Sir Harry Flashman: Fictional Victorian Anti-Hero

My favorite fictional anti-hero is Sir Harry Flashman, Victorian war hero and quintessential rogue. He was created by George Macdonald Fraser in the 1970s, so there may be readers today who have not had the pleasure of reading the Flashman Papers, as the stories are known.

Let Harry introduce himself:

“I’ve been a Danish prince, a Texas slave-dealer, an Arab sheik, a Cheyenne Dog Soldier, and a Yankee navy lieutenant in my time, among other things, and none of ’em was as hard to sustain as my lifetime’s impersonation of a British officer and gentleman.”

― George MacDonald Fraser, Flashman in the Great Game

Fraser was inspired by a character in Tom Brown’s Schooldays, written by Thomas Hughes in 1857. The young hero of that book was bullied by a Harry Flashman who is later kicked out of the Rugby school for drunkenness. Fraser decided to have that character grow up into an illustrious Victorian soldier who, despite being a scoundrel, a toady and a coward, somehow manages to emerge from each adventure looking like a hero.

In Fraser’s stories, Flashman fights in many of the Victorian era’s most well-known battles, including the Charge of the Light Brigade, the first Anglo-Afghan War, and the Battle of Little Bighorn as well as getting himself mixed up in political situations in the United States, China, India, South Africa, and Abyssinia, to name just a few locations. Married to a beautiful ninny named Elspeth, he also beds thousands of women, famous, infamous, and unknown, all around the world. His lovers, who include Lola Montez, Lillie Langtry, and the Empress Dowager Cixi, are all willing bed-mates (if untrustworthy schemers in their own right).  Harry’s attitude toward women is definitely politically incorrect, so sensitive persons should beware.

There have been 12 historical fiction novels detailing Flashy’s disreputable adventures, as well as Royal Flash, a movie that came out in 1975 starring Malcolm MacDowell. According to IMDB reviews, the movie pleased some and disappointed others – and I have to admit that in my mind, Oliver Reed would have been the perfect Flashman. I can’t understand why he would play Otto von Bismark instead, and let Malcolm (who doesn’t physically resemble the strapping Flashman) play the title role.

I also own a couple of audiobook versions on CD, Flash for Freedom, read by Rupert Penry-Jones (detailing how Flashy unwillingly got involved in the Triangle Trade and later helped slaves escape through the Underground Railroad), and Flashman on the March (about his mission to rescue Britons held hostage by the mad emperor of Abyssinia) read by Toby Stephens. Both are excellent.

To give you an idea of the books, let me share some of my favorite quotes from the Flashman Papers. The following are from Goodreads and from the blog Flashman’s Retreat, a compendium of some of Flashman’s best quotes.

On bravery:

This myth called bravery, which is half panic, half lunacy (in my case, all panic), pays for all; in England you can’t be a hero and bad. There’s practically a law against it.


On the Charge of the Light Brigade:

Mind you. I’m harmless, by comparison – I don’t send ’em off, stuffed with lies and rubbish, to get killed or maimed for nothing except a politician’s vanity or a manufacturer’s profit. Oh, I’ll sham it with the best in public, and sport my tinware, but I know what I am, and there’s no room for honest pride in me, you see. But if there was – just a little bit, along with the disgust and hatred and selfishness – I’d keep it for them, those seven hundred British sabres.

Flashman at the Charge

On diplomatic trips to Paris:

My advice to young chaps is to never mind the Moulin Rouge and Pigalle, but make for some diplomatic mêlée on the Rue de Lisbonne, catch the eye of a well-fleshed countess, and ere the night’s out you’ll have learned something you won’t want to tell your grandchildren.

Flashman and the Tiger

On statesmanship:

There’s a point, you know, where treachery is so complete and unashamed that it becomes statesmanship.

Flashman and the Mountain of Light

On royalty:

You never know what to expect on encountering royalty. I’ve seen ’em stark naked except for wings of peacock feathers (Empress of China), giggling drunk in the embrace of a wrestler (Maharani of the Punjab), voluptuously wrapped in wet silk (Queen of Madagascar), wafting to and fro on a swing (Rani of Jhansi), and tramping along looking like an out-of-work charwoman (our own gracious monarch).

Flashman on the March

Do you think Flashman sounds like a fun character to read? I think he’s one of the best!


