Thursday, 11 December 2014

Make-Up During the Victorian Period!

Expectations on the appearance of women have been prominent throughout history. This is very true during the Victorian period. In this post, I am going to look at the make up and beauty trends throughout the period and how this has impacted today’s society. 
During this period, garish and extreme make up was only really worn by prostitutes and actresses, as it was seen as unladylike and promiscuous. Queen Victoria “denounced painted faces as vulgar”  (Fleming) showing how unacceptable is was to be seen in a lot of make up. However, despite it being seen as “vulgar” there were still a lot of expectations on women to appear in a certain way. Cosmetic products were expensive, so a lot of women took to making their own (I have linked recipes to products below). A lot of the recipes call for oil and even wax to be applied to the skin. Nicole James writes: “In the Victorian era, a pale complexion was a symbol of fortune because it meant that the woman was able to afford not to spend hours working outdoors. Some … used a white mineral powder on their faces to achieve this look” (James). She continues talking about how today, a tanned complexion is much preferred by many women and they extent they go to to achieve this, including endangering their own health. Despite the fact the beauty standard is completely different, the extent women go to to achieve a standard is the same. This says a lot about the predicament of women’s beauty standards. The ingredients and products used  in the beauty routine of Victorian women is very daunting, Fleming notes that: “ladies of leisure would … daub castor oil onto their eyelids and lashes. To hide freckles, blotches, or redness, they could dust on rice powder, zinc oxide … On their lips they might apply a clear pomade for a shine and to provide protection from the elements, and some contained dye to discreetly accentuate the lip colour, crushed flowers and carmine (made from the female cochineal insect) being favoured” (Fleming). 

Despite the opinion on cosmetics being less than favourable, the view on hair was utterly different.  In the three portraits above, all women possess a minimal make up look but all have long  and luxurious hair. Hair was seen as the “ a woman’s … glory” (beautifulwithbrains). Even today, a lot of women still have possess the beliefs  and views about their own hair which they share with the victorians. Many women would never cut their hair as it was an ideal of femininity to have long hair. A product that Victorian women did use that still many, many women use today, is hair extensions. They used false hair to make it look fuller, this was a sign of health and showed that they were the ideal female. It is also notable that in the Victorian period, men had started wearing their hair shorter than had in the past, hence why women wanted theirs longer. The styles the hair was usually worn in is also important. The hair was usually tamed in some way: “Hair was usually pulled back in chignons and buns, and sometimes long, gentle curls were let loose at the back or at the sides of the face to emphasise it (beautifulwithbrains). In comparison to style with now, a variation of these style is still common. A chignon is still a common formal hair do showing that this has had an impact on what modern society believe is stylish. Especially in the last few years, gentle curls, which were deemed high fashion in the Victorian period, have made a come back and show how the Victorian era has timeless styles which still are  popular two centuries later. 
Whereas most women in the victorian era strived for a minimalistic look, which could even convince their now husbands they had no make up on (Loepsie), there was a section of society where make up was key to how they made their livings. Prostitution was rife during the 19th century. Make up for the Victorian’s signified that the women who wore it was impure and improper, hence why actresses and prostitutes where the only ones who wore make up. Some upper class women even went as fair to fill in dark circles under the eye, thus to appear even more pale and lacking make up. In the picture showing a modern interpretation of a Victorian’s prostitutes make up, despite the pale skin, the brows are filled in, which is actually something the upper classes also did, however not to the extent that it is done in this picture. The lips and cheeks are both reddened to appear more outrageous and the eyes are lined. This look completely opposes what the majority of victorian women strived for.  
In conclusion, the ways in which Victorian beauty and style has effected our modern day standards is immense. Often the minimal make up look is seen on catwalks and is often strived for among beauty gurus and make up artists alike. The history of cosmetics comments: “Victorian style that arose in 19th century brought the cosmetic-centric fashion that demanded that all “ladies” must present themselves as beautiful and fragile, with elaborate clothes and precisely defined facial features. For that purposes, eye shadows, lipsticks, nail polish and other products started gaining traction” (history of cosmetics). The founding of these products has lead to the wide expanse of products which many of us carry in bags every single day. So from an era were make up is seen as “vulgar”, it really is incredible that we ended up being so heavily influenced by them. 


Beautiful with Brains. ‘Beauty in the Victorian Era’ (2010): 
Fleming, R.S. ‘Early Victorian make up; Cosmetics and Embellishments’ (2012)
Fleming, R.S. ‘Victorian Make up Recipes; Powders, lip salves, creams & other cosmetics of the 1800’s’ (2014) 
History of cosmetics. ‘Cosmetics History and Facts’. 
James, N. ‘Society’s influence on the perception of Beauty’. Essex: University of Essex (2013) (James) 
Loepsie. ‘Makeup History: 19th century (Victorian era)’. (2012): 

The Life of Orphans....


