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Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Cry of a City Clerk: Or: A Christmas Poem:

I KNEW, I knew it would not last –
'Twas hard, 'twas hopeful, but 'tis past.
Ah! ever thus, from boyhood's hour,
I've seen my fondest hopes decay.
I never trusted Jack Frost's power,
But Jack Frost did my trust betray.
I never bought a pair of skates
On Friday – I am in the law –
But, ere l started, with my mates
On Saturday, 'twas sure to thaw!
Now, too – the prospect seemed divine –
They skated yesterday, I knew,
And now, just as I 'm going to dine,
The sun comes out, the skies grow blue,
Ere we at Wimbledon can meet,
Those horrid gaps! – that treacherous sludge!
I shall not get one skimmer fleet!
After my long and sloppy trudge.
No go! One more lost Saturday!
To skating's joys I'm still a stranger.
I sit and curse the melting ray,
In which my hopes all melt away –
It means soft ice, chill slop, and –

Friday, 23 December 2011

Black and White: Or The Phantom Steed! Or: A Typical Ghost Story for Christmas, by a Witness of the Truth:

I WAS walking in one of the slums in the neighbourhood of Oxford Street, some years ago, and always fond of horse-flesh (I had driven – as a boy – a bathing machine for my pleasure along the wild coastline of the great Congo Continent) was greatly attracted by a hack standing within the shafts of a cart belonging to a funeral furnisher. Like many of its class, the horse was jet black, with a long flowing tail and a mane to match. As I gazed upon the creature the driver came out of the shop (to which doleful establishment the equipage belonged) and drove slowly away. I felt forced to follow, and soon found myself outside a knacker's yard. Guessing the intention of the driver to treat his steed as only fit for canine food, I offered to purchase the seemingly doomed animal.

To my surprise, the man expressed his willingness to treat with me, and suggested that I might have the carcase at the rate of 4s 11¾d. a pound. Considering the price not excessive, I agreed, and, having weighed the horse at an automatic weighing machine, I handed over £100 in notes. Then the first strange thing happened. Before I could replace my pocket book in its receptable in my coat, the driver had absolutely vanished! I could not see him anywhere. I was the more annoyed at this, as I found that (by mistake) I had given him notes on the Bank of Elegance, which everyone knows are of less value than notes on the Bank of England. However, it was too late to search for the vendor, and I walked away as I could, leading by the bridle the steed I had so recently acquired.

It was now necessary to get quarters for the night, but I found, at that advanced hour, that many of the leading hotels were either full or unwilling to supply me with a bedroom and stable combined until the morning. I was refused firmly but civilly at the Grand, the Metropole, the Grosvenor, and the Pig and Whistle Tavern, South East Hackney. At the latter caravanserai, the night-porter (who was busying himself cleaning the pewter pots) suggested that I should go to Bath.

Adopting this idea, I mounted my steed (which answered, after a little practice, to the name of Cats'-meat), and took the Old Kent Road until I reached St. Albans. It was now morning, and the old abbey stood out in grand outline against the glorious scarlet of the setting sun. Entering an inn, I called for refreshment for man and beast, and, having authority for considering myself qualified to act as representative of both, consumed the double portion. Thinking about the whiskey I had just discussed, as I rode along, I came to a milestone, standing on its head, and a sign post in the last stage of hopeless intoxication. It was here that a police constable turned his lantern upon me with a pertinacity that apparently was calculated to challenge observation. Annoyed, but not altogether surprised, I declared my opinion that it was "all right," and fell asleep. When I awoke, I found that I had travelled some hundreds of miles, and, strange to say, my horse was as good as when it had started. From what I could gather from the signs on the road (I have been accustomed to Forestry from my earliest childhood), it seemed to me that, while I was slumbering, I must have passed Macclesfield, Ramsgate, Richmond (both in Surrey and in Yorkshire), and was now close to the weirdest spot in all phantom-populated Wiltshire – a place in its rugged desolation suggestive of the Boundless Prairies and BUFFALO BILL – Wild Westbury!

Greatly fatigued, I entered a second inn, and enjoyed a hearty meal, which was also a simple one. I am a liquidarian, and take no animal or vegetable food, and have not tasted fish for nearly a quarter of a century. When I wished to continue my journey to Bath, I found Cats'-meat so disinclined to move, that I thought the best thing to do in the interest of progress, was to carry him myself. He was very light – so light that I imagined the automatic weighing machine must have been out of order when I tested it. Almost in a trance I walked along, until, stumbling, I fell, and dropped Cats'-meat into a well. And then another strange thing happened. The horse with its jet-black tail and mane, emerged from the water as white as snow! Apparently annoyed at the treatment to which it had been accidentally subjected, it fled away, and I lost sight of it amongst the hills that overlook Wild Westbury.

