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St. Helga's Guide to the Victorian Era

28 November 2011, 09:27 PM   #1
Annamarie "Sparrow" McArthur/Dr. Hugo Bennet/Mod
Joined: 1 Oct 2011
Posts: 1056
Last edited by ‹Vasilisataos›, 28 November 2011
Note from Brii: as you can see from the title, this is a guide to the Victorian era. No,
you don't have to read every word, but it will be useful in staying on track with the time
period. There are different sections, so I recommend just skimming to the ones that you
find most important. 

The Victorian era of the British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20
June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901.[1] It was a long period of peace,
prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence. Some scholars date the
beginning of the period in terms of sensibilities and political concerns to the passage of
the Reform Act 1832.
The era was preceded by the Georgian period and succeeded by the Edwardian period. The
latter half of the Victorian age roughly coincided with the first portion of the Belle
Époque era of continental Europe and the Gilded Age of the United States.

Believing that their sons and daughters could rely on a rosy future, and wanting to equip
them to drive its maximum benefits, Victorian parents subscribed to ST. NICHOLAS,  and
other children's magazines. A mainstay for two generations, ST. NICHOLAS serialized works
by some of the nation's foremost writers - among them Louisa May Alcott (EIGHT COUSINS),
Frances Hodgson Burnett (LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY), Mark Twain (TOM SAWYER ABROAD) and
Rudyard Kipling (RIKKI TIKKI TAVI from THE JUNGLE BOOK). Such celebrated poets as Henry
Wadsworth Longfellow and Robert Louis Stevenson also were commissioned to write verse
specifically tailored to its young audience. In this exploding periodicals market,
competition was fierce for both circulation and advertising. Dress patterns and other
innovative promotions such as CHROMOS, the nineteenth-century version of posters, were
offered as subscription inducements. Hungry for color and culture, Americans signed up by
the thousands. By 1890, there were 3,000 periodicals in print in the United States, and
advertisers were spending $300 million to get their message across.

 Picking blackberries, dabbling toes in a sleepy brook, playing cat's cradle and rolling
hoops, weaving clover necklaces and blowing a wish on a dandelion - such were the pleasure
of Victorian childhood. And no one caught the gossamer threads of this innocent world, its
simplicities and solemnities, like Kate Greenaway, artist, author, illustrator, fashion
designer. Her enchanting poems and wide-eyed children in Empire-style gowns, wide sashes
and breeches were the JEUNE MODE of two generations. Reading aloud was a national pastime.
Poetry, nonsense rhymes, limericks, mysteries, adventure stories were read to and by old
and young alike, Picture books - the sentimental, poignant, dewy-eyed children of artist
Maud Humphrey, the whimsical, detailed calligraphic illustrations of Walter Crane - were
read again and again. BABES OF THE YEAR, a lavish picture book of winsome toddlers, was an
instant success when published in 1888. It's author was Maud Humphrey, and for the next
twenty years her fat-cheeked children would peer with sweet innocence from advertisements,
children's books, calendars and greeting cards. In the 1880s publishers generally
preferred women illustrators, believing that they understood children best and had
childlike minds themselves. Maud Humphrey certainly did not have a childlike mind, nor was
she particularly close to her three children. She was strong-willed and determined - more
respected than loved, according to her son, Humphrey Bogart.

 Parents took their children seriously, sparing neither rod nor love. Rules were
clear-cut, infractions punished swiftly, but Victorian children were also doted on by an
entire world of nannies and nursemaids, a retinue of aunties, cousins and grannies. They
were dressed in Lord Fauntleroy velvet breeches and Alice-in-Wonderland pinafores; given
elaborate parties; smothered with too many toys; petted, fawned over, adored. Children's
parties were often as elaborate as the ones their elders gave for themselves. Tea parties
for as many as fifty guests were not unusual. After dancing, games and magic lantern show,
children dined at tables set with white linen and silver. Tea, sweet cakes, ices, and
fresh fruit in season were served on the family's best china. 