Stack of Flashman novels




Cover image:

Stack of books: By SchroCat – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Sullivan and the Crowned Heads of Europe

sullivan-young-manI love the old Victorian phrase, “the crowned heads of Europe” as a description of the members of the various royal families. It reminds me of the scene in The Wizard of Oz, where the wizard’s little wooden trailer is decorated on the side with the following legend:


Dorothy, of course, can’t help but read this boast, and since she wants to get away from Kansas, she pleads:


DOROTHY: Oh, please, Professor, why can’t we go with you and see all the Crowned Heads of Europe?

PROFESSOR: Do you know any?  Oh, you mean the thing – Yes, well, I – I never do anything without consulting my crystal first.


Arthur Sullivan did know a fair few crowned heads of Europe. One was Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Victoria’s second son. The two men had music in common. Alfred studied violin at Holyrood, Edinburgh, and sometimes Arthur Sullivan played as his accompanist.

prince_alfred_1865In the Summer of 1881, Arthur Sullivan was invited by the Duke of Edinburgh to join him on the HMS Hercules for the Reserve Fleet’s annual maneuvers in the Baltic Sea.

Sullivan wrote to his mother, “I have a lovely cabin in the Admiral’s quarters at the stern of the ship, and am very luxuriously lodged altogether. … The officers seem pleasant fellows, the ship is splendid, the sea like glass & the weather heavenly, and I have nothing to do.”

Nothing to do but enjoy himself in the finest company, it seemed.

When the ship arrived in Copenhagen, Sullivan was among the dinner guests of King Christian IX and his queen. Then they stopped in St. Petersburg and stayed in a villa near Czar Alexander’ III’s villa. When the fleet departed, the czar and czarina saw them off, with guns firing royal salutes as they sailed away.

To me, the most remarkable encounter of the trip was when they docked at Kiel and were met by Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, the eldest son of Queen Victoria’s daughter Victoria, who would eventually grow up to become Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, during World War I.

wilhelm_ii_of_germanyHowever, that war was many decades in the future when the 22-year-old Prince Wilhelm greeted Sullivan by singing, “He Polished Up the Handle of the Big Front Door,” from HMS Pinafore.

“I burst out laughing,” Sullivan reported, “and so did everyone. It was too funny.”

It’s interesting to think that despite the rigid class structure of the Victorian era, some individuals whose lives began in very humble circumstances were able to climb to the very pinnacle of society.

So I have to wonder what Sullivan was thinking as he watched a Prince sing for him.

Fourteen years earlier, snobbish Mrs. Scott Russell forbade her daughter Rachel from marrying Sullivan, because she thought the poor musician and composer wouldn’t rise very high on the social scale.

If Mrs. Scott Russell could have seen him then!




By Franz Xaver Winterhalter – Winterhalter and the courts of Europe, Public Domain,

By Uploaded from en:Image:KaiserBill2.JPG, contributed by en:User:Infrogmation, 19:47, 4 Nov 2002., Public Domain,


W.S. Gilbert – Kidnapped!

Sometimes real life imitates art. Or it inspires art.

William S. Gilbert’s plots involving stolen babies were inspired by his own life: As a baby, he was kidnapped by bandits.

When Gilbert was not yet 2 years old (as the story goes), and a few months before his sister Jane was born in October 1838, his parents were traveling around the Continent and they stopped in Naples, Italy.

In Naples, his parents had hired a maid to look after their young son. As the maid and baby were out on a walk, a couple of men approached her and said that the “English gentleman” wanted his child returned to him right away. The foolish nursery-maid handed the boy over, and the brigands took off with “Bab.”

1024px-Napoli6Many years later, Gilbert said he remembered riding in front of a mounted man along a street toward some mountains. As a grown man, he identified that street as the Via Posillipo, a main road through one of Naples’ residential areas, which is high enough on the hillside overlooking the Bay of Naples to provide a clear view of Mount Vesuvius in the distance.

His parents paid a ransom of £25, and a detachment of carabinieri returned the boy to his no doubt frantic parents.

What a great story! But is it true? Nobody is sure – no official record of the event has turned up. We only know about it because Gilbert himself told his first biographer the tale, when he was 70 years old. At the very least, the story had probably been told and re-told in the Gilbert family for years.

