A delightful and fascinating social history of Victorians at leisure, told through the letters, diaries, journals and novels of nineteenth-century men and women, from the author of the bestselling ‘The Victorian House’.
Imagine a world where only one in five people owns a book, where just one in ten has a knife or a fork – a world where five people out of every six do not own a cup to hold a hot drink. That was what England was like in the early eighteenth century. Yet by the close of the nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution had brought with it not just factories, railways, mines and machines but also fashion, travel, leisure and pleasure.
Leisure became an industry – a cornucopia of excitement for the masses – and it was spread by newspapers, advertising, promotions and publicity – all of which were eighteenth-century creations. It was Josiah Wedgwood and his colleagues who invented money-back guarantees, free delivery and celebrity endorsements. New technology such as the railways brought audiences to ever-more-elaborate extravaganzas, whether it was theatrical spectaculars with breathtaking pyrotechnics and hundreds of extras – ‘hippodramas' recreating the battle of Waterloo – or the Great Exhibition itself, proudly displaying 'the products of all quarters of the globe' under twenty-two acres of the sparkling 'Crystal Palace'.
In ‘Consuming Passions’, the bestselling author of ‘The Victorian House’ explores this dramatic revolution in science, technology and industry – and how a world of thrilling sensation, lavish spectacle and unimaginable theatricality was born.
‘Flanders writes with absorbing detail and elegant analysis.' Sunday Times
'Judith Flanders's wonderfully entertaining book…a vigorously written, fact–filled cornucopia…it has nuggets of interest on every page.' Sunday Telegraph
‘Her account of how the Victorian age democratised pleasure and ordinary convenience should become a classic.’ Independent on Sunday
‘Flanders’s book is suitably fat and fact-packed…this is a generous survey of a world that is both far stranger and far more familiar than the one we think we know.’ Daily Telegraph
'Flanders is deft at making connections.' Observer
‘“Consuming Passions” tells the story of Victorian leisure and pleasure as an interrelated and intricate set of transformations…a fascinating, bewildering, marvel-crammed quest.’ Guardian
‘It is a world explored with much wit and insight…Flanders is excellent…It's a rich mix [and]…fluently written…It has every chance of becoming a bestseller.’ Sunday Telegraph
‘…her book, which is about the ways our forebears enjoyed themselves, is itself pure pleasure from beginning to end… [Flanders] is encyclopaedic in her range…This book is packed with goodies as a rich Victorian Dundee cake. Seldom has painstaking academic research been put to better use to produce a work which is pure joy. Every page crammed with interest.’ Daily Mail
‘A richly detailed work that translates a wealth of research with a light and readable touch.' Guardian
‘Formidable…[an] excellent study…a major achievement.’ Observer
'Full of fascinating nuggets, this book puts our modern obsession with buying stuff firmly into context. Reverting and revealing.' Time Out