How To Live Like A Victorian, Right Now

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Brush your teeth with soot, stay away from water, wear a steel corset.  We’ll talk with the author of “How to Be A Victorian.” Strange ways from another age.

Frederick Daniel Hardy's "Baby's Birthday" (1867) shows a typical Victorian English family at home. (Wikimedia / Creative Commons)
Frederick Daniel Hardy's "Baby's Birthday" (1867) shows a typical Victorian English family at home. (Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

Imagine a world of teeming forests and seas, all organic farming, no fossil fuels belching on the highway.  Horses for all.  And boom, you're in the Victorian Age.  We talk about Victorian mores and manners.  Top hats, crinoline skirts, corsets and gaslight.  What was it like to really live that life?  In that age?  British historian Ruth Goodman has done it.  Recreated the smallest elements of Victorian life, from the washstand to the workplace to the bedroom.  She lets you feel what it was to be there.  Live there.  With the smoke and the soot and the smells.  This hour On Point:  How to be a Victorian.
-- Tom Ashbrook


Ruth Goodman, historian and author of the new book, "How To Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life." Presenter on many BBC documentary programs, including "Victorian Farm," "Victorian Pharmacy" and "Wartime Farm."

From Tom’s Reading List

The Wall Street Journal: Book Review: ‘How to Be a Victorian” by Ruth Goodman — "Ms. Goodman’s fascination with the objects of the past doesn’t lead her to fetishize or romanticize them. She is admirably matter-of-fact in dealing with those areas of life that people often find disgusting (sanitary napkins) or salacious (condoms). Her examples remind us that old and new solutions to problems often coexist for a long time."

The Guardian: How to be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman - review -- "Is historical re-enactment a research technique or a party game? A way of occupying the sensory world of our ancestors – or an excuse for frustrated moderns to conduct themselves in a way they would not dare attempt in normal trousers? Ruth Goodman is in the first camp and has a CV to prove it. She has separated curds and whey like Tess Durbeyfield, handled the chemical stimulants that roared through the brain of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, overturned an Edwardian tractor and dug for victory against the Nazis – all without troubling the fabric of the space-time continuum."

Seattle Times: Round the Clock in 19th-Century Style -- "Remember that old saying about not knowing a person until you’ve walked a mile in her shoes? Author Ruth Goodman has done that and then some. She’s walked in the shoes, corsets, dresses and nightgowns of the Victorian woman. She’s eschewed daily showers and power tools for long stretches of time. Goodman is, essentially, a time machine."


Read An Excerpt Of "How To Be A Victorian" By Ruth Goodman

This program aired on January 26, 2015.


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