Sunday, November 30, 2014

20 Things You Should Know About Bram Stoker's Wife

Florence Stoker (2 November 1880)
Who was Bram Stoker's wife? Why should we care about her? Stoker wrote Dracula, surely that makes him the interesting one. Nope.
  1. Mrs. Stoker's friends called her Florrie.
  2. Florrie's middle names were: Anne Lemon. How can we not love someone named for such a delightful citrus fruit?
  3. Florrie was born Florence Anne Lemon Balcombe, the daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel James Balcombe of 1 Marino Crescent, Clontarf, and wife Phillippa Anne Marshall.
  4. Florrie's family were poor Irish Protestants.
    Sketch of Florrie
    by Oscar Wilde
  5. Florrie was Oscar Wilde's first love, and he was hers. She never really got over him.
  6. Florrie had to break up with Wilde when she got engaged to Stoker.
  7. Joseph Pearce writes that: "In Wilde's art, Florence Balcombe's absence had proved far more potent than her presence. He was fully aware of the paradox and learned the lesson it taught. Thereafter, the paradox of pain and the creativity of sorrow would permeate his life and his work."
  8. Florrie got married in Dublin in 1878.
  9. One of the things that Stoker and Henry Irving first bonded over was the fact they had both married women named "Florence."
  10. Their only child was born in 1879.
  11. After the birth of their son, Florrie's marriage to Stoker was platonic.
  12. To Bernard Partridge George du Maurier once said that the three most beautiful women he had seen were Mrs. Stillman, Mrs. John Hare, and Mrs. Bram Stoker.
  13. Florrie wanted to be an actress.
  14. There's evidence that Florrie made a stage debut 3 January 1881 because of a letter that Oscar wrote to Ellen Terry: "I send you some flowers - two crowns. Will you accept one of them, whichever you think will suit you best. The other - don't think me treacherous, Nellie - but the other please give to Florrie from yourself. I should like to think that she was wearing something of mine the first night she comes on the stage, that anything of mine should touch her. Of course if you think - but you won't think she will suspect? How could she? She thinks I never loved her, thinks I forget. My God how could I!"
  15. That year, the census recorded Florrie's occupation as an "artist." 
  16. Sadly, there's no evidence (that I can find) that Florrie continued acting, nor of any other art that she might have created.
  17. Florrie did, however, keep a painting Wilde made for her for the rest of her life, and always referred to him as "Poor O."
  18. The accomplishment history remembers her for was her attempt to destroy every copy of the film Nosferatu (1922) because it violate her copyright on the Dracula franchise.
  19. Florrie outlived her husband by 25 years, and wanted her ashes mixed with those of her husband. They weren't.
  20. When Florrie's son died in 1961, his ashes were added to his father's urn. Creepy?
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Sunday, November 23, 2014

1890s Literary Hostesses

The literary hostess is a figure, who pops up repeatedly in the biographies of all my 1890s writers. Married, or unmarried, she was usually, but not always a woman of means, who loved literature, and the arts. Her motivation for hosting the great writers of the day ranged from simple interest, to loving a particular writer, or even trying to advance her own writing career. A literary hostess might have also been an author in her own right, but she also helped to build the community of writers in London in the 1890s.

'A Five O'Clock Tea' (1893).
In his poem, "Slightly Foxed," William Plomer writes about the life of the husband of Gloria Jukes, an 1890s literary hostess.
Ignored in her lifetime, he paid for her fun
And enjoyed all the fuss. When she died he was done.
He sold up the house and retired from the scene
Where nobody noticed that he’d ever been.
His memoirs unwritten (though once he began ‘em)
He lives on a hundred and fifty per annum
And once in the day totters out for a stroll
To purchase the Times, two eggs and a roll.
Up to now he has paid for his pleasures and needs
With books he had saved and that everyone reads,
Signed copies presented by authors to Gloria
In the reign of King Edward and good Queen Victoria.
They brought in fair prices but came to an end,
Then Jukes was reduced to one book-loving friend [...]
Roger D. Sell accurately describes it as "a poem about the fickleness, bitchiness and transience of metropolitan literary circles." All of which are qualities the imagination, however unfairly, immediately transfers onto the literary hostess herself.

