The Victorian Tavern

TalkClub Read 2022

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The Victorian Tavern

Edited: Mar 24, 7:01pm

Welcome to the Victorian Tavern.

This is the general thread for our year-long exploration of the Victorian writings - additional threads will be posted for the different read-alongs (2 of them in Q1) or any other topic that is needed/identified.

Victorian literature is defined as the literature written during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901) by British subjects. Anything counts - prose, poetry, drama, non-fiction of all types, even Victorian age translations (as they were as important as the original English language writings and because they read closer to the Victorian style than their original ones (the history of translation is a long long one and it took some time to get to the current standards)). In addition, we reserve some of the corner tables for any of the following types of writings:

- Non-British subjects writings during the same period - although the plan is to have a similar thread for them in 2023 as a second phase of the Victorian writings exploration, they are also welcome here. Ones that were translated into English during the period are included already (see above).
- Any writings about the period - histories, biographies, literary histories and so on, regardless of when they are written actually.
- Any fiction set into the Victorian times - romance novels, What if stories and anything between. That puts any Holmes story that keeps his roots in the 19th century in scope for example :)
- The writings of authors who did work in the period but had works outside of it - the death of a monarch does not change how writers write overnight so an early 19th century writer did not suddenly change because 1837 passed and the late century ones did not drop off the face of Earth in 1901.

The short version of the above? If you can link it to the Victorian age plausibly enough, you are welcome. If you cannot, you still are welcome but we may sit you at the bar and stare at you :)

So grab a chair, order a drink and tell us what you are reading from/about the period. And if you stop by on most Sunday evenings (US timezones), you may even find an introduction of a not so well known Victorian author or book.

The read-alongs are up:
=== Q1 ===
1850: David Copperfield -
1862: Lady Audley's Secret -
=== Q2 ===
1855: North and South -
1875: The Law and the Lady -

Dec 29, 2021, 12:20pm

Reserved for group tracking of our reading

Dec 30, 2021, 11:25am

Thanks for setting this up. I am grabbing a seat in the tavern. I am happy to have purchased a beautifully bound edition of David Copperfield and a nice copy of Lady Audley's Secret in preparation for this project.

Dec 30, 2021, 12:23pm

At the moment, I am in the midst of Christmas at Thompson Hall and Other Christmas Stories, and I've started a slow read of Trollope's An Autobiography and Other Writings as well. I've also pulled my copy of Lady Audley's Secret off my shelves in preparation for the Q1 read-along.

Dec 30, 2021, 1:12pm

Where are the read-alongs listed? I will also join with Lady Audley's Secret - I have read it before, after seeing an excellent production of it as a play - gosh, though, that was in 1991 if I remember correctly! So time enough for a re-read.

Dec 30, 2021, 2:04pm

Thanks Annie. Trying to be a little realistic. So i have a (n ugly but sturdy mass market paperback, care of a downsizing empty nest neighbor) copy of David Copperfield ready. I don’t have a copy of Lady Audrey’s Secret and likely will need to skip that one.

Dec 31, 2021, 1:10am

The read-alongs are up and linked above :)

>6 dchaikin: If you do not fancy something later in the year or we have two short books, you may always read it then :) Or not - part of why I wanted two read-alongs is to allow people to chose if they want to avoid an author or for any other reason.

Edited: Dec 31, 2021, 2:58am

I accidentally stumbled into the tavern by starting Agnes Grey. I'm hoping it perks up, it's a bit grim at the moment (I'm up to Chapter 4 where she's returned from her first visit home).

I just checked and my local library has David Copperfield so I might as well stay for a drink while I'm here ;-).

Dec 31, 2021, 3:03am

>8 rhian_of_oz: Smiling innocently... welcome :)

It does get less grim as it progresses although it is not going to be sunny and careless at any point. It is a first novel though (and it shows) but I still like it).

Dec 31, 2021, 11:26am

I already checked in on the Lady Audrey thread. I wasn't going to join the David Copperfield read-along (I've read it twice), but I love Dickens, and might try a slow (10-15 pages a day) reread. if I do, I'll be reading a volume from a set of Dickens my husband received for his Bar Mitzvah in 1963.

Edited: Dec 31, 2021, 2:13pm

I read (and re-read) a lot of Victorian literature, and hope to share my 2022 reading here. Last year I read 32 books from the Victorian era: 20 were new to me and 12 were re-reads, both in print and audiobook. I immersed myself in Victorian-related books in the month of October, otherwise known as "Victober" on booktube, which I enjoyed.

My favorite Victorian re-reads last year were: 1) Jane Eyre, which I followed up with a "binge" watch of 8 different film/TV adaptations, and 2) Little Dorrit, which I listened to on audiobook.

My favorite new-to-me Victorian reads were two by Trollope: Rachel Ray and The Claverings. I am currently making my way through all of Trollope's novels.
I also enjoyed the novella Cousin Phillis by Elizabeth Gaskell and The Romance of a Shop by Amy Levy (a new author for me).

My favorite non-fiction book about the Victorian era this year was The Artful Dickens by John Mullan. Absolutely brilliant, and a must for any Dickens fan.

