Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sensationalizing the Victorians

Love and sex during the Victorian period are about to get the Channel 4 treatment. From The Sun, 26 March 2008:

"The 'prudish' Victorians' obsession with sex is to be revealed in a new Channel 4 season.

"Victorian Passions will include actor Rupert Everett retracing the journeys of sex-mad explorer Sir Richard Burton [left] who brought the Kama Sutra to Britain. It will also reveal writer Charles Dickens’ adulterous affair with a woman 22 years his junior and the real-life tale of the forbidden, kinky love of a Victorian gentleman and his working-class maid.

"Victorian Sex Tourist sees Everett embark on a voyage of discovery from the brothels of Bombay to Egyptian dancing girls visited by Burton in the nineteenth century.

"A C4 spokesman said: 'Burton – an infamous explorer and sexual whirlwind – is one of Rupert’s greatest heroes. He was anathema to many Victorians as he brought us the Kama Sutra and the Arabian Nights, books which shocked society and sealed his reputation as 'Dirty Dick.'

"Dickens’ Double Life looks at how the author’s life was driven by a passion for actress Ellen Ternan which began when he was 45 and continued until his death aged 58. During that time, Dickens - who was compared to Christ on his death, according to C4 - may have fathered two illegitimate children who died in infancy.

"Upstairs Downstairs Love chronicles the taboo romance of barrister Arthur Munby and his maid Hannah Cullwick, who eventually married. They celebrated their love with explicit photos of sexy master/slave role-playing, fetishes, and boot licking.

"The season begins in June."

Mmmm. Can't wait. I imagine this will wend its way to America in the not-too-distant future. I haven't been able to determine whether any actual historians were consulted in the making of the series.


Laura said...

You know, I really get tired of showslike this, because yes, the Victorians have been stereotyped quite a bit. there was plenty of sensational stuff floating around and sexual things, etc. My almost-Ph.D was on exactly this topic (can you tell?) - sensation novels/pop culture to be precise.

There have been tons of books etc about this too - of the who'd-have-thunk-it variety (Worm in the Bud, Black Swine in the Sewers of Hampstead etc).

Anyway, I like your blog and your take on the Victorians very much!

Trish said...

Thank you for the heads-up on this upcoming television series. Rupert is not alone in admiring Richard Burton. He, along with T.E. Lawrence, are inspirations to me...

Adullamite said...

I somehow think this will be less reliable than anything found in textbooks! Historians on C4?
Aye right!

La Belle Americaine said...

I'm still waiting for Channel 4's Edwardian season to make it's way to America, so I'm not holding my breath for this Victorian one.

Cartimandua said...

I worked on a programme for this season (not mentioned here, but it is on the C4 round-up). We interviewed and / or consulted (off top of head) Walter Arnstein, Matthew Sweet, David Dabydeen, Julian Fellowes, Edgar Feuchtwanger, Andrew Roberts, Tristram Hunt, Laura Ponsonby, Juliet Gardiner, Miles Taylor, Richard Aldous, Karina Urbach, Clarissa Campbell Orr, among other good and generous contributors. And read the collected diaries/letters of Victoria, Albert, Vicky, Greville and Ponsonby along with shelves of secondary sources. I'm not suggesting that you have to like the result, but hope this might reassure, somewhat ;-)

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