But whatever might have happened originally, there is no doubt that the story had a profound influence on Gilbert’s story-telling: think of Ruth, the foolish nursery-maid in the Pirates of Penzance, who apprenticed her small charge to a pirate instead of a pilot. Or think of The Gondoliers, which centers on the problem of identifying the heir to the throne, who was kidnapped as a baby and raised as a gondolier.

In The Gondoliers, Don Alhambra sings:

I stole the Prince, and I brought him here,
And left him gaily prattling
With a highly respectable gondolier,
Who promised the Royal babe to rear,
And teach him the trade of a timoneer*
With his own beloved bratling.

(*a helmsman; someone who steers a ship)

Gilbert's drawing of the baby's abduction in The Gondoliers.

Gilbert’s drawing of the baby’s abduction in The Gondoliers.

The Gondoliers was Gilbert and Sullivan’s twelfth opera together, and was the last of the G&S operas that would achieve wide popularity. It opened on December 7, 1889 at the Savoy Theater and ran for 554 performances.

First night reviews of The Gondoliers were glowing, and even Queen Victoria enjoyed the show when the entire company went to Windsor Castle for a command performance.

Despite Gilbert’s obvious love of topsy-turvy plots, the notion of a kidnapped baby might have seemed even more logical to Gilbert than some of his other plot devices. Whether or not the story was true as he told it to his biographer, or if it had undergone some modifications over the years of repeated telling, it still is a fascinating little story.

Arthur Sullivan and the Puzzle of the Lost Music

For nearly fifty years, the musical score lay hidden.

Composed by Franz Schubert – known for his symphonies, romantic settings of traditional Lieder, and for a well-known version of Ave Maria (listen to Luciano Pavarotti sing it here)  – after more than four decades, the incidental music for the play Rosamunde, Princess of Cyprus seemed to be irrevocably lost.

Arthur Sullivan meets George Grove

boy-sullivanIn 1862, Sullivan, just 20 years old, was at the beginning of his professional career as a composer. To make progress, he needed the help of influential friends. Luckily, Sullivan was a charming man who made friends easily and sincerely.  His first influential friend was Henry Chorley, long-time music critic for the magazine The Athenaeum. At Chorley’s house, Sullivan met George Grove, the secretary of the Crystal Palace.

Even though Grove was 20 years older than Sullivan, an immediate rapport was struck between the two men and an enduring friendship developed. At the time, only the works of the greatest composers were then being performed at the Crystal Palace, but Grove made an exception in the case of Sullivan. Sullivan’s incidental music for Shakespeare’s The Tempest was performed at the Crystal Palace in April 1862. The music was widely praised, and Sullivan later said he awoke the next morning to find himself famous.

Introducing Franz Schubert to English audiences

Both Sullivan and Grove were great admirers of the music of Franz Schubert, a prolific Austrian composer who had died at age 31 in 1828. Hoping to establish Schubert’s reputation as one of the greatest composers of the Classical and Romantic eras, in 1867 Grove and Sullivan decided to go to Vienna to look for Schubert’s lost music. In particular, they were looking for the incidental music for the play Rosamunde by Helmina von Chezy (apparently the play was really bad; the original script has been lost and it’s never been performed again).


George Grove in the 1890s

The directors of the Crystal Palace gave their financial support to the effort, but Sullivan added to this by selling three songs so he would have some extra funds for himself. The two men left for Vienna in late September of 1867.

After a stop in Paris, the two men arrived in Vienna where they visited the music publisher Spina. They found some of the Rosamunde music in his shop, but it was incomplete. So Herr Spina gave them a letter of introduction to Dr. Edward Schneider, a lawyer and son of Schubert’s sister Theresa. At Dr. Schneider’s, they found manuscripts of the Symphony in C major, the Symphony in C minor, and an overture in D, in a cupboard. Thrilled, the two men pounced on the compositions. Sullivan went through the manuscripts, copying themes and making notes.

But they couldn’t find the rest of Rosamunde.

Grove was disappointed. Their last day in Vienna arrived, and on Thursday October 10, 1867, they visited Dr. Schneider again to say goodbye.