I have penciled-in the following for January 2022:
--Kidnapped, R L Stevenson
--Linda Tressel, Anthony Trollope
and audiobook re-read of David Copperfield for this challenge.

Dec 31, 2021, 5:38pm

Grabbing a stool at the bar (and ordering a Guinness). I haven't read David Copperfield (have a weird Dickens superstition), and a group read is probably the best way to do it. I'll need to order the book.

For January, I'm planning to read two takes on the Jack the Ripper case by Victorian-era authors: The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes (book was published in 1913, but the author was born in 1868 and published some works in the Victorian era) and The Devil in a Domino (published in 1897 by "Chas L'Epine", although the author is unknown). I also have a bunch of ghost stories that I'll be reading along with other works, and most of them fit the definition.

Jan 1, 12:30am

Jan 1, 8:25am

Too early for a drink?

I'll find a quiet corner to observe the goings-on and perhaps immerse myself in one of the following reads: Agnes Grey, Shirley, Hard Times, Mary Barton, New Grub Street, Marius the Epicurean, The Real Charlotte, or Dr. Thorne.

Edited: Jan 2, 1:54pm

Looking through my list of proto science fiction novels I have found some that would qualify as Victorian reads and will try to get to them this year:

1890 William Morris - News from nowhere
1893 Rear Admiral Colomb - The Great War of 189-
1894 George Griffith - The Angel of the revolution
1894 George Griffith - Olga Romanoff and the syren of the skies
1897 William Le Queux - The Great War in England
1900 Cutliffe Hyne - The Lost Continent

Jan 1, 1:30pm

>1 AnnieMod: You know this is a thread I wouldn't miss! Can't wait to get going. I may have to be turfed out each evening. (Just heard Leonard Cohen's Closing Time in the back of my mind)

Jan 1, 2:31pm

>14 ELiz_M: I love Doctor Thorne; I need to re-read Mary Barton and I have New Grub Street waiting on my shelf...maybe this year is the year.

Jan 2, 3:49am

>15 baswood: Fun to see that those Griffith books are being marketed as "Tsar Wars"! If you read Le Queux, you should also read The Swoop! or How Clarence saved England, although that's getting well outside the strictly Victorian period.

Jan 2, 5:48am

I'm grabbing my seat as well, in a dark and quiet corner. I'll mainly lurk on this thread and occasionally participate. I’m going to start a list to make an inventory of books suggestions. I’ll probably call it “the Victorian tavern temptations”, and it already includes a couple of titles, including authors I have never heard about before. I’ll learn a lot here and I’m looking forward to clink glasses with you folks!

Edited: Jan 2, 11:42am

Also mostly lurking. Just finished George Gissing's The Odd Women, and may do a re-read of New Grub Street.

Jan 2, 12:38pm

A silly question... How do you plan the read-along for the following quarters? In particular, is it likely that the books that were suggested as potential read-long for Q1 will be suggested again in the coming quarters?
Just asking in order to know if I shall wait a bit to read those books, or if I should go ahead whenever I feel like it. (I'm not short of reading material, so whatever the plans are, I'll be fine with them!).

Jan 2, 8:45pm

>11 kac522: impressed and fascinated by all that. Noting The Artful Dickens.

Jan 2, 10:16pm

>22 dchaikin: I loved it, but beware if you haven't read most of Dickens--many spoilers.

Edited: Jan 5, 10:54am

Finally grabbing a seat in here :-)

I love Victorian literature and plan to read and reread a lot of it this year after neglecting it for several years because of work and other things that got in the way. I read David Copperfield a few years ago and it is still quite fresh in my mind, which is why I won't join the readalong but will definitely follow the thread.
Lady Audley's Secret is on my wishlist, but it's not on my shelves, so I'll pass here, too, because I'm all set on reading from my shelves this year.

However, today I am going to start Far From The Madding Crowd which will be my first Thomas Hardy novel!
I have wanted to read his novels for a long time because I have heard so much about them, the adaptations look beautiful, and I visited Dorchester a decade ago and became interested back then. So today is the day! I own six of his novels but after doing some online research decided that I want to start with this one.

Jan 5, 12:55pm

>24 MissBrangwen: ditto on Thomas Hardy (except the visit to Dorchester unfortunately!). I'll try to read something by him this year too.

Jan 5, 1:17pm

>24 MissBrangwen: >25 raton-liseur: My first Hardy was Tess of the d'Urbervilles and I fell in love with his writing - and even if I don't think of it as his best anymore, it has a very special place in my heart (and I think it is a good start if someone is looking for a way into his writing). Far From The Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge also work for a start (and are objectively better but Tess...)... But then I really like Hardy - I am still not sure if I prefer Dickens or him really (Trollope is a late discovery for me - although now he is also in the running). I had been planning a reread for a very long time (but things keep happening) :)

>24 MissBrangwen: Have fun with Hardy!

Jan 6, 7:41am

All the while I thought that I had already read David Copperfield and then I saw I had confused it with Oliver Twist, so if I can locate my copy, I will still join the group read later on.

I read Lady Audley's Secret just last Spring.

