Mini-Adventures in the Life of a Victorianist #4: Racehorses in the System

No, I haven’t started an indie rock band or a hipster micro-brewery. I’m talking, my friends, about a problem I first encountered many years ago but which, I’m coming to realise, affects more of us than I had previously imagined. I’m talking about racehorses.

Yes, you heard that right.

So, you’re at the start of a new research project or chapter. You’re about to wade into the wide, wonderful world of the digital archive to see what hidden gems you can uncover about your topic from the newspapers, letters, diaries, and parliamentary speeches of the nineteenth century. We’ve all done this, right? Gleefully, nerdily pursuing the answer to questions like: ‘What did the Victorians think about [delete as appropriate] the ancient world / science and medicine /  humour and comedy / gender and the New Woman / the lesser-read novels of the Brontës / politics’?

You input your search terms and, LO AND BEHOLD, a slew of results. Maybe even a spike just where you’d hoped. But as you dig deeper, you start to realise that all is not as it seems. You hear the ghostly clatter of hooves on the road behind as it dawns on you that this search term may also be the name of a nineteenth-century racehorse!


Julius Caesar

My own personal horsey haunting came while I was researching my book on Ancient Rome and Victorian Masculinity. Like a chariot from Ben Hur, though, my archival search was violently derailed by a rogue thoroughbred called Julius Caesar who, by the way, sounds like some hellish, Hannibal-Lecter-esque nightmare of a stallion:

Julius Caesar ‘came out wearing a hood, blinkers, and a muzzle, and was led down the course, nor was he mounted until the rest of the field has taken their preliminary canters. He seems to be developing into a savage brute, and must be an unpleasant horse either to ride or to handle.’

The Saturday Review (November 23, 1878), p.658.


Continue reading “Mini-Adventures in the Life of a Victorianist #4: Racehorses in the System”


CFP: ‘Mind, Matter(s), Spirit: Forms of Knowledge in Victorian Popular Fiction and Culture’

Victorian Popular Fiction Association’s 11th Annual Conference

‘Mind, Matter(s), Spirit: Forms of Knowledge in Victorian Popular Fiction and Culture’

8-10 July 2019, Institute of English Studies, Senate House, London


Keynote: Chris Louttit, ‘Capturing the Spirit of Bohemia: The Life of the Artist in 1860s Popular Fiction’

Keynote: Beth Palmer, ‘Sensation Fiction and the Theatre: Braddon, Boucicault and Matters of Adaptation’

Keynote: Christopher Pittard, ‘Vanishing Points: Sidney Paget, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Sherlock Holmes’

Exhibition: ‘Late-Victorian & Edwardian Paperback Fiction’, curated by John Spiers

Reading Group: Altered States of Mind and Body’, hosted by James Green and Henry Bartholomew

Continue reading “CFP: ‘Mind, Matter(s), Spirit: Forms of Knowledge in Victorian Popular Fiction and Culture’”

Movies the Victorians Would Have Loved

It’s movie awards season. The BAFTAs are in full swing as I write this. The Oscars are just around the corner and I find myself wondering what movies would most appeal to some of the most eminent Victorian storytellers.

Charles Dickens

I can’t help feeling that Dickens would have been an avid movie-goer, so pinning his favourites down to just one was always going to be impossible. There’s your obvious favourites – The Greatest Showman (2017), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – the big, cheerful, jazz-handsy, Christmassy, feel-good films. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that Dickens would also have loved the original cinematic blockbuster: Jaws (1975).



Christina Rossetti

The author of ‘Goblin Market’ gets an eyeful of the Goblin King in Labyrinth (1986)…and she’s not entirely upset about it.

labyrinth poster


Continue reading “Movies the Victorians Would Have Loved”

What if Bram Stoker hunted vampires? An interview with Dracul writers Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker

Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker is on my to-read list from this Christmas. Check out this interview by Alan D.D. for BAVS’s ‘Victorianist’ blog.

If you don’t already follow ‘The Victorianist’ then you should, for a regular dose of new and exciting 19thC scholarship and events.

The Victorianist: BAVS Postgraduates

Interview by Alan D.D., Writer and Journalist

PortfolioBlog / Facebook / TwitterAmazon / Goodreads / Wattpad

Have you ever thought about why Bram Stoker’s famous Dracula came to exist? What if there was something more than just myths, legends and folklore behind his story? The author’s descendant, Dacre Stoker, teamed with J. D. Barker to create Dracul, a prequel to the Count’s tale, and Bram is more than a writer in the story. Discover what lies behind the legendary vampire as the authors speak about it.

dracul cover G. P. Putnam’s Sons cover. Source:

Dracul was published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons on October 2 and has been highly praised by both the critics and readers.

