The Queen Is Not Amused

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

Or at least I wasn’t,at first, by my AS Victorian Wider Reading List. I did initially fear the worst; when you’re a teenager the prospect of trawling through dense, over-detailed paragraphs about some guy who wore a top hat, doesn’t exactly have the same appeal as Harry Potter. Yet, as a lover of books, I like to keep an open mind and you know? It’s actually rather good. No wonder they’re called classics.

So today, on the anniversary of the end of Queen Victoria’s reign, 112 years ago, I thought I’d share with you 3 of my favourite Victorian texts.

Felicity Kendall as Mrs Kitty Warren
Felicity Kendall as Mrs Kitty Warren

1. Mrs Warren’s Profession – Written in 1893, by George Bernard Shaw, the play follows the story of Vivie Warren, a young, educated and rather feisty woman; when she finds out her mother is a brothel owner, and is proposed to by men she doesn’t love, she realises she must cut all ties to be a morally and financially independent young woman. For the Victorian era, this play caused sensation and was banned for 8 years just by the mere implication of prostitution though the word was never used. Vivie has got to be one of my favourite Victorian characters, just for her pure need for independence and the fact that when she shakes the men’s hands, she almost breaks them! The sheer modernity of this play, in such a conservative time makes it a standout play which I would thoroughly recommend.

Ben Barnes as Dorian Gray
Ben Barnes as Dorian Gray

2. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Quite a bit different from the above as you’d expect from Oscar Wilde – a darker tale, following Dorian Gray a naive, beautiful man who is compelled to barter his soul for eternal youth, meaning that whilst he remains young, it is his painting that will age. A vivid story, a Gothic version of the Faust tale if you like, Wilde showcases his incredible wit and style, though at times I did rather wish Lord Henry Wooton would button it for a bit (being the usual source of these witty paradoxisms). It’s also a lot shorter than say, Great Expectations for example, meaning I didn’t fulfil my prophesy of reluctantly ploughing through pages and pages. The film wanders from the book, but definitely keeps the same dark and hedonistic undertones so, if you like the film, definitely give the book a go.

220px-Muppet_christmas_carol3. A Christmas Carol – It’s such a classic, I couldn’t leave it out. The tale of Scrooge and his three ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future is pretty much engrained into most brains and the prospect of reading it after seeing countless adaptations probably isn’t what you’d have in mind. But I would definitely recommend it, even just for Dickens’ wit.

Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile…so Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.

So that’s my top 3 – Victorian novels are great, not only in providing yet another plot to devour, but also a glimpse into life over 100 years ago.

(Also, you can find quite a lot of them free to download online, here   I’m not the ‘broke’ bookworm for nothing 😉 )


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