Posted in Non-Fiction, Recommendations

Great Expootations, The Shitty Life of Victorian London

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I’m really looking forward to getting my sweaty little hands on Ruth Goodman’s How to Be A Tudor.  I finished How to Be A Victorian and I’m pretty sure its a fluke humanity survived the Victorian era.  I’m fairly certain the Tudor period will be an even closer call. 

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These Victorian dope-fiends were dosing themselves regularly with opium tonics anytime someone sighed a little too heavily.  They covered up the greenish tint of rancid milk with chalk and recommended you keep your newborns fair to partly frozen to toughen up their character.  Most of the working class was a degree above starving and virtually any ailment, including diarrhea, was treated with Mercury-based laxatives.  It truly is unfortunte that the masses of Victorians were shitting themselves to death because they really had no idea what to do with this fantastic feces fest.

Sewage systems and indoor pumbing were just starting to make their mark and the vast majority tossed their buckets of cookies and cream into the poo-pit in their basement.  Eventually all that back log (sorrynotsorry) dumped right into the Thames, the primary source of drinking water.  (Double dooty: sorrynotsorry) But thanks to the likes of Dr John Snow and the burgeoning field of germ theory people were starting to realize they couldn’t sleep in their own poo pantries as long as they left a window open.

The smell was so rank that a summer heat wave baked the crap factory to the point of declaring a city emergency named THE GREAT STINK.

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So, next time you crack open some Victorian, upper-crust social drama of glove dropping and furtive glances, don’t forget the shit.  And here are a few more delightful reads about these truly repulsive Victorian times.

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Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic by Steven Johnson – A true-to-life medical mystery staring a John Snow that does know somethin’. 

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London Under by Peter Ackroyd – How about I write you a poem instead…

There once was a river of Fleet
The smell was really a treat.
They filled it up with so much shit,
They made it into a street.

Here are two more I haven’t read, but will go immediately on the list.

Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight Against Filth by Lee Jackson

The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens London by Judith Flanders

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3 thoughts on “Great Expootations, The Shitty Life of Victorian London

  1. Nice! A veritable poopourri of wisdom here. Reminds me of a fantasy novel I heard about where the main character time travels back to olden times. He is immediately arrested for being a ‘witch’ in his terrifying garb (jeans), stuck in a stinky flea-bitten jail and then sentenced to death. A touch of realism in all those fantasy time travel stories. Sorry Piers Anthony.

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