And then the strangest thing of all happened, and has been happening ever since!

In clear weather, on the side of one of these hills, Cats'-meat, in the habit as he stood when he left the well on that fatal day, may be seen patiently waiting until the time shall arrive when he shall receive a coat of blacking, a companion steed to share with him his labours, and a hearse! I am not the only person who has seen him thus. The spectre (if it be a spectre) is known for miles around, and has been watched by thousands. Nay, more. On occasions of great rejoicing, when merry-making has been, the order of the day or night several Cats'-meats have appeared to the carousing watchers strangely blended together.

Speaking for myself, if I have seen one I have seen half a dozen – nay, more – with hills to match! And those who do not believe me can continue the journey I once commenced, and (after I have wished them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year) proceed to Bath…
                                                                                                    - Punch, Christmas 1890

Voces Populi: Or: A Christmas Romp from Punch:

Whilst going through a few periodicals looking for something Christmassy to post over the next few days, I stumbled across a little Christmas folly from the Punch Christmas Number of 1890, and thought it may provide a little seasonal cheer:

SCENE - Mrs. CHIPPERFIELD's Drawing room,  It is after the Christmas dinner, and  the  Gentlemen have  not  yet  appeared, Mrs. C. is laboriously attempting to  be gracious  to  her  Brother's Fiancee, whose acquaintance she has made for the first  time, and  with whom  she is disappointed. Married Sisters and Maiden Aunts confer in corners with a sleepy acidity.

