Top positive review
Victoriians Undone pulls the pants down on the falsely accused staid denizens of Victorian England to fascinate readers!
Reviewed in the United States on April 20, 2018
The past has often been described as a different country than the one we twenty-first century folks inhabit on a daily basis. How true this statement is in graphically seen in the smash British historical bestseller Victorians Undone. The author is Dr. Kathryn Hughes a professor of Victorian studies at East Anglia University in the United Kingdom. Several years ago I read her fine biography of George Eliot so looked forward with eagerness to perusing her nearly four hundred page Victorians Undone.
This bit of off the beaten path history gives us the smells, sights, pains and social customs alive in Great Britain during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), Hughes does this by her five chapters focused on a separate body part. The book is a page turner because dear reader you are going to find out things about the Victorians you were never taught in school!
I. Lady Flora's Belly-The sad tale of a lady of the bedchamber of the Duchess of Kent who was the mother of Queen Victoria. Victoria turned on her mother after she ascended to the throne in 1837. She was opposed to her mom and Sir John Conroy who may have been the Duchesses' lover.The Duchess of Kent wanted to jointly rule the kingdom and control the stubborn and vindictive Victoria. A rumor was spread that Lady Flora Hastings was pregnant by Sir John Conroy. She was forced to endure a humilating gynecological examination and was not pregnant! Flora died in 1839 with her bellys swollen by disease. Good discussion of childbirth and the life at court.
2.Charles Darwin's Beard. The growth of male whiskers grew among intellectuals, artists and professional and clergymen during Victoria's reign. We learn why such luminaries as Charles Darwin, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens and others grew beards to mainfest their masculinity in an increasingly middle class society. A fun chapter!
3. George Eliot's hand: George Eliot grew up in Warwickshire where she lived as a farmer's daughter. It was thought her right hand was thicker than her left paw due to her years of working with milking cows and making cheese. Though her family and husband John Cross tried to deny this it was true.
4. Fanny Cornforth's Mouth-ascinating tale of Dante Gabriel Rossetti the fammous Pre-Raphalite painter's longtime mistress. He painted several pictures of her beautiful and seductive mouth. A good exploration of the Victorian sexual double standard
5. Sweet Fanny Adams-The gruesome story of the murder of eight year old Fanny Adams by Fredrick Baker in the summer of 1869. The girl was beheaded and her body parts were strewn all over a rural hops field. "Fanny Adams" means something totally worthless in British naval slang.
A wonderful book that I highly recommend!