While Victorians passionately espoused education, they were less passionate about paying
for it. Teachers had to make do on meager incomes; even governesses were paid a pittance,
their annual salary roughly equaling the cost of a mistress's daytime frock. In the little
red school-houses that dotted rural America in the 1800s, education was often primitive.
Slates, hornbooks and learning by rote were the teacher's tools, and pen and paper if the
school district was rich enough to provide them. For rewards, pupils received merits of
excellence in punctuality, diligence and deportment - attributes that were highly valued
by the new industrial economy. Schoolhouses were built every six square miles, the
distance a child could comfortably walk round-trip in one day. The school year was pegged
to farm work: children got out of school in May for spring planting and did not return
until after fall harvest. School marms came and went with rapidity. Often boarding with a
local family, a teacher had little privacy, but sufficiently good visibility to meet a
suitor well beyond the six-square-mile range. She was expected to be in good health, neat
in dress but not fancy; gentle-mannered and resourceful in the face of discomfort, which
could include snowstorms, poison ivy or chilblains. On sunny days there were picnics,
games of hide-and-seek, marbles and skipping rope in the schoolyard, declamation contests
and box suppers to raise money. In its small way, the schoolhouse was a minor hub of life
for the families who lived within its nesting area. 

[From Victorian Scrapbook by Cynthia Hart, John Grossman and Priscilla Dunhill]


Never talk back to older people, especially to your mother and father.

Never whine or frown when spoken to by your elders.

Never argue with your elders  they know best.

Never do anything that is forbidden by your elders.

Do as you're told in a pleasant and willing way.

Never contradict any one under any circumstances. It is very impolite.

Always greet members of your family when entering a room.

Always bid goodbye to members of your family when you leave a room.

Always rise to a standing position when visitors enter.

Never address a visitor until he has started the conversation.

Never interrupt a conversation.

Never allow your parents to bring you a chair and never allow them to get one for
themselves. Wait on them instead of being waited on.

Talk in a low even voice.

Never run up and down the stairs or across the room.

Always give way to younger children. It is your duty to look after them.

Never retire without bidding family members goodnight.

Keep yourself clean and neat looking at all times.

Keep your hair combed, nails clean, and shoes looking nice.

Keep your clothes pressed and brushed.


The issue of childhood mortality is written into the works of Gaskell and Dickens with
alarming regularity. In Mary Barton, Alice tells Mary and Margaret that before Will was
orphaned, his family had buried his six siblings. There is also the death of the Wilson
twins, as well as Tom Barton's early death --an event which inspires his father John to
fight for labor rights because he's certain his son would have survived if he'd had better
food. In Oliver Twist, Dick's early death is typical of workhouse children who never
recover from years of chronic malnutrition. And in Dombey and Son, Paul demonstrates that
wealth does not guarantee longevity, as we watch him steadily weakened by some mysterious
illness. Evidence is everywhere that Gaskell, Dickens, and many of their contemporaries,
used fiction to chronicle a sad fact of l9th century life: Many children didn't live to
become adults.

The concept of childhood is a relatively new one, and there were few laws protecting them
from working alongside their parents in the mills. Before the Factory Acts of 1847 which
stipulated that children under the age of nine could not work in the textile mills,
children as young as four were employed to perform a simple task, and often, had even
spent most of their unemployed infancies in the deafening, dirty factories. E.P. Thompson

...Mothers, for fear of losing their employment, returned to the mill three weeks or less
after the birth: still, in some Lancashire and West Riding towns, infants were carried in
the 1840s to the mills to be suckled in the meal-break. Girl-mothers, who had perhaps
worked in the mill from the age of eight or nine, had no domestic training: medical
ignorance was appalling: the parents were a prey to fatalistic superstitions (which the
churches sometimes encouraged): opiates, notably laudanum, were used to make the crying
baby quiet. Infants and toddlers were left in the care of relatives, old baby-farming
crones, or children too small to find work at the mill. Some were given dirty rag-dummies
to suck, in which is tied a piece of bread soaked in milk and water, and toddlers of two
and three could be seen running about with these rags in their mouths, in the neighborhood
of factories.

Some of these toddlers were soon employed by the factories; there is even a report of a
20-month-old baby drawing lace in a factory. (Ginswick, p. 157) In Derby, England, silk
twist boys were hired to run silk thread to be spun between hooks, and they usually ran at
the rate of 5 or 6 m.p.h., covering more than 20 miles per day. In textile mills, girls as
young as 5 or 6 would mend imperfections in manufactured lace, and black lace was
particularly hard on the eyes. When combined with poor lighting, these conditions resulted
in near-sightedness or even blindness. In Mary Barton, Margaret Legh demonstrates this
particular occupational hazard when she loses her sight sewing mourning clothes. Luckily
for Margaret, she is also a talented singer, so she can continue to support herself and
her father, but one can only imagine the dismal fate for young blind women who couldn't
even perform slopwork.