However, I will enjoy reading Victorian novels throughout the year.

Earlier this week I finished Robert Louis Stevenson's In the South Seas, which is a work on non-fiction, and Sir Rider Haggard's Alan Quartermain.

I am currently reading The Doctor's Family by Margaret Oliphant and Robert Louis Stevenson's The Master of Balantrae.

Edited: Jan 6, 12:37pm

>27 edwinbcn: Last year a group of us started reading Oliphant's Carlingford series. Liz (lyzard) gives us valuable background information as we make our way through each selection. You may enjoy scanning through our discussions:

Part I: The Executor and The Rector

Part II: The Doctor's Family:

Part III: Salem Chapel:

Liz is planning to lead Part IV The Perpetual Curate in March, and all are welcome.

Jan 6, 1:02pm

>28 kac522: Thanks

I finished reading The Executor and The Rector yesterday, and found the link you posted above useful. They are two delightful short stories really, the first a bit puzzling.

I will check out the group's comments on The Doctor's Family after reading it.

Later in the year, I will probably also read Miss Marjoribanks.

Jan 11, 6:24am

I've read too little Victorian literature and I think it'd be just my thing in some ways, maybe a time when there was more hope.

Recently I finished Autobiographies by W. B. Yeats which begins in the mid 1880s - its full of interesting insights of the times, especially on Ireland and on some of the people he knew, Oscar Wilde,lots more (some I had never heard of, some i had but know little of, some you expect him to write of and he says nothing -- at one point i wondered if the plural of the title was due to himself somehow being mirrored in all the people he spoke of . . . but having got into this way of it in the later parts he went back to a more general view of the world through his diaries).

But my main reading of the time in the last two years is Emily Dickinson's poems as she preserved them - my third attempt at all her poems, this time I began in the first lockdown which seemed very suited for me as a very domestic time and I got through all her fasicles and at least 50 pages further through the loose sheets -- but I found them harder to maintain my focus, somehow the fasicles gave some sense of theme/s or containment, whilst the loose sheets I could make tons of progress or not much and I lost my rhythm (and lockdown ended, everything changed). She was very engaged with the writing of her time, so in some ways she opens up a lot else to me. But I've made no more progress since shortly after our first lockdown, I want to (though on the other hand I am a bit scared to have a complete view of her and also to see where and how she develops some of her interests, especially on death, as she matured (that she also started writing less may also bother me - due to her eye issues in the mid 1860s) -- it's also as I am quite in love with her young self (my idea of her, her writing (which is in love with the world and with writing I think), but still a bit sad of me and deluded). When i have a space again, and again life is a bit more domestic for a bit, I will restart the loose sheets (which also start with a poem I cannot get my head around yet which sort of set the tone for me on them) . . . and not only do they seem less themed together than the fasicles, but that means they seem to go all over, more, to me. But its no bad thing, there are so many gems, to have to have another go from that point.

I want to read Aurora Leigh when I am finally done (- why wait?).

Jan 11, 3:37pm

>29 edwinbcn: I enjoyed the whole Carlingford series, but Miss Marjoribanks was definitely my favourite. Good choice.

In 2021 I read a few by Elizabeth Gaskell - Cranford, Mr Harrison's Confessions, Cousin Phillis and My Lady Ludlow - listed in order of preference, but all of them were worth a read. I was delighted to find that I hadn't read Cranford before - had confused it with Lark Rise to Candleford, which is also worth reading but, being published in the forties, is not Victorian. It is partially set at the end of the nineteenth century, so it provides background.

I've just downloaded Ask Mamma by R. S. Surtees, which readers of the time found highly humorous. Let us hope.

Jan 11, 5:27pm

>31 pamelad: Right now my favorite Gaskell has to be North and South; it's now one of my favorite books of all time, right up there with Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. I've read all of the Gaskells you've read, plus Mary Barton, and I have yet to read Ruth, Sylvia's Lovers and Wives and Daughters. I hope to read these last 3 books this year.

Jan 11, 5:56pm

>32 kac522: It's been years since I read North And South, Wives and Daughters and Mary Barton and I've been thinking it's time for a re-read, but I'll start with Ruth, which I don't remember reading. (So grateful for LT, which tells me every book I've read since 2006. ) North and South stands out, even at this distance. Sylvia's Lovers is another unread one, but I've postponed it because it's so tragic.

Jan 15, 3:12pm

I read a short biography of Charles Dickens by Catherine Peters. I guess I did not realize he was such a gifted actor, yet a troubled and somewhat driven soul. Lots to know about him in a short little book.

Edited: Jan 16, 2:31am

The Executor by Margaret Oliphant is a short story, the first work in the Chronicles of Carlingford.

Nasty old Mrs Thompson has died and her closest relative, Mrs Christian, is expecting to inherit. The Christians desperately need the money: Mr Christian is an invalid, and the family's breadwinner is his young daughter, Bessie, who teaches music. Instead, the inheritance goes to Mrs Thompson's long lost daughter Phoebe. If John Brown, the executor of the will, does not find Phoebe within three years, he receives the inheritance. Brown is a bachelor of 46, rude, brusque and selfish, but he's not so cold that he doesn't worry about Bessie.

