Cover image for Inside the Victorian home : a portrait of domestic life in Victorian England
Inside the Victorian home : a portrait of domestic life in Victorian England
Flanders, Judith.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Victorian house
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, 2004.

Physical Description:
xxviii, 499 pages, 24 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
General Note:
Originally published under the title: The Victorian house : domestic life from childbirth to deathbed. London : HarperCollins, 2003.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HQ615 .F58 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
HQ615 .F58 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
HQ615 .F58 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
HQ615 .F58 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
HQ615 .F58 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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The Victorian age is much closer to us in time than we might believe. Yet at that time, in the most technologically advanced nation in the world, people buried meat in fresh earth to prevent mold forming and wrung sheets out in boiling water with their bare hands. Such household drudgery was routinely performed by the grandparents of people still living, but the knowledge of it has passed as if it had never been.Judith Flanders's book is laid out like a Victorian house, taking you through the story of daily life from room to room. In each space she depicts the home's furnishings and decoration: from childbirth in the master bedroom, through the scullery and kitchen, the separate male and female domains of the drawing room and the parlor, and ending in the sickroom. A rich selection from diaries, letters, advice books, magazines, and paintings fills the rooms with the people and personalities of the age. 100 illustrations, 3 8-page color inserts.

Author Notes

Judith Flanders is the author of the critically acclaimed A Circle of Sisters, a biography of the Macdonald sisters, lower-middle-class women who through fortuitous marriages made a single family of Rudyard Kipling, Edward Burne-Jones, Edward Poynter, and Stanley Baldwin (forthcoming in the United States). It was nominated in Britain for the Guardian First Book Award. The British edition of Inside the Victorian Home has been nominated for the British Book Awards "History Book of the Year" and appeared on the bestseller lists of several major UK newspapers. The Sunday Times wrote, "There has rarely been a book so dripping with elbow grease [as this one]." The author lives in London, in a Victorian house.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

London journalist-author ( A Circle of Sisters, 2001, among others) Flanders provides a book so fascinating that it yields at least one surprise--and often many more than that--on each page. Ignore the title; it is no more a static treatise on different Victorian rooms than Sir Terence Conran's books comprise an ordinary approach to home decor. Instead, we find a real sense of Victoriana, its occupants' lives, struggles, habits, and styles, portrayed through the eyes of contemporary novelists (Dickens, Trollope, and other less-recognized names) and nonfiction writings. Consider, for example, the evolution of the woman as the ministering angel to domestic bliss. In the parlor, she was transformed into a bride, ready for all the exigencies of marriage, beginning with a trousseau that might have cost 20 pounds. The morning room, exclusively female, was dedicated to the business of organizing and running a household. And the nursery symbolized a child-centered universe, with mothers responsible for teaching and nurturing their young offspring, and fathers for supporting the family. More than a window into the past. --Barbara Jacobs Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

This room-by-room guide brims with delightful description and discussion of the Victorians and their domestic environments. Flanders (A Circle of Sisters, which was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award) evokes the period's intimate preoccupations by drawing on a variety of sources: extracts from Dickens, Gissing, Jane Carlyle, Gaskell, Trollope and Beatrix Potter, among many other authors; line drawings, period paintings and advertisements; and snippets by the numerous magazine advice writers of the era, including the influential household experts Mrs. Panton and Mrs. Beeton. Flanders makes particularly clever use of commentaries by alienated overseas visitors to Britain, highlighting national customs of the period. She weaves these materials into an absorbing cradle-to-grave story of life in the urban upper-middle-class household. Although working-class life is overlooked, the work of the servants who tended the bourgeois home is rendered in vivid, often harrowing detail and with great attention to class boundaries and tensions. Particularly informative are the journal entries of domestic servant Hannah Cullwick, encouraged to record her days' work by naughty gentleman Arthur Munby (who later became her clandestine husband). Flanders is unflinching on the realities of dirt, childbirth, women's bodies and serious illness. Her intelligent, and unromanticized scrutiny of Victorian domestic custom, etiquette and style will greatly enhance readers' understanding of the period's social history, its literature, and visual and decorative arts. Aware of the power of family life to determine attitudes toward gender, childhood, education and health, Flanders is sensitive to the otherness of the period, translating its strangeness without resorting to anachronism. 24 pages of color illus. and b&w illus. throughout. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Flanders's earlier works (A Circle of Sisters) include books about prominent Victorian and Edwardian women; here she focuses tightly on housework yet opens the whole of British society to her readers. The British edition's subtitle, "Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed," aptly describes the text. Room by room, Flanders walks us through the typical home of upper-middle-class Britain, explaining its use, its d?cor, the habits of occupants, and more. The result is a genteel yet absorbing and thoroughly researched book whose extensive bibliography is a useful resource in itself. Every chapter offers a delightful piece of arcana that explains customs still with us today. We learn of the origins of the word dustman, for instance, or the invention of the white wedding gown. Fearsomely entertaining and yet a wonderful addition to academic literature, this book is sure to become a classic. Highly recommended.-Gail Benjafield, St. Catharines P.L., Ont. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This splendid book--clearly written, rich in anecdotal detail, well researched, and well illustrated--reveals a good deal about the Victorian middle classes by investigating their homes. In 11 chapters, Flanders leads readers through the bedroom, nursery, kitchen, scullery, drawing room, parlor, dining room, morning room, bathroom and lavatory, and sickroom before depositing them on the street. She points out "the attractive, tastefully appointed house was a sign of respectability." Furthermore, "taste was not something personal," but "instead it was something sanctioned by society" and had moral value. Yet a respectable home could be uncomfortable, and even dangerous. When Beatrix Potter's servants traveled to her grandmother's house in 1886, "the first night they were there, the maids had to sit on the kitchen table, as the floor heaved with cockroaches." A house could be unsafe in other ways: the lead in painted walls might lead to paralysis, while wallpapers, especially when green in color, often had a dangerous arsenic base. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers, students, and teachers of British history. D. M. Fahey Miami University

Table of Contents

A Quick Guide to Books and Authorsp. xiii
Currencyp. xxvii
Introduction: House and Homep. 3
1. The Bedroomp. 37
2. The Nurseryp. 64
3. The Kitchenp. 100
4. The Sculleryp. 130
5. The Drawing Roomp. 168
6. The Parlorp. 214
7. The Dining Roomp. 253
8. The Morning Roomp. 292
9. The Bathroom and the Lavatoryp. 324
10. The Sickroomp. 340
11. The Streetp. 390
Notesp. 417
Select Bibliographyp. 451
Picture Creditsp. 475
Indexp. 479