Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England (Hardcover)

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"Almost criminal in its housebreaking, burglarizing, second-story genius."—James Kincaid, University of Southern California

The Victorian age is much closer to us in time than we might believe. Yet at that time, in the most technologically advanced nation in the world, people buried meat in fresh earth to prevent mold forming and wrung sheets out in boiling water with their bare hands. Such household drudgery was routinely performed by the grandparents of people still living, but the knowledge of it has passed as if it had never been.

Judith Flanders's book is laid out like a Victorian house, taking you through the story of daily life from room to room. In each space she depicts the home's furnishings and decoration: from childbirth in the master bedroom, through the scullery and kitchen, the separate male and female domains of the drawing room and the parlor, and ending in the sickroom. A rich selection from diaries, letters, advice books, magazines, and paintings fills the rooms with the people and personalities of the age. 100 illustrations, 3 8-page color inserts.

About the Author

Judith Flanders is the author of A Circle of Sisters, which was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award. She lives in London.

Praise For…

Flanders is such a good writer and so acute a social analyst that her journey from the cradle to the grave is as racy, as compelling, and sometimes as scary as a good Victorian novel. I found particularly enthralling Flanders' sense of threats the Victorian home vainly tried to keep out: dirt, disease, unregulated desire, and above all decline in class status.

What makes Flanders's book compelling is not only her keen eye for telling detail, her strong awareness of the importance of family context (already apparent in her first book, A Circle of Sisters) and her insights, but also her skill in handling literary sources that illuminate her subject....By slicing the front facade of the house and guiding the reader through a succession of rooms that convery the often frightening complexity of lives passed in them, Flanders brings the Victorian family into deft and vivid focus.

This book is filled with details that bring the Victorian London home so vividly alive that you can smell it and feel it. Relying on canny use of diaries, memoirs, novels, and a thousand other revelatory sources, it moves and amuses and astonishes. I found myself insisting on reading extraordinary passages out loud to family and friends. Ms. Flanders is a shrewd, reliable historian with a keen domestic eye, a sharp wit and a clear and appealing style.
— Cheryl Mendelson, author of Home Comforts

Open this book anywhere, and you find yourself totally absorbed. It's entertaining yet authoritative, accessible yet fascinatingly detailed and thorough. It picks apart, in the most elegant way, a great deal of our received wisdom about how the Victorians lived. The descriptions of the demands of Victorian housekeeping are exhausting just to read—I had to lie on the chaise for half an hour after taking in the account of how to wash a floor. On the other hand, as a member of a household who receives one post a day, rarely before 2 pm, I long for the 'six to twelve' deliveries enjoyed by our ancestors—almost as good as e-mail. A very wide readership will enjoy this book, and I hope it brings Judith Flanders all the success it merits.
— Hilary Mantel

Judith Flanders's new book is almost criminal in its housebreaking, burglarizing, second-story genius. This massively entertaining and just as informative book allows us to see the Victorian house as never before, from the inside, room by room. We tour (or sneak) around, missing nothing and thereby find ourselves soaking up not only details about sleeping habits, chamber pots, and cooking, but about the vision of a world ruled by the home that is still so important. With wonderful dexterity and the quiet assurance that only comes with deep and sophisticated scholarship, Flanders invites us into a fully realized world. We'd be idiots to refuse.
— James Kincaid, author of Annoying the Victorians

Product Details
ISBN: 9780393052091
ISBN-10: 0393052095
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: May 17th, 2004
Pages: 552
Language: English