1. When did you decide to start working on Dracul, the prequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula? What made you think about it in the first place?

JD: The story…

View original post 1,043 more words

Victorian Snark Theatre 3000: Little Women

It’s been exactly a year since my good pals @BizarreVictoria (whose blog you can follow here,) and @DrDouglasSmall settled down with enough booze and Christmas cheer to knock out a reindeer and commenced a holiday viewing of Little Women (1994). For your festive entertainment, and from @BizarreVictoria’s pen, please enjoy our good-natured roasting of the movie.

Merry Christmas everyone!

It’s time for another instalment of Victorian Snark Theatre 3000! And this time we’ll be discussing Little Women (1994). As you guys know, I watch a lot of shitty long nineteenth century-inspired films with my good friends @VictorianMasc and Dr Douglas Small, so we decided to turn them into blog posts.

Previous posts on VST3K include:

Dracula 2000

Vanity Fair (2004)

The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

The Raven (2012)

Titanic (1997)

Fievel Goes West (1991)

Warning for Spoilers and Lots and Lots of Swearing

For the record, I’ve seen this film roughly 600 times growing up and I think it’s a delight and Winona Ryder deserved her Oscar nomination and, frankly, should have won. This is a good-natured snarking done with all the love in the world.

Also, the opening credits say the magic words:

Continue reading “Victorian Snark Theatre 3000: Little Women”

CFA: Substance Use and Abuse in the Long Nineteenth Century

Editors: Dr Laura Eastlake and Dr Andrew McInnes (Edge Hill University)

 ‘The body (follow me closely here) lies at the mercy of the most omnipotent of all potentates—the Chemist.’

Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (1859)

We invite proposals to form part of a new edited collection on Substance Use and Abuse in the Long Nineteenth Century. The volume will examine the changing roles of drugs and chemical substances in the history, literature, and medical discourses of a century which witnessed rapid medical and surgical innovation, the growing use of stimulants and sedatives, and narratives linking creativity, criminality and substance use. This collection encourages interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches to the topic as well as literary and historical analyses.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Addiction and excess: Alcohol, tobacco, opiates, cocaine, ether, chloroform and other compounds
  • Psychoactive substances, hallucinogenics, pharmacology
  • New drug treatments, therapies, medical technologies, pain and pain management
  • Concepts of stimulation and sedation
  • Drugs and creativity or criminality
  • Substances and the media: celebrity culture, advertising,
  • Thomas de Quincey, Coleridge, Keats, Wilkie Collins, L. T. Meade, Conan Doyle
  • Novels, sensation fiction, and literature as addiction
  • Gendered representations of substance use
  • Aphrodisiacs, appetite and their suppressants
  • Global perspectives on nineteenth-century substance use
  • Substances and the military, empire, trade, war
  • Neo-Romantic or Neo-Victorian representations of substance use


Please send 500-word abstracts to  by Monday 11th February 2019. Submissions should also include a brief author bio and up to 5 keywords for your article.

This volume has received provisional interest from Manchester University Press and selected abstracts will form part of a full proposal to be submitted to the publisher in Spring 2019. Full chapter submissions will be c.7000 words in length and due August 2019.

Please see our website for more information.

CFP: Visuality and the Theatre in the Long Nineteenth Century

Conference at the University of Warwick, Thursday 27 – Saturday 29 June 2019

Nineteenth-Century theatre is known for the visual emphasis of its staging practices. Responding to audience demand, theatres used sophisticated, innovative technologies to create a range of spectacular effects, from convincing evocations of real places to visions of the fantastical and the supernatural. Theatre spectacle was part of a wider explosion of imagery in this period, which included not only ‘high’ art such as painting, but also new forms such as the illustrated press and optical entertainments like panoramas, dioramas, and magic lantern shows.

The range and popularity of these new forms attests to the centrality of visuality in this period. Indeed, scholars have argued that the nineteenth century witnessed a widespread transformation of conceptions of vision and subjectivity. Theatrical spectacle was at the centre of this new, commercial, trans-medial, popular visual culture; yet there has been no major work to address this area since Martin Meisel’s seminal study, Realizations: Narrative, Pictorial and Theatrical Arts in Nineteenth-Century England, of 1983.

We invite proposals for papers that consider new ways of thinking about stage spectacle, its meanings, its relationship to a wider visual culture, and its spectators. We aim to foster cross-disciplinary discussion of this topic and welcome submissions from scholars of disciplines including (but not limited to) theatre history, art history, visual culture, cultural geography, and history.

