Insult of the Week: he talked mere drivel

The preacher in residence at St. Hilda’s  Church in Donegal, Mr. Vivian, gets a poor review from Charlotte Riddell in her 1888 novel The Nun’s Curse.  Although his good qualities are many, and he does excellent work with the sinful and/or suffering members of his parish, his preaching abilities are, frankly, nil. Unlearned, unlettered, uncultured…

Six Great 19th Century Novel Bakes

  There are 62 references to cake so far in our 19th- century corpus, ranging from Jane Eyre’s slightly depressing “oaten-cakes” (also found in Shelley’s Frankenstein) to the more lavish offerings of plum-cake, plum-pudding, tea-cake, sponge-cake, and cheese-cake that appear in works by Dickens, Le Fanu and others. Here are a few of the most famous – although…

Image Collection of the Week: A Fleet of Sailing Ships

Today’s image collection comes in honour of that most solemn and dignified of annual celebrations: Talk Like A Pirate Day. And what better source of swashbuckling quotes is there than Robert Louis Stevenson’s formative pirate novel Treasure Island?  Not only has this work given us such celebrated tropes as “Shiver my timbers!”, “Yo-ho-ho and a…

Insult of the Week: “…these bungling imitators”

In Chapter 11 of Maria Edgeworth’s Ennui, the narrator and Lady Geraldine go for a leisurely stroll around the ornamental buildings in the grounds at Ormsby Villa. On their travels, they happen upon Mrs. O’Connor, Lady Kilrush and “a troop of hoyden young ladies” and are promptly invited to view “a poetical inscription of Lady Kilrush’s,…

Image Collection of the Week: The Victorian illustrator whose designs came to life

Born in London in 1846, Kate Greenaway exhibited a prodigious talent for delicate illustration. She attended the School of Art in South Kensington and completed her education in the Slade School of Art at University College London. She is now celebrated for her charming and nostalgic illustrations of childhood in the English countryside. The British library and the…

Insult of the Week: Fops

From one gendered insult to another: this week we’re looking at literary fops, or gentlemen that are – in some way or another – a bit too concerned with manners of dress, elegance and fashion. Our featured image (by the wonderful C. E. Brock) comes from John Galt’s 1821 novel The Annals of the Parish…

The Art of Beauty: To rouge or not to rouge

Throughout our corpus of nineteenth-century novels, there are numerous references to the transformative power of cosmetics. As well as striving to survive the noxious levels of lead and arsenic in your potions and pastes, you are also tasked with achieving socially acceptable levels of rouging. According to Madam Lola Montez’s 1858 book The Art of Beauty or…

Image of the Week: Back to School

After a successful round of summer events and the official launch of the Nation, Genre, Gender project,  it’s almost back to school time. First things first, a new uniform…        

Insult of the Week: “the big slobbering washing-pot head of him”

In chapter two of  Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), Cranly and Stephen discuss the latter’s plans for the future. During their exchange, Cranly recalls Stephen’s wrangling with a school acquaintance about the shortest way from  the Sallygap to Larras. A voice spoke softly to Stephen’s lonely heart, bidding him go and telling him that…