I should have read this story before I read the bulk of the Carlingfrod Chronicles because it has been 5 years and I remember very little. Did Phoebe turn up? I have no idea. But there is still one book I have left to read, Phoebe Junior, so I've started it and might find out. I've enjoyed the whole Carlingford series, including The Executor.

Jan 16, 5:35am

I finished Not to be Taken at Bedtime and Other Strange Stories by Rosa Mulholland. I'll post a review here when I finish it. Now reading Studies of Death by Eric Stenbock (nationality is a bit of a hodgepodge but there are enough Victorian connections) and still reading The Lodger.

>35 pamelad: - I have some stories by Oliphant and am hoping to read Miss Marjoribanks or Hester this year. If i read the Chronicles of Carlingford, I'll make a note to read that story first.

Jan 16, 6:00am

I finished Far from the Madding Crowd. Although it is not that long, it took me some time because the beginning is so slow and, alas, because work has started again!

I liked this novel and there were many scenes that will stick with me, but it is not my favourite one ever. I did not get as much out of it as, lets say, from a Brontë or George Eliot novel. I am still pondering the reasons why.

One thing that interests me is that Hardy chose to write about life in the country, which is a major difference to other Victorian writers I have encountered so far.

Edited: Jan 17, 8:35pm

Listening to Vanity Fair at night, but keep dropping off before the end of chapter 1. What I've heard so far is good ...

Jan 18, 12:12pm

I've started listening to Trollope's The Way We Live Now and I'm enjoying it very much, though I've only heard about 6 hours of 31 so far. In one description I read it was described as being eerily relevant to the 2008 financial crisis. That may end up being true as one of the subplots involves the promoting of a new American railway from Utah to Veracruz Mexico, where the main purpose of the directors is the "churning" of the stock price, rather than the development of the railroad itself. The usual Victorian plot of finding a rich husband/wife is also present, and one of the main characters is a writer, so Trollope is having great fun about literary critics and amateur female writers.

Jan 24, 9:46am

>39 arubabookwoman: I should put that on my list. I got Trollope'd out a few years ago after powering through the Barcester books one after another.

Jan 24, 9:53am

I haven't read anything from this period yet this year, but I have just finished watching the entirety of the Granada Sherlock Holmes. I really enjoyed it, and Jeremy Brett is now my favorite Holmes.

Edited: Jan 24, 9:57am

I just finished The Doctor's Family and found myself really disliking Nettie. If Oliphant described her one more time as tiny I was going to scream.

Jan 30, 7:23pm

This month I finished one book that fits into the Victorian era:
--Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886); very much enjoyed this young person's classic which I had never read. My edition was very helpful, with many notes and an extensive glossary of words from the Scots language.

I also finished a 19th century book by a non-British writer:
Stempenyu: A Jewish Romance by Sholem Aleichem (1888); author was born near Kiev and the story is set in a small village in Eastern Europe. I enjoyed this tale of love and life in the shtetl.

Jan 31, 9:20am

>43 kac522: Kidnapped is one of my all time favourites - another classic that stands up for all ages.

Feb 3, 11:07am

>43 kac522: I read Kidnapped last year and enjoyed it a lot, too.

Feb 3, 12:26pm

>44 SassyLassy:, >45 MissBrangwen: I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Kidnapped. I was expecting it to be so-so, since last year I read Treasure Island and I barely remember it at all. I think it was OK at the time of reading, but it hasn't stuck with me. I think the story of Kidnapped and the landscape of Scotland and the dialect/language will keep me thinking about it.

Feb 9, 3:29pm

>46 kac522: I wonder if Kidnapped was the stronger book for you because some of the background material was taken from history.

Feb 9, 5:10pm

>47 SassyLassy: Yes, and also it had a true Scottish feel to it; I just loved all the descriptions of the people and places and the dialogue. Tropical islands, pirates, etc. are just not my thing.

Edited: Feb 9, 5:15pm

Feb 9, 10:43pm

>43 kac522:
It is true that books such as Kidnapped, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver's Travels are often adapted for young children or young learners but it is a misconception that they are "young person's classics", unless you read an abridged or adapted version for children.

Feb 10, 1:37am

>43 kac522:, >51 edwinbcn: I'm half-way through Kidnapped and enjoying it. I've always thought of it as a young person's classic, and the story bears this out: brave boy on an adventure, no ambiguity, no depth. You can tell from the start, where the hero sets off with a shilling, a bible and a recipe for lily of the valley water.

Edited: Feb 10, 3:02am

>51 edwinbcn:, >52 pamelad: My own hunch is that books like Kidnapped and Treasure Island were often read aloud to children, with parents (or older siblings) abridging and/or explaining as they went along, based on the level of the listeners. And those older children who were so motivated would pick up the books to read alone as well, as long as the candles held out.

And I agree that the stories were intended for children; these are very different from Stevenson's works for adults.

Feb 10, 10:27am

>50 kac522: Thanks for that link. Often the NYT will allow a few freebies a month, so I was hoping people could access it.

