- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (4 Nov. 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0571206638
- ISBN-13: 978-0571206636
- Product Dimensions: 12.5 x 2 x 20 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 107,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Inventing the Victorians Paperback – 4 Nov 2002
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Matthew Sweet's Inventing the Victorians sets out to rescue the Victorians from their prudish and stuffy reputation. A century after Queen Victoria's death there is a scramble to re-evaluate and explode many of the myths attached to Victorian Britain which started with Lytton Strachey's Eminent Victorians (1913) and have been cultivated ever since by assorted Freudian analysts, feminists, strait-laced historians, political spin-doctors (remember Margaret Thatcher's "Victorian values") and lazy media types. Through a 13-chapter tour of the wilder side of 19th-century Britain--theatrical spectacle, contact ads, WT Stead's investigative journalism, opium dens, etiquette and cookery books, freak shows, boys' adventure stories and the amusing tale of what Prince Albert kept in his pants--Sweet argues the case for the Victorians being more sexually liberated, more obsessed with sensational events and public lives and for being greater consumers of narcotics, pornography and the bizarre than they have ever been given credit. They were, in other words, more like us than we realise. What a depressing thought. This book is a fun read: it is clever, informative and provocative, although too often the journalist inside the author leaps from a suggestive idea to a monstrous exaggeration. Matthew Sweet is not of course the first to unveil the Victorians. Some readers may wonder whether yet another account is really required of the Rugeley murders, the "Elephant Man", Walter's Secret Life, and the Victorian dependence on opium. And as for Prince Albert--his nether regions have long been the subject of scholarly discussion-lists on North American Victorian Studies Web sites. But the time is right to relocate the Victorians and Sweet's book does just that. --Miles Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'This is a profoundly stimulating and entertaining book'. D. J. Taylor, Sunday Times; 'Matthew Sweet has opened a blast of fresh air into the hothouse of Victorian studies. His book is packed with weird and wonderful information'. Spectator; 'He tells his revisionist version exceedingly well, describing a lurid thrill-seeking populace avid for sensation. Colourful characters parade through chapters that demonstrate how innovative, fast-paced, diverse and radical the era was. Sweet has turned his scholarly research through the detritus of high and low 19th-century culture into a page-turning piece of pop-culture history... A darned good read, and no mistake,' Big IssueSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is a great read for anyone interested in nineteenth century culture, and would probably prove frustrating to anyone looking for a text book or treating this as the key source book for an essay. In an academic context it would provide an alternative view and a few good examples. I would also suggest that the points the book makes are best understood against a background of knowledge of what was going on in England at that time.
None of the above should be read as criticism, but is rather an explanation of the type of book it is. Compared to more traditional history books it is an easy and interesting read - closer to a novel or a newspaper report than something to be studied.
Overall I recommend this book highly to anyone with an interest in what it was like to live in Victorian times.
Matthew Sweet tells all their stories with wit and style, and convinces you that the Victorian era was much more pleasurable and wild than we've all been led to believe. Did you know, for instance, that the old story about covering up piano legs is a joke that the Victorians told about the Americans? Or that William Gladstone was an opium user? All is revealed in this book.
I found this book to be a quite fascinating history, one that covers subjects rarely found in other history books. The author left very few stones unturned, covering subjects with a surprising frankness. My one complaint against this book is that I did find the chapters a little too long, with the author dragging out the subject to near exhaustion. However, I must say that that is a matter of taste, and another reader might quite enjoy the depth of detail.
So, if you are interested in the Victorians, and what the Victorian world was *really* like, then I highly recommend that you get this book!
The Victorians are famous for being prudish, hypocritical, and without much of a sense of humour. Much of this, argues Matthew Sweet, follows from Lytton Strachey's Eminent Victorians which, written as part manifesto for the Bloomsbury set, demonstrated how they were the opposite of the values espoused by Woolf and co.
The most famous example of Victorian prudery -- and the author explores it in depth -- is the alleged practise of covering the table legs in upholstery because they looked too much like a woman's legs and thereby caused problems in the male libido. In reality, there are no actual examples of this happening. Sweet traces the story of it back to the English satirically accusing the Americans of such prurience, and later examples of the Americans returning the compliment by making the same allegation about the UK.
From here, Matthew Sweet makes a tour-de-force of comparisons between contemporary and Victorian attitudes, culminating in the parallels between Harold Shipman and the 19th century Rugely Poisoner.Read more ›
Provocative in the good sense of the word, it makes you think.
It may not be a formal history book, as an earlier reviewer said, but there are quite a few references and footnotes in the back. If you take a more than passing interesting in the period read the book, and then look up some of the works mentioned in the notes.
I should add something about the writing. The style is somewhat informal, the grammar is correct, it's easy to understand what is meant. A pleasant and informative read.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Read this previously, loaned out and never returned. Bought it again due to my abysmal memory. I remember enough though to recall it was entertaining and informative enough to buy... Read morePublished 16 days ago by Deano
A book to counteract stereotypes of the Victorians can easily go to the opposite extreme. This happens here. Read morePublished 22 months ago by barry Arthur Gage
Perhaps no other era in British history is subject to quite as much stereotyping and myth-making as that of the Victorians. Read morePublished on 4 Nov. 2014 by C. Ball
A highly entertaining book about the Victorian age that can be used as a companion to A.N. Wilsons study The Victorians. Read morePublished on 18 Mar. 2013 by Seoulprovider
This is an interesting and readable overturning of the hoary old chestnuts and cliches that non-specialists resort to when wanting to denigrate Victorian society as stuffy and... Read morePublished on 17 Jun. 2012 by SJR
Matthew Sweet's "Inventing the Victorians" was first published in 2001 and argued for a thorough reassessment of the Victorian Age by providing a wealth of material drawn from... Read morePublished on 8 Feb. 2011 by Hywel James
I've always had something of an interest in the Victorian era, but I suspect Mr Sweet has helped to turn it into an obsession. Read morePublished on 22 May 2007 by HL Linda
This ia a history of nineteenth century culture that overturns all the cliches. I think every student of the period ought to take a look at it: it bulldozes through all the... Read morePublished on 27 May 2002
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