First Married Sister (to Second). I felt  quite sorry  for  FRED, to see him sitting  there, looking – and no wonder – so ashamed of himself – but I always will say, and I always must  say, CAROLINE, that if you and ROBERT had been firmer with him when he was  younger,  he would never have turned out so badly! Now there's my GEORGE – &c., &c.
Mrs. C. (to the Fiancee) Well, my dear, I don't approve of young men getting  engaged until they have some prospects of being able to marry, and dear ALGY was  always my favourite brother, and I've seen so much misery from long engagements.    However, we must hope for the best, that's all!
A Maiden Aunt (to Second Ditto) Exactly what struck me, MARTHA. One waiter would have been quite sufficient, and if JAMES must be grand and give champagne, he might have given us a little more of it; I'm sure I'd little more than foam in my glass!   And every plate as cold as a stone, and you and I the only people who were not considered worthy of silver forks, and the children encouraged to behave as they please, and  JOSEPH PODMORE made such a fuss  with, because he's well off – and not enough sweetbread to go the  round. Ah, well, thank goodness, we needn't dine here for another year!
Mr. Chipperfield (at the door) Sorry to cut you short in your cigar, Uncle, and you LIMPETT; but fact is, being Christmas night, I thought we'd come up a little sooner and all have a bit of a romp...Well, EMILY, my dear, here we are, all of us – ready for anything in the way of a frolic – what's it to be? Forfeits, games, Puss in the Corner, something to cheer us all up, eh? Won't anyone make a suggestion?   [General expression of gloomy blankness.
Algernon (to his Fiancee – whom he wants to see shine), ZEFFIE, you know no end of games – what's that one you played at home, with potatoes and a salt-spoon, you know?
Zeffie (blushing) No, please, ALGY! I don't know any games, indeed, I couldn't, really!
Mr. C. Uncle JOSEPH will get us going, I'm sure – what do you say, Uncle?
Uncle Joseph Well, I won't say "no" to a quiet rubber.
Mrs. C. But, you see, we can't all play in that, and there is a pack of cards in the house somewhere; but I know two of the aces are gone, and I don't think all the court cards were there the last time we played. Still, if you can manage with what is left, we might get up a game for you.
Uncle J. (grimly) Thank you, my dear, but, on the whole, I think I would almost rather romp –
Mr. C. Uncle JOSEPH votes for romping! What do you say to Dumb Crambo?   Great fun – half of us go out, and come in on all fours, to rhyme to "cat," or "bat," or something – you can play that, LIMPET?
Mr. Limpett If I must find a rhyme to cat, I prefer, so soon after dinner, not to go on all fours for it, I confess.
Mr. C. Well, let's have something quieter, then – only do settle. Musical Chairs, eh?
Algy ZEFFIE will play the piano for you – she plays beautifully.
Zeffie.Not without notes, ALGY, and I forgot to bring my music with me. Shall we play "Consequences"? It's a very quiet game – you play it sitting down, with paper and pencil, you know!
Mr. Limpett (sardonically, and sotto voce).  Ah, this is something like a rollick now. "Consequences,'' eh?
Algy (who has overheard – in a  savage  undertone), If that  isn't good enough for you, suggest something better – or shut up!                        [Mr. L. prefers the latter alternative.
Mr. C. Now, then, have you given everybody a piece of paper, EMILY?   CAROLINE, you're going to play – we can't leave you out of it.
Aunt Caroline No, JAMES, I'd rather look on, and see you all enjoying yourselves – I’ve no animal spirits now!
Mr. C. Oh, nonsense!  Christmas time, you know. Let's be jolly while we can – give her a pencil, EMILY!
Aunt C. No, I can't, really. You must excuse me. I know I'm a wet blanket; but, when I think that I mayn't be with you another Christmas, we may most of us be dead by then, why – (sobs).
Fred (the Family Failure) That's right, Mater – trust you to see a humorous side to everything!
Another Aunt For shame, FRED! If you don't know who is responsible for your poor mother's low spirits, others do!
                                                                                       [The Family Failure collapses.
Mr. Limpett Well, as we've all got pencils; is there any reason why the revelry should not commence?
Mr. C. No – don't let's waste any more time. Miss ZEFFIE says she will write  down  on the  top  of  her  paper  "Who met whom" (must be a Lady and Gentleman in the party, you know), then she folds it down, and passes it on to the next, who writes, "What he said to her" – the next, "What she said to him" – next, "What the consequences were," and the last,  "What the world said." Capital game – first rate.   Now, then!
                                                                                       [The whole party pass papers in silence from one to another, and scribble industriously with knitted brows.
Mr. C. Time's up, all of you. I'll read the first paper aloud. (Glances at it, and explodes.)  He he! – this is really very funny, (Reads.) “Uncle JOSEPH met Aunt CAROLINE at the – ho-ho! – The Empire! He said to her; ’what are the wild waves saying?’ and she said to him, ‘It's time you were taken away!’ The consequences were that they both went and had their hair cut, and the world said they had always suspected there was something between them!"
Uncle J. I consider that a piece of confounded impertinence!
Aunt C. It's not true. I never met JOSEPH at the Empire. I don't go to such places. I didn't think I should be insulted like this – (Weeps.) – on Christmas too!                                                             
Aunts' Chorus FRED aqain!
                                                                    [They regard Family Failure indignantly
Mr. C. There, then, it was all fun – no harm meant. I'll read the next. "Mr. LIMPETT met Miss ZEFFIE in the Burlington Arcade. He said to her, ‘O, you little duck!' She said to him, ‘Fowls are cheap to-day! The consequences were that they never smiled again, and the world said, ‘What price hot potatoes?’ (Everybody looks depressed.)  Hmm – not bad – but I think we'll play something else now.
                                   [ZEFFIE perceives that ALGY is not pleased with her.
Tommy (To Uncle JOSEPH) Uncle, why didn't you carve at dinner?
Uncle J. Well, TOMMY, because the carving was done at a side table – and uncommon badly done, too. Why do you want to know?
Tommy Parpar thought you would carve, I know. He told Mummy she must ask you, because –     
Mrs. C. (With a prophetic instinct.) Now, TOMMY, you mustn't tease your Uncle..   Come away, and tell your new Aunt ZEFFIE what you're going to do with your Christmas boxes.
Tommy. But mayn't I tell him what Parpar said, first?
Mrs. C. No, no; by and by – not now!                            [She averts the danger.
[Later; the Company are playing "Hide the Thimble;" i.e. someone has planted that article in a place so conspicuous that few would expect to find it there. As each person catches sight of it, he or she sits down. Uncle JOSEPH is still, to the general merriment, wandering about and getting angrier every moment.
Mr. C. That's it, Uncle, you're warm – you’re getting warm!
Uncle J. (Boiling over.)  Warm, Sir? I am warm – and something more, I can tell you!                                                                                   [Sits down with a bump.
Mr. C. You haven't seen it! I'm sure you haven't seen it. Come now, Uncle!
Uncle J. Never mind whether I have or have not.  Perhaps I don't want to see it, Sir!
The Children Then do you give it up? Do you want to be told? Why, it's staring you in the face all the time!
Uncle J. I don't care whether it's staring or not – I don't want to be told anything more about it.
The  Children Then you're cheating, Uncle – you must go on walking till you do see it!
Uncle J. Oh, that's it, eh? Very well, then – I'll walk!
[Walks out, leaving the company paralysed Mrs. C. Run after him, TOMMY, and tell him – quick!                    [Exit TOMMY
Mr. C. (feebly) I think when Uncle JOSEPH does come back, we'd better try to think of some game he can't lose his temper at. Ah, here's TOMMY!
Tommy I told him – but he went all the same, and slammed the door. He said I was to go back and tell you that you would find he was cut up – and cut up rough, too!
Mrs. C. But what did you tell him?
Tommy. Why, only that Parpar asked him to come tonight because he was sure to cut up well. You said I might!
[Sensation; Prompt departure of TOMMY for bed; moralising by Aunts; a spirit of perfect candour prevails; names are called – also cabs; further hostilities postponed till next Christmas.

