Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Consuming Passions

Well I have taken a week off blogging to get into the swing of things. With school starting back up, so did a number of my 'extras' - ballet, irish dancing and bible study. It has been great to go back to ballet, but my muscles have paid for the 6 weeks of holidays and become lazy:) The day after my first class I literally hobbled my way around work - particularly, down the station stairs.
Anyhoo..... my husband is out bush this week - somewhere in the wilds of regional NSW - giving me the perfect opportunity to catch up on some blogging. And, I just installed broadband! Now being on the internet at home should be a lot more pleasurable - farewell dial-up I shall not miss you. I am very chuffed with myself as I am normally rather 'limited' technologically. For instance, my boss was disgusted to learn yesterday that despite having spent two years on a graduate programme at work I need a lot of assistance to draw a graph with Excel (ie. my manager and senior manager both had to come to my computer to help). I did suggest to him at the outset that it would be faster to get the clerical staff to do it (and that's what they are there for) than have me muddle my way through. But, he is the boss! So I spent an hour on it, only for him to take a look at the end result and suggest that I get the Clerical staff to draw it.

I have been doing a bit of reading of late. I just finished (well, on the weekend) Consuming Passions by Judith Flanders. I have been trying to challenge myself to read more non-fiction and I had seen favourable reviews of this on dovegreyreader. I thought learning more about Victorian life would be useful as I read so many books set in Victorian times. Consuming Passions is a fine piece of writing and it covers many facets of 'leisure and pleasure' in Victorian England. There is something for everyone...Flanders looks at the popular press, book publishing, shopping, music, theatre, sports and, of course, the Great Exhibition. I learned some interesting facts too:

- The first upright pianos were 2 metres high - and my Mum complains about how much room the piano she is storing for me takes up!

-And, for those of use insatiable readers who dare to complain about book prices!

In the 1810s and 1820s, prices continued to climb: Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage cost from 12s. to as much as [ok, I don't have a pound sign on my computer] 1 pound 16s. 6d. A teacher earned 12 pounds a year on average; a curate (not, it must be admitted, a particularly remunerative occupation, but a genteel one, nonetheless) might earn 20 pounds a year - the price of twelve novels. Even a 15s. Bell's Shakespeare would swallow his entire income for two weeks. It was impossible for anyone earning less than 50 pounds a year to purchase new books, and in 1780 there were only 150,000 families whose income ranged from 50 pounds to 400 pounds - not a large pool of purchasers.
Ok, and this is the Economist coming out in me, but what I couldn't get over is how similar Victorian England was in its consumerism to the developed world today - here in Australia Economists are decrying the fact that despite several interest rate hikes by the central bank to stem inflation people will not stop buying! People (myself included) always want more 'things'; and we don't seem to base wanting them on whether they are useful or aesthetically pleasing. I think it was William Morris who founded the Arts and Crafts movement that said that (and I paraphrase) one should retain nothing that is not beautiful or useful. So much of my 'stuff' is neither; and so much of the objects the Victorians collected with a passion weren't either! Doesn't look like human nature has changed a lot in two centuries does it:)


  1. Ugh, I'm so glad we're done with dial-up! I have no idea how to use excel, I mean, we just barely had computers when I was graduating from college. My husband is an expert though. I have Consuming Passions but haven't read it yet - I bought it because I enjoyed her previous book so much about life inside the Victorian home - have you read it? Those are pretty impressive statistics about book prices.

  2. Thanks for popping by Tara - I am still posting my book related posts on A Lady Bug's Books, just doing that and more over here.

    Always good to have a computer expert in the household. Now that I am not living at home anymore, I have to do a long distance call to my Dad if I have issues. My husband doesn't know much more than me:)

    I haven't read her book about the Victorian home, but I have it sitting on my bookshelf so it will probably be my next non-fiction challenge read:)