Tuesday 18 November 2014

100th Post: 100 Reasons to Read Victorian Literature

It’s my hundredth post as the Secret Victorianist and, to celebrate the occasion, I’m giving you 100 REASONS to read nineteenth-century literature.

 Grab a dusty ‘classic’ from your bookshelf, hotfoot it to your local charity shop or get downloading (for free!) from the Amazon Kindle store! And, most importantly, get reading to...

Learn the art of storytelling from some of the best writers in English
Pity governesses, wet nurses, nursery maids and dairymaids
Develop a fear of rail travel
Think ‘5000 a year’ is a lot of money
Discover all the gory details of decapitation 
Interpret your friends’ dreams (that’s definitely foreshadowing)
Cry – a lot (those Victorians sure knew how to mourn)
Impress people by your literary canonical know-how
Give your hair extensions some cultural/historical context
Be a pro at theological differences between Christian denominations
See the world through other people’s eyes
Get extra geeky about Dr Who 
Giggle at the use of the word ‘ejaculated’
Acquire a worrying taste for gin
Bemoan the loss of calling cards
Swat up on your horticultural knowledge 
Nail the perfect marriage proposal (there’s a lot of those)
Remember your own life probably isn’t tragic
Read far too late into the night
Bond with lovers of steampunk
Surprise others with your understanding of complex inheritance laws
Give thanks for modern divorce courts
Fear pregnancy and childbirth
Watch out for what not to do by analysing some of the worst writers in English
Expect all children to be sickly, prophetic or homicidal
Find butter making erotic (thanks, George Eliot)
Rate a 10-mile walk as a ‘gentle stroll’
Show off by knowing famous novels’ subtitles
Practise the art of seduction…in Latin
Gain a library of books which can double as doorstops
Appreciate the cost of keeping stables and a carriage
Want to walk to church on your wedding day (preferably across a heath)
Seek out secret passageways (and face bitter disappointment)
Envy the incredible dresses (N.B. you wouldn’t fit them anyway)
Fancy fictional characters
Know why a word is asterisked before flicking to the endnote
Recognise the importance of family
Yearn for after dinner port
Score top marks in this devilishly difficult Christmas Quiz 
Enjoy the incredible character names
Name your pets after said Victorian characters
Deem pineapples impressive
Lengthen your sentences
Expand your vocabulary
Fathom pre-decimal coinage
Set your heart on overly ambitious fancy dress costumes
Shudder at American vulgarities
Restore your faith in contemporary politicians (elections might be a little fairer now…)
Persist in practising a Tennysonian reading voice
Take hosting far too seriously
Produce some amazing neo-Victorian art or literature
Brush up your French (it isn’t always translated!)
Display these disturbing tendencies common among Victorian literature addicts
Overestimate your ability to empathise with your fellow mortals
Feel lucky if you ever end up in jail (trust me, the conditions could be much worse!)
Scare your friends with Gothic ghost stories
Sentimentalise Christmas
Distrust NELLY! (And other troublesome narrators)
Quote the best bits on Twitter (but run out of characters)
Be outraged at the derogatory use of the word ‘Victorian’
Worry far too much (and too early) about your own mortality
Improve your memory (those novels have A LOT of characters)
Top your English Lit classes with these killer tricks
Compete with your sisters to marry first
Regard cheating at cards as a heinous crime
Notch up your reading speed
Love and hate the French in equal measure
Avoid schemers who are set on taking your virginity 
Be delighted by spotting familiar London street names
View your cousins in a whole new light
Secretly identify as an extra Bronte sister
Follow the footsteps of these literary emigrants 
Reference obscure texts when joking with fellow victorianists
Steal witticisms from Wilde
Decipher the plot in weird adaptations 
Celebrate not being a servant
Value epigraphs
Long for the occasional anonymity of a veil 
Shout at characters in frustration (occasionally)
Defend the period from these unfair imputations 
Use obsolete slang
Do picnics properly
Teach yourself the art of patience (there can be a lot of digressions)
Recite poetry at appropriate moments (like James Bond’s M)
Consider Downton Abbey too modern
Hone your sense of etiquette
Decipher impenetrable dialects
Have quirky theories about Hollywood blockbusters
Pick up references in later literature
Make that University Challenge team by acing Victorian trivia
Aspire to send or receive a crossed letter
Perfect the art of using repetition in your writing 
Appreciate BBC costume dramas
Dream up new BBC costume dramas 
Possibly get a degree or three and…

Why do YOU read Victorian literature? Is my list exhaustive?

Let me know, here, on Facebook or by tweeting @SVictorianist!


  1. I read Victorian literature because it represents the True Good; the good that is apparently lost with the modern. Your list is wonderfully exhaustive and brilliant!