Grove decided to look one last time in the cupboard where he had located the earlier manuscripts. There, at the very back of the cupboard, at the bottom of the pile of music two feet high, he found what he had come for: the parts-books of the whole of the music of Rosamunde, which had lain in the cupboard for almost 50 years. In Grove’s words, the sheet music was “black with the undisturbed dust of nearly half-a-century.”

In haste and excitement, they began to copy the music – Rosamunde, now described as containing some of the most charming music Schubert ever composed, was complete again. Even with the help of music librarian Frederick Poull, it took them until two in the morning on Friday to finish.

Two musicians celebrate

At 2 am, Sullivan and Grove went out to celebrate their achievement in the deserted streets of Vienna. Giddy with delight, they did they only thing they could at that late hour: They played a game of leap-frog!

Caricature of George Grove in "Punch"

Caricature of George Grove in “Punch”

Shopping — Victorian Style

Women of the Victorian era enjoyed shopping as much as women do today. By the middle of the 19th century, shopping had evolved into a way for middle-class Victorian women to get out and explore the city without male companions.

The first prototype of the shopping mall might be said to have been the Great Exhibition of 1851, which displayed consumer goods from around the globe.

A Victorian woman in the 1860s on a shopping expedition in London would probably head toward the West End, where the shops catered to fashionable upper-middle-class ladies. She might also go to Regent Street, which was designed as a promenade and shopping area with small stores selling luxury goods.

While Victorians placed a great deal of importance on items that were handed down from generation to generation (a symbol of historical wealth and family connections), they also enjoyed the latest in luxuries. Consider the recitative sung by Josephine, the young heroine of H.M.S. Pinafore, as she thinks about the comforts and elegancies of her father Captain Corcoran’s home – things she would have to give up if she were to marry the handsome but penniless sailor Ralph Rackstraw:

On the one hand, Papa’s luxurious home,
Hung with ancestral armour and old brasses,
Carved oak and tapestry from distant Rome,
Rare “blue and white,” Venetian finger-glasses,
Rich oriental rugs, luxurious sofa pillows,
And everything that isn’t old, from Gillow’s.

So here you have the inherited, “ancestral” items – which are still important indicators of status. In far more recent times, a British MP dismissed another politician as the kind of person “who bought his own furniture”— perhaps an indication that it was better to furnish a house with antiques that had long been in the family, than to have new stuff.

Also described by Josephine are the imported treasures like oriental rugs, tapestries from Rome, and Venetian finger-glasses (we would call them finger-bowls, filled with warm water and placed so that each diner at a fancy meal could rinse their fingertips after eating finger food).

The Six-Mark Tea-pot. Aesthetic Bridegroom. "It is quite consummate, is it not?" Intense Bride. "It is, indeed! Oh, Algernon, let us live up to it!"

The Six-Mark Tea-pot. Aesthetic Bridegroom. “It is quite consummate, is it not?” Intense Bride. “It is, indeed! Oh, Algernon, let us live up to it!”

The rare “blue and white” she mentions refers to the collections of Chinese porcelain so beloved by aesthetes of the Victorian age, including Oscar Wilde.

Not only that, but everything that isn’t old comes from Gillow’s – furniture makers renowned for creating high quality items.   (Gillows furniture is referred to by Jane Austen, Thackeray and the first Lord Lytton, which shows that our comic opera heroine Josephine has very good taste.)

But how could a woman get to the shops? Well, she could walk, take a carriage, or ride in an omnibus or even a train.

Not only were Victorian women more visible walking down the streets to get to the shops, but they also could be seen making use of various modes of public transportation. In an attempt to control and limit women in public areas, etiquette manuals strictly prescribed the way a “well-bred” woman was to act when outside the confines of her home.

According to “Daily Life of Victorian Women” by Lydia Murdoch, Victorian etiquette manuals stated that “one can almost invariably distinguish the well-bred girl at the first glance, whether she is walking, shopping, in an omnibus, descending from a carriage or cab, or sauntering up and down in the Park.” The key was their restrained behavior – their “self-effacement.”

Victorian women usually traveled in pairs or groups, but sometimes traveled by themselves. A comprehensive network of trains allowed women to travel throughout the cities, although for decades a debate raged over whether it was safe or proper for a woman to travel alone by rail. Some even argued that the speed of a train caused damage to the female organs.


