Victorians

Why were the Victorians so obsessed with the moon?

6 April 2019 9:00 am

In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a group of slightly ramshackle workmen decide to put on a play. The play…

‘Pit Brow Lasses’, 2015, by David Venables

Women’s toplessness caused less offence to Victorians than their trousers

20 October 2018 9:00 am

‘They did not look like women, or at least a stranger new to the district might easily have been misled…

The head of Jeremy Bentham, who died in 1832

What can we learn from Jeremy Bentham’s pickled head?

18 November 2017 9:00 am

Under the central dome of UCL — an indoor crossroads where hordes of students come and go on their way…

Bristol ablaze: anger at the Lords’ rejection of the Second Reform Bill sparked riots in Queen’s Square, Bristol, October 1831 (William James Muller)

Britain über alles

23 September 2017 9:00 am

  David Cannadine was a schoolboy in 1950s Birmingham, which was still recognisable as the city that Joseph Chamberlain had…

Hope, the blue whale, replaces Dippy, the diplodocus, in the Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall

Cathedral of creation

12 August 2017 9:00 am

Sometimes, it pays to rediscover what’s already under your nose. I’ve been umpteen times to the Natural History Museum but…

A picture of pure energy: Watts’s ‘The Sower of Systems’, 1902

Maximum wattage

29 July 2017 9:00 am

On his deathbed in 1904, George Frederic Watts saw a extraordinary spectacle. He witnessed the universe coming into being: the…

‘The Woodman’s Child’, 1860, by Arthur Hughes

Twee, treacly and tearful: Pre-Raphaelites at the Walker Art Gallery reviewed

27 February 2016 9:00 am

Dear, good, kind, sacrificing Little Nell. Here she is kneeling by a wayside pond, bonnet pushed back, shoes and stockings…

Banish the canapé and give me a cocktail sausage!

2 January 2016 9:00 am

Even the name is pretentious. And something of a misnomer, too. After all, a canapé comes from the French word…

Victorian music-hall comedy wasn’t funny. Why pretend it was?

5 December 2015 9:00 am

Let’s start this week with a joke: ‘You know Mrs Kelly? Do you know Mrs Kelly? Her husband’s that little…

‘The Wilderness, Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire’ by Balthasar Nebot

Why is the garden absent in English painting?

8 August 2015 9:00 am

One of the default settings of garden journalists is the adjective ‘painterly’ — applied to careful colour harmonies within a…

The artist who only turned into a major painter once he became a homicidal maniac

25 July 2015 9:00 am

Charles Dickens’s description of Cobham Park, Kent, in The Pickwick Papers makes it seem a perfect English landscape. Among its…

Conservator Johanna Puisto dusts the cast of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ post-conservation, November 2014

The reopened V&A Cast Courts are a fabulous spectacle of Victorian theft and reverence

22 November 2014 9:00 am

The great municipal museums are products of the 19th-century imagination, evidence of lofty ambitions and cringe-making limitations. They are exact…

‘Rain, Steam and Speed — The Great Western Railway’, 1844, by J.M.W. Turner

Tate Britain’s Turner show reveals an old master - though the Spectator didn’t think so at the time

27 September 2014 9:00 am

Juvenilia is the work produced during an artist’s youth. It would seem logical to think, therefore, that an artist’s output…

Introducing the celebs of Victorian reality TV

12 October 2013 9:00 am

Did Dr Jekyll turn into Jack the Ripper? Besides becoming evil Mr Hyde, did Robert L. Stevenson’s fictional creation morph…