympathy in the press, rather than condemnation, but she did own more than a few newspapers. Willie's second wife doesn't seem to have had much drama in her life, after Willie's passing, but had a long and happy marriage with Dutch translator, Alexander Teixeira de Mattos.

I find Willie in the biography of his daughter and other histories, like that of his first wife, which all combine to paint a picture of a hideously charming womanizer. A kind of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Willie demonstrated incredible courtesy and outrageous disrespect to the women in his life, including his mother. Like Barney Stintson, I imagine Willie even had a playbook, well-memorized before attending the dances and dinner parties of 1890s London. He slept with as many pretty and rich Victorian women as he could. The latter showered him with gifts and even forgave his attempts to commit bank fraud on their savings accounts.
Dolly Wilde (Willie's daughter)

The image of falling and the long culture of blaming women for indiscreet sexual encounters make me picture the women Willie met as the 1890s equivalent to the women Barney Stintson picked up on the series: How I Met Your Mother, but that simply was not the case. Beautiful, intelligent and wealthy women clearly fell for Willie's charms. He wasn't someone they should have fallen in love with, and may have changed their lives forever; Willie's second wife had a child by him. When the relationship ended, the women in Willie's life were still beautiful, intelligent and wealthy (if they started out that way). The term "fallen" simply does not apply here. Rather than finding the women that Willie preyed on as footnotes in a history of his sexual conquests, I look for him in the footnotes of their biographies because they have biographies and Willie doesn't.

Maybe it's time to question the narrative that a mistake, like Willie, was the end for any good Victorian woman.

Follow me on Twitter @TinyApplePress and like the Facebook page for updates!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Images of London in 1891

Continuing my year-by-year series of images of London, I learned that the city had problems with flooding in 1891. Oscar Wilde published the Picture of Dorian Gray and the Soul of a Man Under Socialism. Bram Stoker published the Snake's Pass. Mahatma Ghandi finished law school.

The Thames
A bird's-eye view from Herbert Fry's "London" (1891)
Norwich, London Street, 1891
Queen Victoria Street, London (1891)
A flood was reported in the London Illustrated News
(Some things haven't changed.)
Transport workers went on strike in 1891.
Gandhi (1891)
In London shortly after completing his legal training.
Ghandi and other members of the London Vegetarian Society (1891)
H.P. Blavatsky in 1891 with James Pryse and G.R.S. Mead. 
South London Photographic Society Club Outing (1891)
1891 Rachel Dudley
Lillie Langtry posed as Cleopatra (1891)
Oscar Wilde's sons pose with an elderly gentleman (1891)
Arthur Conan Doyle (1891)
Thomas Beckett's mother-in-law, Mrs Lawrence & 4 of her daughters
London, England (November 1891)
Click the year to see Images of London in 1889 or 1890.

Follow me on Twitter @TinyApplePress and like the Facebook page for updates!