Happy Christmas everyone,
All the best for the season,
The Amateur Casual

Friday, 9 December 2011

Twitter’s Top Five Victorians: Or: A Straw Poll

Last Monday I carried out a quick poll on Twitter in which I asked people;
Who are your top five favourite Victorians?

I was overwhelmed with the responses from everyone, and set about putting together a league table of Twitter’s favourite men and women of the age. As the league table took shape, I discovered that a top five was impossible, as many of the front-runners shared the same number of points, and so the top five became a top thirteen, but, John Stuart Mill shouldn’t feel too bad about sitting thirteenth, and should take heart that he is really joint-fifth with none other than Arthur Conan Doyle, Benjamin Disraeli, Joseph Bazalgette and the Great Prince Albert.

For reasons of suspense, I have assembled the league here in reverse order, starting with the people who received only one vote:

1 Vote:
Toulouse Lautrec (French Artist, below)

Josephine Butler (Feminist)

Alexander Milne (Entrepreneur & Philanthropist)

Lord Carnarvon (Aristocrat & Financier of Egyptian excavations)

Joseph Swan (Physicist & Chemist)

Bram Stoker (Author)

John Hanning Speke (Discovered the source of the Nile)

Kenneth MacLeay (Painter of Queen Victoria's "Highlanders of Scotland" portraits)

Harriet Martineau (Journalist & Writer)

James Clerk Maxwell (Scottish physicist & mathematician)

John Herschel (Astronomer & mathematician)

William Whewell (Scientist)

James Whistler (Artist)

Angela Burdett Coutts (Philanthropist - read more here)

John Bright (Politician, coined the phrase “England is the mother of all parliaments”)

Wilkie Collins (Author)

David Octavius Hill (Artist)

JW Waterhouse (Artist)

H.G. Wells (Author)

Mary Coleridge (Author & Poet)

Emily Dickinson (American poet)

Elizabeth Siddal (Rossetti’s partner & model for Pre-Raphaelite paintings)

William Wilberforce (Politician & Philanthropist)

John Everett Millais (Artist)

Dorothea Beale (Educational reformer & former principal of Cheltenham Ladies College)

Frances Buss (Headmistress & Pioneer of women’s education)

Christopher Anderson (Theologist)

Hugh Miller (G

Thomas Henry Huxley (Biologist & Darwin supporter)

Philip Henry Gosse (Naturalist)

Helena Blavatsky (Theosophist)

Henry Thomas Buckle (Historian & Author)

James Anthony Froude (Historian & Author)

Lord Acton (Politician & Author, below)

Edward A. Freeman (Historian)

Mendelssohn (German Composer)

Augustus Pugin (Architect)

Earl of Ellesmere (I’m guessing the 2nd Earl, Politician)

John Murray (Publisher)

Thomas Hardy (Author)

Edward Elgar (British Composer)

Edward Burne-Jones (Artist)

Sir Titus Salt (manufacturer, politician & philanthropist)

William Armstrong (Industrialist)

Octavia Hill (Social reformer)

Edwin Chadwick (Social reformer)

Charles Booth (Social researcher, below)

Thomas Edison (Inventor)

Mark Twain (Author)

Edgar Allan Poe (Author & Poet, read more here)

Mary Kingsley (Writer & Explorer)

Marianne North (Naturalist & Botanical Artist)

Isabella Bird (Explorer & Writer)

Amelia Edwards (Author & Egyptologist)

