The weird and whacky world of the Victorians

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,469
T'Republic of Yorkshire
The Great Binge

Quite apart from porn and necrophiliac tendancies, the Victorians were also off their heads a lot of the time. They were doped up to the gills, abusing all kinds of narcotics. Mr. Sherlock Holmes famously used a 7& solution of cocaine to stimulate his mind when he was bored (of which his friend Dr. Watson disapproved). Laudanum, heroin, cocaine, opium and so on were widely available. Coca-Cola, as many people know, originally contained cocaine.

It was only in the early 1900s that laws came in to regulate narcotics.
 
Sep 2012
932
Prague, Czech Republic
The Great Binge

Quite apart from porn and necrophiliac tendancies, the Victorians were also off their heads a lot of the time. They were doped up to the gills, abusing all kinds of narcotics. Mr. Sherlock Holmes famously used a 7& solution of cocaine to stimulate his mind when he was bored (of which his friend Dr. Watson disapproved). Laudanum, heroin, cocaine, opium and so on were widely available. Coca-Cola, as many people know, originally contained cocaine.

It was only in the early 1900s that laws came in to regulate narcotics.
I'm reminded of studying the history of medicine back in school. One of the topics covered was the development of anaesthetics. The accounts of their discovery in the 19th century sounded very much like wealthy gentlemen sitting around at home with their friends experimenting with psychoactive drugs. If I remember correctly the textbook included this artist's impression of James Simpson and his compatriots discovering the anaesthetic properties of chloroform:

 
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Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,215
Welsh Marches
Rossetti's wife was addicted to laudanum and died of an overdose. He felt so guilty that he put the manuscript book containing all his poems next to her head in the the coffin when she was buried, but he later regretted the loss of them and had her dug up again to retrieve them. So she was dug up at dead of night, a large bonfire being lit by the graveside to provide the necessary light. A doctor was hired to recover the book and disinfect it, but it stank and was full of wormholes; so Rossetti copied out the poems and destroyed it. He himself became quite an addict, not to laudanum but to chloral, which swallowed down with doses of whisky, as a cure insomnia and to quell the pain that he suffered from a bungled operation on one of his testicles. He had quite a menagerie in his garden, including armadillos, kangaroos and a zebu, but was particularly fond of his wombat; it died prematurely as did his wife, and he made this picture to commemorate the occasion:

wombat.jpg
 
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Feb 2017
256
Devon, UK
Photography
Louis Daguerre invented the daguerreotype in the mid 19th century, and it suddenly became possible to make lifelike pictures of people without needing to sit for hours and hours for a portrait. And what did the Victorians do with this wonderful new invention?

Well, one hing they did was "hidden mother photography". These are bizarre images where mothers, in an attempt to keep their children still for the long exposure times, disguised themselves as bits of furniture. They're reallt creepy:

A nitpicky art historian replies.

Daguerre certainly developed the Daguerrotype (pun intended) and ended up being rewarded by the French state but the form of that photography really took off was Fox-Talbot's endlessly repeatable negative/positive process. Daguerrotypes were expensive one off positives on glass.

Daguerre also secured recognition at the expense of less entrepreneurial or well connected French experimenters, in particular Hippolyte Bayard (who had also come up with an in camera positive process). Bayard didn't take it too well and indulged himself in a bit of pre-post-mortem photography to show his displeasure File:Hippolyte Bayard - Drownedman 1840.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
 
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Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,469
T'Republic of Yorkshire
A nitpicky art historian replies.

Daguerre certainly developed the Daguerrotype (pun intended) and ended up being rewarded by the French state but the form of that photography really took off was Fox-Talbot's endlessly repeatable negative/positive process. Daguerrotypes were expensive one off positives on glass.

Daguerre also secured recognition at the expense of less entrepreneurial or well connected French experimenters, in particular Hippolyte Bayard (who had also come up with an in camera positive process). Bayard didn't take it too well and indulged himself in a bit of pre-post-mortem photography to show his displeasure File:Hippolyte Bayard - Drownedman 1840.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Oh yes, I should have pointed out that the Daguerrotype didn't become the prevalebt photographic technology, I just used it as one the the first (if not the first) widely used method.
 

notgivenaway

Ad Honorem
Jun 2015
5,787
UK
The Victorians definitely get a bad rap.
Were they really puritanical? by early 21st century standards, yes.
But the medievals and early moderns were too. And largely due to the influence of the Church.

But the Victorians made the developments, whether politically, socially, or culturally, that we rely on.
Sewers, public education, mass political suffrage, no child labour, no slavery, etc.
 
May 2009
1,346
He himself became quite an addict, not to laudanum but to chloral, which swallowed down with doses of whisky, as a cure insomnia and to quell the pain that he suffered from a bungled operation on one of his testicles.
Chloral gets overlooked a lot because it wasnt as disastrously addictive as other drugs but it was in heavy use in the Victorian era. A lot of people couldnt go to sleep without a shot of chloral. It was like the Ambien of its day.
 

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,990
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
The Victorian age was time of great scientific discovery, as well as perhaps a time of spiritual awakening. Men such as MacGregor Mathers and Michael Faraday were (more or less) contemporaries. The discovery of electricity led to the classical sci-fi work Frankenstein. Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhaman.

To the Victorians, the world was an amazing place full of mysteries to be discovered while British power was carried to all parts by the sails of the Royal Navy.

This thread is to discuss the whacky world of the Victorians.
The Victorian age is usually considered to coincide with the reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901. Frankenstein: or, the Modern Promethius was published in 1818, Michael Faraday was working on electricity from about 1812 to 1832, and Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922.
 
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