Saturday, April 30, 2016


Time Travel

A.N. Wilson, The Victorians (2002; rpt. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003), pp. 307-308:
Returning to the nineteenth century in a time-machine, the twenty-first-century traveller would notice immediately dozens of differences between our world and theirs: the smells of horse-dung and straw in the streets, and, even in the grander houses, the sweaty smell of the servants who had no baths – just the kitchen tap, very often; the darkness at night without electricity; the gas-flares against the sooty skies; the fatty food and 'smell of steaks in passageways'; the beautifully made hats, worn by all social classes, and the properly tailored clothes, even on window-cleaners or factory-hands; the continued acceptance of social hierarchy and, with the obvious perky exception, the underlying deference; the racial coherence – Dante Gabriel Rossetti, we recall, found the sight of a slave boy in London exotic – no one in today's London would find anything odd about seeing a little black boy in the street; the superiority to ours of the postal service – four or five swift deliveries per day – and the splendour – red coats and gold or blue piping – of the postman's uniform; the excellence of the rail services; the truly terrifying inadequacy of dentistry and medicine – and with these, the toothache, the halitosis; the generalized acceptance of infant mortality, the familiarity of children's coffins being trundled in glass-sided hearses down cobbled streets; the poverty of the children who survived, the ragamuffins who swept crossings and still, in spite of Lord Shaftesbury's reforms, continued to work, and run about at large, in the alarming, overcrowded cities – all these things and more would assail the eye, heart and nostril and make us know that the Victorian world was utterly different from our own.
Id., p. 383:
[R]ich and poor were kept apart in Victorian England to an unimaginable extent. The poor simply were not allowed into Piccadilly. Even quite bourgeois streets and squares were gated and barred against proletarian ingress. The moneyed classes were well-policed and well-armed.

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