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  #1  
Old 06-21-2017, 12:17 PM
Merry_Olde_Mary Merry_Olde_Mary is offline
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Lightbulb Are there any other fiction writers here?

'allo, pets.

I am working on a novel that has a London 1888 setting, and wonder if others might be interested in some thread where we keep each other updated as to our progress and research, etc. Basically, I'm looking at different ways to get myself going again. I've done quite a bit of research on the UK Victorians (as opposed to our American ones) via biographies and books about architecture, customs, etc. and am kind of still in that SWAMP of understanding their day to day lives...which dictates how the characters spend their days, how long it takes for them to get somewhere in town...basically, EVERYTHING.

But the (many many) details are still unclear. For instance, I Just this week changed tacks and started in on some fiction set in 1888, and one book stated "He turned on a small gas lamp." How does one do that, exactly? The Victorians were thrifty, so I don't think lamps were kept permanently lit on a pilot light and just turned up when they needed more light...how does one "turn on" a small gas lamp? And is that different from a small oil lamp??

Uggh.

As to my own experience, the work of mine that's been produced has been stage plays, done on a smaller scale in both Manhattan and Hollywood. I worked for many years in the literary department of a very high ranking talent agency, which you would think would give me insight into writing the Perfect Novel. Unfortunately, it doesn't, necessarily. It's helped me note what NOT to do...but not exactly WHAT to do. Which is, of course, tragic.

I need someone to talk to!!
.

Last edited by Merry_Olde_Mary : 06-21-2017 at 12:32 PM.
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  #2  
Old 06-21-2017, 12:57 PM
Pcdunn Pcdunn is offline
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Hello, Mary!

Well, I'm student of literature, a lover of fiction, and a long-time aspiring writer (have co-written a lot of published fan fiction)-- will I do? I'm also a college librarian, so maybe I can give you some research tips.

Diaries and memoirs by people who lived in the Victorian era are excellent, but the surviving ones may be from members of the upper-classes, which may not be the strata in which you want to set your scene. For more insights into daily life of the middle-class, I'd recommend period newspapers (many are now available in digitized archives online), especially the advertisements.

For life among the poorest classes, look for works by and about the great reformers of the age.

Re the "small gas lamp": try browsing the web for Victorian interest websites (there are several good ones) and also looking for images of the items. I think we're all familiar from movies with the Victorian gas streetlights, which needed to be lit every dusk and extinguished every dawn by a worker with a long pole.
There were also table lamps which used gas, and you would "turn up" the gas valve and then light it, I think. Some indoor gas lamps were mounted on the wall, and were handled in a similar way.

Re oil lamps: My mother had an old glass kerosene lamp. The base held a supply of the fuel in which a wick floated, the removable top shielded the flame after you had lit the portion of the wick sticking up inside the lamp. Again, we've seen these many times in westerns and historical films, they are tallish, with the top rather curvy.

I'll look for links to info on gas lamps and get back to you.
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  #3  
Old 06-21-2017, 01:53 PM
Merry_Olde_Mary Merry_Olde_Mary is offline
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Yes...you will do perfectly, thank you! Welcome!

What I'm working on has characters in all classes: an upwardly mobile couple who live in Kensington, their servants, the richer Mayfair acquaintances they try to impress, some working doctors and press people, and some poverty stricken wretches in Whitechapel.

One resource that's been helpful for the wife character is an old periodical called A GIRLS OWN PAPER....which talks a lot about do-it-yourself decorating, cooking, managing servants, cleaning your clothes....all those little things that life is really made up of. There's this one repository of a TON of scanned issues somewhere on the web, and I've printed out a lot of those. And the papers/articles on this site in the VICTORIAN LONDON section have been really good on some subject...I think there's one called A NIGHT VISIT TO WHITECHAPEL or something that does a good job of describing the streets and the people you'd see there.

I wonder where the gas was stored in a gas table lamp? There were pipes I think that connected to the wall mounted one...but a freestanding tabletop version?

I need to find a book about the women's temperance movement in the UK. I might email a London library for a suggestion, because all our books over here are about prohibition in the 1920's etc. and that's very different. Even the drinking in the Wild West was different than how liquor was viewed in 1888 London.

But I am VERY happy to have you in our Society of Two right now. Together, we shall change the world!!

Re: oil and gas lamps, I know they made really bad soot marks on the ceilings above them, and cleaning those patches were a continual headache. The whole process of keeping a Victorian house clean was a nightmare that took hours of attention each day just to stay on top of it. There were no window screens to help keep stuff out, and the city air that came in had tons of dust and soot in it, etc. One book says that if you wore a white shawl going out, it came back in looking gray...or worse.

: )

Last edited by Merry_Olde_Mary : 06-21-2017 at 02:18 PM.
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Old 06-22-2017, 12:09 PM
Pcdunn Pcdunn is offline
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_li...uring_work.jpg

Example of a "Portable gas desk lamp (c. 1900-1910)"-- a little later than your period, but you can see it does have a pipe running down to the floor to feed the gas. Makes you wonder how portable it really was?

http://www.buildingconservation.com/...g/lighting.htm

Great article on Victorian indoor lighting, in general. Scroll down the page for info on gas lamps.