Shopping for fabric in the Victorian era

Within a city, a woman might choose a horse-drawn vehicle to get to her destination. Privately owned and maintained carriages could only be afforded by the wealthy. Hiring a four-wheeler was expensive, but might be suitable for a group of ladies traveling together with luggage. However, by the middle of the century the lighter, two-wheeled “safety cab” or hansom, was a good option for those who could afford the fare.

Luckily, by the 1840s, the horse-drawn omnibus became a good and inexpensive way to get around the city – provided, of course, that a woman could manage to squeeze her hoops and crinolines into the vehicle!

For more on shopping and department stores, take a look at the BBC’s article here.

Later on, in the Edwardian era, Selfridge’s would dazzle the buying public, as depicted in the BBC series Mr. Selfridge.

Black History Month: Black Victorians

In honor of Black History month, I’d like to share with you a few notes about Black Victorians – people of color who lived and prospered in England (and in America too) during the 19th century.

Despite the prejudice and discrimination that people of color endured in Victorian England, there were a number of notable and distinguished black men and women in Britain.

220px-Mary_Seacole_DrawingMary Seacole (1805-1881) was born in Kingston, Jamaica, the daughter of a Scottish soldier and a Jamaican mother who taught her nursing. In 1854 she traveled to England and asked the War Office to send her to Crimea to nurse the wounded soldiers during the war. When they refused, she paid for her own trip there and established the British Hotel to provide a place to nurse sick officers. She also nursed the wounded on the battlefield, sometimes under fire.

“Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert’s chapter on Mrs. Seacole’s book about her experience, Wonderful Adventures in Many Lands, describes her curious progress from West Indian healer to anti-Nightingale on the battlefield. Paravisini-Gebert argues that Seacole “assumes her place in a British society–and history–from which she is initially rejected, by finding in the Crimea a substitute for ‘England,’ a war zone where the expected barriers to someone of her class, race, and colonial origins can be temporarily lifted.”  (from Being Black in Victorian England)


Samuel_Coleridge-TaylorSamuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), was a composer known as the “African Mahler.” His father, Daniel Taylor, was from Sierra Leone. His mother, the London-born Alice Hare, named him in honor of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

He grew up in Croydon and studied violin and composition at the Royal College of Music. He later taught music as a professor at the Crystal Palace School of Music, conducted orchestras and composed music.  He was mentored by Edward Elgar and influential music critic August Jaeger, who thought Taylor was a genius.

His most famous work was “Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast,” which premiered in 1898. He was determined to do for traditional African music what Brahms did for Hungarian music and Antonin Dvorak did for Bohemian music.

Coleridge-Taylor died of pneumonia at age 37, leaving behind his wife Jessie, son Hiawatha, and daughter Gwendolyn (who later took the name Avril and became a conductor-composer in her own right).


Ira_AldridgebyNorthcoteActor Ira Frederick Aldridge (1807 –1867) was born in New York City, but made his career mostly on stage in London and Europe.

After acting in African theater companies in New York, in 1825 he made his London stage debut as Oroonoko in The Revolt of Surinam, or A Slave’s Revenge, which was based on Aphra Behn’s play Oroonoko. He was also known for playing Othello, and in later years was praised for his performance as King Lear. Aldridge is the only actor of African-American descent among the 33 actors of the English stage honored with bronze plaques at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon.




220px-Sake_Dean_MahomedSake Dean Mohamed (1759-1851) or Sheikh Din Muhammad grew up in India. His father was of the barber caste, and Dean Mohamed learned a great deal about the soaps and shampoo used by the Mughals. He served in the English Bengal Army as a surgeon.

In 1786, age 25, he traveled to Ireland where he wrote and published his book, entitled ‘The Travels of Dean Mahomet’. He became the first Indian to write a book in English. He opened the first Indian take-away restaurant in London, the Hindustani Coffee House, in 1810. Customers could smoke a hookah and try all sorts of curries. Then, in 1814 Dean and his wife moved to Brighton and opened the first commercial bath-house, featuring “The Indian Medicated Vapour Bath (type of Turkish bath), a cure to many diseases.” The bath-house was very popular, and both King George IV and William IV were among his customers.


Pablo_FanquePablo Fanque (1796-1871) was born poor as William Darby in Norwich. He began his career as an equestrian stunt-rider and a rope-walker at Astley’s Amphitheatre and from there rose to become the proprietor of Victorian Britain’s most successful circus.  He was the first non-white circus owner in Britain.

