Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Victorians Are Dead! Long Live The Victorians!

Victorian of the Month Club (2006 - 2009)

Dear Faithful Friends and Loyal Subscribers,

It is with some sadness, but mostly joy, that we record the final installment of the Victorian of the Month Club today.

Thank you, dear subscribers, for welcoming the Victorians into your in-boxes every month (with some breaks!).

Thank you especially for your witty remarks, your encouraging missives, your faint-hearted love, your honourable ideals, and, at times, your money.

Perhaps we will meet again one day in other circumstances, illustrative or otherwise...

Farewell from the Victorians! And farewell from me!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Fingerprinting Genius Henry Faulds Is The Victorian Of The Month

From the Department of Too Little, Too Late
Henry Faulds (b. 1843)

Born in Beith, North Ayrshire, Henry Faulds (clerk, medical student, missionary, police surgeon) went to Japan. There, he learned Japanese, taught university students and founded the Tokyo Institute for the Blind. He also founded the Tuskiji Hospital in Tokyo. Then, he became the surgeon superintendent of it.

So where does the fingerprinting come in? In the 1870s, in Japan, Henry Faulds attended archeological digs. He found pieces of pottery that had the fingerprints of the people who had made them. Pottery was nice, Faulds thought, but what Faulds really thought was that you could use fingerprints to catch crooks! He wrote to Nature magazine! He wrote to Charles Darwin! In 1886, Scotland Yard declined his offer.

Faulds returned to London; in 1930 he died, bitter that no one recognized his work.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Georgina Weldon Is The Victorian Of The Month

Hi! I'm Georgina (1837 - 1914). How have the last few decades treated you?

I've been up to a few interesting things:

My family forbade me to see a military man, so I married him. I left when he tried to put me in the looney bin. But not without making a statement using sandwich boards and suing people first (go Married Women's Property Act, yeah!). Then, I wrote a book called How I Escaped the Mad Doctors. I make public appearances in my prison stripes.

I started an orphanage in Charles Dickens' old home. Every morning, I require all the children to yell.

I sang.

I began an affair with a married French composer. He went away after I wrapped him in furs and rubber sheets, throwing buckets of cold water in his face.

When I turned 50, I was the face of Pears Soap, with the slogan, "I have the complexion of a girl of 17."

But mostly, I've been representing myself in court (over 200 cases). You see, it is my dream to constrain the limits of medical science and patriarchal authority.
And to fight for the rights of lunatics or married women or both.

Violet Hunt: Victorian Of The Munt

Isobel Violet Hunt (1862 - 1942)

“A woman made for irregular situations.” –A friend

You may not know of Violet Hunt, but you may know of someone just like her.

Violet and her sister Venetia were the daughters of Alfred Hunt, watercolourist, and Margaret Hunt, novelist. As a family, they did things like hang out with Pre-Raphaelites together.

She, beautiful, said that Oxford and Cambridge boys were boring, and at the age of 22 had an affair with a married painter who was about the same age as her dad. Next up in the old-married-man-department was Oswald Crawfurd who dyed his hair black, took her to see prostitutes in Hyde Park, and may have given her syphilis, too.

Violet called herself a “female rake” who snubbed eligible men on principle. Some say that Oscar Wilde proposed to her in 1879.

At 46, she began an affair with Ford Madox Ford (then Ford Madox Hueffer) who was thirty-five (and, of course, married). Even so, she lived with him from 1910 to 1918. She changed her name to Huefferand he changed his name to Ford.

Violet was a prolific writer who wrote diaries, memoirs, biography and 17 novels including: A Hard Woman; Unkist, Unkind!; The Human Interest - A Study in Incompatibilities; and Tales of the Uneasy.

She appears as characters in other people’s books including one that Graham Greene described as “the most possessed evil character in the modern novel.” Wow.

Mister Lister Is The Victorian Of The Month!

Sir Joseph Lister, 1st Baron Lister, Lord Lister of Lyme Regis, Surgeon to the Queen (1827 - 1912)

About half of all Victorians who underwent major surgery died. Then, along came Dr. Lister.

Dr. Lister was the first to use an antiseptic in surgery. He did this by spraying carbolic acid around. He sprayed so much carbolic acid that doctors got sick, but at least the sick Victorians got better!

(Later, Dr. Joseph Lawrence would refine the product and name it Listerine. It is uncertain whether Dr. Lister appreciated this.)

Some of Dr. Lister's colleagues thought it was cool to be covered in blood. But Dr. Lister, who promoted sterile surgery, wore clean clothes and even washed his hands!

In 1854, Dr. Lister became assistant to, and friend of, Dr. Syme. Then, he married Dr. Syme's daughter, Agnes, and became Dr. Syme's son-in-law, too. Agnes and Dr. Lister spent their honeymoon visiting leading medical centres in France and Germany for three months―that's wild! From then on, Agnes helped Dr. Lister in the laboratory until she died.

He tied broken bones together with sterilized silver wire and left it inside patients!

He used rubber drainage tubes on Queen Victoria!

He saved King Edward VII from appendicitis!

Even the common Bandaid can be directly traced to his name.

A Brief History Of The Foundling Hospital

“Foundlings, abandoned infants, were a common feature of life in the eighteenth century.” —The Beebs

Did you know that in the 1720s and 30s poor English children died at alarming rates? The illegitimate ones had it worst, frequently dying of neglect in parish poorhouses or workhouses. The Gin Craze didn’t help. Londoners were drinking 11.2 million gallons of spirits in a year in London—that’s about seven gallons per adult—that is a lot of gin.

The Foundling Hospital was founded* by Captain Thomas Coram who “made it” in the New World years before. Horace Walpole said he was “the honestest, the most disinterested, and the most knowing person about plantations I ever talked with.”

On his daily walks through London, Coram couldn’t help noticing dead and dying babies on streets. He decided to devote his life to pleading on the foundlings’ behalf.

He opened theFoundling Hospital in 1741 for the “education and maintenance of exposed and deserted young children.” The hospital was described as “the most imposing single monument erected by eighteenth century benevolence.” It became London's most popular charity.

Some Victorian children were raised there, too. Here is possibly a picture of one of them.


Meet Walter Sickert! 20th Century Man

Avant-garde painter? Jack the Ripper? Fistula sufferer?
Meet Walter Sickert! (1860 – 1942)

Son of Oswald the Danish-German and Eleanor the illegitimate daughter of astronomer Richard Sheepshanks. This son and grandson of painters went off to study…acting. Then, instead, he began to draw. Sickert worked from memory. Why? As a way to escape from “the tyranny of nature.” Ho, ho!

His paintings demonstrate the transition from impressionism to modernism and other 20th century avant garde styles. Confused or failed communication is the theme.

Lord Beaverbrook, the newspaper baron, collected more paintings by Sickert than anyone else in the world. They reside in the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. You can visit them in Fredericton today.

One night, back in the day, Walter Sickert lodged in a room that the landlady claimed had been use by Jack the Ripper. Sickert was entranced! He painted “Jack the Ripper’s Bedroom,” among other things.

One day, in the 1970s:
“My Dad was an accomplice to Jack the Ripper!”
—Joseph Sickert, illegitimate child of Walter