Time for another round-up . . .
It's the year of the Victorians at Blenheim Palace (left), home to the 11th Duke of Marlborough and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. Though 20 April, visitors can try their hand at Victorian games in the Pleasure Gardens (croquet, hopscotch, quoits); over the May Bank Holiday, they can take part in a reenactment of a Victorian reenactment of a medieval jousting tournament that will also include storytelling, falconry, and archery. An exhibition of the work of Henry Taunt, the celebrated Oxford-based photographer (1842–1922), will be held in May and June.
Kathryn Hughes discovers a treasure-trove of rare Victorian courtship manuals in the Cambridge University Library Tower.
"Capable of being tender and unguarded, as well as worried and wound tight, [the Victorian bourgeoisie] muddled through the maze of desire and protocol, hoping not to look too foolish in the process," she notes. "In other words, they aimed for the romantic best but prepared for the worst. And, to help them on their way, they were not too proud to buy a book to tell them what to do." See, the Victorians were just like us! Read more at "Secrets of Cambridge 'Porn' Library Revealed" in the 26 February Telegraph.
For a mere 65p, you can enjoy a quint- essentially Victorian experience in Saltburn-by-the-Sea in northern Yorkshire. Redcard & Cleveland Borough Council will reopen Saltburn's Victorian Cliff Lift, one of the most popular attractions in the Borough, on 5 April. Last year, more than 103,000 visitors used the lift, which links Saltburn Pier with the town. First opened in 1884, it's now the oldest water-powered lift system using original technology in Britain. Postcard image above via the Huntcliff History Club, a student group at Huntcliff Secondary School in Saltburn, which has put a number of historical photos of the lift online as part of a class project.
And finally, not Victorian, but suggestive to anyone interested in the methods of historical narrative, is Shirley Dent's recent blog entry "How Graphs Gave Us Harry Potter." Dent uses Charles Joseph Minard's "carte figurative" of Napoleon's misadventures in Russia in 1812 as a point of departure to discuss how "at the very point in history where the modern novel takes shape, change across time comes to be the object of quantitative enquiry and depiction." A poster of Minard's graphic hangs near my desk; it reminds me while I'm writing that stories can be told in many ways and encourages me to strive for clarity and precision. The poster can be purchased here.