Mary Gaunt (Author)

Van Gogh (Artist)

Mary Cassatt (American Painter)

Marie Curie (Physicist & Radioactivity pioneer)

Harriet Beecher Stowe (American Author & Abolitionist)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Poet)

Polly Nichols (Whitechapel murder Victim)

Annie Chapman (Ditto)

Liz Stride (Ditto)

Catherine Eddowes (Ditto)

Mary Jane Kelly (Ditto)

Now the Victorians who received two votes:

2 Votes:

Oscar Wilde (Author & Poet)

Ellen Terry (Actress, read more here)

William Gladstone (Politician, below)

Isabella Beeton (Domestic Goddess)

Henri Giffard (Engineer)

Sir Richard Francis Burton (Geographer & Explorer)

Russell Wallace (Geographer, Explorer, Naturalist & Biologist)

Charles Babbage (Mathematician & Inventor, below)

7th Earl of Shaftesbury (Politician & Leader of Factory Reform)

Michael Faraday (Chemist & Physicist)

John Snow (Physician, read more here)

William Booth (Founder of Salvation Army)

Matthew Arnold (Poet & Schools Inspector)

Friedrech Engels (German Social Scientist & Joint Father of Marxism)

Elizabeth Gaskell (Author)

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (First woman to gain a medical qualification)

Anthony Trollope (Author)

C.L. Dodgson (Lewis Carroll – Author)

Receiving three votes each were:

3 Votes:

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Artist)

Christina Rossetti (Poet, Sister of the Above)

Alfred Tennyson (Poet)

Nikola Tesla (Inventor, below)

Charlotte Bronte (Author

Florence Nightingale (Nurse & Healthcare Reformer)

Now onto the difficult part, the top five (which is actually a top fourteen)

Joint Fifth: (Four votes each)

Joseph Bazalgette:
(1819 – 1891)

He may only be my second favourite engineer of the Victorian age, but his achievement is certainly second to none in my eyes. The design, science and mathematics behind London’s sewer system is, in my opinion, the work of a meticulous genius.
Bazalgette;s sewers and the gardens and embankments that came with them not only made London cleaner, safer and les of a health hazard, but also a more beautiful and aesthetically pleasing place.
Victoria and Albert embankments were both designed by him (to cover low-level sewers) as was the Chelsea embankment. If you need proof, look at a picture of Victoria Embankment, and then look at a picture of the site prior to its building.

Prince Albert:
(1819 – 1861)

Cited as the father of the modern monarchy, Albert was initially not liked by the British public who didn’t warm to the Queen’s foreign husband, but he soon began to turn the tide of opinion through the improvements he made to various areas of society. Soon after marrying Victoria, who was not as well educated as him, he began to help her with the governmental paperwork she had to do. It is also down to Albert that the monarch has no political preferences, as he deemed it right that the Royal Family should be ‘above’ politics. Albert did a great deal of campaigning for improvements to the educational system and reformed the university curriculum to incorporate more modern subjects, rather than traditional subjects such as maths and history. As well as this, he campaigned for better schooling for less well-off children, but, as a lover of the arts and sciences, his finest achievement was the Great Exhibition of 1851 which showcased the best and most ground-breaking art, industry, science and technology from all over the world. The exhibition was a massive success and ushered in an era of industrial and scientific change.

In December 1861, Albert Died at the age of 42. Queen Victoria famously mourned him for the rest of her life, withdrawing from public duties and unintentionally undoing some of Albert’s hard work in turning the monarchy into a popular institution.

Arthur Conan Doyle:
(1859 – 1930)

Author of the still-popular Sherlock Holmes novels, Doyle’s other achievements are often overshadowed by the great Baker Street detective.

I blogged about those in May, read it here: here

Mary Seacole:
(1805 – 1881)

She may have been overlooked by Florence Nightingale when she chose thirty-eight nurses to take to the Crimea, but Mary managed to receive one vote more than the vaunted Miss Nightingale in my poll, and secure a place in the top 5. This surprised me, because Florence Nightingale has been a popular figure since she died, and her popularity has remained steady, yet Mary Seacole was largely forgotten for almost a century, but in recent decades her achievements have brought her back into the limelight.

She is most famous for her work helping soldiers in the Crimean war, which, despite being turned down by Nightingale, she still attended, getting there herself by raising money for the journey.
During the war, Mary treated sick and wounded soldiers from both sides, often placing herself in danger to do so.
130 years after her death, there are plans to erect a memorial statue to Mary in the grounds of St Thomas’s church in London.