He was celebrated for his skill in manège, the art of training horses to perform certain routines. Thirty years after his 1871 death, the chaplain of the Showman’s Guild said: “In the great brotherhood of the equestrian world there is no colour line, for, although Pablo Fanque was of African extraction, he speedily made his way to the top of his profession. The camaraderie of the ring has but one test – ability.”

He was featured in the lyrics of The Beatles song “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.


sarah forbes bonetta 2Sarah Forbes Bonetta (1843-1880) was orphaned at the age of eight in a brutal massacre in her home country in West Africa. She was kidnapped and given to King Ghezo of Dahomey to be used as a human sacrifice, but was rescued from captivity by a Captain Forbes who told King Ghezo that the girl should be a gift to Queen Victoria.  Sarah’s original name was “Aina” but the Captain named her Sarah, plus Forbes after him and Bonetta after his ship. Impressed by the girl’s intelligence, Queen Victoria made Sarah her goddaughter. She paid for Sarah’s education, and took a great interest in her.

Sarah married Captain James Pinson Labulo Davies, a wealthy Yoruba businessman and philanthropist. They moved back to Africa and raised three children there.





Was Arthur Sullivan black?

sullivan-young-manOne thing I learned in my research was that being “black” during the Victorian Era wasn’t quite the same thing as it may be today –  according to Being Black in Victorian England  many people were called black, but that didn’t necessarily mean that they had African ancestors (they could have been from India or any number of other countries) nor did it mean that the individuals so identified viewed themselves as part of the same community.

So was Sir Arthur Sullivan black?  He was described in a news article as a “little dark brown man” and images of the time show that he had dark curly hair and dark eyes. But in my researches I can’t find any evidence that Sullivan had African ancestors. The only reference I’ve discovered is one unfounded comment on the subject, but I’m not sure that qualifies as reliable.

This much seems certain and verifiable: Sir Arthur Sullivan, one of Victorian Britain’s preeminent composers and musicians, was the son of music teacher Thomas Sullivan and his wife Mary Clementina Coghlan.  Arthur’s father Thomas was born in Cork, the son of an Irish soldier also named Thomas Sullivan.

Arthur’s mother, Clementina, was partly Italian: her grandfather Joseph Righi (later Anglicized to Righy) had come to England from Nice, which was then part of the Kingdom of Sardinia. So it seems likely to me that he inherited his dark hair and eye color from her.

The one mention I’ve found appears in Robert Edward Francillon’s book,  Mid-Victorian Memories:

Among the more intimate of their fellow-students at Leipzig, and the most frequent guests at their mother’s hospitable supper-table there — a highly popular institution among a cosmopolitan flock of young people mostly with appetites too big for their pockets— was the future Sir Arthur Sullivan, as notable then for easy charm of manner, and adaptability to all sorts and conditions of persons and circumstances, as when he became no less welcome a guest at royal tables. It may interest some who only saw him in after years to learn that he was golden-curled in his student days, and this in spite of the strong strain of African blood that became increasingly perceptible with increasing age. He was, in fact, an Octoroon, and was accordingly subjected to inconveniences and annoyances during his visit to the United States which permanently embittered him against Americans and American ways. I never saw much of him, for when my then future wife came home after some years in Italy he had already soared into social planes far above ours.

sullivan-colorI’m not sure how a person who wasn’t all that close to Arthur Sullivan and never saw much of him beyond their student days would have known about Sullivan’s ancestry, and I haven’t found any mention of it elsewhere. If there is more evidence, I’d like to know!


Other resources on Black Victorians:









Five Victorian-Set Movies to Enjoy

This time, the movies (except one) travel a little farther afield than dear old England ~ Sicily, Florence, Paris, and New York.


