Thursday, 28 February 2008

Those Erotic Victorians


I am fascinated to have just stumbled across one Ida Craddock on the web; a Victorian 'sexual mystic' who believed in straightforward advice on sexual matters. A sample of her wisdom:

Well, I think that the very first thing for you to bear in mind is that, inasmuch as Nature has so arranged sex that the man is always ready (as a rule) for intercourse, whereas the woman is not, it is most unwise for the man to precipitate matters by exhibiting desire for genital contact when the woman is not yet aroused. You should remember that that organ of which you are, justly, so proud, is not possessed by a woman, and that she is utterly ignorant of its functions, practically, until she has experienced sexual contact; and that it is, to her who is not desirous of such contact, something of a monstrosity. Even when a woman has already had pleasurable experience of genital contact, she requires each time to be aroused amorously, before that organ, in its state of activity, can become attractive. For a man to exhibit, to even an experienced wife, his organ ready for action when she herself is not amorously aroused, is, as a rule, not sexually attractive to her; on the contrary, it is often sexually repulsive, and at times out and out disgusting to her. Every woman of experience knows that, when she is ready, she can cause the man to become sexually active fast enough.

It is remarkable that, for all its quaint language, this still seems a case of plain-speaking, some hundred years on. I'm not sure any UK writers were quite so frank; but I'm no expert ... if anyone would like to correct me, please write in!

Friday, 22 February 2008

Let's Make Tracks


Victorian slang is of particular interest to this novelist ... I'm always trying to reproduce accurate language that isn't a simple 'Cockney' pastiche; and doesn't sound odd to modern ears either. It's actually rather difficult - especially with words now considered entirely American that are good Victorian London English ("Station-house" for "police station" is one that always comes to mind). A pleasure, then, to find a Times article citing a lecture critical of 1850s slang. Much of it is familar, but I've never come across "make tracks" as a Victorian-ism ... or the likes of "walks his chalks". Enjoy the full article here

Thursday, 14 February 2008

The Food of the Poor

food of the poorTHE FOOD OF THE POOR

A new addition comes from All the Year Round, 1877, Learning to Cook with the Poor, a Mayhew-esque, slightly satirical look at the food of the poor and how they scraped by. An anonymous piece (although perhaps a scholar can advise on that score) you may find it interesting, not least all about 'faggots', 'chitterlings', 'reeds' and other odd cuts and combinations of meat that I would rather avoid. To read the article, click here.

Friday, 1 February 2008

When Public Libraries Need Saving


You know things are getting bad when a council starts closing down it's public libraries.

Walthamstow (a London borough) did just that to the St. James Street public library last year - without any public consultation, or even warning.

An modest oasis for learning and culture in a deprived area, it was cut on the budget grounds. This, from a city that can afford to host the 2012 Olympic games costing millions.

The residents feel so strongly about this, that they started their own 'free library' every weekend outside the disused building; they've got a petition going; they've had support from the Children's Laureate, Michael Rosen.

And what have the council done? Not much. An empty building sits there, its books already unceremoniously removed. In fact Walstamstow doesn't have a great record at the moment - it's cutting back on support for the William Morris Museum as well.

If you'd like to let Walthamstow know what message such cuts give out, then here's how to complain.

The short version is ... an email to

cc-d to

If you feel really keen, put "FORMAL COMPLAINT" as your subject.

Will the council do the right thing and change their mind? I hope so. If you believe in public libraries, whether you live in London or not, let them know your thoughts.