Benjamin Disraeli:
(1804 – 1881)

When I saw Disraeli come in the top five I was not hugely surprised, and I think his place here is a sign of how different politics is today, compared with the Victorian era. I know it is impossible, but if we were to travel over a century into the future, I wonder which of today’s politicians would appear in similar lists? Certainly I would suggest none since the end of Thatcher.
As well as being Prime Minister, Disraeli had many other interests outside of politics, including writing, and he was a successful author, having published seventeen works of fiction, and, not unlike Dickens, leaving an unfinished novel, ‘Falconet’ behind after his death.
His debut 1826 novel, ‘Vivian Grey’ was written anonymously, and is the story of the title character’s attempted progression into the world of politics. Disraeli apparently based the character of Vivien Grey on a former business partner – hence his anonymous authorship – but when his identity was discovered Disraeli was somewhat vilified by certain circles.

His first foray into politics was in 1837, when he was elected to represent Maidstone under the Peel government. He was ridiculed after making his first speech as an MP, when he spoke on Irish Elections, but predicted to his audience; “the time will come when you will hear me”.

He was not wrong. He became Prime Minister in 1868 at the age of 64 following the resignation of Lord Derby, though Disraeli only held the post for a matter of months before Gladstone’s liberals came to power. Disraeli would go on to have another term as Prime Minister, though, when, in 1874, with Disraeli aged 70, his conservative government defeated Gladstone’s liberal party in the election.

Disraeli’s second Prime Ministerial spell lasted six years, until 1880, when his great rival Gladstone once again took over as Prime Minister. Disraeli would not take the post again, dying in 1881 of bronchitis.

The long-running battle between Disraeli and Gladstone is probably one of the greatest and most interesting Parliamentary rivalries in history, and although Gladstone became PM a record four times and has many admirers still today, many people hold Disraeli in greater affection, as did Queen Victoria herself, who was known to favour Disraeli over Gladstone due to the older man’s charm and flattery.

His crowning achievement as Prime Minister was bringing India and the Suez Canal under control of Britain. (And receiving two votes more than Gladstone in this poll.)

John Stuart Mill: 
(1806 – 1873)

I have to admit, Mill was someone I knew virtually nothing about prior to carrying out my poll, and so I was reasonably surprised to see his name in the top five. According to the eminent Wikipedia, John Stuart Mill was:
“…a British philosopher, economist and civil servant. An influential contributor to social theory, political theory, and political economy, his conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control.

He was a proponent of utilitarianism, an ethical theory developed by Jeremy Bentham. Hoping to remedy the problems found in an inductive approach to science, such as confirmation bias, he clearly set forth the premises of falsification as the key component in the scientific method. Mill was also a Member of Parliament and an important figure in liberal political philosophy.”

One of the best things about doing this poll has been carrying out snippets of research on some of the people mentioned that I knew little or nothing about, of which there were a couple. And so, after some enlightenment, we move onto the eminent peoples who proudly came....

Joint Fourth: (Five votes each)

Queen Victoria:
(1819 – 1901)

Figurehead of the greatest era ever known and Britain’s longest serving monarch ever, having been Queen for a little over sixty three and a half years from 1837 until her death in January 1901.

Read about the death of Victoria and the end of the Victorian era here

Karl Marx:
(1818 – 1883)

The co-father of Marxism (along with the earlier-mentioned Friedrech Engels) Karl Marx is most famed for the political manuscript; ‘The Communist Manifesto’ written with Engels in 1847.
Marx was a strong advocate of socialism, and the manifesto features his idea that the current (in 1847) capitalist society would eventually be replaced by socialism, and then eventually communism. Communism was a society with no states or governments, in which the whole world lives as a ‘commune’. There was to be no money, and therefore no buying or selling, but people would work for free for the common good of society, and anything they needed, such as food and shelter, would be provided for them for free.
With no governments or geographical or political boundaries, war would naturally cease.
Obviously Marx and Engels never saw this come to fruition, but ‘The Communist Manifesto’ is still a popular and relevant document today, and more widely read than when it was initially released.
Karl Marx also appeared in Peter Ackroyd’s excellent novel, ‘Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem’ which comes highly recommended.

