My name is Chantel Grayson and I wanted to welcome you to my site and my blog. I didn't know what to write here, considering there are so many things that interest me and my writing/illustration journey, so I thought I would begin with explaining my captivation with the Victorian era in this: my missive to the time period.
Why? Because you will notice that much of my writing, short stories and novels contain elements or themes of the Victorian lifestyle.
What defines the Victorian Era? The short answer is June 1837 to January 1901, the 63 year reign of Queen Victoria, Empress of India. In other aspects, it may be authors such as Jane Austen or Charles Dickens, television shows like Sherlock or Black Butler or...stuff--pedal operated bicycles, the first sewing machines, toothpowder, ball gowns, grand houses, scented soaps, telephones, bloodletting, luncheons, and more...stuff.
For me, it is the dramatized romanticism of the period, which I like to stretch from 1820 to 1914 (WWI). Britain was the most powerful empire in the world and substantially glamorous--the late dinner parties, employment of servants, expensive fabrics, private opera boxes and elaborate hunting trips far exceed what most could experience then and now. The upperclassmen refrained from labor-intensive work, feeling as if they would be devalued as gentlemen. Ladies were viewed as weak, dependent creatures who took pride in knowing very little about their bodies and were taught very little regarding sexual expectations and the marital bed.
"When I hear his steps outside my door I lie down on my bed, open my legs and think of England." --Recorded in the 1912 journal of Lady Hillington, however it is unknown the origin or precise context of the phrase.
The cascade of ladies in colorful gowns, against the starch backdrop of men in pressed suits, gliding up a grand staircase of the great hall was almost magical. But, imagine this: shadows engulf the rich reflections of the affluent. Their very lifestyles are being threatened. Their social tiers are on the verge of toppling over. They reach for their tapestries, exotic animals, and aged wines. They cling to their wives, mistresses and prized stallions. It is their livelihood at stake, the very preservation of their name, titles, wealth and land--each, or all, providing them with social forgiveness and political influences. These shadows creep closer. The darkness that was once ignored from their sharp horizons, stains their tweed walking suits. For this small percentage of high society lords and ladies is endangered. It's predator? Their fellow man.
Specifically, the rise of the middle and working class.
The Victorian era was a time where the lazy, crude and penniless son of a Duke was socially accepted over the self-made businessman. But now, income was beginning to matter more than birth. There was a rise in industrialism and technology, bringing with it opportunities for the poor and middle class to utilize or obtain an education. The grocer's son could build department empires. A lord's bastard could own his own construction company. A handkerchief stealing boy could grow to be an engineer. A woman could invent a very popular board game (bonus points if you know of which game I am referring).
The rise in factories meant a decline in those who chose to work on the farms of grand estates. People now had an opportunity to move to the city, have Sundays off and work under sheltered conditions year long. Although factories were unprotected by labor laws, especially regarding children (a topic I will cover in due time), compared to back-breaking swings of a scythe and brutal winters the decision was preferable for most.
The golden columns of the upper class were beginning to bend, reflecting the slow decline of their bank accounts. For the wealthy, keeping up with appearances was the utmost importance. Most continued to spend as they were accustomed to, leaving the inevitable damage of bankruptcy to their heirs. Poor investments and failure to modernize left many sons with nothing, or a choice. To save their family homes and keep within the realm of riches they could sell their titles by way of marriage. A number of American tycoons needed to make use of their shopaholic daughters. Why not pick up a newspaper and see what Englishmen are for sale? They wouldn't mind having a lord for a son-in-law, their daughters wouldn't mind becoming an English peer.
Rags to riches, riches to rags, the indomitable matriarch, club exclusivity, the double standard of sex, women as property are just a few common themes that emerge in Victorian literature, articles and research. The life of an upperclassmen was so dramatically alluring and a stark contrast to the gritty underbelly of one of the most iconic cities in the world--with grand houses you can tour today.
I am excited to document my findings and discoveries on this blog but alas, dear reader, I ask that you do not use this blog as definitive research for your own works. I will cite my sources but I want to mention that I feel anything “historic” could have gaps in translations. Just like today, there can be multiple translations for a single word (toilet, commode, lou, john, water closet, bathroom, etc.). There may be words in my Victorian findings that may have the same meaning but used differently from your favorite shows, romance authors, etc. (cook, Cook, cookmaid, maidcook, etc.). Most importantly, I hope that my love for the era shines first and foremost.
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***Downton Abbey takes place in 1927 and is therefore not the Victorian Era. However, you can still take lessons from the popular franchise by studying the architecture, home structure, and of course, Lady Grantham, Dowager Countess. (She calls herself an Edwardian but would have been a Victorian in her youth). If you want something visually entertaining and informative to watch, I HIGHLY recommend "The Edwardian Country House/Manor House." It's a mini series on PBS where modern day people live three months in a real Edwardian house--6 take the roles of the upstairs family and 15 are given servants positions.