ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What We Can Learn From 19th Century Publications About Victorian Life

Updated on March 9, 2017
Nathanville profile image

I love history; it forms the basis of my interest in genealogy and has an influence on our itinerary when on family holidays.

Extract from Downend Parish Magazine, Staple Hill, Bristol, England (published 1905).
Extract from Downend Parish Magazine, Staple Hill, Bristol, England (published 1905).

A Voice From The Past

Victorian Culture and History

There's no better way to learn about the lives of Victorians than through their own writings.

This article spotlights some of the publications my great-great grandfather (George Burgess, 1829-1905) collected during his life, and some of his writings that reflects various aspects of life in Victorian Britain.

The printed material he collected included contemporary books, magazines and newspaper articles; and his own writings included his personal thoughts, diary and poems. As George Burgess lived in America for over ten years when he was in his teens and early twenties, and made friends while living there, many of the newspaper articles he saved were of American culture as well as British life.

Much of this material has been passed down to me through the generations, and has since been published on my genealogy website for free viewing. These publications gives people the opportunity to learn about Victorian life for themselves directly from source material published in the 19th century.

Reading about Victorian life from history books, scholars and other contemporary writers, is a convenient way to learn, albeit it’s an interpretation based on their own personal views and what they have learned themselves.

Also, history books and reference books like encyclopaedias can be rather dry; lacking in the richness of personal everyday lives of ordinary people. Therefore, reading publications and writings of the times first hand, rather than just reading other people's views and opinions of this culturally rich period in history, is I feel a good way to better appreciate life and society at this time.

The writings and diary of George Burgess
The writings and diary of George Burgess
Victorian Scrapbook
Victorian Scrapbook

The Victorian Scrapbook is packed with rare images that typify this great age in history; included in this hardcover book are images from food advertisements, fashion, photography, newspapers, household items, cleaning supplies, music, flower seeds, puzzles, toys, reading materiel, bicycles, traveling, post cards, Christmas cards, souvenirs and much more.

 

The Victorian Scrapbook

By George Burgess (1829-1905), Phrenologist

Pictured above is the scrapbook of George Burgess, laid out and open, and above that and to the right are his diary, poems and manuscripts of all his other writings.

He may not have been such a famous Victorian writer, but he did write and publish two books on his profession of Phrenology.

The black and white picture of a railway in the image is a drawing of the railway tunnel in Staple Hill, Bristol; above which he was born in 1829. The details of his birth, including the time (1am), which he describes in detail in his diary being information told to him by his mother.

The Victorian Scrapbook was compiled by George Burgess during his working life in America and England. The Scrapbook is a collection of over 500 newspaper articles; short news stories of the time and historical events, many humorous, educational and informative. In it he’s compiled topics that were of interest to him, namely:-

  • Family Life; Health; Education; Humour (Humor); Poetry; Politics; History; Religion; Science; Nature; Temperance (drink) and Victorian Culture/Society.

George Burgess, born in Victorian Britain, left Bristol, England for America when he was just 15 to finish his apprenticeship as a stonemason. However while in America he learned about Phrenology and in 1861, a couple of years after returning to England for the third and last time he set up a business as a Phrenologist in the Arcades, Bristol; where he practiced his profession for 40 years until his retirement in 1901.

George Burgess 1829-1905.  Phrenologist and prolific writer.
George Burgess 1829-1905. Phrenologist and prolific writer.

Birth Place of George Burgess

Artist impression of a steam train in the 1960s, Staple Hill tunnel, Bristol, England.
Artist impression of a steam train in the 1960s, Staple Hill tunnel, Bristol, England.

Newspapers Tells a 1000 Stories

I’ve selected here just one of the newspaper articles from the scrapbook George Burgess kept, which gives just one insight into family life; namely the serious role of housekeeper in the middle class families in Victorian Britain.

Victorian Family Life

‘Things a Housekeeper Should Know’ is a short factual tick list of essential information to aid a housekeeper in her duties, and includes advice such as:-

  • That salt should be eaten with nuts to aid digestion
  • That it rests you in sewing to change your position frequently
  • That a cup of hot water drank before meals will prevent nausea and dyspepsia
  • That well-ventilated bedrooms will prevent morning headaches and lassitude

Family life in Britain was changing. As during the Georgian period you had your poor, unemployed and destitute; and you had the more prosperous and wealthy, the emerging middle classes and professionals, and the upper classes.