Medical education left much to be desired. Doctor shortages and large profits from opening
medical schools prompted rapid development. It took very little to open a school, as long
as there were physicians willing to lecture. Entrance requirements were few and school
provided very little clinical training. Medical students (men only) were undisciplined and
often illiterate. Many doctors learned their trade through apprenticeships with practicing
doctors. These apprenticeships provided the doctors with cheap labor, therefore, there was
no desire to improve this educational system.

Common treatments for patients included “heroic medicine” – bleeding, plastering,
purging, sweating, blistering, and amputation. These practices were advocated by Benjamin
Rush, who was Professor of the Institute of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in
1791. His beliefs held fast during the first half of the century, although they were
ineffectual at best.

Bleeding, also known as phlebotomy or bloodletting, was utilized to release “bad
blood”. This was usually the initial treatment. It seemed like a logical solution to
restore health based upon the four humours: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile.
Patients were cut with a lancet or “leeched”; blood or milk was dripped over a vein to
encourage the leech to bite and suck from that vein. When the patient had bled enough (a
doctor often bled a patient until they fainted!), salt was sprinkled on the leech, causing
it to release the skin. Bleeding was performed not just by doctors but also by barbers.
(The idea of specialized professions is a fairly modern idea – barbers not only cut
hair, but bled patients and pulled teeth!) This procedure did very little to help, but did
a great job in regards to weakening the patient.

Plastering referred to a paste-like substance made from a variety of ingredients and then
applied to the skin of the patient, such as on the back or chest to relieve colds or
internal pain. Poultices were also utilized for wounds, bites, or boils. The ingredients
ranged from bread and milk to herbs, and even cow manure.

Purging involved giving a patient heavy doses of laxatives or emetics to expel
“poisons” from the body. Apparently it was believed that diarrhea was relaxing the
interior of the body while puking was thought to relieve tension on the arteries.

Sweating a patient was believed to release poisons from the body. Anyone suffering from
high fevers were warmly dressed and well layered with blankets. When completely drenched
in sweat, the patient was then doused with cold water and then massaged.
Blistering was used to treat a wide variety of maladies, although its effectiveness was
nil. Victorians believed the body could only
hold one illness at a time, and that blistering the skin with hot pokers, acid, or
plasters could burn out an illness.
Amputation was the most commonly performed surgery; since there was no consideration for
sterilization or cleanliness, surgery was often fatal. Anesthesia would either be applying
a rag with chloroform to the patient’s mouth and nose or giving the patient a bit of
booze to help deaden the pain. The surgeon would then use a tourniquet on the limb being
amputated. A scalpel would be used to cut through the skin and outer tissue; a saw would
then be used to get through the bone. During the Civil War era, the limb was then sutured
with silk in the Northern U.S. or cotton in the Southern States. Infection would often
claim the lives of these patients.

a psychosurgery that Involved drilling some holes in a patient's head, and wiggling around
a pencil-thin operating device in their brain. It supposedly cured anything from mental
diseases to migraines to stomach cramps. Read more here:

I'm too lazy to explain, so enjoy this website.
Cinnamon Montague |19| schizophrenia 

Sophie Byrne |15 | violent tendencies 

28 November 2011, 10:32 PM   #2
Holly-Berry Glacea/Dr. Devlin Butch
Joined: 21 Nov 2011
Posts: 922
I read it all ^^
I loved the part about the children!!
If my history teacher would talk about that suff more often -sigh-
Oh well :/ what can ya do, Africa has History too!
Just not my History XD


It would also be reaaaaally helpful if you could put up some info about certain objects
that did not exsit in the Victorean Era such as showers.. (right??) and -sigh- what else??
Eh... Radios Yes? And ceiling fans, .. did they have heaters?? Or was it just
fireplaces/wood stoves/heaving pans? 
See? LOL 
Like it said, THANKS BUNCHES!!!!!!! <3
Holly Berry Glacea Holly || "The Lost Girl" || "Wendy" || Sixteen || Empath Dependent Personality Disorder, Genophobia, Pediophobia, Heterophobia "What is that horrible feeling in your chest? It hurts me so... won't you sing with me like the flowers do, and make it go away forever?"

