VICTORIAN CULTURE

Topics: Morality, Catharine Beecher, Victorian era Pages: 7 (1108 words) Published: December 10, 2013
I. Victorian Culture: Private Transformation, Public Reform (Named after Queen Victoria ; 1837-1901)
A. Problems of the Market
1. Changes in the market caused a good deal of anxiety
2. Surface impression that Americans are enormously optimistic about the state of the U.S.
a. Laying beneath bragging is a high level of insecurity
1. Uneasy and afraid of aspects of the market revolution
a. Fear of social chaos
1. Market society of struggling individuals
creates chaotic society of self-interest
b. Fear of one another
1. In a market, how do you trust anyone
2. "The Confidence Man" becomes
somewhat of a legendary figure
a. Herman Melville publishes book
by this title in 1857
c. Fear of the loss of moral values
1. In a market, values such as social gain and
material advancement paramount
2. Does anything but money have value?
3. Loss of morals
3. By 1830s middle and upper class Americans uneasy about cultural ramifications of the market
a. Find a cultural system labeled Victorianism
1. Middle-class ideal; explicitly designed to counteract
fears
2. Self-control and domesticity
B. The Domestic Ideal
1. Victorians first create domesticity
a. Vision of American home as a refuge or haven from public
capitalist world
b. Home dominated by American women
1. Domain of wives and mothers
2. Both practically and morally
d. Implicit separation of public and private different from earlier periods
1. Public is for men; private is for women
e. Examples

1. Catherine Beecher's Treatise on Domestic Economy,
1841
a. Bible for middle-class women
b. Argues that moral center of U.S. is in the
American home
1. Should create national ethic of domestic
virtue
a. Deference, counteract brutal public
competition
2. Responsibility of American women
3. (Read excerpt below)
2. A.J. Downing's Victorian Cottage Residences
a. Published in domestic magazines
b. Put these into book in 1842
c. Talked of domestic beautification
1. Both physical and mental
2. Need to be arranged to be warm;
comfortable places for family intimacy
d. Argues that there is a larger social responsibility
connected to this for the purpose of social
order
3. Celebration of Xmas with a tree and Santa Claus part
of Victorian emphasis on the home
C. Self-Control
1. Written injunctions to exercise self-control
a. In a market, demand for success on the individual
1. Victorians talk about inner direction
2. Fear society of cutthroats
c. To be a good citizen you need to repress desires
1. "Advice Literature" had been written for men and
women
2. Focus on sex; tell men to squelch sexual appetite
a. Connected to work; if you expend energy
chasing women your work will fail
3. Example
a. Sylvester Graham wrote advice literature
1. Diet reformers; invented Graham cracker
2. Vegetarian wrote on sexual abstinence
a. Insists it is necessary for unmarried

man
b. Also argues that even after marriage
they should limit to 12 times a
year
4. For women message is similar
a. Women staying in home is part of self-control
b. Biggest temptation for females was fashion
1. Don't give in to temptations of fashion
2. Modest ideal of beauty emerges
c. Sexually, moral women seen as not having
interest in sex
1. Warnings not to succumb to sexuality
2. Cannot mention arms and legs; only limbs
d. Examples
1. Godey's Lady's Book
2. European male visiting Victorian parlor
drinking tea
a. Notices grand piano with trouser
legs to cover piano legs
3. The Lady's Book is best selling magazine
a. Domestic ideology; moral center of
the home, etc...
e. Child rearing advice
1. Instill notion of self-control in children
2. Horace Bushnell's Christian Nurture
(1847)
a. Argues need for fostering selfcontrol
D. The Reform Impulse
1. Began around the end of the War of 1812
2. Crusades against consumption of liquor, violence, sexual
impropriety, bad behavior
3. Reformers talked about need for reform in all these different areas 4....
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