To our eyes, the Victorians seem very inconsistent in terms of their attitudes toward children. Child-worshippers who waxed rhapsodic about the perfect purity of children simultaneously eroticized them. Even as sentimentality about childhood reached new heights, the notion that all children are savages likewise gained widespread support; many Victorians accepted the “Law of Recapitulation,” which stipulated that as a child develops, he or she repeats the stages of development of the human race. This belief in “the savagery of all children and the childishness of all savages” served a justification for subjecting children to harsh discipline, and natives of other countries to the rule of the expanding British Empire (Cunningham 98).
Examining surviving Victorian housing from outside and from within can be very revealing particularly if these can be matched to information from Census returns. It is possible to reconstruct Victorian households at each census point and to imagine where each household member resided within the house. In many major cities there are now organised walks which are helpful in tracing Victorian history and women's history trails. Details of these can usually be obtained from local history libraries.
It is easy to interpret the outraged activism of writers like Dickens as indicative of a transformation in public sentiment about children. But such protests were fuelled by the fact that many people still believed that children did not need to be shielded by the state from adult responsibilities. Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert spoke for many when he argued that the working man’s children were “part of his productive power,” an indispensable source of family income (Horn, Town Child 100).
On the next several pages, are some of the rules (and breaches) of Victorian etiquette. Once you finish this section if you'd like to test your knowledge, the in Quebec has an excellent role-playing game.
Still manuals such as "The Habits of Good Society: A Handbook of Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen", Hills' "The Essential Handbook of Victorian Etiquette" and "A Guide to the Manners, Etiquette, and Deportment of the Most Refined Society" defined the proper etiquette in all types of social situations (engagements, weddings, conversation, table manners, visiting, etc.)
During the Victorian era, Britain could claim to be the world's superpower, despite social inequality at home and burgeoning industrial rivals overseas. How did it happen?
The novels of Charles Dickens, the most popular author of the Victorian era, also reveal an intense concern about the vulnerability of children. When Dickens was twelve, his father was imprisoned for debt and he was sent to work in a blacking factory, an incident that haunted him his whole life. His novels are full of neglected, exploited, or abused children: the orphaned Oliver Twist, the crippled Tiny Tim, the stunted Smike, and doomed tykes like Paul Dombey and Little Nell. Like Barrett Browning, Dickens was galvanized by revelations of real-life horrors facing the poor. Oliver Twist (1837) was written in response to the draconian New Poor Law of 1834, which had been inspired by the theories of utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham. This law relegated the needy to prison-like institutions called workhouses, splitting up families and subjecting them to repugnant living conditions and hard labor.
Dickens's family was sent to debtor's prison when he was twelve (he was able to work in a shoe-polish factory), and the experience clearly marked his later work. In A Christmas Carol, he lashes out against the greed and corruption of the Victorian rich, symbolized by Scrooge prior to his redemption, and celebrates the selflessness and virtue of the poor, represented by the Cratchit family. He even examines the seamier underbelly of London, showing us a scene in the bowels of London as workers divvy up Scrooge's plundered possessions.
By the thirteenth century scholars based in France, such as Bartholomew Glanville, Giles of Rome, and Vincent of Beauvais, were discussing childhood and children’s education in learned writings, and by the fourteenth century children were portrayed in art—especially in scenes of everyday life in illuminated manuscripts. Children seldom feature in literature from England before 1400, although some romances describe how their heroes and heroines were born and brought up. After that date, however, children’s literature begins to survive on a significant scale in the English language. It includes works of instruction, including short works on table manners, moral precepts, and hunting, and a few stories, notably a comic tale in verse called The Friar and the Boy. There is also evidence that adolescent children read adult fiction, such as romances, the works of Chaucer, and ballads of Robin Hood.
Such a biased idea was one of many doublestandards in Victorian society, which demanded unquestionablecompliance from women and none from men, since the women were thoughtto be controlled by their sexuality and were thus in need of regulation.
The desperate timesthat lower classwomen found themselves in periodically made them stoop to desperatemeasures,such as prostitution; in addition, there was an increase in abuse andneglect,ranging from infanticide, to abortion, to baby farming, which broughtthenature of motherhood in Victorian England into question.
Children, one of the main sources of labor in , endured less than adequate living and working conditions.
During the Victorian Period children were good sources of labor.