On my sidebar under "About Me" I wrote, "Sometimes I want to jump back in time, into the lives of my ancestors. Not to stay, of course -- too many modern conveniences I'd rather not do without -- but to meet them and watch their interactions with each other...." That statement is more true now than it has ever been. I'm pleased to read about what life may have like 150 years ago but I'm grateful that I live in these modern, enlightened times with such extensive knowledge about diet, health, medicine, etc.
Reading Goodman's book immerses one in the day-to-day activities, complexities, and simplicities of Victorian life from the time a person arose in the morning until bedtime. In this 440-page book there is both depth and breadth. The reader learns about living conditions, food and diet, work, leisure, health and illness, personal care, school, clothing, and so much more. For example:
- It is possible to effectively clean one's teeth with soot.
- Windows were left open in all types of weather to ensure enough oxygen to live through the night.
- Cold baths were thought to harden the body and make the bather more resilient to common illness and disease.
- If there was meat -- possibly a strip of bacon -- at a meal it was eaten by the primary breadwinner.
I have two known Victorian ancestor families from both sides of my family.
First: My great-grandmother Elizabeth Armitage was born in 1852 in Yorkshire. Her parents were Abel Armitage and Eliza Hartley. Abel lived until at least 1880 but Eliza died between 1852 and about 1859. Abel was a coal miner during some of the years he lived in England. Elizabeth, her sister Ann, her father, step-mother and half siblings all immigrated to the U.S. in 1864.
Second: William Doyle, born in 1863, and his parents, Andrew Doyle and Elizabeth Jane Laws lived in Northumberland. William is my great-grandfather. Both Andrew and William were coal miners. Andrew brought his family to the United States in 1869 and 1870 where he again took up coal mining, at least for a while.
I know little about the siblings and parents of Abel, Eliza, Andrew, and Elizabeth Jane, but certainly they lived in Victorian England, too. Sturdy individuals, all.
My only disappointment with the book was that it has no notes of any kind nor citations at the end. Goodman includes a lengthy list of contemporary publications she used as source material but a reader would be hard-pressed to determine volume, date, page, etc. if he or she wished to find a particular topic in those resources. Despite that, I recommend How to Be a Victorian if you'd like to learn more about how your Victorian ancestor may have lived between 1840 and the early 1900s.
I continue to marvel that my Victorian-born ancestors survived the challenges of the era.
Copyright © 2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.