Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of…

Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian… (original 2003; edition 2005)

by Judith Flanders

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8191211,095 (4.11)52
Title:Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England
Authors:Judith Flanders
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2005), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 416 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Victorian House by Judith Flanders (2003)


Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 52 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
A masterful survey of the details of day to day life in Victorian England, with particular focus on London and the middle class. The author draws on medical texts, advertisements, diaries, letters, and even fiction to describe the quotidian drudgery, dirt, and mentality of that time and place. The past really does seem to be a different country--the assumptions (that wearing something because you liked it was strange and antisocial, that children needed bland food and few vegetables, that liking or even knowing one another before engagement was not expected or desired, that the classes were intrinsically physically and mentally different) are so alien that despite years of reading Victorian novels I still found myself goggling at the page. But at the same time, it's fascinating to divine the origins of many oddities of the modern era to their origins in Victorian England.

Flanders organizes this history through the different rooms of the home. After first describing the furniture and decorations of the parlor, for instance, she then goes on to talk about women's social role, and from thence to wedding trends. It flows naturally and easily, told in lucid language and sprinkled with contemporary quotes. Flanders exhibits a dry wit and an enjoyment of absurdity that makes her history and sociology all the easier to read. She ends with this:

"It is too easy for us to think of the Victorian era--or any part of the past--as 'romantic.' For some it was an endless succession of cold, dirt, and dark, of black bombazine and narrow stairs. For others, though, it was fuchsine and peacock blue, as well as celadon skies.
To emphasize either viewpoint at the expense of the other is to give only a partial picture. We may be able to do no more than peer through the windows of the past--but at least we can choose to do so through windows that have the curtains open and the rooms inside brightly lit." ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Solid background to Victorian noels, including much steampunk, as well as the actual ones written then.

In many ways- sometimes scarily- we share values with our Victorian ancestors. In other ways- it's a very foreign country for us.

The structure of this book is excellent for those of us who wonder more generally, what was it like? I can see it's less helpful; for people doing specific research.

Still, as a reader, I think it worked very well. The set-up is browsing through the rooms in a middle-class Victorian house, and what was done in them and why. This gives a coherent structure to the book- especially since it also moves from birth to death- and relates the architecture to the mores to the lives people lead. I found this fascinating.

Also- the past IS a foreign country. There are ways we're in sync' there are ways they are bafflingly foreign to us. I like knowing that! (A failure to appreciate such is why some moderns dis on "Pride and Prejudice", because they say they would never! And in my opinion, it's one of the great stories. Still, one needs context.)

This book is all about the context. And the structure makes it a really engaging read.

Highly recommended, especially for people who like historical fiction whether actual or alternate (like steampunk). ( )
  cissa | Feb 13, 2014 |
Recommended by Susanna, looks incredible.
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
I thoroughly enjoyed a lot of this book. I think the device of organizing the information around the various rooms of a house worked pretty well. Much of the information was really fascinating. The chapters about the kitchen and scullery particularly engaged me. I find it very difficult to believe that anyone would actually have done laundry like that. Madness!

However as the book went on I started to get a niggling feeling that the author had a bit of an attitude about some of the people she was quoting. She clearly disliked Mrs Beeton for example. Which is fine, Beeton doesn't seem particularly likeable. But after awhile I really started to feel uncomfortable about the number of sarky little asides. After awhile longer I started to wonder if Flanders wasn't leaning a little too far toward dismissing the evidence of people she didn't much like or identify with. A little too much of "this is clearly nonsense," when as far as I could tell it wasn't any more clearly nonsense than other things that were not given the same treatment.

It wasn't blatant, it wasn't enough to prevent me from as I said, thoroughly enjoying big parts of this book. I do respect the sheer volume of research and hard work involved in gathering together the many details that make this so interesting. Its reasonable even, that spending a lot of time reading Victorian publications and personal papers would leave you with feelings about the people with whom you'd spent so much time.

But still. Maybe it was just a matter of her trying to avoid writing a dry history, and in that she did succeed, this is very lively and readable. But there's a line between lively and catty and she walked pretty close to it at times. Which was bothersome enough that I am not sure I'm going to believe some of what I read here without cross checking it elsewhere. I suppose that's always a good practice. ( )
  bunwat | Mar 30, 2013 |
Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England is a popular (as opposed to academic) text that attempts to use the structure of a typical Victorian household to describe various elements of nineteenth-century British life. The organizational pattern is only marginally successful, as Flanders frequently moves beyond the confines of each chapter to provide broader observations.

But organization is not the only complaint I have with the text. While reading of subjects with which I am extensively familiar (such as corsetry, as a single example of many) I frequently found myself disagreeing with Flanders's interpretations and presentations. Interestingly, I found that the same sources of research that would lead me to disagree with Flanders are also to be found on her list of secondary sources. Such discrepancies were often minor, but ultimately tainted my reading of the text as I considered the validity of the information related to subjects with which I'm less familiar. ( )
  Luxx | Jan 17, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
For my mother, Kappy Flanders
First words
In 1909 H. G. Wells wrote, in a passage from his novel Tono-Bungay, of Edward Ponderevo, a purveyor of patent medicines and terror of eminent historians. (Introduction)
In the segregation that permeated the Victorian house, the reception rooms were always considered the main rooms—they presented the public face of the family, defining it, clarifying its status. (Chapter I, The Bedroom)
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Published in the US in 2004 as: Inside the Victorian home : a portrait of domestic life in Victorian England.
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (5)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393327639, Paperback)

"[Flanders] knows what we want to know and is thoroughly engaging, undidactic company."--Katherine A. Powers, Boston Sunday Globe

Nineteenth-century Britain was then the world's most prosperous nation, yet Victorians would bury meat in earth and wring sheets out in boiling water with their bare hands. Such drudgery was routine for the parents of people still living, but the knowledge of it has passed as if it had never been. Following the daily life of a middle-class Victorian house from room to room; from childbirth in the master bedroom through the kitchen, scullery, dining room, and parlor, all the way to the sickroom; Judith Flanders draws on diaries, advice books, and other sources to resurrect an age so close in time yet so alien to our own. 100 illustrations, 32 pages of color.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:06 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Laid out like a middle class house, this book follows the story of Victorian daily life from room to room: from childbirth in the master bedroom, through the scullery and kitchen - cleaning, dining, entertaining - on upwards, ending in the sickroom and death.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

LibraryThing Author

Judith Flanders is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

profile page | author page

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
248 wanted

Popular covers


Average: (4.11)
1 1
2 4
3 14
3.5 6
4 49
4.5 6
5 38

W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393052095, 0393327639


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 111,749,205 books! | Top bar: Always visible