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Monday, 5 September 2011

"The Premise is Straightforward, You Pick Seven Posts from Your Back Catalogue that you Think Deserve to See the Light of Day Again…”Or: A Meme:

"Please don't be cross, but I have nominated you for a meme. The details are here, I really hope you give it a whirl."

The above comment was left on my blog a few days ago by Mr London Street. 'Hmmm, a meme...' thought I. Could such a blogging bastion really have thought 'The Victorianist' worthy of such an award? I wondered if I would win, I wondered what I would win, I began to feel that all I had written was not good enough, and why hadn’t I written about Jack the Ripper?

I imagine some bands feel the same when they release a new album and it gets nominated for an award.
‘Why did we cut that commercial pop song we had penned in as track seven and replace it with that experimental and self-indulgent muzak number?’
‘Wait a minute.’ I thought. My anxieties and distant dreams of meme glory were halted by a simple question:
'What is a meme?'
My interlocutor was kind enough to include a link to his blog in the comment he left me; I clicked on it, hoping to shed some light on the subject, and what I saw went some way to explaining what was required of me:

"The premise is straightforward, you pick seven posts from your back catalogue that you think deserve to see the light of day again and then you nominate another five bloggers to take part. Easy as pie."

‘Ah,’ I thought, intrigued. This has come at a good time for me. September 2011 will see my blog turn one year old. I’m proud of the little chap. Yes, he takes up a bit of my time, and can occasionally be a little demanding, but here, in this little corner of the internet, in amongst the dead leaves, the dust, the unwanted feathers from the birds who used to nest here, and the fragments of newspaper over a century old he sits, and smiles whenever someone passes by. Like now.

This meme would be the perfect gift for him, a chance to reflect on his first year in his dusty corner.

"I've found the post about toilets, sir..."
Mr London Street, too, had been nominated to do this, and I read through the posts he had chosen from his impressive, and surely one-day-to-be-committed-to-paper-and-sold-for-money back catalogue. There were parameters defining the attributes required of each post recalled from the archives. I was to choose:

  • Your most beautiful post:
  • Your most popular post:
  • Your most controversial post:
  • Your most helpful post:
  • A post whose success surprised you:
  • A post you didn’t feel got the attention it deserved:
  • The post you are most proud of:

I scratched my head, pondered this, and delved pitched myself head first into my dusty and musty back catalogue.

These are the posts which, after careful deliberation and a couple of days, I chose: Hopefully you will enjoy re-reading them, but if you disagree with anything I have chosen, comments are encouraged, as they are if you agree.

Your most beautiful post:
I will refrain from saying ‘this was the hardest one to choose…’ because if I did, I think I would be saying it prior to almost every category, as other than two of them, they were all very difficult to choose. For the most beautiful I couldn’t possibly declare anything that I have written to come under that description, and so I felt I had to turn to the work of Augustus Mayhew for a depiction of beauty that so moved me, I was compelled to blog it. In Each Street Lamp is Crowned with a Nightcap of the Purest Fleece he describes a snowy morning in London in the 1850’s in the most picturesque and striking way, which moved me to blog it for no reason other than its beauty, so quite rightly, he wins.


Your most popular post:
An easy one, this. I simply looked at the all time viewing stats. For a long while my post on the Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron was the all-time most popular post here, but in the last two or three months she has been overtaken by the poor, unfortunate, but brave and courageous children who sacrificed a childhood as we know it to oil the cogs of industry and help make Britain great.
Working Children of the Nineteenth Century is, I think, the longest post I have done too.