Tom, Coal Miner, Victorian Illustration, 19th Century Orphan Boy Watercolor Portrait Art Print (6 x 8)
Orphan boy working as a coal
Portrait of an orphan girl
In Victorian literature, orphans play a prominent part in these texts. They appear in most Victorian literature and are written about by many famous writers in this period, such as Dickens and the Bronte sisters. The descriptions of orphans in these texts which tell their story are the only historical sources that people have to rely on as there is no other written evidence.

The word ‘orphan’ is used to describe when one or both parents die. However, ‘orphan’ was also used by prostitutes as a way of ‘eliciting sympathy as well as closing off one’s past to unwelcome middle-class scrutiny’. When parents had died, there were few choices for the child left behind in accordance to their social status. There was adoption by close relatives, neighbours or couples with no children; educational facilities such as boarding schools paid for by a relative; or orphanages. If none of these choices worked out for the child, then they would have a further two choices: either become a criminal or beg for money on the street as well as doing menial jobs such as working in a workhouse. However, if an orphan was considered middle class, they would not have to go through as many transitions as a lower class orphan, as they are ‘figures who by virtue of their class position are the most likely to be recuperated.’

Victorian mother or governess teaching children (1874 illustration) Royalty Free Stock Photo
A governess
Not all of these options were available to them and the decisions were not up to them. There were a few factors that would impact the final decision: the most important factor being social status. On top of that, there were some rules that would have to be followed. For example, if a middle class couple had chosen to adopt a lower class orphan, then the child would be treated differently as they would still be seen as lower class. This is what had happened to Jane in Jane Eyre. Her aunt had chosen to take her frustrations out on Jane and had always chosen her own children over Jane, as she had seen her as a burden as she had promised her husband that she would look after Jane when he was on his death bed. When she couldn’t look after her, she had chosen to send her to a boarding school, which would mean that she would not be responsible for her anymore as the responsibility of her welfare would fall into in the hands of the school. After she had finished, she would be 17 which would mean that she would be considered an adult and old enough to work and earn her own money. When looking at the narrative from this point of view, Jane was more fortunate than other orphan children as she had the opportunity to go to school and work afterwards as a governess, an option that is not always possible for orphans who have no choice but to suffer hardship for the rest of their lives.

Orphans had turned to crime when they had no family and/or money. This would also happen when they were not adopted, put into education or orphanages. Statistics have shown that 60% of criminals in Victorian England were orphans. This depiction of child criminals can be seen in Dickens’ Oliver Twist. This text shows its readers the sort of life orphans had led when exposed to crime. This text shows all the dangerous things that an orphan child is exposed to when their welfare is put into the wrong hands. He was surrounded by people who had preyed on him and other orphans who had suffered from misfortunate circumstances and were used by criminals to benefit themselves, like Fagin. He was responsible for the welfare of the children in his care but decided to take advantage of their innocence and put their lives in danger. However, in the end, Fagin and his associates are stopped and Oliver is adopted by the benefactor of the so-called orphanage ran by Fagin and the criminals.

An orphanage for boys
Both texts may be seen to romanticise the life of orphans by making them go through hardship for a little while in the narrative and at the end allowing then to get their ‘happy ever after’ by either marrying the love of their life or getting adopted by a person of a higher social status and being accepted into their family. This doesn’t seem to be displaying the right depiction of orphans’ lives. However, looking at Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights may show depict a more realistic life that orphans face through the character of Heathcliff. He is described as a ‘dirty, ragged, black-haired child’ who was taken in by Mr Earnshaw, suggesting that he is an orphan. He goes through the hardship of suffering at the hands of Hindley and Cathy and being treated differently. He uses all of this to his advantage when he takes Wuthering Heights from Hindley and makes people suffer as revenge for him being mistreated.

However, as there are no sources except for texts such as these, there is no way of knowing how accurate these texts can be viewed as. But as there are many similar occurrences in such texts, we can  be rest assured that some of the information can be taken as accurate.

