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…

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: A beautiful fiend

This week’s image is inspired by an early scene in M.E Braddon’s huge sensational hit Lady Audley’s Secret 1862. While the duplicitous Lady Audley is out and about, George Talboys and Robert Audley enter her private boudoir to look at the impressive collection of paintings stored there. The lads take a look around the “glittering toilette”…

Never underestimate the power wielded by the lady’s maid

“Among all privileged spies, a lady’s-maid has the highest privileges; it is she who bathes Lady Theresa’s eyes with eau-de-cologne after her ladyship’s quarrel with the colonel; it is she who administers sal-volatile to Miss Fanny when Count Beaudesert, of the Blues, has jilted her. She has a hundred methods for the finding out of her mistress’ secrets….

Quotation of the Week: A selfish, cold-hearted Sybarite

Miss Alicia Audley is distinctly unimpressed with her cousin Robert’s sudden interest in her enigmatic new step-mother and isn’t afraid to say so: “…pray amuse yourself in your own way; loll in an easy-chair all day, with those two absurd dogs asleep on your knees; spoil my lady’s window-curtains with your cigars and annoy everybody in the house…

On the Joy of Tea-Making

In  chapter 25 of Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret (1862),  the narrator meditates on tea as a bewitching accessory for the attractive lady of Victorian sensation fiction.    “Surely a pretty woman never looks prettier than when making tea. The most feminine and most domestic of all occupations imparts a magic harmony to her every movement,…