William Morris:
(1834 – 1896)

Textile designer, artist, poet, writer, socialist, illustrator, medievalist, father of the modern fantasy novel and friend to the Pre-Raphaelites, Morris certainly deserves a place on the list.
Despite his clearly busy schedule, Morris is best known for his arts and crafts work, and particularly wallpaper, the patterns of which he printed using the ancient metho of carved wooden blocks rather than the more common rollers. It was at Marborough and Exeter College in Oxford that he met Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The three artists formed ‘The Brotherhood’ and, inspired and influenced by the writings of John Ruskin, the eminent art critic, created pieces of work based on medieval history, myths and rituals.
As well as his art, Morris wrote poetry, and published a collection entitled ‘The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems’ in 1858.

As ‘The Brotherhood’ expanded to include architect Phillip Webb, artist Ford Maddox Brown, mathematician Charles Faulkner, and engineer P.P Marshall, they formed ‘Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co.’ "Fine Art Workmen in Painting, Carving, Furniture and the Metals," in 1861, a furnishing and decorative arts manufacturer and retailer which created and sold medieval-inspired home-ware. They displayed their work at the 1862 Great Exhibition (read about the 1862 Exhibition here) and subsequently went on to huge success, changing the taste of the entore nation when it came to home décor. Their commissions included the Armoury and Tapestry Room in St. James's Palace and the Dining Room in the Victoria and Albert Museum

Isambard Kingdom Brunel:
(1806 – 1859)

One of my favourite Victorians and, in my opinion, the greatest engineering genius the world has, and will, ever see for his ship-building alone, but he also designed bridges, railway lines and tunnels.
When I’m asked what I would most like to do if I could step inside a time machine, my initial answer is always to go to the opening day of the 1851 Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace, but a close second would be to visit the Millwall docks in London in 1858 and see Brunel’s Great Eastern.
The Great Eastern was, at the time, the biggest ship the world had ever seen, and at a time when the world was making the transition from sail to steam, she was the most advanced, too.
The Great Eastern was designed for long-haul trips to Australia, where there was a gold-boom at the time, but with it being so far from Britain, to get there by ship required stopping to refuel with coal. Brunel’s idea was simple; make the ship big enough to carry the all the coal it needed on board to get to Australia without needing to stop. The audacity was typical of Brunel. In the end, though, when it came to the day of the launch, it all went wrong. The Great Eastern was SO big that it had to be launched into the Thames sideways as it was almost as long as the river was wide. Two separate launch ramps were constructed, one at each end of the ship, but the ramps were poorly constructed, and one sat lower than the other, causing the ship to turn lop-sided and get stuck.
Brunel’s first taste of a large engineering project came when he worked with his father, Marc Brunel, on the difficult Thames Tunnel project, which you can read more about here.
Brunel’s other notable engineering feats were the Clifton suspension bridge that crosses the River Avon which took over thirty years to complete, and the two groundbreaking ships the Great Western, the first steam powered ship to cross the Atlantic, and the Great Britain, the world’s first iron-hulled, screw-propeller-driven, steam-powered passenger liner.

On a disgracefully shallow point, he also looks ‘cool’. 

Joint Third: (Seven votes each)

George Eliot:
(1819 – 1880)

Real name Mary Anne Evans – though not to be confused with Disraeli’s wife of the same name – George Eliot is the highest placed woman on the list. She changed her name to apparently avoid the period’s stereotype that women authors penned only wishy-washy or romantic novels, and so adopted a male-sounding name to ensure an unprejudiced reception to her work.
She wrote seven novels throughout her career, with ‘Middlemarch’ and ‘Silas Marner’ probably being her best-known work. Her books were set in rural England and explored feelings of social outcasts whose lack of proximity to the city, and possibly the industrial world, made them less relevant.
George Eliot grew up in the Midlands, but at the age of thirty-one moved to London where she both lived, and found employment with, John Chapman, the radical publisher who gave her a job as assistant editor of his left-wing journal ‘The Westminster Review’. Such a position was uncommon for a woman to hold at the time.
In her position she was able to meet fellow literary-minded people, including philosopher George Henry Lewes. Lewes was married with three children, but despite this, Eliot moved in which him and formed a relationship which caused somewhat of a scandal as, unlike many other literary figures of the time, they publicly admitted their affair, and did not keep it secret.
George Eliot died on 22nd December 1880 at the age of sixty0one, and is buried in Highgate cemetery in London

Charles Darwin:
(1809 – 1882)