Walkowitz, Judith.R. Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class, and the State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1980. Print
Peters, Laura. Orphan Texts. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 2000. Print.
Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. Harmondsworth: Pengiun Books. 1978. Print. 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Representations of Animals in the Victorian era

The Victorians held very conflicting ideas towards the purpose of animals. They had sentiment towards household pets and admired the majesty of exotic creatures, yet, hunting and taxidermy was extremely popular. At the same time, there existed a unique type of respect between the victorians and their animals, as connections between race, gender, class, sex, violence and social relationships began to proliferate. There also existed explorations between animals as figures of racial difference, social marginality, loss of identity and exploitation of women.   

The bird, for example was symbolic of the victorian female. In victorian art you will find a lot of paintings representing nature and particularly, birds amongst nests or dainty floral settings. The colours were often vibrant and the style very feminine, as if the birds were glamourised. 

Not to mention, many paintings depicted birds nestling in their nests and feeding their chicks, thus representative of a woman’s maternal nature. 

The Physical representation of femininity through birds was dominant throughout women’s fashion, for example, with feathers. The more women’s hats became increasingly bigger and more opulent, so did the issues regarding females become larger. Behind the established element of aristocratic dress, there existed a dark side to fashion, as women’s oppression settled deep into the victorian values. The conventional victorian female was exampled through the use of animal representation in fashion, art and literature.

The Yellow Wallpaper is, for example, a renowned victorian novel written by Charlotte Gilman, a woman considered unorthodox for her lifestyle within the 1800s. Within the novel Gilman expresses the pain felt by many victorian women, as they were suppressed everyday by their husbands, house and responsibilities. In other words, victorian women were domestically encaged.  Birds were often kept as household pets, couped in cages, often quite luxurious and spacious. Though, despite resembling a miniature palace, the household bird within a cage is symbolic towards the patriarchal suppression of women within their own homes. Whether it was politics, sport or a mere desire to express opinions, women were not allowed to venture further than their own home, similar to the way a bird cannot fly far in a cage.  

In The Yellow Wallpaper, the un-named protagonist paces the room she is locked in muttering about the wallpaper:

“At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candlelight, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern, I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be.” (764)

Here the narrator identifies the pattern within the wallpaper as if it is a prison, and that a woman exists inside the prison. The mention of twilight allows us to depict the narrator’s insanity, as it is a time of night that is often related to the maddening or abnormal. Therefore, we can assume that the narrator is indeed insane. The further she loses her sense through her suppression, the close she is to realising that the maddening woman in the wallpaper is a reflection of herself losing her mind.

During the victorian era, India had been the crown jewel of the british empire. With a growing obsession for their exotic culture and with queen Victoria’s regular enquiries and international visits, India had become an important part of the victorian era. Therefore, a lot of political representations were demonstrated through the use of exotic animals.

In 1857, Punch published this cartoon image in response to the indian rebellion. After the decline of british control within india and a profound rise in violence, the british searched for justification in their own moral terms, from the indians who raped and murdered british women, children and men within India. Therefore, propaganda was released throughout Britain to calm down the public’s outrage. Note the depiction of England as a lion and India as the bengal tiger. Even though both animals are equal in size and stamina, Britain is still symbolised as the dominant force, considering it is the lion who is pouncing onto the tiger. This cartoon gives the impression that Britain is ready to crush and sustain the rebellion, despite the fact that the rebellion was only sustained because large numbers of indian troops remained loyal to the empire, not because of Britain’s strength.

A very famous author who was prominent at this period of the victorian era was Rudyard Kipling, who was born into british India and wrote a series of children’s stories about adventures within the exotic land. His most successful short story, The Jungle Book, is still famous today. Through Kipling’s the Victorians were exposed to an exotic world that was much more exciting than their own westernised lifestyles. However, Kipling also exposed a lot of issues associating to moral and politics within the Victorian era, through the use of symbolism and animal imagery. From this passage we can summarise Kipling’s ideas towards insanity:

"Even the tiger runs and hides when little Tabaqui goes mad, for madness is the most disgraceful thing that can overtake a wild creature." pg. 1

In this quote, Kipling creates a very intellectual connection between humans and animals, as  Tabaqui the jackal is said to have ‘gone mad’, a quality that would have been primarily associated with humans. Alike to the female narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper, both character’s are being condemned negatively through their capacity to remain sane. By doing this, Kipling indirectly demonstrates the similarities between human emotions and animal codings regarding their emotions. There existed major anxiety towards the idea of insanity existing in the victorian era, as a result, the manner in which Kipling has deemed insanity ‘disgraceful’ for an animal allows the  Victorian audience to consider how much more worse it must be to be insane as a human, therefore, exposing the pain many felt.

                                      Queen Victoria and Sharp at Balmoral in 1867.