>52 pamelad: I'd be interested to know if you still think of this as only a young person's book when you are finished. Treasure Island has been used by other authors as a start for their own novels (not sequels). Long John Silver is one that comes to mind right away, and other authors have referenced characters and situations, assuming the reader will know the reference.

>53 kac522: Treasure Island and Kidnapped, along with other books of their ilk are books I was expected to be able to read by myself as a child, and then discuss with older people. I was never allowed to read abridged editions of anything.

While there are definite differences in Stevenson's audiences for particular works, there are usually consistent themes throughout. One of them that comes out in both these books is the young boy looking for guidance from an older man and having to discern which adult to follow.

Feb 10, 1:13pm

Stalled a bit on Vanity Fair to read some other things. But I'm not really sure what this book is trying to tell me. Becky Sharp is shallow and money-hungry, and she's looking for the main chance. Thackery's editorial asides seem to want Becky to be better, but how can she be without becoming beaten down and impoverished? I suspect Thackery knows this and that his seemingly above-it-all asides are part of the satire.

So I'm thinking about all this and reading They, a dystopian novella by Kay Dick.

Feb 10, 7:33pm

I've just finished The Making of a Marchioness - published in 1901, and at one point one of the minor characters describes the titular Marchioness as "very nineteenth century"!

Feb 11, 8:59pm

>41 Julie_in_the_Library: I loved that Sherlock Holmes adaptation!

I read A Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear. Very fun!

Feb 12, 4:21pm

>54 SassyLassy: I do think Kidnapped is a young person's book, and that it's teaching the boys for whom it was initially written about tolerance, open-mindedness and the world not being black and white. That said, there's nothing to prevent adults from finding something worthwhile in it. I was particularly interested in the historical information about the restrictions on the lives of the highlanders in the aftermath of Culloden, and the corruption of the judicial system. These days the language might be too demanding for many children, but I'm sure there are plenty of dedicated young readers who could manage.

As far as re-using the plot, I've come across wicked uncles and kidnapped heirs many times because at the moment my choice of escapist reading is historical romances.

Feb 13, 7:22am

I read Aquis Submersus by Theodor Storm this morning, which is a short novella about a tragic love story that took place after the 30 Year War. The novella was written in 1876 and, as wikipedia tells me, was partly a reaction to the annexation of Storm's home province of Schleswig-Holstein by Prussia.

I love Storm's writing, so even if this was a much darker tale than I expected, it was a good way to start my Sunday. The novella starts with a 19th century background story describing some idyllic childhood scenes in rural northern Germany.

Feb 13, 2:42pm

I'm reading The House of Ulloa by Emilia Pardo Bazan, published in Spanish in 1886 and in English as The Son of the Bondwoman in 1907.

Feb 13, 3:10pm

If you have a few minutes in the next 4 weeks or so, time to select the readAlongs for next quarter:

>60 pamelad: *passes a cup of tea* I'll note that one for next year - not one I had heard of :)

Feb 16, 3:52pm

>61 AnnieMod: The House of Ulloa was well worth reading. I've started The Crime of Father Amaro, Portuguese, 1875, another possibility for 2023.

Feb 17, 11:21am

>60 pamelad: One of my Spanish friends was reading that last year and telling us all how wonderful it was. I think I got as far as downloading it...

Feb 18, 3:35am

I read English Literature at university in Amsterdam in the 1980s and retrospectively I am baffled by the fact that Wilkie Collins wasn't part of the syllabus, and wasn't ever mentioned or recommended. I have also lifelong had a passion browsing second-hand books, but I do not recall ever seeing or inspecting a copy, nor in regular bookstores.

Last year, I read The Woman in White and The Moonstone, and just the day before yesterday, I finished Armadale.

Of these three, I liked Armadale best. The narrative structure isn't as contrived and confusing as The Woman in White, and I think it has more depth than The Moonstone. The story of Armadale is less predictable and exciting and gripping till the end. I was never once bored or distracted. I also think characterization and dialogue in Armadale is superior to the other two novels.

Feb 18, 4:11am

>64 edwinbcn: The Woman in White and The Moonstone were both adapted for TV (or radio — I don't remember which) during my childhood, and I read them at some point in my teens. I think they were both fairly well-known because of Collins's claim to be one of the (many) inventors of the detective story. But his name didn't come up much apart from that. I don't think he was on the syllabus of any of the courses I took either, although when a friend of mine wrote about him for an interdisciplinary project at the end of our "mid-Victorian Britain" course, our tutor singled it out and told the rest of us that Collins was unfairly neglected. (I wrote about Mudie and Sankey, that choice seemed to amuse her considerably, but didn't lead to any comments about them being due for a revival!)

Feb 18, 11:02am

>64 edwinbcn: >65 thorold: Same here, I studied English Literature from 2007 to 2011 in Cologne and Wilkie Collins was not mentioned at all. I only heard about him later, and I still haven't read anything by him. There are a few other authors, too - Anthony Trollope, for example. I only learned about him online when I started reading book blogs etc.

Feb 18, 11:18am

>64 edwinbcn: >65 thorold: >66 MissBrangwen: I did an English Literature degree with the Open University finishing in 2017 and we did have The Woman in White as one if our set texts for the course on 'Thé Victorian Novel', albeit in the context of sensation literature.