Gas lamps were all enclosed, so they burned cleaner than oil, coal oil (from coal shale) or kerosene ("paraffin" in the U.K.-- made from a by-product of petroleum) lamps would.
Yes, fireplaces, candles, and oil lamps with open shades could leave soot and smoky residue behind.
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Old 06-22-2017, 05:25 PM
Merry_Olde_Mary Merry_Olde_Mary is offline
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Thank you...that's a fantastic article. Very detailed!

I did read somewhere else that some gas lamps were "self lighting" (or maybe it was "self combustible") (!!) meaning they could be turned on without a match. Maybe it was something like how a cigarette lighter works, with a little flint creating a spark or something.

That line in OP was from MAYHEM by Sarah Pinborough...who you can tell from the first page is a good writer. But writing about technology is always sticky; it makes perfect sense for her character to observe "He closed the door and then turned on a small gas lamp that cast long shadows across the dusty floor" because to her, this is an everyday occurrence. The character is used to seeing people "turning on" gas lamps. But at the same time, writers want to avoid things that jerk the reader out of the story...for example, making them think "there are gas lights that aren't lit by matches?" But then, you don't want the writer to belabor it, either, with something like "It looked like one of the newer blah-blah-blah models, which..."

Oy.

Okay....so now I know some (later) gas lamps were self-lighting, and some were portable...though perhaps cumbersome.

That's good : )
.
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Old 06-23-2017, 03:19 PM
Pcdunn Pcdunn is offline
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Links to a couple of books you could find useful:

https://www.amazon.com/Austen-Charle.../dp/0671882368

https://www.amazon.com/Inside-Victor...HVDKDT9V0SGR10
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Old 06-23-2017, 06:14 PM
Merry_Olde_Mary Merry_Olde_Mary is offline
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THANK YOU! I will look at those tonight.

Just read an interesting detail in MAYHEM; a character goes to a (better class of) opium den and the owner spreads a cloth across his cot before fixing his pipe for him. Obviously this is a house courtesy to protect from dirt and vermin from any previous customer.

It reminds me of a memoir I once read set in a brothel, where the customers were charged a "linen fee". Which got attendants to throw a fresh sheet down on top of each old one, between clients.

It makes sense. That's what would happen in high turnover places.
.

Last edited by Merry_Olde_Mary : 06-23-2017 at 06:19 PM. Reason: Typos
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Old 06-23-2017, 10:00 PM
Merry_Olde_Mary Merry_Olde_Mary is offline
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Thank you. Those books are excellent. I have already made copious notes from both!

The first one by Daniel Pool is where I started a year or so ago, and it does have lots of info. The only problem is each decade of the Victorian Era was as different from the others as our more recent 1920's were different from the 1930's, to the 1940's etc. The Industrial Revolution was making accelerated changes so fast that even the years of Charles Dickens' life almost don't apply to 1888. Some things were the same, but many many things were very different. This surprised me...and made my heart sink a little. It meant I couldn't just read a book about "Victorians" (or a novel by Dickens) and think it would necessarily shed a whole lot of light on 1888, specifically.

Some of my favorite insights offered by the second (Judith Flanders') book were that office men didn't eat lunch during their workday, and this advice to women: "Dressing well is a Duty, and not a pleasure: your duty to that state of life to which it has pleased God to call you." (There's also an observation about "Kent's wife was declared as having been insane for a decade, yet he had five children with her in that time." Lovely.)

These people were so f#cked up in so many ways : (
.

Last edited by Merry_Olde_Mary : 06-23-2017 at 10:03 PM.
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Old 06-24-2017, 03:54 PM
Pcdunn Pcdunn is offline
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We've used "What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew" for many years. It has been very useful.

I'm not sure if I've read the book about Victorian Domestic Life, I may check that one out

The Victorians were a curious mix of the idealistic and the bawdy. I think married men, in particular, were often hypocrites, what with having a wife at home, and (often) a mistress elsewhere.
But that hasn't really changed much today...
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Old 06-24-2017, 06:56 PM
Merry_Olde_Mary Merry_Olde_Mary is offline
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Quote:
The Victorians were a curious mix of the idealistic and the bawdy. I think married men, in particular, were often hypocrites, what with having a wife at home, and (often) a mistress elsewhere.
But that hasn't really changed much today...
The core of their whole male/female dynamic was that Man was the thinker and doer (in practically every sphere) yet had a base, animal nature he must always strive to rise above. Woman was supposed to tame him, to bring spirituality and refinement to his life...and so her entire territory was the home, where she cared for him and also his offspring, offering them spiritual salvation, as well. She was literally an angel, and no sacrifice was too great. Sacrifice was supposed to actually fulfill her nature. (I'm generalizing, of course.)

Anything that reminded the man that Woman was also an earthy creature (puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, infertility, menopause) was abhorrent, and disgusted him.

Men were forgiven their extramarital affairs because they were, at their root, animal. It wasn't socially fantastic when men cheated (or had sex before marriage), but their underlying lust was supposedly just how they had been created by Him. So it was understandable.

If a woman were to have any inclination toward the male sphere (be it drinking, adventure, business, or sexual pleasure...basically, the outside world!) there was clearly something drastically wrong with her. She was diseased and had to be cured. Maybe locked up. (People on farms were more in touch with nature, of course, and weren't so cut and dried about it all. I think they also bonded by working -- and living -- more closely together. I mean primarily the middle class upward, re: all that stuff above.)

But basically, a bummer : (

(You surely know all this...I just find it interesting to discuss.)
.

Last edited by Merry_Olde_Mary : 06-24-2017 at 07:06 PM.
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