Your most controversial post:
Since my blog contains very little opinion, controversy is not something often seen here. I scratched my head for a long time with this one, and the most controversy I can muster up is this article. Whilst not controversial in itself, it does concern a topic which has caused controversy for roughly two thousand years, which has seen people killed, condemned and…well, other things. It is a topic best avoided at dinner parties with polite society, unless you wish chaos to ensue, and that topic is religion.
The Medium Went Through a Series of Facial Contortions contained a description, and subsequent disbelief on behalf of the writer at what he witnessed whilst attending at a séance. Shortly after posting this, I received a few comments on Twitter along the lines of ‘but you do believe in spiritualism, don’t you?’ and ‘well, my grandmother was a medium, so it’s all true.’
**clears throat, loosens collar and picks up a glass of fizzy from the waiter en route to a less controversial conversation**


Your most helpful post:
As I just said, it is not often that opinion is offered here, and neither is helpful advice (unless specifically asked for). Being a history blog it is concerned more with facts and articles, but that did not prevent me from having an opinion on the way English is taught in schools. 
Just Simple Accounts of her Family, Experiences and Observations of Life was an article about Victorian writer M.V Hughes, who, I think, would be more beneficial to be taught to pupils than Dickens and Shakespeare. The helpful element comes from the fact that, if the comments I received are to be believed, some people agree with me, and some people, who had never read M.V Hughes’ work, added it to their reading list.


A post whose success surprised you:
This post was not particularly meant to be a serious article, but just a little nod at the 152nd anniversary of the first public toilets opening in the UK – that’s why it’s so short. However, soon after Spending a Penny was posted, I realised it was a little more popular than I thought it would be. It is also, I believe, my second-most commented on post after ‘The Queen is Slowly Sinking’ about the death of Queen Victoria.
Not bad for a post about public toilets – it still surprises me now, and whatever would Her Majesty think…


A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved:
I’m not usually disappointed with the performance of my blog. It gets a number of views per day that make me feel content enough that I am not wasting my time writing it, and quite often people leave kind comments, which make it all worthwhile, but, having said that, I must admit to being a little disappointed with the lack of attention this article got.
The Weatherwise are predicting a Hard Winter  - a post about harsh Victorian winters, was not only interesting, but also topical, with the UK undergoing an extremely severe winter at the time of writing.
I had hoped that people would find it fascinating to read how we coped with adverse weather in the nineteenth century, but apparently not. Perhaps people were isolated from their computers by the snow, or perhaps there was enough weather talk on the news. Either way, it got very few page views and no comments.


The post that you are most proud of:
I started blogging here in September 2010, and whenever I look back on the posts I wrote when I was first starting out I do tend to feel a little embarrassed at the coarse nature of them, but, needless to say I feel I am finding my feet a little now, and after twelve months, am improving a little, I hope.
The post I take most pride in was the hardest to choose for this list, because in a way, I'm proud of them all, but I've chosen this article about ‘mad’ Victorian artist Richard Dadd because when I wrote it I had been blogging for just a month, and it's probably the first post I wrote that I felt looked a little less 'rugged' and a tad more 'professional' and looked and sounded like what I had in my mind when I first set the blog up. It also received lots of nice comments and still gets plenty of page views now, which I’m very happy about.

Those are the posts I have chosen for my meme. I hope that if you’ve stopped by you’ve had a look, and if you’re a regular visitor, that you agree.

The second part of the meme was choosing five blogs to whom I am to pass on this pleasure, that they may dredge their archives, too. I have chosen carefully, mindful not to choose only my historical peers.
I have chosen some of my very favourites which I hope you will enjoy, if you don’t already:


This Strange City
Sometimes when you’re in a city or town you’re familiar with, you take a wrong turn, or decide to go down a road you’ve never explored before because it seems as though nothing is there. To your surprise, you find a little boutique, or a café or something of that ilk, and you go inside and browse around for some time. You resolve to return again and again, and each time you do you’re not disappointed. ‘This Strange Cityis that boutique or café.
The posts are short and succinct, sometimes only a few words, but they combine with the pictures and capture the environment in a unique and delightful way. A little bit like finding a box of polaroids with descriptions of the scene beneath and thumbing through them with a cup of coffee on a spring afternoon. Please visit and follow this blog.


