Tuesday 27 February 2007


scavengers DUST-HEAPS

The Victorian dust-heap has long been of interest to scholars through it's literary place in Charles Dickens's Our Mutual Friend. We are now very keen in recycling as a society, of course, and the Victorian system of rubbish-sifting seems very "green" to modern readers, albeit tainted by the poverty-stricken lives of the scavengers involved. These days, of course, we outsource some of our scavenge-able waste to third-world countries, where they can do our scavenging/recycling for us, in conditions not dissimilar to those described herein, in an 1850s piece from Household Words, to which I've added other links on the subject.

Thursday 22 February 2007

Google Books


Google made a big announcement a while back about digitising every book on the planet, or thereabouts. People fretted about copyright, about Google monopolising the world's knowledge (as if it doesn't already - ask any journalist researching a story) but Google pressed on anyway, pointing out that it could pretty much do what it likes with out of copyright material, which is true ... www.victorianlondon.org works on the same principle, albeit on a smaller scale! The 'beta' version is available online http://books.google.com/advanced_book_search ... click "Full view books" if you want to limit your search to full text items. It's basically a massive hodge-podge of material, but includes some very obscure Victorian novels etc. which, frankly, would never otherwise appear online. Ironically, at the moment at least, some great Victorian material, utterly out of copyright, is searchable on the database, but not viewable in full text ... perhaps they'll fix that ... fingers crossed!

Saturday 17 February 2007

Ramo Samee


One of the peculiar names that I've come across from time to time in researching Victorian pleasure gardens is Ramo Samee. Until today, however, I never bothered to check who he was ... the first Georgian/Victorian superstar Indian juggler! For more about Mr. Samee see this excellent blog entry.

Sunday 11 February 2007

Mayhew on Sawyers


One of the ongoing efforts on the site is adding Mayhew's Letters to the Morning Chronicle - which were, in effect, the first draft of London Labour and the London Poor, his ground-breaking study of the working classes. Heavy on statistics and numbers, as well as amazing interviews with ordinary working people, Mayhew is hard to transcribe - which perhaps explains why only one cumbersome etext exists online for London Labour, at the Bolles Collection. Nonetheless, I am doing my bit with the Letters (essays, in actual fact) - here's number 59 ... detailing, in large part, how the occupation of sawyer was made redundant by the introduction of the steam-powered saw-mill.

Saturday 10 February 2007


French novels


Finally, word arrives of my novels making their appearance in France, in April, courtesy of Editions 10/18 "Grands Detectives" series ... A Metropolitan Murder becomes Le Cadavre du Métropolitain and The Welfare of the Dead becomes Les bienfaits de la mort! There's something about the French language that makes everything sound classy ... even the publicity flyer "Pour Lee Jackson, Big Ben sonne toujours a l'heure Victorienne" ... merveilleux!

Friday 9 February 2007

Newsletter Disaster


Following a catastrophic computer failure here at http://www.victorianlondon.org, I'm afraid newsletter subscription details since the 10th September 2006 have been lost! Fortunately the site is wholly unaffected. If you have subscribed, unsubscribed or changed address from the email newsletter, in the last six months, then please contact me again ... sorry folks!

Wednesday 7 February 2007

The Last Pleasure Garden


Readers of my books (there are a couple out there, I believe) should be aware that the paperback of The Last Pleasure Garden is now available. Another murder mystery, but this time set against the strange background of Cremorne Gardens in Chelsea. Pleasure-gardens were common in the London suburbs until the mid-Victorian period, when they gained a rather risqué reputation for their nocturnal activities - not least al fresco dancing - which were said to encourage prostitution and vice. (This is probably true, but not much more than the average theatre or music hall.) The decline of Cremorne involved religious protestors, antagonistic licensing authorities, nimby neighbours, and several libel actions. In my book, of course, there are a couple of murders as well ...

Friday 2 February 2007

In the Year of Jubilee
In the Year of Jubilee

I've never been a big fan of George Gissing, I think because I started reading 'The Netherworld' at one point, and couldn't really get into it. However, I am changing my mind. Can I commend to the reader 'In the Year of Jubilee' ... it's set in 1887 and years following, and is a study of the rising lower middle class of the period, covering various bugbears of the time, including advertising, suburbia, and the education of women. And yet, despite being an almost polemical novel about the up-and-coming vulgar 'educated' classes of Camberwell, it's a fascinating and entertaining read. On the polemical side, see here, for instance, for a rather jaundiced view of women's education ... but it's a good read, you have my word!

Thursday 1 February 2007



Film of the Victorian / Edwardian era is hard to come by, for understandable reasons! It's worth having a look at the Mitchell and Kenyon material that was uncovered recently. Another source, which I was just reminded of, is the Pathe News site ... if you're willing to register and download (a somewhat convoluted process), you can get lo-res versions of any film in the Pathe Archive, gratis (or pay £25 for better resolution). Look for the film on the Emancipation of Women ... even without the images, it's fascinating to hear first-hand accounts of the suffragettes et al.