The most beloved animal in victorian England  was without a doubt the dog. The victorians adored dogs, which were by far the most popular domestic pet of the era, considerably due to the fact queen Victoria herself owned and highly respected her animals.  

Both merchant class and the aristocratic admired the nature of dogs, no home was complete in England without one. This, therefore, allowed canine traits such as loyalty and compassion to combine into the everyday culture of the 19th century. For example, music sheets dedicated to stories of heroic dogs existed, suggesting that even the artistic british culture considered canine traits to be admirable and positive. People had their portraits made with their dogs or, if they did not own one, with a “prop” dog, for canines were a symbol of wealth and status. 

Dogs were also used as a fashion statement, particularly toy breeds. These tiny dogs went      everywhere with their lady owners and were cared for like any other human member of the household. His well dressed, fur-clad lady has a clear affection for her pug, who himself is so contented, he has his eyes closed as she holds him. As smartly dressed as his owner, the Pug wears a studded leather collar with a little bell.

Victorian audiences were also fascinated in the connections that could be forged between animals and human beings. Such magazine cartoons, as shown on the left, of dogs representing their owner’s personalities were typical, as it was thought that the victorian’s pets were replicas of themselves. This can be seen in the classic victorian novel Oliver Twist, as the relationship between Sikes and his dog Bull’s-eye is seen to be almost familial:

He leaned his back against a bank, and felt that it stood above him, visibly out against the cold night sky. He threw himself upon the road—on his back upon the roadAt his head it stood, silent, erect, and still—a living grave-stone,  with its epitaph in blood. Let no man talk of murderers escaping justice, and hint that Providence must sleep. There were twenty score of violent deaths in one long minute of that agony of fear.”  (page 569)

After murdering Nancy, Sikes flees London, only to find that his conscience will not let him escape. This passage, from Chapter 48, embodies the idea that a guilty conscience is its own punishment, worse than any that the law can assign. The entire account of Sikes’s flight is also among the most psychologically sophisticated passages in the novel. Up until this point, Sikes has been a pure villain. In his guilt, however, he becomes more realistically human. We probably cannot sympathise with Sikes, but, in this chapter, we do see the world through his wretched eyes. Moreover, Dickens’s vivid descriptions allow us to experience Sikes’s sensation of being hunted, by both external and more horrifying internal pursuers.

                                                  Young Elizabeth with her Corgi

Overall, the dog as a pet has been the most adored animal throughout the whole of England spanning over centuries. They were the accustomed favourite companion or family households, prop for the aristocrats and positive representation of the British population’s animalistic nature. As is clearly shown above, even  queen Elizabeth shares the conventional admiration towards her Corgis.

Works Cited:

Aurora, R. (2013) Dogs in Victorian Times. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14). 

Copans, D. (2012) Summary of Black Beauty. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14). 

Culmer, N. (2009) Rudyard Kipling. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14).

Khanna, K. (2010) Shades of Yellow: Representations of Change and Decay in Victorian Literature. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14). 

Morse, D. and Danahay, M. (2007) Victorian Animal Dreams. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14). 

Victoria & Albert Museum (2001) Nature. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14). 

Images Cited: (2014) Victorian Days. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14). 

Darsie, F. (2013) Victorian British Paintings. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14). 

Diamond, W. (2014) Animal Fair. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14). 

Dixon, R. (2011) Vintage Dog Photography - in Pictures. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14). 

Landow, G. (2004) The Victorian Web. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14). 

Lauren (2014) Curly Coat in the Snow. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14). 

Lauren (2013) The Much Loved Pug. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14). 

Piersall, W. (2014) Vintage Fangirl. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14). 

Piersall, W. (2014) Vintage Fangirl. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14). 

Punch Magazine Cartoon Archive (2014) Punch. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14). 

Tetens, K. (2009) The Victorian Peeper. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14). 

The Amateur Casual (2011) The Victorianist. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14). 

The Dusty Victorian (2011) Victorian Dogs. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14). 

The Gentle Author (2012) Spitalfields Life. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14). 

Watson, K. (2013) The Graphics Fairy. Available at: (Accessed: 5/12/14). 