Papers may address (but are not confined to) the following questions/topics:

  • What was new and experimental about the popular stage spectacle of this period?
  • How far were increased connections between theatre and visual art in this period rooted in popular (as opposed to elite) culture?
  • How did the transformation of urban space and other aspects of modernity impact on theatrical spectacle and its reception?
  • How can theories of perception and visuality enable us to rethink the nature of theatrical spectacle in this period?
  • How did stage spectacle create or contribute to the embodied experience of being an audience member?
  • How did audiences understand and respond to stage spectacle? Might stage spectacle work independently of (or even against) the meanings of text?
  • Popular spectacle continues to be associated with the notion of ‘passive viewing’ and political What evidence is there for the agency of spectators in the active construction of meaning?
  • How did the visual culture of theatre travel transnationally?

Please send proposals of 200 words and biographies of 100 words to by Thursday 28 February 2019. Speakers will be asked to present papers of 20 minutes with questions and discussion at the end.

This conference is organized by Jim Davis, Kate Holmes, Kate Newey, and Patricia Smyth as part of a three-year AHRC-funded project, ‘Theatre and Visual Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century’, examining theatre spectacle and spectatorship in this period. The main focus is on Britain, but France provides a comparative study.

CFP: Fraud and Forgery

Submission due date: 15 January 2019

Victorian Review invites submissions for a special issue devoted to the topic of fraud and forgery in the long nineteenth century (1789-1914). This issue will consider representations of fraud and forgery in British literature and culture, ranging from thematic representations of these subjects in literature, their pervasiveness in economic cultures and discourses, to their entanglement with the processes of literary, artistic and cultural production.

Possible topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • The body: disguise; mistaken identity; the signature; impersonation; evidence of the senses; the body as text; misleading the senses; the body as evidence; sexual fraud and forgery; forged signatures
  • The child: illegitimate children; fraud and forgery in children’s literature; the child as forged ‘text’; children and trickery; child fraudsters
  • Love and marriage: bigamy; polygamy; fraudulent marriage contracts or vows; marital falsehoods; inheritance and the ‘marriage market’
  • Death: fraudulent deaths; death and authority; inheritance
  • Politics: political fraud and forgery; acts of censorship; mendacious politicians; political satire
  • Gender: cross-dressing; the gendering of fraud; gendered susceptibility to fraud and forgery
  • The spiritual and supernatural: spiritualism as fraud; the legitimacy of supernatural phenomena; spiritual means of divining ‘truth’; religion as moral economy; discursive overlap between religious ideas and the semantics of finance
  • Financial fraud and forgery: speculation; gambling; counterfeit money; relationship between financial writing and fiction; ideas of credit; paper money and the gold standard; financial bubbles and joint stock companies; trust formation and advertising
  • Counterfeit natures: Replacement food products; false medicine; fraudulent trade in livestock and animals
  • Genres and authorship: poetry and the poetics of monetary meaning; the authority of fiction; periodicals and authorship; financial narratives and ‘it-narratives’; pseudonyms
  • Paratexts: images and documents as evidence in literary narratives; maps; forged documents
  • Neo-Victorian and other anachronistic narratives: imitations of Victorian style and genre; adaptations or dramatisations of Victorian works.

Articles must be between 5000 and 8000 words and formatted according to MLA (8th edition) guidelines. Please submit manuscripts in Word-compatible format to the editors, Dr. Elly McCausland (University of Oslo, Norway) and Jakob Gaardbo Nielsen (Aarhus University, Denmark) by 15 January 2019 at

CFP: Maritime Spaces, Shows, and the Nineteenth-Century City

Friday 12 April 2019 | University College Cork | Call for Papers

Keynote Speakers: Graeme Milne, Senior Lecturer in Modern History, University of Liverpool, & Clare Pettitt, Professor of Nineteenth Century Literature and Culture, King’s College London

In recent decades, circum-Atlantic and global discourses have pushed us as scholars in the humanities to reappraise the place of the maritime, and its effects, in our conception of the nineteenth century. Writers, artists, and audiences were closer to the sea and shipping, both figuratively and literally, than we once thought, leading us to examine how this relationship shaped the thoughts, perceptions, and practices of port citizens across the Atlantic archipelago.

This interdisciplinary one-day conference, which will also feature a staged reading of selected scenes from a nautical melodrama, is envisaged as the first in a series of fora in future years that will provide a space for nineteenth-centuryists in Ireland researching a broad geographical range of literary contexts.

Please submit abstracts (max. 300 words) for standard twenty minute papers, with a brief biography, to by Friday 1 February 2019. Possible topics include, but are by no means limited to:

– Themes of (water-based) mobility

– Cities/literature/theatre and the maritime

– Migration and movement of people/goods

– Maritime identities (personal, local, civic)

– Perceptions of dockland spaces

– Social hierarchies of dockland labour

– Trade unionism and the docks

For more information please visit or contact one of the organisers,

Blog at

Up ↑