- The Victorian Country Child by Pamela Horn, and: The Victorian and Edwardian Schoolchild by Pamela Horn, and: Victorian Countrywomen by Pamela Horn, and: Victorian Gardens by Brent Elliot (review)
- Victorian Review
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 17, Number 2, Winter 1991
- pp. 70-76
- View Citation
- Additional Information
70Victorian Review provocative study which engages these great and familiar novels where they move us most deeply. It is also a book to delight both for its verbal felicities and for its pictorial embellishments. Juliet McMaster University ofAlberta Pamela Horn. The Victorian Country Child, ix + 281. Phoenix Mill, Gloucestershire: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1990. 2nd ed. $28.50 US (cloth). Pamela Horn. The Victorian and Edwardian Schoolchild. iv + 208. Wolfeboro Falls, New Hampshire: Alan Sutton Publishers, 1989. $24.00 US (cloth). Pamela Horn. Victorian Countrywomen, ix + 281. Oxford: Basil Blackwood, 1991. $36.95 US (cloth). Brent Elliot Victorian Gardens. 285. London: B. T. Batsford, 1990. £12.95 (cloth). From the mid-1860s onward there has been no shortage of books dealing with Victorian, and later Edwardian, daily lives and with their domestic arrangements. (See the extensive bibliography in The Victorian Country Child [275-78].) Interest in these matters has quickened recently with publication of a number of new volumes on these topics, and also because deeper study of Victorian periodical literature has shed increasing light on the interests and pastimes of all levels of British society. Publication, in 1977, of the second edition of George Sturt's volume of personal reminiscence, A SmallBoy in the Sixties, called attention again to his vivid impressions of the life and customs of an English rural town. (First edition, 1927.) It is a remarkable picture of every aspect of a country town: the house in which he was born; his mother's wash-house and yard; his schooling, both formal and informal; the wheelwright's shop and its sawpit; the shoeing hole and its collection of carts and wagons awaiting repair; and his recollections oflocal customs, rituals, and festivals. The book, in both editions, was widely read, reviewed, and quoted from. Even more widely known, perhaps, is Flora Thompson's trilogy: Lark Rhe (1939); Over to Candleford (1941); and Candleford Green (1943). Reviews71 These were reissued as Lark Rise to Candleford (1945). The books are evocative of the decade of the eighties as seen through a young country giri's eyes. She refers to it as a "decade of change" after which the world was never the same again. She describes the lives of the old people in the village, which stretched back in some cases to the reign of George IV, and then the life of current times, moving cyclically with the growth and harvesting of the crops, and with the rotation of the seasons. She tells of intimate domestic living arrangements, of the social implications of the annual slaughter of the family pig, the dialects, the schools, the entertainments of the village folk, and of the strength they drew from the simple dignity and moral earnestness of their lives. A particularly moving quality among them was their ability to take whatever life dealt out to them and their pride that no matter what it was they would never "flinch." More recently, Jean Faley in Up Oor Close: Memories ofDomestic Life in Glasgow Tenements, 1910-1945 (1990), although somewhat beyond Edwardian times, nevertheless, through flashbacks, gives a good look at late nineteenth-century life and customs. Written to dispel the image of destitution in city tenements, it presents an accurate picture of how large families managed to live "comfortably and respectably" in these rooms, and pays tribute to the women whose ceaseless labor and ingenuity kept homes spotless and children fed in hard times and in good. One also gets a good feel for the customs of the "close" and the importance of the whole concept of "neighborliness," which "cushioned hard conditions." Even the BBC has recognized the strong interest the reading public has in Victorian domestic life with publication of The Victorian Küchen (1989) by Jennifer Davies, as part of its BBC Book/TV series. The book reconstructs every aspect of Victorian culinary art from a modest dwelling to the mansion or castle. The BBC discovered the remains of an authentic Victorian kitchen, complete, with most of its equipment intact and proceeded to fit out a re-creation of a period kitchen. This provided the background for the book which discusses every detail of the role of the mistress of the house...