  1. leopardThe Leopard (1963)  Director: Luchino Visconti. The Prince of Salina, a noble aristocrat of impeccable integrity, tries to preserve his family and class amid the tumultuous social upheavals of 1860’s Sicily. Starring Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, Claudia Cardinale







  1. earringsThe Earrings of Madame de… (1953)  Director: Max Ophüls.  In the Paris of the late 19th century, Louise, wife of a general, sells the earrings her husband gave her as a wedding gift: she needs money to cover her debts. The general secretly buys the earrings again and gives them to his mistress, Lola, leaving to go to Constantinople. Where an Italian diplomat, Baron Donati, buys them. Back to Paris, Donati meets Louise… So now Louise discovers love and becomes much less frivolous. Starring Charles Boyer, Danielle Darrieux, Vittorio De Sica






  1. room-viewA Room with a View (1985) Director: James Ivory.  When Lucy Honeychurch and chaperone Charlotte Bartlett find themselves in Florence with rooms without views, fellow guests Mr Emerson and son George step in to remedy the situation. Meeting the Emersons could change Lucy’s life forever but, once back in England, how will her experiences in Tuscany affect her marriage plans? Starring Maggie Smith, Helena Bonham Carter, Denholm Elliott






  1. howards-end2 Howard’s End(1992)   Director: James Ivory.  A businessman thwarts his wife’s bequest of an estate to another woman. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Vanessa Redgrave.








  1. age-of-innocenceThe Age of Innocence (1993)  Director: Martin Scorsese. A tale of nineteenth-century New York high society in which a young lawyer falls in love with a woman separated from her husband, while he is engaged to the woman’s cousin. Starring Daniel Day Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder.







So have you seen these movies yet? Which is your favorite?

Five Great Victorian Studies Reference Sites, plus blogs


If you’re like me, you want to know all the fascinating tidbits and details about life in the Victorian Era. Well, fear not – there are plenty of great reference sites out there on the Internet. I’ve collected five useful general sites here.

1. Victorian Voices – The list of lists. Find articles, websites and blogs on every aspect of Victorian life from America, Gardening, and Country/Village life to Royalty, Women’s Issues, Work, and World Cultures.

2. Victorian Research – Find the libraries and other places where primary sources and archival records are housed. Also, under the heading “Discussion” there are many groups and blogs on Victorian matters.

3. The Victorian Web – Arranged by topic in a diamond shape, the site offers information both about the UK and other nations during the Victorian era on topics including social history, political history and gender matters, philosophy, religion, science and technology, writers, artists, and theater and entertainment as well as much more.

4. Victorian London – The Victorian Dictionary, Lee Jackson’s website, has a wonderful archive of primary sources describing various aspects of London life during the Victorian era.

5. Victorian Literary Studies Archive – Professor Matsuoka of Nagoya University, Japan, has put together a huge collection of links on the Victorian era in London, Manchester, Knutsford, and the U.K., English Department in Japan, English department overseas, Dickens Fellowship, Victorian Studies Society, Victorian authors Dickens, Gaskell and Gissing, Victorian Websites, 19th century authors, English literature, British Authors and American Authors.

You might also want to explore the Victorian-era information on British History Online


I compiled the following list of blogs at random over the course of my previous searches. I have identified the blogger where I could, but I don’t know any of these folks.

The Cat’s Meat Shop (Lee Jackson)
Crime and Insanity in Victorian England (David Vaughan)
The Curious World of Victorian Collecting (Mary Addyman)
Dickens Blog (Gina Dalfonzo)
The Digital Victorianist (Bob Nicholson)
The Floating Academy: A Victorian Studies Blog
The Hoarding (Andrew Stauffer)
The Hour of Mask and Mime (Diane Magras)
Journal of Victorian Culture Online: Editors’ Blog
The Little Professor (Miriam Burstein)
Looking Glasses at Odd Corners (Amber Regis)
Charlotte Mathieson
Neo-Victorian Thoughts (Louisa Yates)
Novel Ideas: Modern Musings on the Long 19th Century (Emily K. Cody and Trey Conatser)
Novel Readings (Rohan Maitzen)
Of Victorian Interest (NAVSA)
Rag-Picking History (Paul Dobraszczyk)
Royal Holloway Victorian MA (Adam Roberts)
Romantic Circles Blog
The Salt Box (Jason Jones)
The Victorian Commons (History of House of Commons Project, 1832-68)
The Victorian Era (Geerte Koeznbasje)
Victorian Geek (Catherine Pope)
Victorian History (Bruce Rosen)
The Victorianist (“Amateur Casual”)
The Victorian Peeper (Kristan Tetens)
The Victorian Poetry Network
Wuthering Expectations

Happy researching!