One of the many wonders of the Victorians is their propensity for decorating everything to death. I was intrigued to learn that places like Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral were a good deal plainer in the days of my early 19th C characters than they are now. The differences struck me forcibly in the Victoria & Albert Museum, where I could compare furnishings almost side by side.
While the two cabinet-like objects in my photographs are made for different purposes, they demonstrate the differences clearly. Above at left is a bookcase made for Carlton House (home of the Prince of Wales/Prince Regent) in 1806.
Below right is a washstand made in 1879 by William Bruges, who thought 18th C & Regency era furniture was icky. In this he was not unlike most of his Victorian contemporaries, who held their predecessors and predecessors’ tastes in low regard. In Bleak House, for instance, Dickens creates a devastating caricature of a Regency beau in old Mr. Turveydrop.
Yes, those Victorians, like teenagers, were rebelling against what went before. If they could time travel to today, a great many of them would be scratching their heads over our interest in and affection for that icky Regency era.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.