A Study of John Ruskin

A Study of John Ruskin

John Ruskin, 1863

 After an evening at my local cinema watching Mike Leigh’s new film ‘Mr. Turner’ ‘starring the likes of Timothy Spall as the lead J.M.W. Turner, I returned home intrigued about the biopic I had just witnessed, and the characters seen. In particular the character of John Ruskin had intrigued me. Although his appearance on screen was fleeting, his pronounced lisp, eccentric ways and apparent reverence of Turner had me captivated. Partly this was due to the fact I had already come across John Ruskin – and his work ‘The Stones of Venice’ but had not encountered him as young man or indeed I knew nothing of him but his work concerning architecture and art criticism. The character presented on screen seemed very different from his style of work and nothing like one would have imagined. It was entertaining to be presented suddenly with the figure of Ruskin in his brown overcoat and cornflower blue necktie – I was later to find out was somewhat his trademark as he felt that particular shade of blue complimented his eyes well. However on researching the film after the screening it became apparent through a particular article written by Philip Hoare for ‘The Guardian online’, that Ruskin had been crudely misrepresented -“Ruskin, played by Joshua McGuire, is a simpering Blackadderish caricature of an art intellectual: a lisping, red-headed, salon fop.” Hoare’s reveal that the character of Ruskin presented on screen in ‘Mr. Turner’ was indeed nothing like the man himself only intrigued me further. I now wished find out who Ruskin was, if not this “lisping, red-headed, salon fop”(Hoare) then who?

Ruskin's painting of
 Christ Church college, Oxford
John Ruskin born to Margaret and John James Ruskin on the 8th of February 1819 (only a few months before Queen Victoria herself was born).  An only child, Ruskin grew up with his strict Evangelical mother and a father who was a successful wine merchant and a notable art lover. Although being pushed towards a life as an Anglican Bishop by his mother Margaret, Ruskin instead pursued the intellectual, taking up writing poetry and deciding to study at Oxford University. Ruskin started his time at Christ Church college in 1836, but graduated late in 1842 due to a bout of illness, thought to be consumption (now known more commonly as Tuberculosis). During his time at Oxford Ruskin won the New Prize for poetry and the same year as his departure he began to write the first volume of  ‘Modern Painters’ “
after reviewers of the annual Royal Academy exhibition had again savagely treated Turner's works” (George P. Landow)

 John Ruskin and Euphemia Chalmers Gray were wed on the 10th of April 1848. This could be described as a strange union at best. Although being married seven years, and Ruskin seemingly fondly writing 'Effie' a fairytale entitled, 'The King of the Golden River' their marriage ended in an annulment upon the grounds of non-consummation. The discussion of why their marriage was never consummated caused great controversy and although a heavily discussed topic, still has no definite answer. Instead there are only theories as to why Ruskin and Gray's marriage ended in failure. One conjecture was that Ruskin found Effie sexually repellent- arguing that the sight of her pre pubescent body, and in particular her pubic hair, rendered him impotent. This apparent revulsion is argued to be due to his fascination of classical sculpture and their smooth marble bodies. However Hoare argues that this is an unfair slight on Ruskin. He believes that Effie married Ruskin only to "forestall her father's bankruptcy" and "Ruskin – a rigorous Christian and idealist – felt anxious and subconsciously betrayed by the realisation that his love for Effie was a one-sided affair. For him, there simply could be no sexual consummation without the moral exchange of love. Anything else would have been dishonest. And when Effie sued for annulment on grounds of his impotency, Ruskin was too gentlemanly to argue."(Hoare) 

 Ruskin suffered from various nervous breakdowns eventually culminating in his insanity. The 'last straw' as they say was his love affair with Rose La Touche, which much like his marriage to Effie, was to end in disaster. Ruskin fell in love with Rose when he was in his forties and her scarcely ten years old. Though waiting for her to come of age her parents were still horrified by this prospect. Banned from ever seeing her Ruskin took drastic measures to ensure he did, at points chasing"...her carriage through London, [and even] confronting her in the Royal Academy [...] handing her a forbidden love letter."(Hoare) However Rose died aged 24, psychiatrically disturbed and suffering from anaemia. Ruskin's grief led him to hire mediums to try to contact her spirit. His insanity grew steadily worse, ending with him believing that him and Rose had indeed been wed, with Joan of Arc as their bridesmaid.

A Study of a Kingfisher, John Ruskin.

 Although Ruskin's story ended in tragedy, with him eventually passing away on the 20th of January 1900, his legacy lives on. Not only through his students at Oxford University where he taught - his students included the likes of Oscar Wilde- but also through his art criticism, which is still widely read and appreciated today. Ruskin also helped form artists of his era, for instance his praise of Turner, and helped to shape the artists and art critics of today. Not only did he do so through his volumes of critical work, but his own extraordinary paintings and drawings some of which can be seen hanging in The Tate, London. His work on architecture also helped to shape Victorian England, bringing about a gothic revival. His influence on the arts seems to be as steadfast as the Oxford College now founded in his name.

Bibliography: (Philip Hoare) (George P. Landow)