Bookish Discussions

How to be a Victorian:

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As the Victorian world slips away at the end of our day, I am more aware than ever of how much remains hidden from our eyes, and of how brief and transitory any such exploration as this can be

Rating: 4.5 stars

Read: 5 January – 10 January, 2019


I remember stumbling across Ruth Goodman’s How to be a Victorian at Speke Hall, Liverpool. My mum enthusiastically shouted my name across the shop to draw my attention. I knew, there and then, that I’d have to read this, so I treated myself to it for my birthday. I’ve only just found time to squeeze it in around my uni schedule. I wish I read this sooner.

It’s a delightful tour through the intimate details of life in Victorian England, told by the historian Ruth Goodman who, for a year, actually lived as a Victorian on a farm. It starts with dawn and ends with dusk. It spans the average day of a Victorian, including the most minute details of every class and every gender. It talks about bathing, dressing, working, travel, leisure, food, and sex

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Bookish Discussions

The Condition of the Working Class in England:

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‘The middle classes have a truly extraordinary conception of society. They really believe that human beings […] have real existence only if they make money or help to make it’

Rating: 4 stars

Read: 21 September – 25 September, 2018


I’m happy that Friedrich Engels’ study of the working class in England (well, four chapters of it) was a compulsory read for university. I doubt I would have picked it up otherwise. I decided to read it in its entirety and I don’t regret my decision. Written during his stay in Manchester from 1842-1844, Engels complied his own observations with contemporary reports to detail the life of the victims of early industrial change. As my edition states, this historical study pairs brilliantly with contemporary writers such as Dickens and Gaskell.

It was a very hard read but, in the end, it was also very rewarding. It took me a while to make my way through, sometimes taking me an hour to read one chapter. It’s very detailed. Engels picks apart the relationship between the workers and bourgeoise, exploring all aspects of it. I looked at the proletarian in agricultural districts, mining districts, in factory settings, and more. I looked at the Irish and their relationship with the English workers and the property-holders. I looked at the conditions of the working-class, both in cities and in domestic spaces. There was so much packed into this.

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