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Victorian England: Queen Victoria’s England 1837-1901. A historical connection to A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Background on Charles Dickens. Born on Feb. 7, 1812, in Portsmouth, England

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victorian england queen victoria s england 1837 1901

Victorian England: Queen Victoria’s England 1837-1901

A historical connection to

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

background on charles dickens
Background on Charles Dickens
  • Born on Feb. 7, 1812, in Portsmouth, England
  • His father, John Dickens, was a minor clerk in the navy offices with a large family (Charles was the second of eight children) and only a moderate income. The family drifted from one poor home in London to another, each shabbier than the last. John Dickens ended up in the prison for an unpaid debt and took his wife and younger children with him.
  • To help his family Charles worked in a ramshackle warehouse, lived in a garret, and visited his family in prison on Sundays, and felt that his life was shattered before it had begun. (David Copperfield)
charles dickens
Charles Dickens
  • Had only two years of secondary education.
  • Never attended college.
  • Did not read any great literature of previous ages.
  • Knew little of history.

So, how did he become such a great writer?

*He had a keen eye which he used to observe closely the details of people’s daily lives and a keen ear which he used to mimic people’s subtle speech patterns. His keen awareness of details gave him the basis of his great stories that recreate the realities of those around him.

expectations of proper victorian women in public
Expectations of Proper Victorian Women in Public
  • A lady walks quietly through the streets, seeing and hearing nothing that she ought not to, recognizing acquaintances with a courteous bow, and friends with words of greeting. She never talks loudly or laughs boisterously, or does anything to attract the attention of the passers-by. She walks along in her own quiet, lady-like way, and by her preoccupation is secure from any annoyance. A true lady in the street, as in the parlor is modest, discreet, kind and obliging.
  • It is proper that the lady should first recognize the gentleman. A gentleman will never fail to bow in return to a lady; but a lady may not feel at liberty to return a gentleman’s bow, which places him in a rather unpleasant position. Therefore, a lady should give the first smile or bow. She must refrain, at all times, from using the gentleman’s Christian name.
fashion and style for wealthy men
A real gentleman never swears or talks uproariously. He should never fail to raise his hat politely to an acquaintance of either sex. If he should bump into someone or step upon a lady’s dress he must "beg their pardon", and at no time should he lose his temper nor attract attention by excited conversation.

It is proper to offer a lady his arm, particularly in the evening and it should always be the right arm. People passing should observe the law of "turn to the right" and in this way the lady would not be jostled. It is always proper for a gentleman walking alone to give the lady or a gentleman with a lady the inside of the walk.

Fashion and Style for Wealthy Men
hobbies of the victorian wealthy
Hobbies of the Victorian Wealthy

Camping, cycling, horseback riding, swimming, roller skating, croquet, golf, tennis, billiards, ball room dancing, shooting, hunting, yachting

what did the wealthy do
What did the wealthy do?
  • The wealthy did not do much besides look good and partake in an array of recreational activities.
  • Their income came from inherited lands and investments in the progressive industries.
  • Typical earnings=30,000 pounds.

*Let’s take a tour of a typical

middle-upper class Victorian home!

the other end of london east end
The Other End of London: East End
  • London was overcrowded, and the East End suffered the worse conditions possible due to a rise in population of London which could not be supported with jobs, shelter, and medical treatment.
  • A London reporter in 1849 writes, “In big, once handsome houses, thirty or more people of all ages may inhabit a single room”
disease and malnutrition in east end
Disease and Malnutrition in East End
  • The Cholera epidemic killed over 6, 000 people in London in 1852
  • In an article published on 24th September 1849 a London reporter described a London Street with a tidal ditch running through it, into which drains and sewers emptied. The ditch contained the only water the people in the street had to drink, and it was ‘the colour of strong green tea’, in fact it was ‘more like watery mud than muddy water’ Later this dirty water source was said to have been the breeding ground and the spread of cholera.
  • In 1850 an inquest was held on a 38 year old man whose body was reported as being little more than a skeleton, his wife was described as being ‘the very personification of want’ and her child as a ‘skeleton infant’
children of east end
Children of East End
  • ‘In 1848 Lord Ashley referred to more than thirty thousand \'naked, filthy, roaming lawless and deserted children, in and around the metropolis\'
  • Many destitute children lived by stealing, and to the respectable Victorians they must have seemed a very real threat to society. Something had to be done about them to preserve law and order. Thus, public schools were created.
response to the poor
Response to The Poor
  • The well off seemed to ignore the existence of such places as East End. They did the same as they did in their private lives, brushed it under the carpet and hoped it would go away.
  • Quotes from the wealthy of Victorian England:

-‘the poor were improvident, they wasted any money they had on drink and gambling’

-‘God had put people in their place in life and this must not be interfered with because the life after death was more important’

  • a hymn published in 1848 by Cecil Frances Alexander demonstrates that even churches were reinforcing the negligent attitudes towards the poor:The rich man in his castle,The poor man at his gate,God made them, high and lowly,And order’d their estate
the solution the poor law of 1834
The Solution: The Poor Law of 1834
  • Introduced some severe order into the poor legal system of issuing monies collected from taxes to the poor.
  • Declared that poor relief should be granted to able-bodied poor and their dependents only in well-regulated workhouses.
  • Called for the grouping of independent parishes into unions. Each union, under an elected board of trustees, decided how much relief each family or dependent pauper would receive. (Usually, the trustees pocketed much of the money granted to the union workhouses and forced the poor into a substandard living.)
  • Forced the poor to wear pauper uniforms as a symbol of their inferiority in society and forced the poor to complete mundane, unproductive tasks for up to 18 hours per day
  • Robbed the poor of their civil and political rights, including the right to vote.
the workhouses
The Workhouses
  • Families who did enter the workhouse were broken up, males and females were housed in separate sections and not allowed to mix.
  • Bones were crushed by hand to make fertilizer. Sometimes the inmates were so hungry that they would pick scraps of flesh off the bones and eat it. The bones were not all animal bones either!
crime and prisons
Crime and Prisons
  • Criminal offenses went up from about 5,000 per year in 1800 to about 20,000 per year in 1840.
  • 90 prisons were built or added to between 1842 and 1877
  • Walking a treadwheel or picking oakum (separating strands of rope) were the most common forms of hard and meaningless labor.
  • Prisoners were not allowed to speak or see any other people in some prisons. In fact, many went insane from such harsh treatment.
  • Children were punished the same as adults until 1847 when the courts decided that children under the age of 16 were instead to be sent to reformatory institutions until adulthood.

Joseph Lewis: Prisoner #5248

Age: 11

Offense: Larceny

Sentence: 1 month in prison