Louise Chandler Moulton
Louise Chandler Moulton was an American poet, writer, critic, and outstanding literary hostess. Willis J. Buckingham writes:
Few American women were more widely known as writers, and none was so conspicuous and active as a literary hostess, both at home and in England, as Louise Chandler Moulton. Living in each city for half the year, she presided over notable weekly salons in Boston and London for several decades. She knew everyone, from Longfellow and Emerson to Ezra Pound. Her poems, travel sketches, and literary letters, were widely admired. Her own verse was superficially like Dickinson's in being highly personal, brief, and frequently concerned with unfulfilled love and the transience of life. In its graceful, faded diction and utterly conventional pressed-rose melancholy, her verse was eminently suited to popular taste.
The life of the literary hostess, and author, as Moulton lived it, illustrates how a life of letters in the 1890s needn't be a solitary life at all. Their writers groups were fine salons in major cities, organized by women.

Some of these women have also been characterized as the "Grand Dames" of the 1890s, rich women, who served as patrons of the arts, like Annie Horniman and Lady Ottoline Morrell.

Lady Ottoline Morrell (1912)
Lady Ottoline didn't really become a literary hostess until after the turn of the century, but I couldn't resist including her sassy picture here, and taking a moment to note the kind of influence a woman like her could have on literature. She had an open marriage, and carried on many love affairs, while caring for the many children her husband had through his extramarital relationships. Among many others, her lovers included the philosopher Bertrand Russel, and the historian Roger Fry. Lady Ottoline is said to have been immortalized in literature through the characters of Mrs Bidlake in Aldous Huxley's Point Counter Point, Hermione Roddice in H.D. Lawrence's Women in Love, and as Lady Chatterly, among many others.

Lady Jane Francesca Agnes Wilde a.k.a. 'Speranza.'
Oscar Wilde was raised by one of the greatest literary hostesses of the late-nineteenth century, though his mother's salons began to peter off in the 1890s, due to her old age and failing health. It's said that once someone asked Speranza how she attracted such interesting people to her salons, and she replied: "By interesting them, of course!"

Speranza's salons were said to be crammed full of famous people from the time her sons were children. She entertained celebrities and writers by candlelight, and liked to keep the atmosphere dark because it encourage "bawdy talk."

Speranza is another one of those literary hostesses, who was an incredibly successful author in her own right. At one point in her life, she was considered Ireland's National Poetess.

I once called Hall Caine's wife, Mary, an unlikely archivist, but the truth seems to be that the women of London's literary circle in the 1890s were the keeper of records, and the organizers of events, as much, if not more than, their male counterparts. Perhaps, for some, it was because they needed these literary connections to get their work published, but so did the male writers. That's why so many attended their parties and salons.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

1890s Male Body Image

Belgian painter Henri Evenepoel's 1898 selfie.
Victorian sexuality can be approached from so many directions, including (but not limited to) body image, sexual orientation, masturbation, prostitution, sex education, disease, religion, marriage, and pornography. All of these aspects overlap and influence each other, creating tremendous diversity in attitudes toward sex at any given point in history. Each of these factors provide the context in which sexual identities are created. This post is the first in a series of posts that seek to explore that context from the 1890s with an emphasis on male sexuality.

Body Image

Facial hair is the first thing that comes to mind about how Victorian men looked. Men styled their facial hair as elaborately as women styled their hair. As it is today, hair was important to Victorian men, and the market knew it. Men could buy elixirs to prevent or cure hair loss, to make their mustaches and beards grow faster, or to hold them in place. Special tea cups and spoons were designed for mustaches. Contraptions were being invented to curl a man's mustache; others were intended to hold it in place after it was curled. Lead combs promised to get rid of grey hairs by dying them black.

From the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 1884.
I've already begun to address body image, in my post on the perfect man. While women's fashion was beginning to realize that women's clothing was so constrictive that women couldn't move, Eugen Sandow's role as the perfect man illustrated that a man's ideal body emphasized function, as well as form. The form of a man's body indicated the feats of strength he was capable of performing.

Eugen Sandow's feats of strength.
For men who wanted to perform feats of
strength, but didn't believe they could do it.
Strong women, like Mary Arniotis, existed, but Arniotis was the exception. She was born into a circus family, and little is know about her life, but her most famous photo is done in the style of the strong man.

Mary Arniotis in the 1890s.
Sandy became the founder of body building as a sport, and based the ideal measurements for a male body on classical statues, often posing for cabinet cards as if he were a statue himself.

Clearly, Sandow didn't invent the 'classical' male form. In the late-18th and early-19th centuries, men wore corsets to artificially achieve the ideal shape. By the 1890s, they were using electric belts, though the tone in advertisements for these belts emphasize fitness, health, and as a cure for "weakness."