The Great Wen:
I love London, it is my favourite city. I have innumerable books on it and read plenty of blogs about it, but none really hit the spot like this one. Peter, who writes the Great Wen, is one of those affable chaps whose words you can sit and read and forget the time – a favourable attribute in a journo. The true mastery of this blog is that, whilst reading it, you are not aware that it is a blog about London. The city is not ‘shoved in your face’ for want of a better expression, but rather, is present in deft touches and hints. This is not a blog about London, but a London blog, written by a London lover, with the city providing the atmosphere and backdrop for a wide range of post subjects, from football, music, books, art, crime and many more.
I’m really hoping Peter does a meme, I can’t wait to see what blog posts he revives.


Spitalfields Life
Another London-based blog, but vastly different from the Great Wen, is Spitalfields Life. This is like a modern-day Victorian London periodical; articles on all manner of unique London people, industry and life can be found here; from the little company that makes the worlds finest ties to the modern day mudlark, from the markets to boxing rings, the river to theatres, former residents, current residents, former businesses and current businesses, all of London’s eccentricities, characters and charm are to be found at Spitalfields Life. Even if you live in London, you will find many posts on things you never knew existed. The photographs are wonderful and the relaxed and confident writing of the gentle author make this a perfect blog to enjoy with a cup of tea and a biscuit or two.
Look out for the utterly charming tales of Mr Pussy, too, which guarantee a smile.


Victorian Calendar
A great blog which offers a tale, news story, snippet of information or event from almost every day of Victoria’s reign. You will find articles about Victorian events you never even knew had happened here, such as the miserly old man who died and left his fortune to Queen Victoria, but also well documented happenings, such as the Whitechapel murders. An excellent blog to check back to every few days for the next article.
Plenty of information for anyone writing a novel set in a certain time period, too.


An Extraordinary Incident
One of the more entertaining historical blogs on the internet is ‘An Extraordinary Incident’. Each post is an entertaining, humerous or gruesome article from a Victorian newspaper or magazine. The author, the Impoverished Hack, describes it far better than me:
“…a collection of news stories from Victorian publications (and a few earlier ones). It will feature the unusual, the amusing, the macabre, the tragic and the hair-raising. You’ll find accounts of daredevil aeronautics, dastardly crimes, encounters with wild beasts and all manner of pith-helmeted heroics. All the stories were printed in real newspapers but that, of course, is no guarantee of their veracity.”
There’s not many Victorian blogs where you will find headlines such as; “A Woman’s Extraordinary Combat with an Alligator” “Curious Mistake with a Corpse” or “A Human Frog.” And these a real newspaper headlines from history. This blog is guaranteed a chuckle, and you cannot help but think to yourself; ‘Go on then, I’ll just read one more…’
For confirmation of the off-the-wall nature of this blog, read about the Impoverished Hack and his blog here; here

I hope you enjoy looking at my favourite blogs, and I hope they, too, do a meme so we can see their best, controversial and most beautiful work.
I’ve enjoyed doing this immensely, and want to thank Mr London Street, whose own blog, which is one of the best you will find on the entire web if you enjoy good – really good – writing, can be found at mrlondonstreet.com

Over the next few weeks, to celebrate the first birthday of this blog, I have asked a few people to write guest blogs for me. Guest blogs are not something I have done before, but I felt that after a year of doing this myself, it might be nice for different perspectives to be aired here, and for subjects to be tackled that I have little or no knowledge of. I hope you’ll come back over the next few Friday’s to read them, I’m certain that you shall not be disappointed.

2 comments:

  1. I've been reading your blog for a while, but I somehow have never gotten around to comment. Which is a shame since I'm always looking forward to The Victorianist's updates. I'm not a history buff - - history textbooks bore me to tears - but through your blog I discovered a way to learn and, what's more important, to enjoy history, even if only of a limited time period. But that's a start, right? ;)

    Thank you and happy birthday to The Victorianist!

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  2. I'm glad it's not just history buffs that come here for a read! I do try and keep things short enough to read in a few minutes so that everyone can enjoy, and not just people who have an interest in the era.

    Thanks for leaving the comment, much appreciated!

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