Darwin is probably one of the most important people on the list in terms of changing the way we think about the world, and despite that, he is one of the Victorians into whose life I have never really peeked. I know all about his ‘On the Origin of Species’, though, and can’t imagine what it must have been like to read – or hear – that theory for the first time.
The idea was initially planted in Darwin’s mind whilst he was on board HMS Beagle on a five-year scientific expedition. On the ship, Darwin read the book ‘Principles of Geology’ by geologist, lawyer and friend of Darwin, Charles Lyell. In the book, Lyell claimed that fossils were evidence of creatures that had lived thousands – or maybe even millions – of years ago.
This sparked a thought in Darwin’s mind, which was fuelled on the Galapagos Islands when he noted that each island was populated by finches, which were all slightly different from each other. The birds had evolved to live in their specific environments.
Upon returning to England in 1836, Darwin set to work on his theories. It was not until 1859 when Darwin published ‘On the origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection’ and caused a bit of a storm in doing so. The church in particular attacked the theories, being – as was almost the entire population – of the opinion that man had been made by God. Darwin’s theory placed man as simply an animal that had evolved over a long period of time to become the most successful animal on the planet. This revolutionary idea caused outrage, but it is testament to the genius of Darwin, and the strength of his research and work, that over time, his theory has supplanted that of the Church’s as the accepted origin of different species’ on the planet.

Second Place: (Eight votes)

John Ruskin:
(1819 – 1900)

A philanthropist, art critic and patron, Ruskin has already been mentioned in this list due to his influence on William Morris and ‘The Brotherhood’, but they were not the only ones to receive a helping hand from Ruskin.
The great romantic landscape painter JMW Turner was a relatively obscure artist until he met Ruskin, who revived Turner’s career with his 1843 book, ‘Modern painters I’ in which he championed his friend. He would go on to release a second volume, ‘Modern Painters II’ in 1846, in which he praised the Pre-Raphaelites.
In the 1850’s Ruskin became interested in politics and an advocate of socialism, and when he became a wealthy man following the death of his father in 1864, his socialist beliefs led him to give away much of the money, with the principle benefactors being the St Georges Guild, the Whitelands College and the John Ruskin School. The St Georges Guild had been founded by Ruskin himself in 1870, and he used the charity to put forward his ideas about a socialist society. Prior to his death in 1900 Ruskin had retired to the Lake District and become all but a recluse.

First Place: (Thirteen votes)

Charles Dickens:
(1812 – 1870)

No real surprise here, Dickens finished well clear of all the opposition, and rightly so, with next year being the bi-centenery of his birth, which I find a little strange. I wrote about his 199th birthday earlier this year here but two hundred years seems like such a long time, and although he was born a quarter of a century before the Victorian era began, he is the quintessential Victorian, and for his birth to have been two hundred years ago brings into sharp focus the fact that the Victorian era slips further and further into the foggy, ever-darkening and murky past with every year that passes. In 1982, it was 81 years since the death of Queen Victoria, which put the event within living memory. There was a strong chance that that pensioner you bumped into on your way to the cinema to see E.T was a Victorian once, but that chance has now passed, and Victoria’s death gets ever further away – 111 years next year.

There is not a great deal to be said about Dickens, although I was thrilled that when I wrote about the train crash he was involved in, that a few people contacted me and said that they had no idea that it had ever happened, and so I was delighted to have opened up a tiny slice of Dickens’ life to people. You can read my article here if you so wish.

Just a few points about the poll, which was, of course, by no means definitive, and took place roughly between 1p.m on Monday 28th November and finished at around 9a.m the following day. There were a few surprises in it, for me.

Firstly, the notable exceptions; people such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry Mayhew, George Gissing, Henry Irving, Marie Lloyd, Julia Margaret Cameron and others who didn’t appear when I felt sure they would. I have already written of Julia Margaret Cameron and Marie Lloyd, but I think Gissing is an interesting character, and I may honour him with an article all of his own soon, other nominees that achieved surprising results were Poe, who received only one vote, Christina Rossetti, who achieved the same number of votes as her brother Dante, and Ruskin, who I did not expect to be anywhere near the top of the list

The other surprising thing on the list was the number of females who appear; thirty two out of one-hundred-and-three Victorians nominated were women; a notable feat considering the challenges before them during the period.

I should also note that one of the people nominated did not make it onto the list, since they were fictional, but in the interest of fairness I shall mention here that Charles Pooter, of the Grossmith brothers’ comedic novel ‘Diary of a Nobody’ was also nominated.

Finally, a great big thank-you to everyone who Tweeted with nominations, opinions and kind words, it has been a fun post to write and I may conduct another poll very soon!