Feb 18, 11:34am

I read The Woman in White and The Moonstone when I was in high school. My friend's mom was a librarian and often brought home books for us to read.

Feb 18, 12:21pm

>67 SandDune: Ah! I was twenty years ahead of you, at that time the only Victorian literature was on the Foundation Course, where it had to fight for space with Victorian music, painting, etc.

Feb 18, 12:48pm

I'm still trying to figure out how I managed to get an English degree while reading virtually nothing from the 19th century. It feels like a huge oversight. That said, I am able to pick up titles at my own pace and direction, and approach them without the looming specter of giving the "right" answers to get a passing grade, which is, I think, a net positive. It's easy to become overwhelmed, however.

Current Victorian reads include Far From the Madding Crowd (my introduction to Thomas Hardy) and Dombey and Son, which I am reading slowly with a group on Instagram (we're reading one part a week and will finish in mid-May).

Feb 18, 1:07pm

>69 thorold: I had a whole unit on 'The Victorian Novel'
My other units were:
The Arts Past & Present
Approaching Literature
20th Century Literature:texts & debates
Children's Literature
English Literature from Shakespeare to Austen

Feb 18, 4:21pm

>71 SandDune: That sounds good. I was a bit unlucky with my timing, several courses that sounded good expired before I got to them or were introduced too late to be any use to me, and there weren’t enough pure literature courses to make up the credits I needed. So I ended up doing:
Arts foundation course (Mid-Victorian Britain)
Literature in the modern world
Understanding music
Postcolonial literature

So I can claim to have got an English degree without ever needing to read Milton or Chaucer (of course, I have read both…). And I’m better off than my father, who did an Oxford English degree in the fifties, when they still took 1835 as the cut-off date when Eng Lit became too modern to be worthy of academic study…

Edited: Feb 21, 6:49pm

>63 thorold: It's time!

The Crime of Father Amaro by Jose Maria Eca de Queiros

I started Nan Flanagan's translation years ago and gave up, because I thought the book was dull and confusing, but in Margaret Jull Costa's new translation it is witty, satirical and lively. A rich benefactress encouraged Father Amaro to enter the priesthood, and now he resents his vow of celibacy, which he deems a ridiculous demand of a young, strong man. On Amaro's transfer to the provincial town of Leira, the local Canon, for his own convenience, arranges for Amaro to board with a widow and her daughter, an arrangement Amaro accepts, despite his misgivings. Inevitably, an attraction develops between the daughter, Amelia, and the priest. Amelia has lived amongst a crowd of hysterically pious women, and has little experience of the world. Amaro is led astray by the corrupt clerics of Leira, the Canon in particular.

First published in 1875, The Crime of Father Amaro is an example of naturalism and realism, admired at the time by Zola who compares de Queiros favourably to Flaubert. De Queiros was a Liberal, opposed to the alliance of Church and the aristocracy that had led Portugal into decay.

Highly recommended.

Feb 21, 4:27pm

>73 pamelad: I was talking about Los pazos de Ulloa actually, but the same thing obviously applies to Father Amaro too :-)

Feb 21, 6:51pm

>74 thorold: Yes, they complement each other.

Feb 22, 3:19pm

I started reading Bodies of Light by Sarah Moss which is set in Victorian Manchester, but I decided to abandon it. It is just so oppressive and sad and I could't bear reading it, it got to me too much. However, the style is fantastic and I wanted to write about it here in case anyone is looking for more recent literary fiction set in Victorian times and is not as sensitive to these kind of family topics as I am.
Sarah Moss seems to be a favourite of several members of Club Read - maybe I'll try another of her novels one day.

Edited: Mar 1, 9:36am

I completed one Victorian book in February: Linda Tressel by Anthony Trollope (1868). This was a very sad story, set in Nuremberg, that did not end well. One of my least favorite Trollopes.

I'm still working on an audiobook of David Copperfield and about half-way through The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. Am enjoying both.

Mar 1, 7:56pm

I've started New Grub Street. I had forgotten how wordy some of these Victorians can be! But it's gotten better now that it has switched from the first narrator to another character.

Mar 12, 1:04am

So quiet in the tavern. no postings for nearly 11 days?

The day before yesterday I finished reading Autobiographies, a slim volume with the collected autobiographical writings of Charles Darwin. In the Penguin edition they are preceded by a thoughtful introduction by Michael Neve.

Edited: Mar 12, 4:47pm

>79 edwinbcn: I was thinking the same thing.

Last month I read Villette, and posted a review on my thread this week: post 105

Wondering if there is a thread somewhere for these tavern reads?

Edited: Mar 12, 4:52pm

>80 SassyLassy: This is the thread for the Tavern reads - and about chatting about them and about anything Victorian related (or Victorian-adjunct)... so if you want to add your review/thoughts here, that's the place. :)

Unless it is one of the read-alongs which have their own threads (and even they are welcome here for quick notes and so on), everything is welcome here :)

Mar 12, 5:46pm

>81 AnnieMod: Great, thanks. I think it would be the place too.