28 November 2011, 10:44 PM   #3
Joined: 19 Feb 2013
Posts: 244
Showers existed early in 1810! We are in 1841! Wikipedia it, hoe. :3
Rachelle Eponine Asmosia Timorous Schizotypal | Fugue State | Selective Mutism | Insomnia | Night Terrors Astraphobia. Automysophobia. Hypnophobia. Mnemophobia. Oneirophobia. Pyrophobia. "You are not even an acceptable young lady yet. Whatever dreams you have of obtaining motherhood... is another one of your delusions."

28 November 2011, 11:29 PM   #4
Annamarie "Sparrow" McArthur/Dr. Hugo Bennet/Mod
Joined: 1 Oct 2011
Posts: 1056
Yes, but baths were more commonly used. And would they really be supplying bathrooms to a
bunch of nutjobs locked in an asylum? Locker room style bathing room for the entire place
maybe but not private bathrooms.

I'll definitely look into that part of it though. Hope this was helpful anyway!
Cinnamon Montague |19| schizophrenia 

Sophie Byrne |15 | violent tendencies 

29 November 2011, 05:31 PM   #5
Amelia Adams/Dr. James Ferren/Ren Takashi/Yuko and Yuka Tanabata
Joined: 27 Oct 2011
Posts: 125
I didn't read all of it, but just judging by the first two sections, I'm already doing my
characters wrong D8
Amelia/Amy Adams...18....Bi-Polar/Evil...Female

James Ferren...23...Doctor...Wounds

Ren Takashi...19...Slightly Bi-Polar/Slightly Innocent...Female

Yuko Tanabata (Right) | Yuka Tanabata (Left) / 19 | 19 / Killed Someone | Nurse training to be a
doctor / Bi | Bi

29 November 2011, 07:09 PM   #6
Holly-Berry Glacea/Dr. Devlin Butch
Joined: 21 Nov 2011
Posts: 922
LOL XDDD There's always room for improvement!
I figured the whole bathroom deal, that's why poor Holly isn't very clean at the moment
She reeeaaly needs to find a bathroom, she's wearing the same nightgown since she first
put it on the first night she came here!
Holly Berry Glacea Holly || "The Lost Girl" || "Wendy" || Sixteen || Empath Dependent Personality Disorder, Genophobia, Pediophobia, Heterophobia "What is that horrible feeling in your chest? It hurts me so... won't you sing with me like the flowers do, and make it go away forever?"

28 December 2011, 08:15 PM   #7
Annamarie "Sparrow" McArthur/Dr. Hugo Bennet/Mod
Joined: 1 Oct 2011
Posts: 1056
I've been really lazy about this so forgive me.
If you have anything you're not sure about DON'T USE IT UNLESS YOU CLEAR IT WITH ME!!!

Things they had between 1837 and 1901 (the Victorian era)
Revolvers (though they weren't widely owned or used)
HERBAL medicine

Things they did NOT have
Cinnamon Montague |19| schizophrenia 

Sophie Byrne |15 | violent tendencies 

28 December 2011, 08:19 PM   #8
Joined: 14 Dec 2011
Posts: 607

Ooh...glad I knew that...I was about five seconds from a painkilling pill o.o
SoftLikeSilk (My) Characters:
Amy (Female, Patient)
James (Male, Doctor)
Yuka (Female, Nurse) (Left)
Yuko (Female, Patient) (Right)

Rin (Female, Patient)
Emilea (Mylea, Emily, Lea) | Patient | "I'm a lost butterfly, don't look at me, don't catch me~"

Garett (Gary) | Doctor | "Scared? Well, I don't give a damn."

28 December 2011, 08:21 PM    #9
Annamarie "Sparrow" McArthur/Dr. Hugo Bennet/Mod
Joined: 1 Oct 2011
Posts: 1056
Yeah... I saw.
Cinnamon Montague |19| schizophrenia 

Sophie Byrne |15 | violent tendencies 

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