The poor tended to have large families; 8 to a dozen children being quite typical, but life was hard, illness and death was high and medicine was still in its infancy. The middle classes tended to have fewer children, better and healthy living with better prospect of surviving; although they were subject to the same common diseases, such as BT that inflicted the poor.

During this period the poor found work as servants and maids in the homes of the middle classes; George Burgess himself, often employed a servant to look after his home while he was working in the Bristol shopping Arcades as a phrenologist.

As a widower with four daughters, and living in Iron Acton (11 miles from his place of works), he made several unsuccessful attempts at employing a nanny to look after his children. His children had a knack of spooking the nannies with tales of their cottage being haunted, and then creating mischievous noises during the night to scare the nannies away.

Things a Housekeeper Should Know
Things a Housekeeper Should Know

Health in Victorian Britain

Health was a serious problem in Victorian Britain; many diseases were largely uncontrolled, not just because of the squalor living conditions and malnutrition of the poor, but also because causes of many diseases were not fully understood and medicine was still in its infancy. Many medicines often contained poisons and toxins, like lead and arsenic, and often did more harm than the illness itself.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. There was always a humorous side that was portrayed in newspaper articles; like this one published in 1888 where a mother is trying to persuade her son to take castor oil.

He Never Took It
He Never Took It

Public Health in Victorian Britain

Further Reading

Victorian Publications

Wish to learn even more about Victorian Culture, then follow this link to the Nathanville website for further information including Phrenology by George Burgess, 'Mother's Last Word' by Mary Sewell and the Downend Parish Magazine, Bristol published in 1905,

The Novelty of Newspapers: Victorian Fiction After the Invention of the News
The Novelty of Newspapers: Victorian Fiction After the Invention of the News

With rapid industrialisation and new advances in technology in the Victorian period came amass of transformations among which was the dissemination of information made possible with the emergence of the daily newspaper. The newspaper, emerging in the early 1800s quickly had a circulation of a million readers a day; a novelty that opened up a new, inexpensive and fast communication bringing new changes to politics, history and advertising. The newspaper also brought with it a new and effective avenue for shaping the most popular fictional literary of the times, profoundly influencing and helping to promote the works of Bronte, Dickens and many other fiction authors.

 
The Managing Housewife
The Managing Housewife

The Growth of Culture in Victorian Britain

Social Development in the 19th Century

The more I learn about and appreciate the Victoria era the more apparent it becomes to me that this was a great period of rapid change.

A century of great advancements in technologies and attitudes that transverses the bridge between the old, industrial revolution, and the modern technological age we know today.

Mother's Last Words by Mary Sewell

Mother’s last word is a touching story and very relevant to Victorian Society; a favoured read by George Burgess who after buying a copy took great joy in transcribing it into an exercise book. Both the original booklet and his transcript of it, along with his other writings and scrapbook, have been passed down through the generations. This and other Victorian publications passed down to me are referenced and showcased on my Nathanville genealogy website.

Mary Sewell's Mothers Last Words
Mary Sewell's Mothers Last Words

Moments in History

Through the Ages

History is a long time in the making, and every day history is being made.

Do you have a favourite period in history?

See results

Your Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Nathanville profile imageAUTHOR

      Arthur Russ 

      2 years ago from England

      Thanks for all your feedback; I'm still learning about Victorian culture, it's certainly was a rich period in history.

    • magnetic06 lm profile image

      magnetic06 lm 

      7 years ago

      very impressive lens about Victorian era in Great Britain, certainly that period has influenced many area in life and is still present for instance with terraced Victorian houses and many other great British things

    • Ahdilarum profile image

      Ahdilarum 

      7 years ago

      a great insight about the history of the victorian publications.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 

      8 years ago from Southampton, UK

      The 19th century saw a lot of changes in Britain, with the growth of the empire, the Crimean and Boer wars, many political changes, the expansion of the railways, changes in health and education, and of course policing. This period has as you rightly pointed out some amazing literature, and it's great to immerse yourself at times into this culture which was so very different to that we know today.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)