Edited: Mar 12, 8:30pm

I'm still listening to Vanity Fair on audio. I am not sure what to make of Thackery's at times narrative tone. On one level he seems to want to satirize manners, the marriage-and-money market, etc. Fine and dandy. But his characters are unrelenting my awful--and getting worse--that at times you have to wonder if he isn't, at heart, trying g to parade his own moral superiority.

I know nothing about Thackery, and am avoiding looking into his life until done w the book. But this might be one if those works where knowledge of the author helps illuminate the work.

Mar 12, 11:31pm

>81 AnnieMod: Personally, I am not very happy about people posting about books from other countries but written during the Victorian era on this thread, for example Spanish or German literature. It doesn't make any sense.

Mar 13, 12:02am

>84 edwinbcn: When we discussed that last year, most people were in favor of not shutting them out and overdefining what is allowed. Neither did anyone complained when I posted the thread 2+ months ago - which invited them to post here. If the non Victorian (for whatever definition of the term we use) books start overwhelming the thread, we may split things a bit but the Victorians did not exist in isolation either - and ideas did move between languages and nations.

If you do not like those posts, just skip them and participate only in the chat about what you consider properly Victorian.

I’d rather have people talk about Victorian-adjacent than have an empty thread. So there is that.

Mar 13, 12:33pm

I've finished The Perpetual Curate by Margaret Oliphant. In the Virago group, we've been reading the Chronicles of Carlingford series, of which this is a part. I really enjoyed it. The plot moves along nicely, there's some good humor, exploration of church politics of the time, a bit of a mystery, societal conflict between the socio-economic classes, and a love story held back by lack of finances.

I think Oliphant deserves to be more widely read among the Victorians.

Mar 13, 12:42pm

>83 nohrt4me2: I don’t think Thackeray is trying to parade his own superiority, it’s more that he’s teasing his readers about the unrealistic expectations they have concerning the ways characters in novels are supposed to behave. Everyone in the book falls short in some way, except for the imagined reader he keeps turning round to address directly.

Thackeray did have a difficult life in a lot of ways — unhappy marriage, frustrated ambitions to be a painter, etc. — but I don’t think you need to know any of that to get the book. There are plenty of good biographies, e.g. the ones by Margaret Forster and John Carey.

Mar 13, 1:29pm

>87 thorold: Thanks. I guess I'm not clicking with it. I like the story, but find his narration charmless.

Mar 18, 7:29pm

Talking about the Victorians, that was the time when a lot of journals showed up (and most of them are findable online) - running a mix of serialized stories and articles. One of the popular ones was Chambers's Edinburgh Journal - which changed its name a few times but still remained in publication from 1832 to 1956 (at the time if its closure, only Blackwood’s Magazine was older than Chambers and still running (it started in 1817 and closed in 1980). It lost "Edinburgh" from its name when it moved to London in the 1850s - Blackwood remained in Edinburgh for its complete run. Links to digitized versions can be found here:

The reason I though of that one is because of an article by Arthur Conan Doyle from 1889 which got reviewed in a magazine this year. But as journals proliferated in the era, if you had never looked at one of those, pick a year and take a look at what was printed...

Mar 18, 10:06pm

>89 AnnieMod: that’s so cool. Thanks for the link.

Mar 24, 5:32pm

The North and South thread is up:

Mar 24, 6:36pm

And The Law and the Lady is up:

These installments are going to be the death of me (but they are fun to track when I cannot find them spelled out somewhere).

PS: has a LOT more journals and so on (not just Victorian). For this thread just the Victorian matter of course but in case someone did not follow to that from my link above, I will just leave it here.

Mar 31, 8:07pm

In March I read the following and enjoyed them all:

The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins (1868)
David Copperfield, Charles Dickens (1850)
The Perpetual Curate, Margaret Oliphant (1864)

Apr 3, 11:38am

Going to read some literature classics, maybe Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens or A Tale Of Two Cities.
Finished reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

Apr 4, 10:28am

I've just finished a random find that proved to be a classic bit of Victoriana, A yachting cruise in the Baltic (1863) by S R Graves, who turns out to have been a wealthy Liverpool shipowner, Mayor of Liverpool, MP, Commodore of the Royal Mersey Yacht Club, etc., etc.
One of those wonderful Victorian travel books in which tourism turns into something deadly serious, in between industrial espionage and a geography field trip, resulting in pages and pages of data about unexpectedly specific but totally irrelevant things, whether it's the sizes of sea-lice at different depths, the mortality rates of hospitals, or the dimensions of medieval churches. Bonus for royal-watchers: walk-on parts for Prince Alfred in his midshipman's uniform and Princess Alexandra of Denmark just before she made the mistake of her life and got engaged to the Prince of Wales.

Edited: Apr 21, 3:34pm

Just finished listening to Shirley (on Charlotte Brontë's 206th birthday, no less!). Not the greatest Brontë novel, by any means, but it does have a lot of good stuff in it, especially Shirley herself, who is a kind of mixture of Anne Lister and Mary Wollstonecraft. The feminist side is more interesting than what she has to say about the industrial unrest around 1812-1814, anyway.
Review in my thread.