Ad dated 5 January 1900.
Exercise, the way we do it at a gym, increased in popularity by the 1890s, especially at spas, like the Zander Institute in Stolkhome, where wealthy Londoners could go to get healthy by using machines like these:

All three of these images are from the Zander Institute.
These institutions of health treated everything that ailed the 1890s Londoner, including obesity.

Doctors, who studied obesity in the 19th-century, were already beginning to acknowledge the problem of medical professionals refusing to treat obese patients. Doctors, like Horace Dobell, Isaac Burney Yeo, and John Ayrton Paris were already making the connection between obesity, diet, and a sedentary lifestyle. As early as 1825, those struggling with their weight were warned against trusting fad diets, but people were still doing whatever it took to get the ideal shape, even when their efforts were in vain.

Smartly dressed fat man sitting in a chair.
Another aspect of body image is fashion. For as long as it has existed, fashion has played an important part in human sexuality. In the late-19th century, women's accessories were fetishized and used for flirting, and cross-dressing was something loads of middle-class Victorians wanted to do in front of a camera.

If he couldn't lift a family of six, a gentleman could still demonstrate his ability through his status, indicated through the number and quality of coats he wore. A man's coat could indicate his interests, his social status, and his ability to provide for a family. As illustrated by the photos above, clothing played a huge role in gender, and they knew it!

Cross dressing happened in literature, and theatre, where the clothes defined the person's gender. In stories, a woman could put on her brother's clothes, and make everyone think she was him.

So it was the clothes and ability to pick things up that made the man in terms of body image. Soon, I will follow up with a post about who Victorian men wanted to 'pick up.'

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Images of London in 1899

On the last day of the 19th century, a large stone at Stonehenge fell over. The collapse changed people's attitudes toward Stonehenge, as people started thinking of it as a national treasure.

Repairing Stonehenge in 1900
The falling of the stone, to me, represents the need that Victorians created in us to preserve so many aspects of our lives "for prosperity's sake." Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone for the Victoria and Albert Museum on 17 May 1899, as her last public engagement.

Laying the foundation stone of the Victoria & Albert Museum at South Kensington:
the Queen's arrival at the pavilion. The Illustrated London News (20 May 1899)
The National Trust acquired Wicken Fen, the nation's oldest wetland national reserve.

In transportation news, the first motorized bus was run by the Motor Traction Company between Kensington and Victoria in 1899. Horses were expensive to feed and care for, needing attention round the clock, while they worked only a small proportion of the day. There were many experiments in steam, with batteries and petrol engines, as engineers tried to find the most economic and reliable way of replacing horses.

Without further ado, pictures of London in 1899.

Motor Traction Company 1899. 
If London Were Like Venice: Oh! That It Were’
From Harmsworth’s Magazine (The London Magazine)
Click here for more pictures from this article.
Children in a London alley (1899)
John Atkinson Grimshaw Paintings, The Strand, London, 1899.
Beestar Motor Tricycle with Gun replacing the front forks. London 1899.
The Tower of London (1899)
Chess Club, London 1899.
Mile End Road, June 1899.
The Marylebone Street Station of the Great Central Railway, 1899.
London, 1899, by LĂ©onard Misonne
London, 1899, by LĂ©onard Misonne
The Royal College of Surgeons' Museum circa 1899.
London 1899
Montgomery and Stone at the Palace Theatre 1899
Lillie Langtry 1899
Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet
Princess's Theatre, London, 1899. 
Elsie Maitland & George Kirby's Wedding 1899
The London School of Tropical Medicine, Royal Albert Dock, 1899. 
Rear view over the roof of Temple station in 1899
Program for the laying of the Foundation Stone
at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
A bird shop on Neal Street (1899)
A "lady" photographed by Millon E. Mallett,
258 Brixton Hill, S.W. London 1899
Aldgate from Mitre Street 1899
15 & 16 Stratton Street, Piccadilly, London 1899.
Nina Boucicault, 11 February 1899
A November Morning
the Embankment, London
by Harold W. Lane (1899).
A stereoscopic image of Holborn Viaduct 1899.
Family tea party at Royal Holloway 1899.
Samuel (Mark Twain) and Olivia Clemens lounging:
taking the air in London 1899.
Dr. Bucke seated in the Medical Superintendent's office of
the London Asylum for the Insane (1899)
Want more? Go further back to Images of London in 1889, 1890, 1891, 1892,1893,1894, 1895, 18961897, and 1898!

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