The Victorian Era

Dear Sir or Madam,

I write to you today on a topic of Absorbing Interest: the Victorian Era (my own little field of study). I know, Agent, what you are picturing.  Hovering in the background of your picture is the dumpy figure of the Queen, in her widow’s weeds, setting an example of Propriety and of not being amused. In the foreground of your conception of this era is probably some slow and stately scene, some peaceful rural idyll, or the soothing clop of horses’ hooves on cobble down a dreamy nighttime London street.

I fear that, whatever your conception of this era, you are probably mistaken. The peaceful rural idyll is full of casual cruelty and shocking ignorance; in the nighttime London street, some bravo lurks, waiting to thump you. Also, to the Victorian Residents, Change is happening at a Most Alarming Rate. The Factory has jumped out at them from ambush, belching smog. The Railway positively whizzes by, whistling menacingly, threatening obliteration for all who stand in its way. Fashion changes at a dizzying pace; every decade or so Ladies seem to entirely change their essential shape. The population is exploding all over the place. And—Horror of Horrors!—Married Woman rises up—from Nowhere–and tackles her Husband, wrestling her own property out of his hands. All Very Shocking. Your average Resident Victorian probably believes him/herself to be Living The Pace That Kills.

Oh, and there’s that Ripper fellow, cutting up prostitutes. Everyone runs about, Detecting, but he just goes on, unconcernedly Ripping away, as if he Does Not Care. Also, apparently Whitechapel was absolutely stuffed with men wandering the streets covered in blood at 3 AM. The police arrested lots of men on the charge of “wandering about, covered in blood, probably the Ripper.” Lots. Disconcerting, isn’t it? Where did all that blood come from?

So, if you are expecting Peace and Tranquility, the Victorian Era might be a disappointment.

And then there are all those Prominent Victorians.

In your work as an Agent, you know that you mustn’t talk to famous people of any era. I do not think I exaggerate the importance of my own little era when I say that this rule is especially important here. You must not talk to any famous people. Or people who are going to be famous. Or their friends or relations.

And you really MUST NOT talk to H.G. Wells. Just don’t do it. The man wrote a book called The Time Machine, which is a red flag right there. Also, he was hugely influential in the formation of the Science Fiction genre. And without Science Fiction, perhaps no-one invents time travel. What effect that would have on The Lighthouse, which is Time Shielded and Ripple Proof, is unknown, because so far it hasn’t happened. We Do Not Want To Make That Experiment. So remember, darlings, to “leave Wells enough alone.”

Oh, and don’t make an ass of yourself trying to solve the Ripper case. Whitechapel isn’t a nice place to be at any time, but during the period of the Ripper killings, any suspicious activity (like the little errors in manner and speech of the sort that you Agents are always making) could easily set off mob violence or get you arrested.

Have a lovely time! Try not to make too much of a mess of things!


Believe me, my dear Sir or Madam, very truly yours,

                                                            Verity Mainwaring


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  1. “snicker” leave Wells enough alone.

    Tale Spinning

  2. One of my favourite moves was the Door into Summer by Robert Heinlein. It first opened my mind to all the problems to do with time travel and the opportunities too. I am glad to have read all this useful advice should I ever have a chance to do some travel.

    Thanks for visiting my blog
    Fellow A to Z-er

    • Hello Anne! I haven’t actually read The Door Into Summer (blush), but my boyfriend has given me an extensive summary of the text (and he summarizes like a pro, if “professional summarizer” is a thing…), and it sounds fascinating. My own personal favorite time travel story is To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis. And only partially because I love Jerome K. Jerome, who is v. heavily referenced in the text (even the title is a reference).
      Thanks for returning my call! I will be calling in on you at your next At Home! Not that digital At-Homes are a thing. Though! I now want to make them into a thing. Thoughts? “Mrs. So-and-so will be At Home to digital callers on such-and-such a date, from 3 to 6 (fill in time zone).” I guess one could have a kind of chat room, and polite conversation could take place. Hm…

  3. I have reached your blog at the end of the A to Z challenge but I am surely coming back for more.
    Second thoughts First

    • Hello Pooja, and welcome to Atherton’s Magic Vapour! Thanks so much for visiting, and I am super-thrilled that you intend to return! Also! I like your A to Z (which, for those who haven’t seen it yet, is a sharp and honest critique of various forms of social media, and is very much worth reading), and I will be visiting your blog again soon to read all the entries I haven’t had time to read yet.

  4. I have so much catching up to do here!

  5. Yup, that Victorian era, people get quite the wrong idea from all those high necklines and lace! Quite the wrong idea I say …

    A-Zing this year at:
    Normally found at:

  6. I love the little references. Must pay attention to detail!

  7. A Sleeper Agent, I suppose 😉

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