Maybe I will have to re-read North and South after all now!

Apr 23, 10:58am

I had the silly idea of randomising the Wikipedia list of Victorian novels ( to pick something non-obvious as my next Victorian read, and it came up with Charles Auchester by Elizabeth Sara Sheppard. That certainly ticks the "non-obvious" box, and as it's apparently based on the life of Felix Mendelssohn, it sounds as though it should be interesting. Watch this space.

Apr 23, 3:28pm

>97 thorold: Great approach - certainly "non-obvious" to me. I have never heard of either the author or the book, so will indeed "watch this space". I've just finished a reread of Jude the Obscure and am in desperate need of something lighter. Actually, I suppose just about anything is lighter.

Apr 23, 4:04pm

>98 SassyLassy: Short of Dostoevsky, I think you’ll be fairly safe…

Charles A looks like fun, after a couple of chapters. Young Ms Sheppard is a bit heavy-handed with her pen, but the insider view of Victorian music and a Jewish family makes up for that.

Apr 23, 5:49pm

>99 thorold: Sounds interesting...I have put in a request for an interlibrary loan copy for Charles Auchester.

Apr 23, 5:50pm

>97 thorold: By the way, how did you "randomize" the list?

Apr 24, 12:27am

>100 kac522: >101 kac522: I seem to have started something :-)
I hope it’s not a disappointment. The book is available from Gutenberg, if your ILL doesn’t turn up in reasonable time.

I didn’t do anything very clever, I simply pasted all the titles into a spreadsheet and marked the ones I’d already read (about 40 of the 140), then added a random number column and sorted on that.

Edited: Apr 24, 12:35am

>102 thorold: ooooo....fancy....I was thinking more like closing your eyes and stabbing a finger at the screen....

I am interested in the story anyway. I'm just finishing re-reading Hardy's Under the Greenwood Tree and I'm fascinated by the "quire" plot; the love story seems an after thought.

Apr 24, 2:45am

>103 kac522: Closing eyes and jabbing a finger would certainly be more efficient! But I was curious about the list and how many of them I’d read. Obviously they don’t list all Victorian novels, only the ones that are sufficiently interesting in one way or another for someone to make a Wikipedia page. And a few on the list are ineligible for our purposes, e.g. because they are Australian.

Edited: Apr 24, 3:16am

>104 thorold: The Australian books are probably eligible because Australia was federated in 1901. Surprisingly, we were British subjects until 1949.

Apr 24, 3:20am

>105 pamelad: True, of course: I hadn’t fully registered what >1 AnnieMod: said about “British subjects”. So we can read For the term of his natural life after all. If I do get hooked on the Mendelssohn thing, I suppose I could try to finagle in Maurice Guest, which is only just outside the period…

Apr 25, 9:47am

>99 thorold: etc. — I finished Charles Auchester, there's a review in my thread. Full of teenage energy, and amusing to see how very much like Hogwarts Sheppard's imagined version of the Leipzig Conservatorium was, but not an unjustly overlooked classic.

May 7, 5:25pm

I have begun rereading Dracula through the email project Dracula Daily. I last read the novel back in high school. This time round, I'm reading in a really nontraditional way that will involve changing the order of some parts, as Dracula Daily goes in chronological order along the novel's timeline. There's also a group-read aspect, as nearly everyone I interact with on social media is also doing it, as is one of my closest friends.

So far it's been very interesting, and I'm curious to see how emphasizing the epistolary format and reading in timeline rather than original novel order will affect the reading experience.

Edited: May 20, 6:13pm

I'm reading Far From the Madding Crowd, and I'm so happy with it so far. It's my first Thomas Hardy novel, which is pretty exciting. I'll most likely read Tess of the D'urbervilles afterwards, which I think will be interesting. I haven't read much Victorian literature but I do have a fair number of them so I'll be reading more throughout the year.

I have plans to read The Woman in White in June with my partner. Neither of us have read it before and I'm quite excited :)

May 24, 12:53am

I finished reading John Ruskin's Sesame and lilies. Two lectures in April.

I am currently reading his autobiography, which I own in a 3-volume edition, part of a nineteenth-century collected works edition of 1899. I just finished reading volume 1: Praeterita Vol I: Outlines of Scenes and Thoughts Perhaps Worthy of Memory in My Past Life.

The generic title of Ruskin's autobiography is Praeterita. Extremely well-written and very enjoyable.

May 24, 5:48pm

Victorian Readalong: Q3: Nominations and voting had been up for a few days, closes at the end of the month:

Come tell us what you want to read :)

Edited: May 24, 8:00pm

I finished Far From the Madding Crowd and I really enjoyed it. I have some minor complaints about it but they are very minor. Overall I thought it was a great book and the themes were quite interesting. Hardy's prose is stunning as well. I also loved Bathsheba as a character, I think she's fantastic :)

I've started North and South, and also Tess of the D'urbervilles. I've read three chapters of North and South and I'm really enjoying it so far. Margaret Hale is such a cool character, and Elizabeth Gaskell's writing is smooth and so comforting to read :)